The New York Times Real Estate Section shows once again why it is lame in helping average, typical renters. The number of truly useful articles on renting an apartment in New York are minimal, and often they can’t make up their minds whether they are trying to appeal to newbies to the rental scene or sophisticated New Yorkers.
Their latest article “Renters Should Be Sprinters” by By JOSEPH PLAMBECK (and published on 11/24/11) starts off well enough:
AT first blush, it doesn’t make much sense: If you know you’ll need an apartment in New York in several months, why can’t you start a serious search now, rather than wait until your move-in date is just a few weeks away?
The short window of opportunity for an apartment hunt is a fact of life in the city. In large part, it’s a function of limited supply and high demand — landlords believe that the greater the number who see an apartment, the more rent it can command. And renters may not want to commit ahead of time, fearful of missing out on something better or cheaper.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely that renters will be able to conduct a long, leisurely search for an apartment anytime soon. Rents in the city are near historic highs, and vacancies are on the scarce side, whether in new rentals or condominium towers or prewar co-ops. The timeline is a few weeks longer for rentals in condos and co-ops.
Then we hit the meat and potatoes of the article:
First, understand how the timing works. If you’re looking for an apartment in a rental building for Dec. 1, for example, the supply of available apartments most likely peaked after the first week in November, Mr. Golub (the director of rentals at Citi Habitats) said. Perhaps as much as 95 percent of what was available for that move-in date was listed by then, he said. Most landlords are not certain about what they will have available two months from now.
But then they go and confuse the situation:
Properties are sometimes kept off the market, and not just because the landlord’s niece may be moving to New York. Mr. Golub says that if a property has proved difficult to rent, the landlord may keep more desirable units unlisted until it has been. Landlords may also try to time the listing to hit an upswing in rental prices.
“The market moves so quickly,” Mr. Golub said, “that a lot of landlords like to first see where the market is.”
Is it just me? This article needs some editing. Why through in the lines about landlords trying to time the upswings in the market and that landlords like to first see where the market is. How is this going to help anyone who is renting an apartment in New York City? Does any potential renter care that some landlords are withholding certain apartments from the market? I think renters only care about their current choices, not the choices they will never know about.
Then come a few more words of good advice:
In such a fast-moving market, apartments are often snapped up within a few days of being listed, so prospective renters need to be on their toes.
To get ready, agents say, be honest about your level of commitment long before the crunch arrives. How many apartments are you willing to see? How much time are you willing to put into this? Will you use a broker?
Then the Times throws in a few paragraphs about renting in coops and condos. Folks, not one in a hundred renters rents in a coop or condo. But the Times likes to massage a few of their big advertisers, like Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead. That’s really the only reason they throw those paragraphs in. For an article aimed at people who are just figuring out that they want to rent, thinking about coops and condos is not part of their reality.
Then come the closing paragraphs. Back to renting 101;
And whatever you do, said Fritz Frigan, the director of leasing at Halstead, once you start looking at rentals, make sure you come fully prepared to complete an application and put down a deposit. Have a sense of what you want, including price, size and style of apartment. And have all your paperwork in order.
Landlords and property managers almost always check your credit report, so make sure what they will see is accurate, and try to fix the record if there is any issue. (Each of the three major credit agencies allows one free report a year, at annualcreditreport.com.) Also, be aware that the landlord will probably want copies of recent bank statements and pay stubs.
In almost every case, you will also need fast access to a sizable chunk of money, often three to four times the monthly rent, to cover the security deposit, initial rent payments and the broker’s fee, if any. Having the money in a certificate of deposit is no good if an apartment is available now. Be ready to present a cashier’s check at a moment’s notice, because not all landlords accept personal checks for deposits.
“Nobody is going to wait” for the paperwork, Mr. Frigan said. “You want to come prepared, so if you like what you see, you can act.”
Well, thanks for telling me I need to sprint (which is mostly true) but that I need to slow down if I want a coop or condo rental. And thanks for telling me I need to have my money ready when I go looking.
I’m glad we have the New York Times Real Estate Section to educate us all.