Since the market re-opened at the end of June, I have seen difficulties for both buyers and sellers. On the Upper West Side, an enthusiastic couple negotiated the purchase of a renovated multi-million-dollar apartment, and then backed out in anger (not-negotiation) when faced with relatively-modest improvements. Another client negotiated a very attractive price on an unusual one-bedroom apartment but then changed her mind, after contact with a zealous listing broker, who was trying too hard to pre-qualify her for a difficult co-op board. A third sale hasn’t closed, despite board approval, as the seller’s lawyer struggles to get pay-off information and the stock certificate on a loan that has been sold and is no longer in the portfolio of the issuing lender.
More surprising was a recent board turndown on presumably-liberal West End Avenue. The clients are extremely interesting and accomplished, with liquid assets over four times the contract price in the $3 millions. Their board package was thorough, vetted by me and the listing agents, and with very good reference letters. Yet the board focused entirely on questioning the validity of the husband’s business, a mis-focus that was shockingly inappropriate and arguably illegal in a city that prohibits discrimination based on lawful occupation. As my client rightly complained, there was no one to talk to and no one talked to him.
The co-op system has developed this way, with the support of the courts, hiding behind the filter of closing agents, whose expertise is administrative, and who have no authority. In earlier years, buyers were evaluated on paper; now it is usually on-line. The outcome is the same; buyers can be turned down without explanation, without personal contact and ignoring their references. There are rarely legal and no social consequences. The market is huge; brokers are working all over town. The system is anonymous; board members are free to exercise their social and professional prejudices.
This has long been the case in this large, commercial city, where people don’t know each other and often categorize others without consequence. The issue predates both the internet and Covid 19. But this kind of intolerance is unacceptable, as we struggle to move away from a toxic political environment that thrived on intolerance. It is a waste of human energy in a world with so many bigger problems.