Co-op and Condo Board Reference Letters in NYC Real Estate
Believe it or not, when buying a home in NYC, unless it’s a single family or multi-family, you will be required to have your friends, colleagues, landlord and banks write you board reference letters.
We Need Reference Letters for Condos Too?
Yup. Condo board packages continue to get more an more burdensome and look more like co-op board packages. Why? Sometimes I think it is just to make everyone’s already busy lives even busier. After all, the condo board’s only remedy to rejecting you and not waiving their right of first refusal is to buy the condo from the seller on the same terms you were going to pay. As you can imagine, with residential real estate prices so high in NYC, this very rarely happens. So, yes, it seems a bit meaningless to require co-op-like board packages in condos, but this is the world in which we operate. Welcome to the fun of NYC real estate!
Why Do Boards Want Reference Letters?
If you’re going to be a neighbor, people want to know that you’re a good person and not an axe murderer. A lot of co-ops take these very seriously – they want the buyer of the co-op shares to be nice, friendly, respectful, clean and quiet! If you have a hobby of playing the drums, this is probably something you will want your friends to leave out of their reference letters.
Are Board Reference Letters Important?
Yes! A co-op board can turn you down for any reason or no reason at all. You don’t want your friends or colleagues giving them a reason to do so! As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve heard of board turn downs for outlandish reasons. The last thing you need is a particularly noise sensitive board member, who lives downstairs from the apartment you’re buying, to reject you because your friend says something like they love listening to music with you. Yes, you can get turned down for something as random as that.
You should take these seriously, and everyone who writes a reference letter for you should do so as well.
Who Should Write Personal Reference Letters?
You should ask someone who knows you well (and likes you, of course!) to write your letter. Generally, boards do not want to see family members writing reference letters for you. If you have close friends who live in a co-op, it is great to ask them for a reference, as boards know they understand the types of homeowners they are looking for.
What Should (and Should Not) be Included in Personal Reference Letters?
The letters should be directed to the Board of Directors. Make sure your friends get the apartment address and number correct! The letters should also be signed and dated. Your friends should explain how they know you, how long they know you, and talk about what type of person you are. Again, they should focus on things like how quiet and respectful you are, and not on how you throw the best parties. If the letter writer is a co-op owner, they should mention this. If they are on the board of their own co-op, even better. Best yet, have them say that you are the type of person they would love to have in their building.
Your reference should focus on the good and avoid things that might be unappealing to neighbors. Most people don’t want a smoker, a partier, or someone who cooks at 4am every day as a neighbor. Focus on hobbies, like outdoor sports or painting that take place outside the home or are quiet.
Your professional references should be from people who you have worked with, either current or former colleagues or bosses. You should avoid getting professional references from people who work for you (as these might not be looked at as unbiased). Hopefully, the people writing these letters for you know you as both an employee and a person and can speak to both.
A landlord reference letter is a simple two sentence letter that states that you currently rent for $xx amount, have lived in the apartment for since xx date and that you pay your rent on time and are current. It is pretty simple, but sometimes can be difficult to get your landlord to respond. If you feel like your landlord is not responsive, you should send them a form letter to fill in. Sometimes making things as simple as possible for other people, makes them easier for you as well.
A bank reference is a letter from your bank stating that you bank at their establishment and have a balance of $xx as of xx date. These can sometimes be like pulling teeth to get, so get started early asking for these, as banks are notoriously slow providing them.
Sample Reference Letters
We can provide sample personal and professional reference letters and form landlord and bank reference letters if you would like. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to view any samples.
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