The Search

An insider's guide to finding a short-term, furnished apartment rental in NYC

By Evelyn Battaglia | April 14, 2022 - 1:30PM 

Some short-term rental agencies rent new or renovated units from private owners and send in their own design team to fit them out with furnishings and appliances.

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Finding a rental apartment in New York City is notoriously hard—and finding a short-term, furnished rental here is even harder. I’s a dilemma you may face if you're relocating here for work or if you are renovating. Or perhaps you're a visiting professor or want to visit your kids who are attending college here. Or you might be receiving medical treatment or providing care for a friend or family member.

No matter the scenario, the challenge is inevitably the same: How do you find accommodations that are legal, economically feasible, and offer the comforts of a real (if temporary) home?

"One of the most common requests we get as brokers in NYC is for short-term furnished rentals," says Tara King-Brown, a broker at Corcoran. "This runs the gamut of price points, neighborhoods, and clientele."

That said, "Sometimes brokers are aware of short-term rentals, however it’s not a general practice," says Karen Kostiw, an agent at Coldwell Banker Warburg.


[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was published in July 2019. We are presenting it again with updated information for April 2022.]


What's behind this Catch-22? It’s tricky to find leases that are shorter than the standard 12 months. For starters, NYC prohibits rentals for less than 30 days when the host is not present, hence the limited supply of legal, short-term apartment options.

Then there are the economic disincentives. Landlords (including renters who are subleasing a unit) are supposed to pay a 5.85 percent hotel tax plus a daily hotel unit fee of $1.50 to the city for leases that are less than 90 days. The same applies to “room re-marketers” such as Airbnb, Home Away, and VRBO.

You’ll also want to steer clear of illegal listings and stay on the right side of the law when it comes to those platforms. Otherwise, you may find yourself being escorted out of your prepaid, nonrefundable apartment two months shy of the end date.

Rest assured, viable options exist. "We usually direct clients to hotels for weekly requests, corporate stay options for 30 days to six months, and rental or condo buildings for six- to 12-month lease terms," King-Brown says.

Rely on Brick to unpack that silver-lining statement and walk you through the potential pitfalls so you can avoid those hassles and headaches. You'll also find a round-up of short-term rental agencies to help you save time and effort in finding the right interim resting place for your NYC stay. Read on.

What are the different rules for co-ops, condos, and rental buildings?

"Most NYC co-ops do not permit short-term leases," says Neil B. Garfinkel, a real estate attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson. “These entities do not want to promote a transient hotel-like environment, that’s the bottom line.”

According to King-Brown, condos generally require a six-month (or longer) minimum lease term, and you might have to receive building approval by completing an extensive, weeks-long board package.

"Condo boards and residents work to avoid short-term turnover of any kind as they feel it deteriorates the quality and experience of the building," King-Brown says, with one caveat: Owners are often allowed to have a "guest" stay for up to 30 days at a time without submitting a full board package if you are a friend or family member and not being charged rent. 

Kostiw cautions that rental buildings often impose their own restrictions around short-term rentals.

She advises reviewing the building's policy and conferring with the managing agent before signing any short-term lease. "It’s also a good idea to have a personal lawyer that will ensure that the agreement is legitimate, and meets New York rental tenant laws," she says.

How can you spot a scam?

Unfortunately there are many scams associated with short-term rentals. How to avoid them? Consider the source. Unless you’re working with a reputable firm or agent, be on guard.

Be especially aware of postings by individual tenants rather than the landlord. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure a renter has the ability to sublet the apartment. You also have every right to speak directly to the landlord. If the answer is no, walk away.

Go with your gut: If a listing looks too good to be true, it most likely is. Size up the photos, floor plan, and price.

Kostiw offers this cautionary tale in which a prospective renter of a short-term rental did some sleuthing, saw the apartment had recently been sold, and contacted her as the selling agent to confirm if the apartment was legitimately available for rent or if it was a scam.

"It was a scam, of course. The apartment was not for rent, and the list price was much too low for a three-bedroom unit," she says. 

What's more, furnished rentals are always going to be more expensive than unfurnished, so beware of any unreasonably low rates.

What are some short-term rental solutions?

For one turn-key approach to renting a furnished apartment, consider co-living companies. Some of these companies offer minimum stays as short as 30 days and some allow residents to hop from property to property.

Another option is to work with agencies that specialize in furnished short-term stays.

Many of these enterprises (like Blueground and Bedly by Outpost Club) were founded by folks who say they were frustrated by their own extended-stay experiences. These networks of furnished rental options are based on a hospitality business model, so you are dealing with an investor-backed business instead of individuals.

Keep in mind that furnished rentals do come at steeper prices than unfurnished rentals, but you'll be recognizing significant savings over an extended hotel stay (at an average of $350 per night times 30 days). You'll also need to avoid doing damage to the furnishings or end up having repair or replacement costs deducted from your security deposit. On the other hand, extended-stay hotel residences offer more flexibility in case you don't want to commit to a full month visit.

As with any rental, you will find the greatest inventory—and highest rental rates—from June through September, so if possible, take advantage of price drops (but lower supply) from December through March. 

Being flexible also helps. You may have to make compromises regarding having a doorman or being in an elevator building or settle on an earlier or later move-in date.

And be on the lookout for hidden costs; some rental quotes include wifi and utilities and housekeeping, but others don’t. Do your homework.

The following agencies and companies (presented in alphabetical order) are well reviewed and worth a try.

1) AKA Central Park

Backed by a multigenerational (and multibillion dollar) real estate company, AKA's claim to fame is having "the world's most livable hotels," with a mission of providing an elevated alternative to weekly and month-to-month apartment rentals.

Choose among studios, one- and two-bedroom suites, and penthouses at one of three NYC locations: AKA Times Square, AKA Central Park, and AKA Sutton Place.

These "hotel residences" are based on an extended-stay model rather than a rental agreement, with all the luxury amenities—complimentary wifi, valet laundry service, housekeeping, grocery delivery, on-site fitness center—you expect from high-end accommodations.

The costs: You'll have to make a formal inquiry to find out the rates—meaning if you have to ask, they are probably out of your price range. (Or you can reserve through a third-party service like Booking.com, where the total monthly fee for a studio at AKA Central Park was $17,200.)

The upshot: If proximity to cultural attractions and living in the lap of luxury are your top priorities (and budget is not in your vocabulary), you are AKA material.

2) Apt212

As the name implies, Apt212 zeroes in on the mostly Midtown and Downtown Manhattan market. Having started as a traditional real estate brokerage in 2010, the agency now specializes in matching renters with short-term stays. The listings include rooms for rent in shared apartments along with private units in luxury buildings.

No credit checks are required, though you will need to submit to a criminal background check, as with most other agencies.

Apt212 does not coordinate roommate meetings, so you will have to go on whatever information your booking agent can provide (or hope to meet your co-residents during the initial showing). This could be potentially important since you are unable to switch rooms until your current lease runs out. 

The costs: Besides a one-time $100 application fee, Apt212 charges a service fee for each lease based on a percentage of the reservation subtotal before taxes, similar to a brokerage fee. (Hosts are charged a service fee to cover the cost of processing payments and apartment maintenance.) A security deposit equal to the first month’s rent is also required at booking and held by the landlord.

For an example: To secure a one-month stay at a studio apartment in a full-service, pet-friendly building (with fitness center and rooftop deck) in Tribeca listed at $4,590 per month would require you to cough up $10,322 at move-in, including a service fee of $698, $100 background check, and one-month refundable deposit.

Other costs compound the base rental: Cable and wifi is $140 extra per month; electricity is also extra, by usage. Some landlords require monthly cleaning to keep apartments in good condition (at an additional charge) and a one-time move-out cleaning, which can be deducted from the security deposit.

The upshot: Apt212 may not be the most economical choice but, thanks to a no-credit-check policy and guarantor acceptance, it can be a viable option for students, recent grads, and others with zero (or poor) credit history. The site is also transparent in the breakdown of all the costs before booking, so you know exactly what you are signing up for.

3) Bedly by Outpost Club

If you are open to a shared space, Bedly by Outpost Club is an option. The co-living company has furnished short-term rentals in mostly Brooklyn neighborhoods but also Harlem, Ridgewood, and Jersey City. (Outpost Club acquired some of Bedly’s buildings in 2019 after that company closed abruptly.)

Like other co-living companies, Outpost Club handles the entire rental process, including matching you to roommates. You can also opt to rent an entire apartment to yourself. Leases are available for one to 12 months.  

The costs: All leases require a refundable security deposit, though if you cannot afford that upfront amount, you can apply for financing to cover the deposit; this involves a setup fee of $49 and a monthly fee of around 1 percent, depending on your risk level. Utilities and wifi will run you an extra $75 per month; twice-monthly cleaning is included in the rent.

Price and square footage can vary, and by a lot. A one-month rental in Bushwick could range from $750 for the top bunk in a male-only shared room to $1,470 for a private room with private bath and over $3,500 for the entire shebang.

The upshot: You're not just renting a room, you're getting access to social activities, with movie nights and other planned activities. You can also try out the different neighborhoods (especially if you are Brooklyn bound) before establishing more permanent roots.

4) Blueground

Of the companies included here, this self-described “real estate tech company” is the one most credited with disrupting the extended-stay industry with its digital-first business model, seamless transactions, and proprietary app.

Blueground rents new or renovated units from private owners in specified areas, sends in its own design team to fit them out with custom furnishings and appliances, and then handles all the leasing and maintenance.

The listings are predominantly in Brooklyn and Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, with some options in Long Island City, Hoboken, and Jersey City. Most listings are in elevator buildings, and many are pet friendly.

The costs: A few searches for apartments resulted in monthly rates in excess of $10,000 for a one-month stay. For example, a two bedroom in Carroll Gardens would cost you $11,310 plus an additional $355 for utilities and $1,409 in taxes and insurance fees. A studio in the Financial District would run you even more, at $12,500 exclusive of the extras.

Renter beware: The monthly rate that shows up in your search results is the cheapest available based on a 12-month lease (or rather one day shy of 12 months).

The upshot: If the idea of tech-enabled efficiency and stylish, full-service accommodations speaks to your own sensibilities, Blueground is a safe (albeit high-priced) bet.

5) Churchill

With over 30 years in the business, Churchill is a respected leader in the luxury corporate housing market, helping with employee relocations and business travel as well as insurance-policy accommodations and home-renovation placements.

The apartments are mainly situated in Midtown and Lower Manhattan as well as Murray Hill and Lincoln Square. Most are in full-service buildings and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops, custom cabinetry, and Italian tile in the bathrooms, among other bespoke details.

The costs: The 12 Manhattan listings ranged in price from $209 to over $900 per night, with rental quotes available upon request.

The upshot: Churchill is still the default for discerning tastes and deep pockets.

6) Furnished Quarters

Founded in 1998 by two real estate developer brothers who owned two brownstone apartments in NYC, Furnished Quarters is the largest independently owned and operated provider of global temporary housing, and not just for corporate clientele.

Working in conjunction with various landlords, Furnished Quarters has its own design team that furnishes the units, including signature wallpaper, sheets and towels, and even their eco-friendly cleaning supplies. Additionally, Furnished Quarters rents out units in its own buildings (mostly brownstones and townhouses). Properties are spread across Manhattan and Brooklyn and into White Plains and Hoboken.

The costs: Its diverse portfolio comprises properties in a wide range of prices and with a wide range of amenities, with affordable mid-tier buildings and full-service high-rises with all the desirable perks. As with Churchill, rental rates are only available upon request, but there are many more to choose from.

The base rental cost includes wifi, utilities, twice-monthly housekeeping, and maintenance—basically everything but city taxes. And because there's no security deposit or any service fees, there’s less of a barrier to entry.

The upshot: By bundling the costs, Furnished Quarters makes it easy to predict your monthly expenses. It also provides a lot of bang for your buck in terms of getting 24/7 service without an extra fee. Their FQ Green initiatives (reusable shopping bags, paperless philosophy) mean you can feel good about your stay.

7) Leasebreak

Leasebreak aggregates listings for shared and private apartments across the five boroughs of NYC and New Jersey. According to founder Phil Horigan, the inventory is split between units rented directly from landlords and agents (including some of the companies on this list), and units posted by tenants looking for subletters or new renters in case of a lease assignment, where the new person takes over an existing lease. (Note that in the case of a leasebreak, a new tenant will be required to sign a new lease, usually for a full year.)

In the interest of full transparency, Leasebreak provides the source of the listing and whether a fee is involved or utilities included. If the post is by a broker or company, such as Blueground or Sonder, you will be connected to them via the online inquiry form.

To avoid scammers, Horigan says one of his experienced staff (or he himself) reviews every posting during a 24-hour waiting period. He requires all posts to provide a street address so prospective renters can check with the landlord or property manager directly.

Leasebreak also asks all tenants whether they have their landlord’s permission to sublet or re-rent, and then publicly display that answer in the post—and you can filter your search to only include the ones that said yes. You can also look for stamps of approval from the landlords themselves, though that is not yet a search filter.

The costs: This varies as widely as regular rentals do. A recent search for an entire apartment on the Upper West Side for a month-long May rental turned up 15 results, ranging in price from $4,000 for a studio on West 57th Street (the tenant did not have landlord's permission) to $5,490 for a one bedroom on West 91st Street with Blueground.

The upshot: Leasebreak lets you cast a wide net in hunting for legitimate short-term rentals, going beyond even other aggregate sites to include tenant posts that might otherwise fall under the radar.

8) Premier Furnished Solutions

Premier Furnished Solutions specializes in professionally designed short-term leases for corporate relocators and business travelers, namely in entertainment, tech, finance, law, and oil and gas, according to the website. The multilingual staff is also tailored to diplomats, consular officers, and other international clientele requiring “cultural sensitivity.”

The costs: Once again prices are only available upon request but are all-inclusive of utilities and housekeeping, and there are no service fees or security deposits. There are, however, available add-on “amenity packages” including a pet package for $500 (for toys and essentials) and a chef package for $350 (if you require an espresso machine or a food processor, for example).

The upshot: If you are accustomed to only the best (and/or are on an expense account), Premier Furnished Solutions’s “boutique white-glove service” might be worth funding. 

9) Sonder

Founded in 2012, California-born Sonder has expanded globally, entering the NYC market a few years back. Currently it has nine properties in five nabes: Long Island City, Tribeca, Financial District, Flatiron, and Midtown East.

As the most hotel-like service of the bunch, you can book rooms on a nightly basis (with a two-night minimum) or by the month—or any length of time in between. And as a hotel-like environment, the accommodations do come with house rules: No smoking, no parties, no pets, and a suggested quiet time from 10 pm to 8 am. On the flip side, there are no credit or background checks required.

The über-modern buildings offer eclectic, design-forward furnishings, top-notch amenities such as rooftop lounges and fitness facilities, and fully equipped kitchens.

The costs: Prices are in the $200 to $500 per diem ballpark and are assessed a nightly tax and a $35 fee to cover the post-checkout cleaning. Regular housekeeping can be arranged for an additional fee.

The longer you stay, the better the deal, with a 35 percent discount off of 30-day bookings (so you would pay $4,875 on a room that costs $250/night and would normally be $7,500). You may have to pay a refundable security deposit depending on the property.

The upshot: Sonder apartments combine hotel convenience with the comforts of home.

 

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