Renovating? 6 ways to find temporary digs

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Embarking on a renovation? It’s better for everyone—you, your family, your contractor—to vacate the apartment while the work is going on, lest you delay the project or tear your hair out living among the debris. That means you’ll likely have to find a short-term rental, and that won’t come cheap or easy.

Renovators face unique challenges when it comes to renting a place for a few months at a time. You may need something furnished or with utilities and other expenses included. You’ll likely want to stay close to work and schools, rather than experiment with a new neighborhood. And renting for less than a year often comes with a premium, sometimes as much as 20 percent or, for furnished rentals, up to 30 percent, according to local brokers. “The turnover is expensive for landlords,” explains Philip Lang, co-founder of Suitey, a brokerage.

Lastly, given that renovations always (always!) take longer than you expect, you’ll need to allow for a buffer—“Count on being in the rental for double the time you originally estimate,” advises Leslie, an Upper East Sider who sublet during the repair of a leak in her co-op—and a flexible lease that gives you an option to renew in the event of delays. “Negotiate in advance how much notice you need to give to extend your short-term lease. Talk to the broker or management company before you sign anything, and find out requirements for extensions,” says Dylan Pichulik of XL Property, which manages individual condos and co-ops for investor owners.

All these concerns compound the difficulty of finding an apartment. Luckily, we’ve rounded up six methods that renovators can use to lock down a short-term rental:


Many big, corporate landlords have guidelines for how they handle short-term leases, which means that you'll have a good shot at finding one that'll rent you a place for less than a year. (It also helps that large buildings tend to have higher turnover, which means more available apartments.) For example, at the Columbus Square rental complex  on the Upper West Side, the management company offers an "early termination rider": after a minimum stay of three months, anyone who signs a 12-month lease can pay a $3,000 fee to get out early, as long as they give 60 days' notice. 

Like regular rentals, these apartments are searchable on websites like StreetEasy and CityRealty. You can also go to large landlords like GlenwoodRelated or Equity directly. Most will have contact forms on their websites. 

And timing can be everything. Landlords may be more willing to offer short-term leases or waive certain fees during the winter because the lease will come due during the summer, when the busy rental season means they can charge more to the next tenant. The rents are also often lower on short-term leases this time of year, says Philip Horigan, founder of Leasebreak, a listings website that connects users with short-term rentals.

Another option is to rent in a larger townhouse, says Andrew Rose of brokerage Mirador Real Estate.  "At the lower end of the rental spectrum, you can find short-term furnished residences in multi-unit townhouses where the owner can simply provide a 'roommate agreement' for the apartment in question. That's especially easy if the owner lives in one of the units of the building," he says.


Many companies provide furnished housing for employees, particularly, says Horigan, in "transient," office-heavy neighborhoods like Midtown and the Financial District. But they're also a source of short-term rentals for renovators.

On the plus side, corporate relocation services are convenient, since everything from the electric to the furniture is already hooked up. On the downside, the rent is about twice as much as you'd pay on a year-long lease. Prices at providers like Furnished Quarters, AKA Apartments and Churchill Corporate Housing range from $5,000 to $6,000 for a one-bedroom and around $9,500 for a two-bedroom. “A similar one-bedroom in a ‘regular’ 12-month lease situation would be in the $3,000 range,” says Halstead Property agent Victoria Vinokur.


Websites that cater to the short-term crowd abound these days, and come in several different flavors. 

Vacation sites like  VRBO and Airbnb often curate rentals in desirable neighborhoods (i.e. where the tourists want to be).   The luxury home-sharing service  OneFineStay offers temporary accommodations--including, should your household require and your budget allow, dozens of bespoke townhomes for rent.  OneFineStay's hotel-like touches include housekeeping, linens and toiletries, and a maintenance team is on hand to handle problems like getting locked out. 

Short-term rentals aimed at tourists can be a pricey longterm solution since they're competing with hotel rooms, not regular apartments. That said, you can try to negotiate a lower rate, especially in winter months when tourist traffic is down.


Leasebreak is a listings site that specializes in legal sublets, almost all of which are between one and 12 months. Most lease breaks, in which the new renter is taking over someone's lease before it expires, are posted by the current renter or a broker, and most are unfurnished.  “The soup-to-nuts apartments are more expensive than the lease breaks in most cases," Horigan says.

When it comes to convincing a landlord to let you stay short-term, individual condo and co-op owners may be more flexible. (You can find them much like you would a run-of-the-mill housing situation, using listing sites like StreetEasy, which has a search filter for short-term and furnished options.)

However, it’s gotten more difficult to find condo buildings that smile on short-term tenants because of the negative publicity surrounding Airbnb, XL’s Pichulik says. "Most condos will say rental leases need to be for at least six months to a year,” he says. “If someone’s renting for less time, ask to see the condo board’s bylaws to confirm it’s okay."

And you probably want to stay away from co-ops, which tend to have strict restrictions against subletters. “You’ll likely have to go through a long board-approval procedure and residents are usually looking for someone who’s going to take it up for a whole year,” says Lang.


Another option is to hire a broker to do the heavy lifting for you. While referrals from friends and family are always a good way to pick one, if you’re keen on staying close by, you may want to choose an agent who works in your neighborhood, since they’ll be more familiar with the options. Also, many of the city's large brokerages have relocation departments stocked with brokers who specialize in short-term housing. 

As far as fees go, most firms charge one month's rent for a lease of up to six months. Anything over that is the standard 15 percent. But it never hurts to negotiate. 


Now’s a good time to use Facebook to see if any of your friends (or friends of friends) are breaking their leases or temporarily leaving the city.  Online groups that cater to certain demographics (like UES Mommas on Facebook or the Park Slope Parents listserv), can also be a good place to go if you’re set on staying in a particular 'hood.


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