I have to make six copies of a board package. I want to impress! Are three-hole binders okay? Plastic sleeves? Binder clips? Stapled? Should I include tabs for sections? Any other advice for making a great impression? Or what to avoid?
The co-op board package is a crucial component of getting the apartment you want, so it’s important to make sure your package is professional-looking, well-organized and easy to read, our experts say.
In one neat bundle, it details your finances, employment background, personal qualifications, plans for the apartment, and other information to convince board members that you’re not only a qualified buyer but also a welcome addition to the building.
“The contents of the package need to be assembled thoughtfully, carefully and deliberately,” says real estate broker Shirley Hackel of Warburg Realty. “Above all, board packages should be clear and easy to understand.”
Co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus agrees: “Nonconforming or sloppy applications make it more difficult for people reviewing the package to complete their work and clearly do not benefit the applicant.”
All that said, don’t get bogged down debating paper clips versus binder clips and which color of section divider will make those bank statements pop.
“What is far more important, is that the information is extremely clear and easy-to-read and makes sense and tells the story,” says Deanna Kory, a real estate broker at the Corcoran Group. “That is the true art of doing a board application and also the way to impress a board," she says, adding, "Whatever is unclear, write a quick note or an explanation to clarify."
Let’s assume you’ve got the content under control and focus on the presentation. (If you don’t, read up on what goes into a board package.)
Here are some tips for making your board package go down like a spoonful of sugar:
- Include a table of contents or a cover letter that lists the different sections.
- Numbered subdividers are necessary to orient your readers and make it easy for them to refer back to particular sections.
- Clips to fasten the different sections are a good idea, but steer clear of binding the copies: managing agents or board members may need to remove, reorder or copy pages. “Three-ring binders are sometimes a good [idea] if you have a lot of bulk that needs to be kept in order, but they themselves are bulky, so oftentimes paper clips harnessed by binder clips do the job just fine,” notes real estate broker Gordon Roberts of Warburg Realty.
- Some managing agents want stapled pages with sections clipped together and labeled color dividers; others will clarify that they don’t want packages stapled or bound. If you're not sure, ask the managing agent if they have a preference.
- When you make your copies, double check that all the pages are in order in each copy and that the copier hasn’t inadvertently added blank pages, Warburg’s Roberts notes.
- Make sure even a non-financial person can understand your financial statement as it's one of the most important documents in your package. Important numbers should catch the readers’ attention; Hackel circles key figures on the financial statement to make them easier to spot.
- Double check that the numbers on your financial statement match up exactly with the backup documents, and arrange the supplemental information in the same order as the financial statement. Hackel also recommends providing a separate summary page for each asset class, such as cash, equities, bonds and real estate. If your finances are more complex, suggests Kory, include a “detailed but easy-to-read” spreadsheet which shows your balances in each asset category from each account. Then have someone you trust look everything over to see if they can clearly understand them on the first review.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread again, "because no amount of elegant presentation will make up for a financial statement that doesn’t jive with your verification of assets, misspellings, transposed numbers, missing pages, and other sloppy gaffes," says Warburg's Roberts.
Leigh Kamping-Carder is a senior editor at BrickUnderground.com, the online survival guide to finding a NYC apartment and living through the aftermath. To see more expert answers or to ask a real estate question, click here.