Buying an Mahattan Co-op

Today, Andrew and I close on an apartment in Chelsea.

About a year and a half ago, I subscribed to a feed from streeteasy.com, which is a really awesome site. They do custom RSS feeds for any search, so I subscribed to the places in our price range in the neighborhoods we were interested in.

On May 16th, we finally found an apartment we really liked (pictured above). Then the fun began. While I was at a PHP conference in Chicago (TEK·X), I called Charles Schwab and got pre-approved for a mortgage. Then we made an offer. The sellers made a counter offer, we made a counter-counter-offer, and everyone agreed before I got home. So far so good, now we had to get a lawyer to draw up the contract. We had no lawyer, but Andrew’s parents had one, so we asked him to represent us. We initially forgot to ask him how much he charged, but eventually remembered (because we’re real grownups like that).

Once we had a contract, the sellers’ lawyer spelled my name wrong, so they had to redo the contract. Once it actually had my name on it, everyone signed it and we sent the first half of the downpayment to the seller’s attorney.

The next step was the mortgage: we had to get “for real” approved, not just be pre-approved. We inquired with a few other banks and ended up getting a great rate from Wells Fargo. We filled out the first of many stupidly long applications and sent them copies of all of our financial statements for the last couple of months (savings, checking, investments, paystubs, retirement accounts, etc.).

At this point we figured we’d probably be breaking lease on our current place, so we told our current landlord (Citi-Urban Management) that we’d be moving out on August 16th (we were scheduled to close on the 2nd, so this gave us a few extra weeks).

Once we had a commitment letter from Wells Fargo, we could start filling out the co-op application. You see, in NYC you don’t buy an apartment, you buy shares in the corporation that owns the building. This means that the building can make you jump through hoops and balance biscuits on your nose, This coop wanted us to send: 1 personal statement, 3 personal letters of recommendation, 1 business letter of recommendation, a filed-out application form, another copy of all of our financial statements for the last few months, the last two years of tax returns, checks for move-in fees and deposits, checks for credit checks, employment verification contact information, copies of our paystubs, copies of our drivers licenses, a copy of the “house rules” that we had to initial on every page, and a statement that we’d be getting homeowners insurance. The sad part is that there was more, I’ve just forgotten a bunch of the items.

We sent everything in and the board called us in for an interview on Friday, July 30th. We sat in a basement next to the laundry room and they asked us why we wanted to own a place, whether I’d be able to get a job if 10gen went out of business (somehow they weren’t as concerned with Google going out of business), if we could make websites (Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!), and if we were planning on getting a joint checking account. After an hour, they let us go.

On Monday, August 2nd, the real estate agent called to let us know that we were in. Now all we had to do was actually close. Unfortunately, the sellers now wanted to put off closing as long as possible so that they could find a new place and we got a call from our landlord telling us that they had found a person to take our lease who would be moving in on the 13th, so we had to be out by then. Our lawyer bullied and guilted everyone into agreeing to close on the 16th, leaving us homeless for a scant week (we moved out on the 10th because I had to go to Boston and give a talk at LinuxCon on the 11th). Luckily, Andrew’s (effective) godparents own a bed-and-breakfast in the city and let us stay there.

During this week, the person we’d been dealing with at Wells Fargo went on vacation and the temp guy didn’t have any of our information and wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make the closing. Last week, as I freaked out in Boston, Andrew managed to bully and guilt him into doing his damn job.

Finally, today, we got a check for the rest of the downpayment, did a final walkthrough of the apartment, and spent 3 hours signing papers. Tonight, we sleep on a borrowed air mattress on the floor of our new apartment!

  • Congrats!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, Kristina! What an odyssey!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks!

  • Wow, that is ridiculous all the way around, but glad that it worked out.

    We slept on an air mattress for our first 3-4 days here.. but we have a real bed now (woot).

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Yeah, NYC real estate is kind of crazy, even in a recession. Air mattresses are surprisingly comfortable, but I’m glad our bed was delivered the next morning!

  • Catching up on some old blog posts… Congrats!

    It’s amazing the hoops you have to jump through to buy a place. My wife and I went back and forth with the bank at least a half dozen times. “We need this piece of paperwork and we’re set.” The next day: “Now just this one more piece…” and on and on. Thankfully we didn’t have to contend with a co-op or HOA at least. 🙂

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