How long before I want to move should I start my apartment search?
Your best bet is to start searching for apartments approximately four to six weeks before your preferred move-in date (add 2-4 weeks for condos and co-ops as the approval process can often take up to a month or even longer). 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. Keep in mind that many 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.
You can always start your apartment search early, however, and it can be particularly useful to do so if you’re considering moving into a high rise building as they typically have units available year-round and you’ll be able to narrow down your search to specific buildings and apartment lines you like. Most high rises have fairly cookie-cutter apartments with similar finishes and layouts throughout the building making the search more about finding a building that fits your lifestyle and has the amenities you're looking for rather than finding a specific apartment. And even if you happen to like a more unique layout, there will likely be dozens of apartments available in each floorplan, so it’s incredibly likely that if you were to see an apartment in a “04 line” you like today that another will be around at your desired move date.
What time of year is best to look for apartments?
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, enabling you to comfortably explore the surroundings and neighborhood of an apartment that suits 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. December through February are some of the slowest months of the year in terms of demand, and many landlords will drop prices or offer concessions. While negotiating the rent is always tough, and you may only save $50 or $100 a month in rent compared to spring/summer prices, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to score a concession like a free months rent (or even more depending on the length of your lease). A free month on a 12-month lease is effectively an 8.5% discount. 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 more 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- If you plan on negotiating a price discount or concession 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 wary of deals that leave you with a lease-end date in the summer. This is a newer phenomenon, but many landlords will now ask for a 16-18 month term if you're renting in the winter so that the lease renews in the summer, when market conditions are better, and when they can charge a higher monthly rate.