5 Tips for NYC Apartment Hunting in the Fall

Published on Oct 3, 2013

Summer in NYC is traditionally the busiest time of year for renting apartments. Starting in May, new college graduates from across the country, job offers in hand, flood the city, along with a substantial number of current students looking for housing for the upcoming school year. This is exacerbated by the fact that recent transplants in this cycle all have their leases coming up for renewal at the same time. Now that the busy summer season is over, rental activity in NYC will slow down for the next few months. Mid-November through December in particular, can be a real snoozer for landlords, as few people want to move during the holiday period. This presents an opportunity for savvy apartment seekers to get a (relatively) good deal on a rental. Once January hits, rental activity picks up significantly. Keep in mind, however, that while there may be less competition to rent an apartment, there is also dramatically less supply as well. You simply won't have as many different options to choose from. But if getting a better deal is your main concern, this is when you should go for it. Below are our 5 tips for getting an apartment in NYC during the fall and early winter months. The key here is to show the landlord how what you're proposing benefits him/her as much as it benefits you. When that happens, you both come out winners in the deal.
  1. Ask for cheaper rent. Does it always work? No, especially in a tight rental market like NYC. However, if there is a time of year to try, this is it. Large landlords tend to adjust their asking rents (up and down) based on market conditions, so they may have already factored the season in. Smaller landlords are less likely to have done so. In either case, it doesn't hurt to ask during this time of year. Keep your request reasonable. The best rule of thumb is for the total reduction to add up to less than one months rent, spread over the course of the year. For example, if you ask for $100/month off of the asking rent, and the monthly rent is $1500, the landlord may go for it. Why? $100 x 12 months equals $1200. Giving you $100/month off to rent the apartment now is cheaper than the $1500 it would cost the landlord in lost rent if the apartment sits empty another month. Of course, this only works if the landlord is concerned that he won't be able to rent the apartment to someone else before the next month. Which leads us to...
  2. Wait until the last week of the month for the best deal. If getting the best deal is more important to you than the apartment itself, or the neighborhood you are in, waiting until the last minute can pay dividends. You won't have your choice of the best apartments, and you may not get your first (or second, or third) choice in neighborhood, but if the landlord thinks he's going to have the unit sitting vacant another month, he's more likely to cut a deal to get you in the unit ASAP.
  3. Lock in your rent longer. Landlords in NYC like to minimize the number of leases coming up for renewal in November and December. Offer to sign a 18 month lease instead. You guarantee your rent won't increase for an additional 6 months, and the landlord will have an easier time renting the apartment in the spring/summer when you finally move (whether it be in the following year, or later).
  4. Use every resource available. Yes it's a pain in the keister, yes it's time consuming, yes you will end up seeing duplicate listings... but the reality is, no single website (or broker) has access to every listing out there in the NYC market. If they say they do, they're lying. Use no fee sites like Urban Edge and NY Bits, use sites with both fee and no fee listings, like StreetEasy and Naked Apartments. Some landlords are on most or all sites, while others choose to only list on a select few. If you can afford one, use brokers as an additional source (just don't let them show you apartments you can find on no fee websites). Some landlords, especially small and out-of-town owners only use a broker since they don't have the time or resources to rent the apartment themselves. Ask a broker to show you his exclusives, not the "open" listings.
  5. Be realistic, and flexible. No matter the season, apartments in NYC are small, and expensive. The best neighborhoods will still be hard, if not impossible, to rent in, depending on your budget. A great deal might be paying a couple of hundred dollars less than your neighbors for a similar apartment, not the well below market value rent stabilized unit that everyone has heard about (but rarely seen). Speaking of... due to ways the landlord can raise the rent after a vacancy, rent stabilized units rarely are fantastic deals in the beginning. It's only once you've lived in one a number of years that your rent begins to be significantly below market value.
So there you have it. Our best recommendations for getting a deal on an apartment in NYC during the fall. Did we miss anything? Feel free to add your tips in the comments below, or tell us about a deal on an apartment you rented during the fall. And you can see our renters guide on how to negotiate the rent for more information on the best way to approach a potential landlord on the subject.
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