Article on combining apartments

I started this post as a note to myself almost a month ago, thinking it’d be useful for the upcoming alterations after I close on the neighbor’s apartment. “I’ll wait until after the closing before posting”, I thought.

It’s been a long month of waiting for the bank’s underwriter to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of whatever paperwork they require. It’s been a long month of waiting, punctuated by frantic activity to give supporting documents to the underwriter: getting an architect to write an estimate of the alteration costs, having that architect drop the project because it was too small, faxing floor plans to another architect, getting the president of the co-op board to send email to say that the board has approved similar alterations in the past, sending email myself to say that I don’t plan to turn the neighboring apartment into an undersea-grotto-decorated swimming pool, and, finally, sending copies of my most recent pay stubs to show I was still gainfully employed.

But the closing is now set for next Monday, and it’s time to start thinking much more seriously about architects, alteration plans and contractors, so:

Here’s an article in Habitat Magazine about the process of combining apartments.

The paperwork and waiting for this was horrendous, mainly due to the bank. I didn’t have a co-op board interview since I was already in the building (And I recently joined the board when they needed a seventh member at the annual meeting last month — when the bank asked for a letter from a board member on similar alterations, I suppose I could have written it myself, but that would have been too cheeky. Coincidentally, my first board meeting is on the day of the closing.) There was some drawn out haggling over the price at the beginning, but nothing out of the ordinary. The co-op management company paperwork took longer than expected, mainly because I was doing it myself without support from an experienced real estate agent, but not significantly longer. All in all, the extra month’s delay was due to the bank.

At the end of all this, I think three or four times as much paperwork has been spent on this process than it would have taken to buy a house in the suburbs somewhere. I think it’s been not quite twice as much paperwork as a standard co-op purchase. We haven’t gotten to the point of submitting alteration plans as of yet, but the architect will be helping with this, so thankfully I won’t be by myself with the paperwork.

Was it worth it, compared to buying a two-bedroom elsewhere? Yes, I still think so, since by all my calculations the combined apartment will be worth between 15 to 25% more than the individual apartments, which is a nice one-off gain financially. I’ve also seen some of the guts of the purchasing process that was shielded from me by the real estate agent last time. I’ve gotten on a co-op board instead of being interrogated by one for a new purchase. And the paperwork, while taking longer, wasn’t going to be worse than it would have been on a sale of the current place and purchase of the new one (along with coordinating both sale and purchase so I’d be able to live someplace while having the funds to buy the new apartment).

So, time to give the architect a call and set up an appointment for next week, now that I’ll have the keys.

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