As the weather gets a bit warmer and New Yorkers start to believe that winter will end, it’s worth noting that the rental market has a peak season of its own. Generally speaking, the market is slow in the colder months of the year. Moving can be painful in cold weather, so inventory is low and renters are less motivated to venture out in sub-zero temperatures, slogging through snow drifts, to find their ideal apartment. By early May, however, when colleges around the country are wrapping up classes for the year, the New York real estate market is in a full-on frenzy.
The peak season runs from early May through the end of September, closely following the seasonal rhythms adopted from years of schooling. Recent college graduates, or students who remain enrolled but who are moving to the city for internships, combined with pleasant weather, have created an of intensely competitive real estate environment during the spring and summer months. While everyone who wants an apartment in New York will eventually find one, quality apartments in desirable neighborhoods, with lots of amenities and reasonable rents, are in much higher demand during this time than in the winter. Spring and summer are not the times of year to be negotiating the rent with the landlord, or the broker’s fee with your agent. Those seeking apartments in peak season are navigating the most competitive real estate market in the world and are often competing against the world’s wealthiest, most well-connected renters, all of whom have impeccable credit and resumes to die for, or parents/guarantors that fit that description.
This is the time of year when you should have all of your paperwork in order when you go to a showing, ready to hand off to the agent. The first weekend of May 2013, my broker and I were representing two one-bedroom apartments on Cumberland Street in Fort Greene, half a block from Fort Greene Park — an ideal location. We listed the units on Friday night, and by 10am Saturday morning, both apartments had three applications, including deposits. Those people saw the apartments and ran to the nearest bank to get a certified check, before most of New York had even started their weekend. It’s truly a first-come, first-served environment. In one case, around the same time last year, I showed an apartment to three different potential tenants, and two of them stuck around chatting about the neighborhood for 20 minutes, while the third literally ran to the bank and got a check in my hands, along with a completed application and her paperwork, neatly organized. She got the apartment. Be prepared to jump on a place that you love, and to find the entire process frustrating, because the competition will be fierce.
Sure, it’s no fun moving in cold weather, and since you moved to New York after college, you’re already on a warm-weather lease schedule. But if you have the opportunity to move in the next six weeks, you may be able to save yourself a few headaches. Once spring hits, real estate in New York is serious business.
See what the New York City buyer and seller market is like in peak and slow times with When to Buy and Sell in New York City.