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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

6 Jun

…I’m yours!  I mean…it’s mine!  My credit was approved within a couple of hours today, and I met the condo owners to sign my new lease tonight.  So, I guess now all I need to do is call Mr. Wong, right?  Don’t worry, I’ll get you some pics of this move.  Now, I’m off to rest easy.  Goodnight!

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Clinton Hill, Here I Come

5 Jun

Well folks, I made a decision. You may recall from my last post that I was deciding between three apartments, since my lease at The Gate is up at the end of June.  Just to recap, here were the choices:

  • Option 1:  Stay in Battery Park City and pay $200 more, per month, in rent.
  • Option 2:  Sign a lease on a large, well-priced 1BR apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn that boasts some nice outdoor space.
  • Option 3:  Save some money by moving back up to Harlem, where the rent at my old place (Riverton) is now around $1400/month.

Painful as it is to leave our beloved Battery Park City, we just could not justify paying $2050/month for a studio (call us crazy!).  And since Agent Owens and I had decided to leave Harlem a mere 14 months ago, we felt like we just weren’t ready to go back yet.  That said, the decision has been made to go with the apartment in Clinton Hill!

Wikipedia offers a great map of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Clinton Hill is in the northern, central part of the borough.

Trust me, over the course of the weekend there was plenty of bellyaching on my part about the fact that I didn’t know which option to pick.  I think Agent Owens was prepared to break up with me if I uttered the whiny phrase, “I just don’t knoooow what to doooooo!” one more time.  It’s hard to give up living in an area you love so much, and it’s equally hard to pass up a chance to pay $1400/month in rent, for a large 1BR.  But still, I was being a little bit Scarlet O’Hara.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, the decision needed to be made relatively fast.  I have to tell The Gate whether I’m staying or leaving, by tomorrow.  And, I needed to submit an application on the Clinton Hill place ASAP, if I was going to go that route.  Time was a-tickin’.

In the end, we chose Clinton Hill, and I think we made a great choice.  Truthfully, Clinton Hill (as a neighborhood) is a big unknown for me, which is a little scary but mostly exciting.  Turns out, though, that we’ll be with family in the new place.  Agent Owens’s brother and his wife live about 4 blocks from the apartment, and they gave us a little tour of the immediate surrounding area today, en route to brunch.  Plus, I have some family friends in the neighborhood, and we have several college friends within walking distance.  Party in Brooklyn!

If you're familiar with Brooklyn, the Clinton Hill neighborhood is outlined here.

As for the apartment itself, we’ll be renting a condo from owners who are moving to Connecticut (where I’m from!  Seemed auspicious!).  The finishes are beautiful, the space is large, and there are 3 (count ‘em, 3!!!!!) outdoor spaces.  We have a private balcony, a shared back patio where everyone BBQs, and a shared roof deck.  Seeing as we are currently in the season of sunbathing, grilling, and letting-the-fresh-air-in, I am beyond excited.

All that’s left now is for the other agent to run my credit check and for me to actually sign the lease.  I am hoping that will all happen in the next couple of days, and I will certainly keep you posted as to how that goes.

So, without further ado, here are the pics:

When you walk in, you're facing the living room and the sliding glass doors onto the balcony.

This photo doesnt do it much justice, but the bedroom is quite large.

Double closet in the bedroom. Big plus? Oh, yes.

Hall Closet next to the bathroom, which has a linen closet, marble floor, and heat lamp. Ahhh.

The kitchen is at the back of the living room. Yay for lots of cabinets and a dishwasher!

Looking out onto the balcony, from the living room. The balcony overlooks the patio/garden.

Shared patio. Bring on the BBQs!

Picture me up here, in my beach chair, with a gin & tonic, gazing at that skyline. Yes, please.

When I sat down to write this post, I x’d out all of my Criagslist, MLS, and random apartment listing tabs on my browser.  It was beyond therapeutic!  And now, I’m off to watch the rest of the NBA finals in peace, with a beer, knowing that I have a place to rest my head next month.  Ahhh.

Cheers!

Images:  (1) Wikipedia, (2) Google Maps, All others Rebecca for Happy City Living

Get Up Offa That Thing

4 Jun

…and dance till you feel better! (Just kidding.)

I’m sure you might be wondering why, in my posts about apartment hunting, I’ve been talking about sitting at a computer rather than actually going out to see apartments. Well, I wasn’t just being lazy, and I did always have plans to get up off of my “thing” to see potential new homes.

The reason I did so much online hunting is that apartments don’t typically become available for a July 1st move-ins (the date I need) until June. Listings you find in May will most likely be for June move-in dates, and once you mention that you want to move in July, you’ll quickly get shot down by the listing agents. There are exceptions, but for the most part, landlords want to rent out their apartments ASAP. And, in the summer months, when inventory is flying off the shelves, finding a new apartment and signing a lease can literally all happen within one day.

Being a Type-A, plan, plan, plan kind of person, waiting until the last minute to apartment hunt can become extremely frustrating for me. So, here’s my plan of attack, which allowed me to get the ball rolling a little bit earlier…

2 months prior to moving:  At the end of April slash beginning of May, I began poking around listing sites, to get an idea of what types of apartments were currently available in my price range. Since I wasn’t tied to one neighborhood in particular, I tried to see what I could get for my money in a variety of areas.

1.5 months prior to moving:  In the middle of May, I started paying attention to apartments that I saw posted over and over again. Now, these units may have something wrong with them that’s preventing renters from signing a lease, but it is likely that the units are just overpriced. In the summer months, with so many apartments up for rent, renters are going to notice if a unit is listed for too much $. I started to make mental notes of unit’s I’d seen being continually posted. These might be good units to see, and there might be room to make a deal.

1 month prior to moving:  Last weekend, I started seriously looking. At that point, June was upon us, and the units on the market likely did not have a June 1st tenant moving in. As a result, brokers and landlords were willing to talk about July move-ins. I started calling agents to see if their units were still available and if they’d show the place to July tenants. Typically, I got one of three responses:

  1. The unit has already been rented.
  2. The unit is still available, but we’d like to get it rented right away. Would you conider June 15th?

I often lied and said I would consider the 15th. Hey, if the place were truly amazing, maybe I would settle for a pro-rated month. I started making appointments and noting the dates of any open houses that were offered.

Then, it began. I saw a whole bunch of apartments this past week – more than I’d care to recall, in fact. Remember those two days that were 90+ degrees with 100% humidity? Oh yea, I was trucking from crappy apartment to crappy apartment. There were two types of apartments: nice places that were immediately spoken for by someone willing to move in within the hour (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much) and utter sh*t holes. It was a week of pure, unadulterated frustration.

3 weeks prior to moving: this is where we are now. I’ve narrowed my search down to three options. I could move to back up to Harlem (Riverton has apartments starting at $1400/month!); I could sign a lease on a cool place I found in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (with great outdoor space and real room to move); or I could stay put in Battery Park City (my true-love neighborhood). I still haven’t decided which way to go because I haven’t finished negotiations with the Brooklyn apartment agent, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about it once I do make a decision.

So, what should I do? Stay in my beloved Battery Park, gazing at the skyline and the river? Try a new neighborhood, and gain a little square-footage and outdoor space? Go back to a place I know to save a few bucks? Damn decisions. I’ve always sucked at making decisions like this, and somehow, it hasn’t gotten easier with age. I think I need a cup of tea…or 5 cups.

 

Images: Rebecca for Happy City Living

Video: YouTube

My Name Is Rebecca, And I Have A Problem

30 May

Obsession.  That is my problem.  Not like psycho-stalker obsession or addicted-to-drugs obsession.  It’s more of a Type-A, fixate-on-any-little-task-at-hand, make-myself-insane kind of obsession.  So, apartment hunting can really turn me into a crazy person.

Basically, my recent existence involves every moment of my spare time spent glued to my laptop.  I have so many apartment listings floating around in my brain that they are all turning into one giant glob of photos, addresses, brokers, costs, features….blehhhh.  Agent Owens is ready to throw this computer out the window, but I really feel like I have to give it my best shot at finding a more reasonably priced abode.  If there’s nothing better out there, oh well.  At least I will have given it the old college try.

Eventually, though, I do need to remove myself from the laptop long enough to eat.  So, yesterday, we used mealtime as an opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air.  There is a restaurant in our “backyard” called Merchant’s River House, and the reasonable prices, good food, waterfront dining, and proximity to home make this one of our most frequented eateries.  If you ever find yourself walking along the waterfront in Battery Park City, I would definitely recommend giving River House a try.

The problem for us, though, was that sitting outside in the finally-spring weather, feeling the breeze off the water, was a glaring reminder of why we love where we live.  In the winter, Battery Park can be brutal, due to the wind that blows up from the water.  Turn a corner and you’ll feel the blast of an Arctic-like chill.  However, during the spring and summer, you could not find a better spot to be, in NYC.

Along the promenade you will find…

Walkers, joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers.

A marina boasting beautiful yachts…

…and a sailing school

Parks for families and sun bathers,

Outdoor dining,

And even on the street-side of the buildings, there is a peaceful, almost suburban feel to the neighborhood.  I stood in the middle of the street to take this photo, without fear of being run over:

People walk their dogs and stop to chat:

They let their kids run around without holding tight to Mom or Dad’s hand, and they leave their puppies tied up in front of stores while they run in to get their groceries:

For all these reasons and more, Battery Park City has become one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.  After working in midtown and battling crowds on the subway, there is a sense of serenity to coming home, here.  I’m still close to friends, bars, restaurants, shopping, and transportation, but when I walk up my street, I’m also a world away.

At one point, during my bellyaching about apartment hunting, Agent Owens reminded me that BPC is not going anywhere.  Goodness knows I move quite often, and if I ever find myself in a position to move back to this area, everything I love will still be here.  And who knows?  Maybe there’s another neighborhood that will be an even better fit for my lifestyle.

With that newfound positive outlook, I am back to the hunt.  You can find me glued to my computer, if you need me.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Spoke Too Soon

17 May

Remember my last post about my lease renewal saga?  Remember at the end of the post when I said, “I’m actually relieved that the leasing office came back with such a definitively high number because if they’d countered around $2000 I wouldn’t know whether to stay or go?”  Well, when I didn’t accept $2162 and expressed how disappointed I was with their lack of willingness to work with me, they responded.  The woman I’d been emailing with told me she was going to pass my request along to her boss, the leasing director.  About an hour later, I got a new counter at $2050 with a note that this was their final offer and that this renewal would not be considered again.  Basically, take it or leave it.

Ugh.

Now, here’s where I am:  I COULD pay $2050/month, but I really don’t WANT to pay that much.  On the other hand I love living in Battery Park City, and really had not planned on leaving so soon.

Hard to see how great it is via photo, but I reeeeally don't want to give up my city skyline view - one of 50 things I love about my apartment.

For the moment, I have jumped feet first into searching for a new place.  I want to make sure I know all my apartment options before making a decision.  Unfortunately, I am in the middle of the crazy summer real estate market (read more about the seasons of apartment hunting here).  Prices are high and inventory is flying off the shelves.  Not an ideal set of circumstances for getting a great deal.  In fact, when I called a listing agent about an apartment this morning, it had already been rented BEFORE the open house, and the agent said, “If you don’t have to move right now, don’t.  The market is red hot.”  Wonderful.  That makes me feel great about my search.

Anyway, now that staying put is an option, and now that it seems like moving may very well be a hugely un-fun task (since it’s high season for renting in NYC) here are the pros and cons of STAYING at the Gate:

PROS:

  1. I wouldn’t need to front a bunch of money for a new place (security deposit and first month’s rent, up front).
  2. I wouldn’t need to shell out $400 for moving.
  3. I wouldn’t need to pack all my stuff and live in chaos for a month, while I leave one place and move into another.
  4. I love my apartment and would really love to continue living in it.
  5. I love the view from my apartment and doubt I’d find something like it again, in my price range.  You can really become picky once you’ve lived on the 30-something-th floor!
  6. I love Battery Park City, and don’t want to leave here so soon!

CONS:

  1. It’s tough to save money when you spend over half your salary on rent.
  2. If I ever want to NOT be a renter, I need to start saving more money.  See reason #1 for the reason why that can’t happen at The Gate.

Obviously, there are way more pros than cons.  But saving money is a key consideration here, and it may outweigh all the pros in this situation.  Man, it sucks to make smart adult decisions.

And now, like a mature adult, I’ll show you a few more pictures to sway you over to the “you should totally stay in your apartment” side of the debate:

Another part of my view overlooks Ground Zero. Obviously, I need to be here to monitor construction progress.

Even on a gray day like today, my backyard is beautiful! Gotta love being down by the water.

Vader clearly doesn't want to move. He's clearly going to lie on all boxes to prevent me from packing. He's also clearly crazy and seems think he's a dog with that lying-on-my-back-waiting-for-a-belly-rub stuff.

Anyone else in a situation like this – hashing out the great save-money-or-live-where-you-love debate?  Tell me what you chose to do! Please!

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

You’re Joking, Right?

11 May

…that’s what I thought to myself when I read The Gate’s email response to my rent-lowering request.  In case you missed the lease-renewal-negotiation scenario, here’s a quick recap:

  1.  This past year I’ve been paying $1857 for rent.  That price was the net effective of one month free on a 14-month lease, with a base of $2000.
  2. I received a lease renewal letter in the mail.  The Gate offered to renew my lease at $2200 for one year or $2310 for two years, making my monthly payment at least $343 more than I currently pay. Oh, hell no.
  3. I wrote the leasing office a lengthy email stating why the rental market did not justify the raised cost.  I also listed a bunch of reasons why Agent Owens and I didn’t feel we’d received all the amenities we were initially promised.  To start the negotiations low, I asked the building to compensate me for the lack of follow-though on the initially promised amenities.  I asked the leasing office to REDUCE my current rent to a base of $1900, with a month free on a 14-month lease (net effective of $1764).  Fair to receive compensation for services not rendered, and best to start low when negotiating, right?

And today, they laughed in my face.  Wanna know what their counter offer was?  $2162. !!!!!  WTF?!  They lowered their initial offer by $38/month.  And they claimed it was their final offer.

Great size for a studio, but $2162 is just not happening.

Needless to say, I will not be paying that much.  I immediately emailed them back, letting them know that I was extremely disappointed with their counter and that I could not believe they wouldn’t be more interested in working with their current tenants.  I reiterated that there was no point in offering new tenant incentives, only to price those new tenants out the following year.  I’m sure they’re not at all fazed by my virtual hissy-fit, but let me tell you, I. was. pissed.

So, *insert big, giant, dramatic sigh*, now begins the hunt.  Who knows if the leasing office here at The Gate will respond to my email.  But it’s becoming quite clear that I need a back-up plan.  This means that for the next month or so, I’ll be living and breathing apartment listing sites.  Did I mention that I’m Type-A crazy/obsessive?  I am.  Poor Agent Owens.  My head will probably be buried so deep in my computer that he won’t even be able to pull me away from the screen for dinner.  Yea right, who am I kidding?  Even a stressed out girl needs to eat pasta!  But beyond apartment hunting and eating pasta, there won’t be much else.

In a way, I’m glad the counter-offer was so definitive.  Mentally, I’d figured that if the renewal price was below $2000, I could afford to accept it (not happily, but it’s better than packing up all my things and moving, yet again).  I’d also figured that if the counter was above $2100, it would be a definite no-go.  The only tricky situation would have been if they’d offered something in the $2000-range.  That would have thrown my budgeting for a loop.  So, no harm, no foul, right?

Riiiiight.  Keep telling yourself that, Rebecca.  I’m off to pout and sulk now.  You can find me in the corner, if you need me.

The corner nook in my apartment where I sit on my bed and sulk.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Comin’ Out Swinging

10 May

I am of course the one punching the lights out.

The rent negotiation battle has begun.  Last week, my building management company sent me a lease renewal  proposing that if I want to stay in my apartment, I should pay over $300/month MORE in rent than I currently pay (!!!!!).  And since then I’ve been coming up with 8,371,734 reasons why I should NOT pay that much.  Ok, not that many reasons, but I’ve certainly come up with a bunch.

Lease negotiations tend to be much more flexible when it comes to renewals, than they were in your initial lease signing process.  When you’re first signing on with a building, the landlord has determined a price that the apartment is listed at.  Assuming that price is reasonable for the area, he will keep the apartment on the market until he finds an applicant who will agree to pay the requested sum – and it usually doesn’t take too long in this city.  However, once a tenant is IN an apartment, negotiating the renewal price is somewhat subjective.  Here’s why:

  1. The landlord would rather keep the existing tenant (assuming it’s a good tenant), than spend the time and money searching for a new tenant.  He definitely doesn’t want the unit to go unoccupied (unpaid months), if he can avoid it.
  2. The landlord still wants to make as much money from the existing tenant as he’d make on a new tenant lease (assuming the new leasing price would be more than the previous year).

So, there’s a fine line that landlords try to tread between making the most possible money and expelling the least effort.  In a building The Gate, with tons of units, negotiating flexibility will mostly depend on how many vacant units the leasing office is dealing with.  If they’ve got a ton of units that they’re worried about filling, they’ll probably play nice with me and come down on their renewal rate.  If the apartments are flying off the shelves, so to speak, they’ll dig in their heels and ignore my pleas.  The fun part is that we’ll never really know the hand they’re playing with.

I’ll spare you the long-winded epistle that I composed and sent over (I’m sure you don’t have a full hour to read this post), but here are the points I made to argue for a lower rent than the building’s initial proposal:

  • Comparable listing prices – other apartments in my area that are renting for $2200-$2300 are 1BRs, not studios.  If I had $2300 to spend, I’d live in a larger place.
  • Building amenities – apartments listed at these higher prices offer amenities like roof decks, fitness centers, laundry on every floor, etc.  The Gate does not offer any of this.
  • Tenant inconveniences – we lived through a full lobby renovation and main hallway renovation  in the past year.  There was construction for months.  Also, the laundry room constantly has broken washers and dryers, and we’re always losing money to machines that don’t spin the clothes dry.  (SO ANNOYING! But I say to myself, “Self, at least you’re not hauling your laundry up a hill in Sunset Park.)
  • Rent increase rate – as someone who signed a lease during a lower market, my rent rate is significantly lower than the management company is now charging.  However, if you’re going to offer incentives to make the apartment affordable one year, it doesn’t make sense to then price those same tenants out of the building just one year later.
  • Good tenant status – I made sure to reiterate, at the end of my novel note, that I am a tenant in good standing with the building.  I pay my rent on time.  I play nice with my neighbors, take care of the apartment, and I’m quiet as a mouse (Vader is NOT, but I am).

TIP!:  When possible, look to move into buildings that are rent stabilized.  This means that the rent cannot increase beyond a certain percentage in any given year.  I believe in 2010 the Rent Guidelines Board ruled that rent stabilized apartments could go up 2.25% on a 1-year renewal.  If your lease does not include rent stabilization, your landlord can raise the rent as high as the blue sky, and you can’t say shit about it.  In other words:  if you don’t go the rent stabilized route, you’ll be begging and pleading for mercy, right alongside of me.

Basically, negotiating renewals is all about establishing fair market value, which involves a combination of all the above items.  In other words, it’s pretty subjective.  Still, here are some items your building will definitively NOT be concerned about:

  • You didn’t get a raise this year.
  • You lost your job.
  • You incurred some unusual set of expenses that put you in the hole.

You care about your money issues, I care about all your money issues, and I’m sure your mom cares about them, too.  But the landlord doesn’t.  Sorry, Charlie.

Anyway, I thought I made some good points in my negotiation.  So, I emailed off my hopeful letter.  It’s in the hands of the lease cyber-gods now.  Cross your fingers and toes for me, please.  If you don’t, there will be a lot of blog belly-aching about having to pack up all my crap belongings again.  Nobody wants that.  Crossies!

Image:  Flickr-ClaudioGennari

How’s It Shakin’, Harlem?

14 Apr

My stories about moving seem to have gone on much longer than the actual move, itself!  Done with moving posts – I promise (for the moment!).  Now, on to where I actually moved when I left Sunset Park.

When I decided to look for a new apartment, I was really intent on moving closer to my friends.  For a whole year it had taken me so long to get home when I went to friends’ houses.  Even my commute to work in midtown was over an hour long.  So, you can imagine how long it took to get home from wayyyyy uptown.  At the time, I had seven friends living in Harlem, and I decided that Harlem would be a great place for me, too.

A general map of the areas of Harlem. For those who don't know, Harlem IS on the island of Manhattan. For some odd reason there seems to be some confusion about that fact. See here, for yourself. That large green box in the center of the image is Central Park.

There were added bonuses, in addition to proximity to friends:

  1. My commute would be cut in half
  2. I’d be closer to Central Park, where I like to hang out during the warm months
  3. Metro North would be right around the corner, making for easier trips to see my family in CT
  4. Soul food.  ‘Nuff said.

TIP!: This doesn’t really have anything to do with real estate, but it does pertain to Harlem.  In lieu of the more expensive soul food restaurants, like Sylvia’s, try something just slightly off the beaten path.  For the most delicious food and very inexpensive prices, my two favorite spots were Miss Maude’s Spoonbread Too and the Red Rose Diner.  More to come on those two local eateries.

This place was my home away from home. If you try it out, give Damion (the manager) a hug for me and tell him I sent you.

My apartment search was very quick.  Well, in truth, I spent a lot of time on Craigslist (when DON’T I do that, though?).  But when it came down to it, I signed a lease on the first place I saw.  I walked in and loved the apartment, which happened to be just one block from the 2/3 subway line.  And while the cost was slightly more than I’d initially wanted to spend, my research told me that it was on par with other comparable apartments in the area.

The building had its own management company, and one of their agents showed me the unit.  It was being renovated with a new kitchen and bathroom when I went for my viewing.  I was excited about having a place that felt new, rather than my 100 year old brownstone.  I was very anxious to live in a complex with a management company, rather than a landlord.  Plus, the unit had a dishwasher AND a washer/dryer combo.  Can a girl ask for anything more?  Long story short:  I signed on the dotted line within a couple of days.

Standing in front of my new building and loving it.

TIP!: If you work one-on-one with a “no fee” landlord (one who would normally be willing to pay your realtor a one month OP), you may be able to negotiate a deal for yourself.  Since they’d otherwise be paying a realtor, why not have them pay you?  Ask for a half-month to 2 months worth of free rent, depending on the length of your lease.  Can’t hurt to ask, and if you sound confident in your request, I’d say you’d have a good shot!  I should have done this.

The complex I moved to is called Riverton Square.  It stretches from 135th Street to 138th Street and from 5th Avenue to the FDR Drive.  The feel of the grounds, buildings, and apartments is very similar to that of Stuyvesant Town in Lower Manhattan, and it was actually developed by the same company, back in 1944.  There were good and bad aspects of living there, which I will delve into in the coming posts.  But for now, here is the blank slate I was working with:

The grounds at Riverton.

The courtyard outside my building.

Click here to see my floorplan at Riverton, in Harlem.

Facing back toward the entryway of the apartment. Two closets on the left, as you walk in.

Walking in from the front door, the kitchen is on the left. All new stainless steel appliances. Woo woo!

Walking through the dining room.

Looking left into the living room.

From the mini hallway, the bedroom was on the left. Theres one more window that I couldn't fit into this shot, on the right.

The closets across from my bedroom. Beware of the innocent looking washer/dryer. Might seem like it would be a gift from the apartment gods, but it's more like a Trojan horse. More to come on that.

The bathroom was straight at the end of the hallway. Ooohhh, new tile!

Now, if you’re from out of town, this apartment may not look like anything grand.  But, again, by NYC standards, this is a very spacious abode.  As a single person, the apartment was an amazing size, and while my friends all lived close-by, 135th & Madison was an ideal location.  Slowly, though, some problems did rear their ugly heads.  We’ll get into all of that.  But first, bask with slightly-less-naïve-renter-Rebecca for a moment, in the glow of a new apartment.

Any Harlem fans out there?  Tell me what you love above 100th Street!

Images:  (1) WikiVoyage, (2) NYCGo, (3) Rebecca for Happy City Living, (4-6) Riverton Square, All others Rebecca for Happy City Living

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

4 Apr

For me, early spring in NYC is one of the most wonderful times of the year.  After shuffling around in the cold and the slushy remnants of snow for months, those first few 70-degree days seem miraculous.  (Where are those days this year?????)  Turns out that in the NYC rental market, early spring is one of the best times of year, too.

Ok, I know that song was “The Most Wonderful DAY of the Year,” but who doesn’t want a little Glee in their life?  Ok back to business:

People always ask what the best time of year is for finding an apartment here, and the truth is that there are a lot of factors that play into that answer.  The most important factor in your search timeline should, quite simply, depend on when you NEED to move in.  When I moved into Sunset Park, I had to sync up my move-in date with my move-OUT date from my college dorm.  Another common restriction is the end date of your current lease agreement, if you’re finishing up another lease.

TIP!:  If at all possible, avoid breaking an old lease.  Breaking a lease involves fees and it can negatively affect your credit.  Check the terms of your lease agreement to see what the penalties are, but be aware that landlords and management companies sometimes put clauses into the agreement stating that you owe them the rest of the year’s rent if you leave early.  And, in many instances, you will be forfeiting your security deposit.  Situations where you have to move for a job, or you can no longer afford the rent, or some other truly unavoidable reason, can sometimes help you to get out of being penalized.  Sometimes, you can also find a subletter until your lease is up (again, check your lease to make sure the building allows subletters).  However, simply moving because you’ve been enticed by a different apartment is not a great idea.

If you do have the luxury of choosing when to sign a lease, I can tell you that the market is different depending on the season.  Plus, as the economy went down and now climbs up, the rental market is directly affected. 

One thing to keep in mind before we even get into the seasons is that most management companies and landlords in NYC want to rent their apartments out immediately.  As soon as a unit becomes vacant, the owner’s goal is to get it cleaned up and re-rented.  If an old tenant moves out at the end of April, the landlord will typically want to have the place cleaned and listed for rental within a couple of weeks, and then they’ll want a new tenant to sign a lease starting April 15th or May 1st.  The only standard reasons an owner would list a unit months in advance are:  (1) if they know a couple of months in advance that a tenant will be moving out, and they want to get the place listed during a busy season, or (2) if they need to renovate the unit before any new tenant moves in.

TIP!:  The most common move-in dates in this city are the 1st of the month and the 15th of the month.

As a result of this fast apartment turnaround, your apartment search shouldn’t start too far before you hope to move in.  If you see a place you love on Craigslist in March, the owner is likely not going to let you sign a lease that starts in May.  He’s going to want to rent the place out for an April 1st start, rather than miss out on a month of rent.  My advice would be to begin that search in March to get an idea of what’s available, but to begin actually viewing apartments in April.  That way, if you’re standing in your dream place, you’ll be there at the right time to submit an application.  Anyway, back to the seasons of  love rentals:

Winter (December – February)

There tend to be very few tenants looking to sign leases in the winter.  Let’s face it, moving all your earthly belongings in the freezing cold and snow and wind (no, this isn’t Chicago, but our tall buildings sure do create crazy wind tunnels) is not an ideal situation.  The flip side of this is that there tend to be less apartments becoming available, as well.  What does this mean for a potential winter renter?  Well, you may not have a ton of apartments to choose from.  However, if you do find something you like, the management company or landlord will likely be more willing to negotiate, since they’re probably having a harder time finding a tenant.  In fact, they’ve probably listed the apartment at a lower price to begin with.  If you’re looking to rent in the winter, do a very thorough search, and go see some places that are right above your budget.  You may be able to talk the price down and come out with a great deal.

Who wants to move their apartment in weather like this? Answer: no one.

Early Spring (March – April)

In my experience, early spring is the most wonderful time of the year in the NYC rental market.  Brokers and owners are gearing up for the spring and summer, when the market is hot, and they’re ramping up their renting.  More apartments are becoming available, and management companies are offering incentives to renters, to get the juices flowing.  This is the time of year when you can ask for one or two months free on a one-year or two-year lease.  This is when you have options in terms of apartment inventory, but the person on the other end of the lease still wants to play ball.

TIP!:  If your lease is up in May or June, but you want to rent a place before the spring rush, go see some apartments in April.  Tell the listing agent that you’re willing to sign a lease now, if they’ll give April to you as a free month.  They may say yes, just so that they can mark the unit off as being rented.  Of course, you have to understand ahead of time that they may also say no.  So, be prepared to walk away from the place, if your offer gets turned down.  It’s worth a try, though, and in the best case scenario, you’ll get a great apartment at a slightly lower rent than you would during high season, and you won’t have to pay the overlapping month’s rent.

"Ah, I'd rather be moving!"

 

Spring/Summer (May – August)

Welcome to high season!  The flood gates are open.  With the arrival of good weather, new college graduates looking for housing, and new groups of workers and students coming to the city at the end of the summer, May through August is the busiest times of year in the NYC rental market.  Tons of New Yorkers and would-be-New-Yorkers are looking to sign leases on new apartments in the spring and summer.  And, while there are more apartments available than at other times of the year, that availability rate does not increase as drastically as the demand rate.  The basic laws of economics (supply and demand) tell us that this means prices are going up.  Good common sense tells us that with so many people on the hunt, apartments go fast at this time of the year.  If you are apartment hunting between May and August, be sure to bring all rental items (find a list of those here) with you to all apartment viewings.  This way, when you find the place you want, you’ll be ready to submit an application on the spot.  When listings are flying off the shelves, you want to be the first one with your application in.  Check the apartment listings on Craigslist regularly, as they’ll change by the day.

Fall (September – November)

After the summer rush, the NYC rental market really slows down.  As October and November roll around, they supply of apartments for rent has dramatically decreased.  Listings that you see on Craigslist week after week will provide you with an open the door to negotiate a great deal.  After all, if the landlord or management company has to hold onto the unit for another month, that’s a whole month without income in their pocket.  Now, this is still New York.  Apartments are still going to be expensive, and you’ll still find stubborn owners unwilling to negotiate.  However, now’s the time to give negotiation a shot.

So there you have it!  Early spring (if it ever arrives) is the most wonderful time of the year – in more ways than one.  However, with recent NYC temps in the 40’s and the ever-blustery wind, it seems like we’ll have to be patient just a little while longer this year.  Boo.  Come on, spring!

Anyone looking for apartments now?  Have you found more listings popping up in recent days and weeks?  More importantly, have you gotten any good deals?  Share in the comments section!

 

Images:  (1) Youtube, (2) The Art of Real Estate, (3) Business Insider, (4) Biking in Manhattan