Should I rent or buy an apartment in New York City?

So it’s been a most unusual spring in New York City. The timeline for renters has been turned on its ear. In the past starting a search for a “straight rental” 7 weeks early would have ended in frustration. I used to beg people to search 3.5 weeks before their move date, when they would have the most options and leverage.

Now any good apartment has applications within 48 hours of being listed. Even less sometimes. And on May 6 we are already seeing listings on StreetEasy for JULY!

As a listing agent I don’t think that is the most effective time, you want something to hit the market at at the time the most and best qualified renters are looking, but perhaps I will be singing a different tune soon. I just took an application for an off market listing for July 16.

Buying in Manhattan and inner Brooklyn and Queens is different in so many ways from the rest of the US. But with the rental market almost absurd, more relocation clients are starting to wonder, ‘Should I buy?”

While the rental market is out of control, the sales market still offers some deals. The rest of the US is in a sales frenzy, but a number of factors make Manhattan different.

The market was soft before the pandemic, the pandemic hit harder and longer here, and finally– the investment market here is different than the rest of the country, where investors will offer competitive cash for almost anything and do the deal in warp speed.

A few things to know.

If you are browsing I suggest using a NYC-centric search tool. Line City is good, StreetEasy is popular, you can also use almost any REBNY agency site. Try to avoid Zillow, which is the same data as StreetEasy but can be confusing.

The cheapest deals you see probably have a big asterisk. They are income-restricted, or occupied units with a tenant that is rent regulated, or cash-only.

Then you need to think about co-op versus condos.

If you are looking in the lowest price ranges most apartments will be co-ops not condos. To make this post efficient I linked an article that explains that. Many of the least expensive co-ops may have policies that make them less flexible as an investment property, which is another major difference with NYC. Condos are simpler to qualify for and to rent out, but they tend to be more expensive. Another key factor is the monthly building charges. Those have more to do with the co-ops finances than the size of the apartment or the amenities.

Even with all of that– there are appealing studios in the 300K range…check out this sweet sunny studio. Parents who are buying for an adult child or people wanting a second home in the city should discuss those plans with an agent.

So while buying still requires a down payment and a vision of your future, if you are moving to NYC it may actually be the more sensible and rewarding option.

Occupied vs Vacant: why the timeline for renting has changed

So many things you need to know for renting an apartment are pretty consistent.

One thing has really changed this year.

How apartments are shown and how far in advance you should start looking for a straight rental. (Renting a co-op or condo is different.)

Back in 2019 I used to beg people to wait until about 3 and a half weeks before they moved, and not a day sooner.

We were primarily visiting VACANT apartments, and landlords want vacant apartments rented ASAP. People who looked to early found few options for their move date. Showing empty apartments is easier.

BUT. Few apartments are vacant these days. It also used to be by waiting until 2 weeks before your lease start you could gobble up some concessions. The short time line was power.

So now there are are two options. If you are looking at occupies exclusive listings, in hot neighborhoods, you may be looking at things that are coming vacant in 5,6, weeks or more. 3 weeks used to be an ideal time table, now its cutting it a little close.

CONVERSELY, if you are looking at a VACANT apartment, that landlord expects someone to start paying rent in the next 2 weeks. If you are working with an agent representing you, make that clear. Nothing is more frustrating than taking someone to the right apartment but having it slip away because they want to wait too long to start a lease. I really do think the key to this market is being flexible on move dates.

Again if you are renting a co-op or condo the time table is much more driven by that buildings approval process. Again a different sort of flexibility is key. Happy hunting! Suzanne

NYC Rental Real Estate Agent: Why Pressuring People is Dumb

Always be closing!

You have heard that motto. The most important part of a sale is making sure it happens.

But I think in real estate pressure doesn’t work. I see people do it, I kind of admire the moxy, but it is not for me.

If you are looking for an apartment right now you are under enough pressure. Apartments are renting crazy fast. Often it only takes one hour of showing. If you have not looked in a while or are new to NYC, buildings that don’ have elevators or dishwashers may be a shock to your system.

When you pressure people, deals fall apart. I truly want people to only apply for the places they want with the terms they are willing to close the deal with.

Somewhere out there is an article saying you should negotiate after you put in your application. IGNORE THAT ADVICE. That is the surest way to lose an apartment you want. You should ask for any concessions, special requests, and a specific move date when you apply, not after.

I keep this blog going in the hopes that apartment seekers will be better informed.

I look for people who are confident the apartment is right for them and are want to close the deal.

If you are unsure about your roomate, or your guarantor isn’t sure they want to be responsible or you need a corporate guarantor like Insurent, or you are not sure you really want to move, figure out those things before you start making appointments and applying.

NYC 2022: Rental Season Strategies

So “rental season”started early this year. After a winter of low supply/high demand now at least there is inventory. But I would say traffic is a month ahead of 2019. I feel like we are at the end of April not March.

If you are relocating to NYC my number 1 tip.

BE PREPARED BEFORE YOU HUNT

If you are working with a tenants’ agent they may have sent you a list of what most landlords ask for. The best thing you can do is look at the required paperwork, income, and check your credit. Landlords can be choosy, so you want to make your side as polished as possible. If you are representing yourself have everything ready to go. This means guarantors too. Your parents in Peoria, or Plains, or Portland may be surprised at the level of documentation renting an apartment in NYC requires. It’s that not far off from qualifying for a loan.

HAVE YOUR TEAM READY TO GO

So 2 years ago we were doing tons of remote deals. And if you are working with a luxury building, it may be just fine to work remotely with an agent. If you are looking at walkups, or your budget is tight it really pays to have all the tenants at the showing, making a good impression, and being able to decide together. I have had listing agents tell me that a clients physical absence cost them the apartment. Again if you are looking at 5K 1 bedrooms in FiDi it’s probably not that big a deal. But a 2300 1br, the listing agent will probably go with someone they met. Be watered up, wear comfy shoes, get some sleep, don’t be hungover. AND make a nice impression on the listing agent. Say hi, introduce yourself, show you are a pleasant easy person to work with. If you love the apartment ask if they have applications and what will win the lease. Offering a bit over may make sense if you think the apartment is a deal.

BE KIND

It may seem like we have all the power, but trust me, having 100 people request to see an apartment has its own challenges. At an open house I always notice how someone treats the other people there. That kindness and consideration stands out. Also at this point most apartments on the market are OCCUPIED. This means you are in someone’s home. They may only want to show it at certain times. This can be tough when you want to visit a lot of places. Show respect for the tenant and their belongings. Backpacks are the devil if you are a vase.

BE FLEXIBLE

Move dates are a big deal when everything is so busy. It may make things a lot easier to have an overlap between the move out and start dates, or a mover who uses storage. Also if the first of the month falls on a weekend you may have to wait until a weekday to move in. If an apartment is vacant, that landlord wants a lease that starts asap, not a month out. You may need to be less rigid on location, or having a dishwasher, or something. If you are searching online and there is only one apartment that fits your criteria, you are not in good shape. You need to have search parameters that give you multiple options. Don’t get fixated on one listing!

DON’T BE SHY

If you love an apartment let the person showing it know it’s at the top of your list. Let them know why. If you have a pet or pets make sure the building policy is a good fit.

I wish I had a magic wand. I love making people happy. I HATE having to tell people no. I had a dad call me up SCREAMING because his daughter lost out on a place, and I really liked her too. It broke my heart. Yes you may have to adjust your expectations, but I promise if you are qualified and put in the work it will turn out ok.

Happy Hunting!

up, up, and away

So it has been the craziest, strangest time in the rentals game I can imagine. Rents are not at an all time high, nor are fees, but the velocity is dizzying.

People are coming back to the city all at once, just like they left.

I always took a lot of pride in calling everyone who contacted me and giving them perfect service.

That is now HARD. People are frantically looking for apartments on a landscape that is uneven.

Two weeks ago I was searching for a place in Chelsea for some clients, agents were telling me they were swamped with offers OVER LIST PRICE, FOR A RENTAL. One even said BEST AND FINAL.

So it is not that there are no apartments, it is that big groups of people are all looking for the same thing, Everyone wants space to work at home still, some of the tiny apartments that people would consider are functionally obsolete.

Agents are also way too busy. I have heard this a number of times today, that people cant even get a response. I feel awful but I understand. Real estate is sort of clunky by nature, and right now we are overwhelmed. I am also showing a lot on the listing side and most of these renters are unrepresented.

Now you don”t need a tenants agent if you are perfectly qualified with a great budget. But I am seeing people struggle with qualification and I know if I was their agent I could have directed them and helped them.

The key. BE FLEXIBLE. Please . I see people stuck in a narrow groove of what they will consider, especially when it comes to location. Be open minded. Every single neighborhood in NYC can be a wonderful experience, I promise you. If your search is making you want to beat your head against the wall, change the parameters.

I worked with a lovely client recently, she thought she needed to move downtown, and what we saw was not inspiring. We found her a beautiful place right down the street she lives on now. It was meant to be,

Slow Your Roll: Real Estate is about Relationships

So if you are the average apartment hunter you probably think the more apps, ads, websites the better. I see this all the time. Renthoppers I am looking at you

Roxy the renter thinks: “I am going to come to NYC, race around from appointment to appointment and that will get me the BEST DEAL!”

Please please please if you can, SLOW YOUR ROLL.

So I have a very nice client with a very tough budget at the moment.

I was trying to find her anything!

I spoke to an agent who said, WHAT DOES YOUR CLIENT REALLY NEED?

I said room to do art.

That was more valuable than saying she needs a 2 bedroom that nets to 1600 with a lease no longer than 12 months.

That little anecdote shows you real estate is about relationships.

The best thing you can do is ANSWER THE PHONE when an agent calls and SPEAK not TEXT with them. See if you click. Ask them questions. Ask them if what you want is realistic or if you need to adjust your expectations. Ask them how they work with relocation clients. Ask them what they can do for you in a day, two days.

My client “Helen” trusted me to manage her whole search. We spoke on the phone a lot, did a few virtual showings, than did her whole in person search in 6 hours and she got her perfect place.

I am hearing SO MANY people who left during the pandemic trying to get an apartment remotely. BUT I am finding many of these remote renters are struggling. They have been away a year or a year and a half. The market has changed, the city has changed, prices are UNEVEN. If you have a tough budget or demanding criteria there is a limit on what remote showings can do, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure about WHERE you want to live. Or if you need to adjust your search based on your budget and what is available.

I’m not the perfect agent for everyone, nobody is, but consider searching for the right relationship, and then let that person search for properties.

How to make your real estate agent work hard for you

What is the secret to any relationship?

Communication.

It’s not different with a real estate agent.

Sincerity, honesty, loyalty. Say what you want and what you need.

I think just working with one agent is a great choice, that person gets to know truly what you want, and may even anticipate your needs before you express them. In NYC there are a lot of things that are not advertised online. Those can be the best deals. But if bouncing around and just seeing things listing online is your preference that is just fine. It’s ok to want to play the field.

Also WE ARE NOT ROBOTS. I know Zillow/Street Easy allows you to put in an appointment time but please, just contact us and see what works for us. We are people with families and lives, we are not working in the office of an apartment complex all day.

If you decide we need to immediately run across town for you, perhaps offer to pay for the cab.

Are you in a group of roomates? Please get everyone on one page with all your wants and needs and then have everyone together for showings if humanly possible. Groups of 3 and 4 should have one person co-ordinate paperwork ahead of time. WE ARE HAPPY TO HELP YOU GET ORGANIZED.

So there are now people coming to NY for internships. In traditional real estate these short term leases are a lot of work and hard to find. They will almost always have a broker fee because most landlords will not pay us for a short term lease. I am always super up front about this. Consider co-living or even subletting.

The other day someone offered to pay me to find them a furnished short term lease. I got a landlord to agree to convert a listing, got a list of what they needed in the apartment, arranged a virtual showing. All of a sudden they told me they really wanted something with no fee and blew up the deal I was working on in the dentist chair!

That is cranky by the way. Honestly I will now be more reluctant to help anyone looking for short term. There is an old and ugly saying in real estate, buyers are liars. Don’t be that person.

Don’t put an agent in the middle of your family feud! I worked with a family all last weekend. Everything was very last minute, and there was conflict that centered on the selection of an apartment. I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO SOLVE YOUR FAMILY POWER STRUGGLE!! When parents and adult children are in disagreement hoping a real estate agent can magically be the mediator never works.

Tell us what is going on. If someone has an disability or emotional problem or mental illness we can adapt.

Just like you would with someone your are dating. Be clear about your needs. Be clear about your style of communication. Be reasonable in your expectations. If its not working out say so. Respect our time. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and that’s ok. Please if you say you are working on an application and you change your mind tell us.. Just be honest and respectful.

If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make that change.

I promise I will keep trying to make the world a better place and believing #kindness wins.

Understanding Landlords: The true “secret” to finding the best NYC apartment deals

Mario Salerno made headlines last year as the landlord with a heart. He waived rent for his tenants during the first wave of the pandemic.

So on April 15 we are seeing the most curious rental market ever. Some landlords are back to pre-pandemic inventory levels, prices are going up, concessions are vanishing. (I will miss OP being nearly universal.)

So what gives.?

There are three things that effect whether a property rents or sells–

PRICE

APPEARANCE

ACCESS

Everyone always forgets about access, but it is currently the key.

Each landlord has their own way of doing keys, applications, lease signings, payments. Some make it easy, some not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I respect traditional old school landlording, things were done for a reason that often makes sense. (Like a signed lease without money means nothing.)

But the easy to rent crowd is doing well. I had a lovely couple lose out on an apartment. Remember when getting a place was competitive? We are almost back there. Landlords who kick it old -school still have backlogs of inventory and frankly better prices.

I hate to toot my own horn, but work with an agent who understands landlords and you will get the most for your money!

The in-between time

So I have noticed that the “advice to movers” posts are timeless and the “state of the market” posts age really quickly.

BUT

I have this great desire to kind of explain what is going on now, because there is a shift.

There are still great deals out there. GRAB THEM. If you only need a place for a year there is still a chance to live in a FANCY building at a discounted rate, but even versus two weeks ago it is different.

Some landlords still have a big backlog of inventory, others all of a sudden don’t. I am seeing the bounce back in the bargain category. A month ago in midtown west there were still some large 1brs under 2k. Now not so much.

It really varies landlord to landlord. What people are looking for is different. Bedrooms for roomates are now doubling as offices and that is hard. Small studios linger. All of a sudden 3brs and 4brs are hot. I am seeing prices up 200-400 dollars in some cases. But some things that are hard to rent are hanging around.

So what I am seeing is an uneven recovery, it differs from neighborhood to neighborhood, landlord to landlord. I worry people will be frustrated that I cant get them what their friends got a month ago.