Renovating your New York City apartment (congrats!) involves more than finding a reputable contractor and choosing your palette and appliances. It also typically requires you to relocate, at least while the bulk of the work is being done—and your kitchen and bathroom are off-limits.
The problem is, short-term rentals tend to be difficult to locate and typically cost 20 to 30 percent more than regular long-term leases.
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The reason? "The higher turnover, which is expensive for landlords. Most landlords are looking for longer-term tenants,” says Philip Lang, co-founder of real estate brokerage Triplemint. Plus, renters seeking short-term stays are competing with people who need corporate housing (paid for by their companies, of course) who are willing to pay more for flexible leases, he says.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article was published in August 2019. We are presenting it again with updated information for April 2021.
You’ll find the most listings for short-term rentals in spring, but that’s also when asking rents are the highest, says Philip Horigan, founder of Leasebreak, a short-term rental marketplace. Currently, he says, rents are down about 10 to 15 percent compared to last year (when discounts were even steeper).
“Traffic for short-term rentals has really surged in the last two months. In fact, Leasebreak has had more traffic this March and April than any March and April in its history—since 2013. With all of the uncertainty in people’s lives right now, shorter-term rentals offer tremendous flexibility,” Horigan says.
Although there are some landlords that will rent furnished apartments directly to tenants on a short-term basis, the overwhelming majority of buildings still have a one-year minimum.
But the pendulum may be swinging back when it comes to condo buildings. They used to be known for permitting short-term tenants but saw tighter restrictions after the negative publicity surrounding Airbnb.
Some condos are coming around because of the pandemic—and some co-ops too. “Over the last year, I have noticed some condos and co-ops have loosened restrictions and were allowing more flexible lease terms—less than 12 months,” Horigan says.
Still, that’s likely to be a very small smattering of buildings. Many buildings will say rental leases need to be for at least six months to a year. If an owner says their apartment is available for a shorter period, ask to see the building’s bylaws to confirm it’s okay. You wouldn’t want to the building to put the kibosh on your stay partway through.
But you don’t need to depend on the whims of landlords and co-op and condo buildings to find a short-term rental.
Find Your Next Home
Thanks to the influx of hosting sites and industry disruptors like Sonder and Blueground, New Yorkers looking for short-term rentals have more options today than in the past. Even corporate housing, where prices have dropped to stay competitive, is an option.
Whichever route you take, it pays to be strategic about timing your renovation. Co-living companies and even traditional landlords may offer concessions or allow shorter terms during the winter, when they may want to fill up unoccupied units. What’s more, if your short-term lease will end in the spring or summer, landlords will be better able to find a new tenant—and charge that person more.
Keep the above in mind and use these seven methods for finding the best short-term rental while you renovate your NYC apartment.
1) Explore your local neighborhood
First try to rent in your immediate neighborhood so you can stick to your work, school commute, and other routines (like your morning jog or visit to the dog park)—and keep an eye on the reno work to make sure it is proceeding at an appropriate pace. Use your local knowledge of where the big rental buildings are and stop by and ask the doorman or concierge about any current or upcoming vacancies (they always know). If you play your cards right, they just might be able to hook you up with the landlord or tenant, even before a unit is officially on the market.
2) Search for digs online
Like regular rentals, many short-term rentals are posted on the usual listing websites, though you may need to do a little sleuthing to find them.
On StreetEasy and Realtor.com, for example, you can use the advanced search option to select the filter for furnished apartments and/or sublet apartments, both of which are more likely to allow short-term rentals.
Or you can head straight to Leasebreak.
“One great way to get a short-term rental is to take over the remaining months on someone's lease,” Horigan says. (In that scenario, a new tenant will take over someone else’s active lease, with the landlord’s approval). Because of the pandemic, he says, “there are more ‘leasebreaks’ than ever before, and many current tenants are looking to cut deals."
Besides leasebreaks, this site has grown to include other legal short-term options such as furnished month-to-month rentals, unfurnished sublets direct from a tenant for a specific time frame, and rooms for share.
Apt212 is another online marketplace. It offers furnished short-term rentals in Manhattan. You can do the legwork yourself by searching the site or work with one of its agents; either way you’ll be charged a fee. “We have over 3,000 listings, updated regularly, and screen everyone to make sure it is legitimate,” says Yoav Blat, founder and CEO.
Some of the larger landlords offer a few furnished rentals directly to tenants. A site called No Fee Rentals offers rentals managed by Jakobsen Properties, which lets you search for no-fee short term and even “ultra short-term” rentals.
When possible, seek out a short-term lease with the option to extend, in case the renovation takes longer than planned—it inevitably will. Find out in advance how much notice you need to give and if that is at all negotiable. It’s safe to say you’ll need to let them know at least 30 days in advance of the extension.
3) Move into a ‘corporate’ pad
As the epicenter of so many industries, New York City has long been flush with corporate housing providers who help companies find short-term accommodations for their executives and employees.
Furnished apartments are move-in ready and ideal for New Yorkers in the middle of a renovation project who are not looking to take on yet more decorating decisions. Those that come with utilities and wifi baked into the rent alleviate the chore of setting those up. (You can read Brick Underground’s round up of companies that provide short-term, furnished rentals.)
More recently, these established companies have been rebranding themselves as suppliers of long-term stays for students, international travelers, and even families, with ample multi-bedroom units for the latter clientele.
Prices are still steeper than unfurnished rentals but if a fitness center, children’s playroom, rooftop lounge, and other such amenities are important to you, these mostly Manhattan properties might be your best bet.
Both Premier Furnished Solution and Churchill Living require you to fill out an inquiry form and speak with a representative to discover rates and availability. The FAQ section of Furnished Quarters is transparent and enlightening. One-bedroom apartments in non-doorman buildings, typically brownstones, start at around $4,500 a month in summer or even less during slower seasons.
4) Think like a tourist
Gorgeously photographed and ideally situated apartments on hosting platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and One Fine Stay may be tempting, but it can be tricky sussing out which are are legit before you hand over any (non-refundable) payments, especially for anything longer than a month. (Read Brick Underground’s “How to rent a short-term, furnished apartment in NYC without getting scammed.")
Instead, there are a growing number of extended-stay options that are based on a hospitality model, and you can pick the one that best fits your budget. You may even be able to negotiate a lower rate, especially during the off-season.
AKA has extended-stay properties in three Manhattan neighborhoods (Central Park, Times Square, and Sutton Place). It offers a hotel-like experience, with free wifi, housekeeping, coffee and tea service and access to gyms, lounges, a screening room and business center. Rooms range from studios to penthouse suites, all with gourmet kitchens.
Both Sonder and Blueground lean as much toward residents as tourists, with stylish spaces in desirable neighborhoods (mostly in Manhattan). Rates start at $3,730 a month for a one bedroom through Blueground and $133 a night for a Sonder one bedroom with a minimum 30-day stay ($3,990)—both are several hundred dollars less than last year’s prices. These are less all-inclusive types of places, for example some amenities require a fee, but if you’re not using a gym or pool—you might appreciate not having to pay for it.
5) Rent a co-living space
If you fit the profile (18- to -35-year-old professional working in tech or creative sectors) and don’t mind sharing your temporary home with strangers, consider the city’s numerous co-living opportunities. These “adult dorms” offer a private bedroom in a stylish space, complete with access to a stocked kitchen, housecleaning, and buildings with modern perks. Most companies also create opportunities for networking and socializing through pop-up events and happy hours (now on hold or online because of the pandemic).
You can expect a private bedroom start at around $1,150, slightly more for one with a private bath. A few companies require an additional membership fee.
Because they bundle the cost of the rental with utilities, co-living companies are big on convenience. Plus they are driving the industry toward a digital-first platform for a tech-savvy constituency. (For more information on these and other companies, check out "Brick Underground's guide to co-living spaces in NYC.")
6) Let a broker do the work
Finding a broker who is well-versed in short-term rentals is another option, especially if you want someone to do the heavy lifting for you.
“There are a few agencies that specialize in short-term furnished inventory,” says Triplemint’s Lang. Apt212 and Manhattan Management Group are a couple. “Most of the larger brokerages also have relocation specialists or agents with experience in short-term rentals,” he adds.
You will have to be willing to fork over a fee, usually a month’s rent for shorter leases or 15 percent for anything over six months.
“Working with a reputable broker may save you money in the end because we can negotiate on your behalf and broaden your options,” says Tracie Hamersley, a broker at Douglas Elliman. Plus you can capitalize on their connections. “I called a property manager who had just happened to speak to a tenant who was looking to sublet her apartment, and I was able to place my client in a short-term lease. That serendipity happens all the time.”
Hamersley also has a valuable resource in the firm’s internal bulletin board, where she can reach out to all 4,000 agents across the city to find leads on rentals that may be off market or broker-to-broker. “I can post what I am looking for and quickly get a match,” she says.
Over the past 18 years, Michelle Sedlitz, an agent at Citi Habitats, has helped people rent out their furnished apartment for the summer or while out of the country for half the year, most recently a six-month sublet of a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo (with the board’s permission). “I always tell renters these furnished short-term rentals will be expensive, but every now and then I find a tenant/landlord willing to come down quite a bit on the price.”
Sedlitz also finds that renters are willing to forego the bells and whistles and save money on a basement unit in a walk-up.
7) Tap your social networks
The old word-of-mouth method also yield results. Ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors, dog-park acquaintances, gym buddies, whoever else you know if they (or someone they know) will be vacating or subletting their apartment. Post your request on social media channels, including the local marketplaces on Facebook. Be creative and persistent. You never know.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Lucy Cohen Blatter and Donna M. Airoldi.