Q: My husband and I are buying a co-op on the Upper East Side. The cooperative board requests three to five letters of recommendation from people who know us. Our agent has sent us samples of these letters that are very long and exuberant. This seems so fake and enforced and I cannot imagine anyone having time to write letters like this. Why should a board want so many letters and do I really have to?
A: The co-op board letter is an integral part of the board package, a curiosity that is as much an art as it is a source of misery for buyers. But in the quirky world of New York real estate, there's no getting around it.
By now, you've probably put together much of the board package, which can be hundreds of pages and detailing your financial health. The letters of reference from friends and co-workers introduce you to the cooperative.
This may seem strange, arcane, and a little neurotic, but a cooperative is a company and you buy shares in it. The board wants to find out what kind of shareholder you will be. And so they ask your friends and co-workers to dine.
"It's a club, isn't it?" said Lisa Chajet, a realtor at Warburg Realty. The board members want to know, “Can you afford the fees? Will you pass And the letters really show that. "
Ideally, the letters should indicate the width of your character. Include a mix of personal and professional examples from friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Your ex-boss can't add much or nothing to your spouse. But that is to be expected. Your 20 year old boyfriend is the one who has a thing or two to say about your husband. Assuming you each provide three or four references, the collection paints a complete picture.
It may feel like a heavy lift, but you are just asking your longtime friend or colleague to write over a page. Send them a sample letter or even write them an outline. Consider the inquiry you might make when applying for a great job. Your friends and close co-workers should know how difficult it can be to get an apartment in New York (and if they don't, they'll find out after you ask for a letter). They should be willing to say some nice things about you to make this possible.
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