Before you pack one box in anticipation of your move to a co-op, you want to be sure you know everything about the building itself, whether it's quirky rules, upcoming construction, or ongoing squabbles. This will go a long way to easing your move-in process.
Read the board's minutes
This will give you a sense of the issues facing co-op owners in the building and give you a heads-up about potential problems upon move in—and how they've been handled. "Once you've done this, it's critical to speak to current residents to see if people are generally happy living in the building and if the board is responsive to feedback," says Marie Bromberg, a licensed real estate salesperson at Corcoran Real Estate in New York City.
Analyze the fine print
If you're looking to buy into a building, it's important to find out what the "flip tax," or how much you're going to have to pay the co-op when you sell, will be. "I wish I'd known I'd lose three percent when I go to sell," says Tracy Kaler, who owns a co-op in New York City with a higher flip tax than average. "That's a lot of cash on top of the broker's fee—if I had known about it, that could've been a determining factor when I was shopping for apartments."
Know the building's move-in requirements
If you are hiring a moving company, they will need to be insured and they will have other restrictions and requirements to follow. "Depending on the building, the level of insurance coverage required varies," says David Donen, liaison operations manager at OZ Moving & Storage in New York City. "Usually companies will have to have licensing and be bonded, which means their background was checked by the owners of the building." Keep in mind, too, that move-ins will likely be required to take place between 9 a.m. and 4 or 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Look up the last five people who sold in the building
Once you've done so, reach out to them, suggests James McGrath, a co-op owner for five years and the co-founder of Yoreevo, a real estate brokerage in New York City. "You can find their names on the property records and with a little digging, probably connect them to an email or LinkedIn profile," he says. "If there's anything noteworthy about the building, especially anybody that was a great help to the building or a reoccurring problem, prior owners will likely be happy to spill the beans."
Pay attention to the way the hallways and elevators look
This is usually a good indication of how well-maintained a building is, says Joshua Arcus, president of Siderow Residential Group in New York City. "Also, always look up in the corners and around the window frames for water damage."
Make friends with the super
Always introduce yourself early in the bidding process, suggests Allison L. Chiaramonte, an agent at Warburg Realty in New York City. "Not only is it possible he may mention how lovely you seem to potential board members before your interview, he will become a lifeline when you move into the building and your fridge starts leaking at 2 a.m.," she says. "Simply keeping your new super in the loop and asking for advice will make your life so much easier. Also, taking the time to befriend your super will pay back in spades when he graciously keeps the service elevator running an hour longer to help you finish your move or gives you the contact for the cheapest window washer."
Always be mindful of the neighbors
Co-ops are exclusive communities that have their own standards, says Maria Tabakova, an agent at Triplemint Real Estate in New York City. "Embracing these standards from day one will make your integration into the building easier and will help build a great relationship with the co-op board," she says. "Hosting noisy parties, doing construction work after hours, or letting your dog bark all day may come back to bite you once you're trying to get a request approved by the board, like a new pet or a desired renovation project."