It’s hard not to get your hopes up when you’ve found the perfect NYC apartment, but if you’re buying or renting from a private owner in a building part of a co-op, finding the apartment is only one part of the journey. One of the most critical parts of the process is being approved by the co-op board, and in New York it’s not for the faint of heart.

Luckily, most brokers will thoroughly review your financials prior to you putting an offer in on a property, as they don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So going into the application process you’ll likely know if you meet the financial requirements of the board.

It is after an offer is accepted and contracts are signed that a board package is prepared and submitted to the board. If you’ve never gone through the process before, here’s what to include in a solid co-op application to win over the board.

Rock-Solid Financials

This is something you can’t exactly change the day before you put in your application but if you know in the near future that you want to purchase in the city, make sure your financial situation is in order.  As part of your application you will need to compile a statement summarizing your assets, liabilities, income and expenses.

It may feel like a violation of privacy but you will need to share everything from your child support payments to value of your rare tea cup collection. While you need to be transparent about any hiccups in your financial history, you should also highlight all sources of income to prove your personal wealth and ability to comfortably afford the apartment.

Reference Letters

It’s crucial to have well thought-out references that will reassure the co-op board that you are both financially responsible and will prove to be a good neighbor. You may have a good mix of personal and professional references, but generally speaking, you don’t get to decide what type or how many letters to include. Usually you’ll be told exactly how many letters to provide and from what types of references. The listing broker should be willing to supply samples of effective reference letters to give your references guidance.

For personal references, choose acquaintances that can speak strongly about your character and your potential to be a good neighbor. Professional references should speak to your professional relationships, success in business dealings or interactions in the workplace. Possibly, one of the reference letters requested will need to be from an accountant or asset manager who can vouch for your financial status and responsibility.

Encourage your reference letter writers to make them personal and include memorable stories or statements. Anything that bridges a gap between you and the board while humanizing your application will help you stand out come decision time.

Background Check and Interview

In preparing for the interview, you should be very familiar with the finances stated, and the details supplied in the board package. Make sure to understand both well enough to answer any questions the board may have. Also during the review process it’s also likely the board will do an extensive background check so before you get to the interview stage, it’s important to have an explanation for any blips on your record, especially if this is likely to come up during the in-person interview.

If you have all your ducks in a row prior to your apartment hunt, you shouldn’t have any issue come co-op application time. Generally speaking, the listing broker will be familiar with the what the co-op board finds acceptable. Before the buyer’s broker submits the board package they should have the seller’s broker review it and make sure that everything is up to the board’s standards and that you have done everything you can to present yourself and your application in the best light.

While there are never any guarantees (and a co-op board can reject you for any reason without telling you why), the listing broker should be able to give you a fairly good idea of your chances of being approved. By engaging a knowledgeable broker that can walk you through the process and prepare you for your interview, you’ll be a step ahead of the other applicants. Happy hunting.