New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Pet policies are set in stone in co-ops — except when they're not. In her latest "Ask Real Estate" column, Ronda Kaysen answers a question from a beleaguered owner whose board made an exception to their two-dogs-only pet policy. The writer claims that the three small dogs bark incessantly, and polite discourse with the owner has proved useless. Ronda's advice, starting with documentation of the annoyance and ending with a complaint to the city, appears to work equally well for any noise complaint — as long as cool heads prevail. 

Co-ops may still be less expensive than condos, but that doesn't mean that costs aren't going up. In the last year, Brooklyn co-op prices skyrocketed 71 percent; Manhattan prices rose as well, but only 34 percent. According to DNAinfo, the reason for the price increase is actually the unattainable prices of condos in New York City. Compared to condos, co-ops are currently more competitive, particularly in Brooklyn, where units are more scarce – although, one expert said that available units are up everywhere, as long as buyers are willing to compromise. 

Few things are more of a turnoff to a potential buyer than bad smells in an apartment: pet odors, cooking odors, smoking odors. Yet even the most fastidious co-op or condo owners can find themselves stymied by smells coming in from other apartments — and as one troubled soul writes to Ronda Kaysen in The New York Times' "Ask Real Estate" section, what can one do about the smoker next-door, whose tobacco odor lingers in the hallway outside his door? "We ... have been told by our broker that this cigarette smell can be a deal breaker for potential buyers," the seller says. See what an etiquette expert and a real-estate professional advise. And, yes, cookies figure into it.

Thinking of buying a Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-op? Thinking of selling one? You might want to think again. Designed as affordable housing for working people of limited income — teachers, social workers, actors, bakers, police officers and others — they're in buildings that in the past would have been bulldozed for "urban renewal" but instead were rehabbed by homesteaders, each of whom paid New York City $250 to $2,500 to take title. And now those low-income people who got a much-needed break aren't inclined to pay it forward. Instead, they just want to get paid — as in, say, $875,000 for an Upper West Side four-bedroom. But the Catch-22, as Michelle Higgins writes in The New York Times, is that prospective buyers can't earn more than $67,000 a year, and banks aren't inclined to lend to people of such middling means. Or at least not unless such working folk have somehow managed to save for a huge, huge down payment. Affordable housing? Heck with that, dude ... I got mine. See also  "Profiteering by HDFC Apartment Owners Threatens Program's Affordability."

Online building-wide communication systems — the kind that tell you who's at the door, when your packages have arrived and who's bringing drinks for the annual meeting — seem like a godsend to some buildings.

But be warned. While these systems can be a boon for communication between the board and residents, non-essential information (like that drink assignment) can turn into ad hominem attacks: "Did anyone else see Judy spike the punch??" Could the board actually be held responsible for intra-building gossip?

We represent a 120-unit co-op originally sponsored by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). After years of alternating between occasional discussions and benign neglect without any definitive action taken by either party, this limited-equity Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperative received a notice that it was in default because it had failed to pay HPD a portion of the profits earned upon the sale and re-sale of apartments. Simultaneously, the city agency notified all shareholders of the default, creating a fear that the building could face foreclosure, leading to a loss of residents' homes and equity.

Nearly 40 years ago, New York City began taking over derelict apartment buildings and selling units to intrepid homesteaders for just $250 a pop. Thus was born the Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-op, designed to be affordable housing sold at token prices to New Yorkers with incomes below a certain limit.

The City now charges $2,500 for such HDFC co-ops — but some of those who rightly took advantage of the City's deal now are selling their apartments for close to market rate, which as this article points out, goes against the spirit of the working-class program, and making what are supposed to be affordable apartments unaffordable. It's not against the law, though, and so now a City-appointed task force will be recommending legislation to keep HDFC affordable apartments a reality.

A BUYER ASKS: A broker just showed me an apartment in a building that’s perfect for me. Then I did some research and found a website that tracks bedbug infestations —  and the perfect building is on the list. What should I do? Should I abandon the apartment? What happens if I do buy it and the bugs come back?

A BUYER ASKS: I want to buy a co-op apartment on the Upper West Side, but when I looked at the building's financial information, I saw that its underlying mortgage is going to expire in two years. Does this matter?

A BUYER ASKS: I have an opportunity to lease a storage bin in the basement of my co-op. It's much cheaper than an equivalent space at commercial storage facility, but with an outside facility I know I have certain rights in case the contents of my bin get damaged by, say, flooding — an issue that doesn't come up with a commercial facility if I get storage on a floor a few stories up. What are a co-op's responsibilities in terms of storage bin liability?

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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