How long before I want to move should I start my apartment search?
While finding an apartment can take as little as a few days the entire process of getting your paperwork together, searching for and viewing homes, and applying can take some time, so it's always best to be prepared and start early. “The best time to start searching for your next rental apartment is about 4-6 weeks before the desired move-in date" according to Mike Fabbri, a real estate agent with Nest Seekers International. “The best apartments go quickly, and landlords typically look for immediate occupancy. The rental market in NYC is extremely competitive, so being able to start a lease immediately gives you leverage and makes you a more desirable tenant,“ explains Fabbri.
Give yourself even more time for condos and co-ops
Mariana Bekerman, an agent at Bond New York agrees with Fabbri that 4-6 weeks prior to your move-in date is a good time-frame for rental buildings, but recommends more time for condos and co-ops, "If you want to be in a co-op or a condo I advise you to start searching at least 2-3 months prior to your current lease end date. Approval (once a package is submitted to a board) can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 30 days, give or take“ explains Bekerman.
Keep in mind that landlords typically receive notice from departing tenants 30 to 60 days before their leases expire so this is when future inventory will hit the market. Most landlords won’t show occupied apartments until the final 30 days of the expiring lease and some won’t show them at all. If you’re looking at vacant apartments that are available immediately, landlords will typically accept a move-in as late as two to four weeks from the day of your viewing.
What time of year is best to look for apartments?
It depends on what you're looking for and whether you prioritize convenience, price, or inventory. If you’re interested in finding the best selection of available listings as well as pleasant apartment viewing weather, late spring and early summer are the best times for apartment hunting. More apartments hit the market for rent from May-July than any other time of the year, so you’ll have an overwhelming amount of options to chose from. Be prepared to act quickly once you find a place you like as apartments spend fewer days on the market during this time as demand is at its highest. You also won’t have to worry about dealing with cold temperatures or snow so you can comfortably explore the surroundings and neighborhood of apartments that suit your fancy, giving you a great picture of what living there might be like.
When and how can you find the best deals?
Finding a deal on a New York City apartment can be tricky as supply and demand dictate prices and vacancy rates tend to be quite low, hovering around 1-2% depending on the neighborhood you’re interested in. There are, however, a few things you can do to ensure that you’ll get a better deal.
1- Plan on moving in the winter- If you’re able to move during the winter months you can save big as many landlords will drop prices and offer concessions. "For renters, the best time of year to hunt for a home is the "off-season" from October-April" explains Corcoran broker Sydney Blumstein. While apartment hunting during the winter may not be as pleasant, you can save quite a bit thanks to lower prices and enticing concessions. Negotiating the rent is always tough, however, and you may only save $50 or $100 a month in rent compared to high-season prices, but it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to score a major concession like a free months rent, which is effectively an 8.5% discount. The best way to get a concession is to agree to terms that also benefit the landlord explains Blumstein. "If the tenant takes an apartment in January and agrees to an 18-month lease, they help the landlord get into a better rental season." If you’re working with a broker, many landlords will also cover the broker fee for you during this time of year, potentially saving you thousands. So if you're looking for no fee apartments plan on moving between November and March as you'll have lots of options.
2- Target vacant apartments- As Blumstein puts it, "Negotiating the monthly rent is best done when an apartment has been on the market for a while." If you plan on negotiating the monthly rent or additional concessions, your best bet will be to target apartments that are already vacant as the landlord is losing money on them with each day they remain unrented. You’ll need to be ready to apply asap so make sure you have your paperwork at the ready. It’s also essential to be able to move in quickly as offering the landlord an immediate move in on an apartment that may otherwise spend another few weeks or more on the market can translate into thousands saved for them, which they may, in turn, be willing to pass on to you.
3- A broker may be able to help you find the best deals- While using a broker sounds counterproductive due to the need to pay a broker fee you may actually find better deals by working with a broker. This is because most landlords who offer no-fee apartments know that they can charge more than smaller landlords. There are a variety of reasons for this, but they include the fact that big landlords have access to better marketing as well as the ability to charge a rent premium due to the convenience associated with renting in a "no-fee" building (other selling points can also include lower security deposits and no move-in fees). Agents and brokers, on the other hand, can get you unparalleled access to condos and coops that will typically offer more bang for your buck and better value (that is of course if you can afford the up-front fees). Negotiating rent can also be quite tricky, and a professional can certainly help ensure you get the best deal.
One final tip is to be aware of rent increases at the time of renewal. While getting a concession is a great deal, it's typically a short-term benefit. You won't get another when you renew, even if your landlord is offering similar concessions to new tenants. NYC landlords use concessions to get you in the door but then operate on the idea that you'll be ok with rent hikes and no concessions to avoid the inconvenience of moving. The most dramatic hikes can occur on leases that renew in high-season. For example, you might score a $4000 two-bedroom apartment with 2 or even 3 months free on an 18-month lease during the off-season, but that same apartment might renew for $4200/month with no concessions.