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So, Do I Make the Cut?

BOGIE, a 12-pound Shih Tzu, is an experienced navigator of the many hoops that humans and pets must jump through for acceptance into Manhattan apartment buildings.

A few years ago, he aced his admission test at a luxury rental building at 222 East 34th Street: a half-hour interview with the building's manager, office assistant and lawyer. Bogie charmed his reviewers with his easygoing manner and his method of communicating by snorting and jingling the bells on his Burberry dog collar.

"He was pretty chill," said his owner, John Comas. "He just sat around and did his thing -- which is sitting around."

But Mr. Comas, a 34-year-old financial adviser to wealthy clients, knows that even Bogie has his limits. He shakes at the sound of fire engines or when he isn't petted, so it was unlikely that he would ace every interview.

On May 7, Mr. Comas and his fiancee, Monica Rivituso, are moving to a $7,000-a-month two-bedroom at 300 East 55th Street, which is less strict, dog-wise, than some comparable buildings.

Their new landlord is requiring Mr. Comas to include only Bogie's age, breed and weight in the lease. While Mr. Comas found cheaper apartments that didn't allow pets at all or pets over a certain size, he said it was worth paying $400 to $500 a month more in rent to give Bogie a comfortable home.

"If all things remained equal, I would pay more for the pet-friendly building," he said as Bogie calmly chewed on a pig's ear among moving boxes in the living room.

Mr. Comas is part of the universe of renters and buyers who are paying more money to find buildings that welcome dogs. Because of the strong sales market in Manhattan, co-op and condo boards have been able to be pickier in every way, demanding higher incomes from buyers and better manners from dogs.

Renters are having an ever-harder time because they are facing one of the tightest markets in seven years, and building managers are becoming stricter about pets, particularly dogs.

While the Miller Samuel appraisal company calculates that 93 percent of the apartments advertised for sale in Manhattan say they allow pets, brokers say that pet-friendly buildings have grown stricter. Increasingly, they limit dogs by their breed, weight and personality. They also make the "dog interview" a contingency for acceptance.

That means that sellers, if given a choice, will pick buyers without pets because they don't want their sales to fall through. "Five or six years ago, nobody interviewed your dog," said Michelle Kleier, the president of Gumley Haft Kleier, a Manhattan real estate brokerage and the owner of three Maltese dogs, named Lola, Roxy and Dolly. "Are they going to start interviewing babies next to see if they scream? People will pay up for a building that will allow pets."

Ms. Kleier said she had spent more time in the last few years researching what buildings really mean when they say they are pet-friendly and preparing clients for pet interviews. She steers clients with dachshunds away from a small Upper East Side co-op that dislikes that particular breed, she said, and she advises buyers at a Central Park West co-op that they will have to present their dogs to the building's board to confirm that if they have "small dog names" like Fifi or Gigi, they are in fact small dogs.

She said that a co-op on Lexington Avenue in the low 80s goes so far as to put a dog in an apartment and monitor how it responds to the ringing of the doorbell and various telephones.

In one of the most comprehensive interviews, she said, a Fifth Avenue co-op in the 90s conducts a test similar to a nursery school tryout. A prospective buyer's dog is placed in a room with some of the other dogs that already live in the building. Co-op board members then watch how the new dog acts when a bowl of food is put in front of the group and how well the dog plays with other dogs when a ball is thrown.

"It's not that they want to exclude dogs," Ms. Kleier said. "They just want the right types of dogs that are congenial and have the right kind of personality."

Like the broker who may encourage a buyer not to take a tranquilizer before a co-op board interview, Ms. Kleier encourages her clients to hire a trainer rather than medicating their dogs on interview day. She points out that even if a dog on tranquilizers gets through the interview, the owner could still be asked to get rid of it if it barks incessantly or is overly aggressive after moving in. "A temporary tranquilizer gives an artificial impression," she said.

Brokers say that most buyers will pass up dream apartments before they will give up their pets. Barbara Fox, the president of the Fox Residential Group in Manhattan, spent two years trying to sell a Fifth Avenue penthouse in a building that didn't allow pets.

The apartment had an offer within six weeks of hitting the market in early spring of 2004 for close to the asking price of $9.975 million. But the buyer had a dog, and the co-op board wouldn't make an exception. The penthouse finally sold in November 2006 for $7.5 million after two price cuts, according to data from StreetEasy.com.

Based on her experiences with sales like this and her own purchasing experiences as a dog owner, Ms. Fox was recently hired as a consultant by another Fifth Avenue building, a co-op she would not name, that wanted to know how to raise its sales prices. She advised the building that it had to be far more welcoming of pet owners.

"Don't tell them you have to get rid of your dogs," she told the board. "It's like telling them to get rid of your kid."

That's how Jessica Cohen feels about her "girls," a golden retriever named Hailey and a golden retriever mix named Meagan. In February, Ms. Cohen, a 29-year-old Prudential Douglas Elliman broker, closed on a one-bedroom condop that she is now putting through a gut renovation. She said she made an offer on the spot because she felt so desperate to find a home for her dogs.

"I would have negotiated if I didn't have dogs," she said, but being a dog owner takes away a buyer's leverage.

"I was willing to pay $50,000 more on a $650,000 apartment," she said.

In 1999, Ms. Cohen bought a studio in a co-op building for $93,000. To ensure that the dogs were considerate neighbors, she spent more than $5,000 on trainers and $500 a month on a low-sodium diet -- salmon, steamed chicken and vegetables -- to keep the dogs calmer. In 2001, she got a letter from the board asking that she no longer use the building's washing machines and dryers because dog hair might get on other residents' laundry.

After searching for nearly two years, Ms. Cohen thought she had found a more pet-friendly co-op on Central Park West and went to contract on a $300,000 studio. When she submitted her board package, the seller asked her to say that she had just one dog and to sneak the other dog into the building after she had been approved. Ms. Cohen would not close on the deal because she feared that the building would not let the second dog in. "I said I was not willing to lie about my living situation or take a risk," she said.

The seller, convinced that the co-op board would not accept two dogs, refunded Ms. Cohen's $30,000 deposit and continued to search for a buyer.

Later in 2003, Ms. Cohen bought an Upper West Side condo, hoping that the residents would be more welcoming. But a year after she bought the $350,000 studio, the building imposed a "one dog" rule. The building's management told Ms. Cohen she would be allowed to keep her two dogs because they had lived there before the rule was introduced.

When she temporarily took in a stray mutt and an ailing one-pound kitten, her condo board sent two letters complaining about the dog, and a board member knocked on her door to tell her that she needed permission to have a kitten. The kitten died within two weeks, and Ms. Cohen found a home for the stray within four months.

In 2005, she moved out of the apartment into a rental that allowed dogs. She sold the condo and started shopping for a more pet-friendly building.

"I felt very stressed out," she said. "I felt like I didn't have any rights to live my life."

While Ms. Cohen was going through her own search, she watched a client who had no pets beat out dog owners on a deal even though he had offered $40,000 less than the highest bid for a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.

While the co-op had a "no dogs" policy, the bidders and their brokers hoped that the small building would make exceptions. So a buyer with a golden retriever and a Yorkshire terrier offered $1.6 million and a bidder with a golden retriever offered the asking price of $1.595 million.

But in the end, the seller accepted Ms. Cohen's client's offer for $1.56 million. The sellers didn't want to take the risk of having a buyer turned down by the co-op board; the sale closed on April 11.

"They didn't want anything that was iffy," said Philip Altland, the Prudential Douglas Elliman broker who represented the sellers.

Even buildings that allow dogs can be worrisome for buyers. About 18 months ago, Todd and Toni Finger made an offer of $875,000 on a two-bedroom, two-bath co-op at 115 East Ninth Street. The seller accepted the offer but wanted a clause in the contract saying that the couple would have to go through with the sale even if the co-op board rejected their 30-pound beagle, named Buster.

The Fingers offered about $10,000 more, but the seller wouldn't budge. A few weeks later, a woman offered $875,000 and was approved by the board, according to the seller's agent, Gayle Booth of Halstead Property.

Since then, the Fingers have been looking at condos, which tend to be more accepting of buyers with pets. Such dog-friendliness comes at a big price: condos can cost 20 to 30 percent more than co-ops.

But until the market softens and the gatekeepers become more lenient, people with less-than-perfect pets might consider using the time wisely.

In December, Joseph Olshefski, a Bellmarc Realty agent, helped a client find a studio for himself and his 26-pound black pug, named PorkChop, whose girth makes him look a bit like a baby seal. The renter had been turned down by 25 buildings, mainly on the Upper West Side, that said they were pet-friendly.

They were, but in limited ways. They allowed cats but not dogs, or agreed that owners could have pets, but renters could not, or they accepted dogs that weighed 20 pounds or less.

After a six-week search, the client rented an apartment farther uptown, and PorkChop started a diet. Mr. Olshefski said the experience has been good for PorkChop's health -- and would improve his vacations, because he was recently banished from the passenger cabin on a flight from Boston to New York.

"Put your pets on a diet," he said. "A healthy pet is man's best friend."



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