How To Find An Affordable Apartment In NYC
In a city infamous for high rents, finding a great deal on an apartment may be as elusive as finding a pearl inside an oyster. But there are some great deals out there IF you know where to look. Over the next few weeks we will share tips on how to uncover them in our series How To Find an Affordable Apartment in NYC.
We think that the best way to kick off the series is with New York's most prevalent and infamous form of below market housing, the highly coveted rent stabilized apartment. Many of us have a story of a friend, cousin or acquaintance who found the deal of the century – the $500 studio or $1,200 two bedroom. But are these stories real? Well maybe. Nearly half of all the rental apartments in New York City are rent stabilized. That's about 987,000 rental units. Quite a number. But just who is getting those deals and how did they come by them?
Many stories about rent stabilized apartments involve some of the rich and famous – or infamous. Remember Mia Farrow? The actress' name has been in the tabloids for many things, but New Yorkers probably remember her most for her deal at The Langham on Central Park West. She paid just $2,900 a month for the rent stabilized 11-room unit that was featured in the movie Hannah and Her Sisters.
But Cindi Lauper got an even sweeter deal for her apartment at The Apthorp. When she learned the building was previously rent stabilized, she took the landlord to court to restore the status. The '80s pop star succeeded in getting her rent reduced from $3,750 to $989 per month! Kind of gives new meaning to her hit song" Money Changes Everything."
And then there is former NYC Mayor Koch. During his twelve years as Mayor, he was able to keep his rent controlled apartment – for which he paid $475.49 per month back in 1989 – even though he was living in Gracie Mansion (rent stabilization rules require the unit be your primary residence).
Rent stabilization is not just for the rich and famous. Everyday people have also realized amazing deals. Last year the New York Post reported about a man who moved to Manhattan from Italy in the 1940s. He was paying only $55.01 per month for the SoHo one-bedroom in which he grew up. His young wife stands to inherit it. Another 87-year-old man has been paying $71.23 for his one bedroom since 1967! He was considering marrying his 47-year-old former lover so the lover could inherit the apartment.
Some people will do just about anything to stay in a rent stabilized apartment. Recently the Daily News revealed that shareholders of a Brooklyn co-op sued a city Department of Education employee claiming she continued to pay her aunt's $287.55 per month rent for three years after the aunt's death! The shareholder made excuses whenever the landlord asked to access the unit, which is located in a sought after building just steps from Prospect Park.
So just how do you get these great deals? To be honest – it isn't easy. The competition is fierce, especially since the rent stabilized rates on average are about $1,245 a month cheaper than market rate. Further, rent stabilized landlords are even more selective than market rate landlords since by law they may not accept more than a one month security deposit. Unfortunately, most vacant rent stabilized apartments are at market rate because of the yearly increases or because they are situated in new developments where the rent stabilization is a result of developer tax breaks.
Your best shot of nabbing one of these gems is to move in with a relative and gain succession rights to the apartment. The inheriting party must be a spouse, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law of the lease holder. That is why the niece in the Prospect Park story was not a legal successor.
Other than succession there is luck and the help of a good broker!