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NYC's infamous co-op board application leaps into the 21st century

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The future is now

Co-op apartments, like this Brooklyn Heights pad, are subject to a notoriously arduous application process.

Applying for a New York City co-op is a notorious headache: prospective buyers file paperwork, and more paperwork, and then that paperwork—possibly hundreds of pages of it—gets collated and copied and distributed to the building’s board for review. This is the famed “co-op board package,” and it is one of the many irritations of New York City living.

But a new crop of online services are out to change all that. This weekend, the New York Times took a dive into the world of platforms designed to simplify the application process: ApplyPort, BoardPackager, and the upcoming ApplySmart.

The Times is clear that none of these will actually make the process any less lengthy, and/or intimate. But the hope, they explain, is that you might “feel slightly less exposed if you (or, more likely, your broker) no longer have to ferry 10 copies of your 200-page portfolio around the city by courier pigeon.”

All three platforms work pretty much the same way: the buyer or broker uploads personal and financial info, fills out assorted applications, and pays assorted fees. Then, the managing agent reviews the package online, redacting “sensitive data” in order to prep the packet for the board. Finally, board members log onto the system to review the application, accepting or rejecting their prospective new neighbors with a click. (Board members can also print the docs, if that’s more their speed.)

The companies all promise the data is secure and sensitive information is encrypted, though obviously, uploading your complete financial history is always going to be risky. Then again, so is printing out your complete financial history and then distributing it to a bunch of strangers who may or may not eventually shred it is not a perfect system, either, the Times notes.

At least some brokerages have jumped on board: CORE, Century Management, Argo Management, and Doulgas Elliman’s brokerage and property management divisions are all using BoardPackager, and Stribling is currently “finalizing a deal.”

But of course, the road to the future is not without its bumps. ApplyPort, the oldest of the companies, created the platform for FirstService Residential New York (then Cooper Square Realty) back in 2007, but had trouble getting clients. Generally, property managers felt the existing system was good enough. People dislike change—and they dislike fees. (ApplyPort charges property managers $50 per application, BoardPackager rates vary, and ApplySmart declined to comment because they don’t exist yet.)

According to the Times, though, the forward march of progress cannot be stopped. ApplyPort has gotten nine new companies signed on in the last year, including Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Management, even if the latter sounds less than thrilled with the current platform (“we’ve had mixed success”).

As for the boards themselves? Mixed success there, too. Some people are embracing the paperless process. Others long for the halcyon days of hard copies. Lucky for them, there are printers.