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How to Pass a Co-op Board Interview

Real Estate Legality

When a purchaser wants to buy into a cooperative apartment, they must go through the daunting task of passing the board application and interview. It is a critical step in the application process, and it determines whether or not the applicant is approved to live in the building. The board may ask a number of intrusive questions, such as about financial statements and the ability to keep up with the maintenance payments. Each board is different with their application requirements, and the interview differs from building to building.

“The first thing the board looks at is your bottom line, and in this economy, boards often want substantial liquid assets (i.e. cold, hard cash,) a debt-to-income ratio below 30 percent, and at least enough cash left after closing to cover your maintenance and mortgage expenses for a year.”[1] The application must have as much detail as possible of your financial security. It is often very intrusive to have to show your tax returns, payment stubs, and all assets and liabilities to the strangers of the board. However, this is the situation that most of New Yorkers will have to face when opting to purchase a co-op. The only exception would be when purchasing an apartment that is not subject to a board approval, or a sponsor unit that does not require a board interview.

When going in to the board interview, there are a few general guidelines to follow. Although each board has a different method for gaining entry, most stick to the basic questions. They may ask to further elaborate on the financials if there are any discrepancies or complex outliers. They may also ask about renovations, and possibility of pets. A good rule of thumb is to be very simple and not divulge any unnecessary information that may cause a headache for the board. The board is very powerful, in that they have sole discretion whether to approve or deny the application. They are also in charge of raising maintenance and assessment fees, approving sublets and pets, and minuscule details such as hall renovations and parking spaces.

The board can be powerful in many ways, but issues may arise if they start probing into the personal lives of the potential buyer, or making decisions that solely benefit the actual board member. There have been many lawsuits that followed after board members asked inappropriate questions and ultimately rejected the application due to discrimination purposes.[2] There have also been lawsuits in which the board members acted inappropriately with regard to their duty to serve the community and not the individual members. Purchasing a co-op apartment is no easy feat, but with the right real estate broker, and potentially a friendly board, it can be done.


[1] Curbed Staff, (March 2012), Co-op Boards 101: Board Packages, Interviews, and Turndowns. Retrieved from Curbed NY https://ny.curbed.com/2012/3/26/10385720/co-op-boards-101-board-packages-interviews-and-turndowns Accessed on April 15, 2019

[2] Odenthal, M. (April 2016), When Co-op Board Interviews Go Bad, Retrieved from The Cooperator https://cooperator.com/article/when-co-op-board-interviews-go-off-the-rails/full#cut Accessed on April 15, 2019

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