Unless you’re a Broadway star, the thought of having a spotlight pointed at you probably is not that appealing. No doubt, most prospective co-op buyers feel that kind of “center of attention” pressure when it comes time to go before the board of directors for the traditional building approval interview.
Although picturing those board members in their underwear isn’t likely to calm your nerves, there are plenty of other ways to put your best foot forward and shrug off the stress that inevitably arises in these situations. With the right attitude and the right preparation, the interview can be the beginning of a long, happy life in the co-op of your dreams.
The Devil’s in the Details
A successful interview starts before the talking even begins. It starts with the written application. “By the time the board decides to interview someone, they should have made a decision already on whether or not that person is qualified,” says Richard Grossman, director of sales/downtown for Halstead Property. That does not mean that they already have decided whether or not to admit the person. It simply means that the person has met the basic standards of the application process.
Before a potential buyer gets too invested in a building, he or she should learn “what the building will or won’t accept in an applicant,” Grossman says. Ask around. Talk to your realtor. Talk to residents or neighbors to learn the tenor and culture of the building. If it’s a building filled with families and you’re a twenty-something single man, it might not be a good fit. If you’re a practicing psychologist looking to invite patients to a home office, that might not fit well with the other residents’ view of their building community. “Don’t try to do something that the building won’t accept,” Grossman says. “For example, if the building doesn’t allow parents to buy units for their children, then don’t try to buy a unit for your son or daughter.”
Honesty is another imperative in the application and interview process. Above all else, “be truthful,” Grossman says. When it comes time for the interview, the board will be looking to see if there are any discrepancies between what the applicant has put down in their written application and what they are telling them face to face in the interview. Most of the application should boil down to questions of finance and intent—are you fiscally qualified to live there and are you being truthful about your reasons for buying in the building? Is it going to be your full-time residence or something else? Is it going to be a home office or a space to stop for the weekend? Most of all, will those intentions fit in with the board’s expectations? It is important to think these questions through early in the application process and then stick to your guns when the interview questions start to fly.