With the recent indictments strewn about New York’s real estate industry, co-op and condo boards have become more and more choosy about the professionals they select to protect themselves and their homes. Knowing the angst involved in making personnel decisions, we went to the experts themselves and asked how to pick professionals with the right stuff.
No matter what type of professionals you’re seeking, make sure they are specialists in the co-op/condo industry. "Use someone well-known in the field," advises Richard Smolin, CPA, of Smolin & Yavel, an accounting firm in Park Slope, Brooklyn. "People need a niche; the general practitioner approach doesn’t seem to work." To locate such persons, Smolin recommends contacting organizations like the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives (FNYHC), or the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums (CNYCC). Of the latter, Smolin says, "It’s the largest nonprofit institution lobbying for New York City co-ops and condos. They have no vested interest in anyone–they serve the community." Smolin also suggests asking attorneys for accounting firm references, but adds that finding an accountant should remain the board’s responsibility.
"A board should receive sealed bids for choosing professionals, just as it would for any major capital expenditure," Smolin points out. "As the board’s advocate, an accounting firm should keep a healthy distance from the managing agent, because it might be tough for a firm chosen by the managing agent to bite the hand that’s feeding it."
Smolin believes the prospective candidate should meet with as many board members as possible. "At least the president, treasurer and the managing agent (with the managing agent playing only an advisory role). Ask who will be in charge of the assignment–a partner or someone on staff? Will they be available for meetings?"