Applying Yourself A Look at the Co-op and Condo Application and Approval Process

Buying an apartment in New York can be a smooth process—or as smooth as smooth can be when the number of attorneys present at the closing are enough to field a N.Y. Urban Professionals Basketball League team—or it can be a harrowing roller-coaster of anticipation, stress, and what often feels like needless bureaucracy.

Co-ops in the city can be tricky beasts; co-op boards have the final say over whether a prospective buyer may actually purchase an apartment in a given building, and the information boards ask for from buyers can sometimes be exhaustive. On the other hand, boards are charged with preserving and protecting the interests and investment of current resident shareholders, and most take that responsibility very seriously. Condo boards don't have nearly the same amount of authority over building business that co-op boards do, but many condo boards are pushing to run their buildings' affairs more closely to the co-op model.

Condo vs. Co-op

Owning a condo is, for the most part, like owning a house. There are shared costs for exterior maintenance, but the apartment itself belongs to the owner, just like a house in the country does. Co-ops are a different breed of cat. If you have an apartment in a cooperative building, you own proprietary shares in the co-op, which gives you the right to inhabit your apartment. The property is much more communal than a condo. This makes buying a co-op trickier than buying a condo.

“The biggest difference is, there’s an interview involved in the co-op application and not in the condo application,” explains Carol E. Levy of Carol E. Levy Real Estate. After the interview—or before it, in some cases—a co-op board may reject a potential buyer.

Condo boards do not enjoy that right. When you buy a condo, the condo board can request a wheelbarrow full of paperwork—but that’s all they can do, unless they exercise the nuclear option, called the right of first refusal.

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