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The 7 best ways to find a short-term rental while you renovate your New York City apartment

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You've finally decided to renovate your New York City apartment. The budget is set, the materials and finishes selected, the contractors are ready to go—and you should be, too. That's because it's usually best if you vacate your apartment while work is being completed, especially since you don't want to live among debris, or in an apartment that might not have a working bathroom for a while.

Renovators face unique challenges when it comes to renting a place for a few months at a time. You may need something furnished or with utilities and other expenses included. You'll likely want to stay close to work and schools, rather than experiment with a new neighborhood. And renting for less than a year often comes with a premium, sometimes as much as 20 percent, or for furnished rentals, up to 30 percent, according to brokers. 

Why so high? "The turnover is expensive for landlords," explains Philip Lang, co-founder of real estate brokerage Triplemint.

Lastly, given that renovations always (always!) take longer than you expect, you’ll need to budget in extra time if you need it.

“Count on being in the rental for double the time you originally estimate,” advises Leslie, an Upper East Side resident who sublet during the repair of a leak in her co-op. She recommends seeking a flexible lease that gives you an option to renew in the event of delays.

“Negotiate in advance how much notice you need to give to extend your short-term lease. Talk to the broker or management company before you sign anything, and find out requirements for extensions,” says Dylan Pichulik of XL Property, which manages individual condos and co-ops for investor owners.

If you are about to embark on a renovation, consider these seven ways to find a short-term rental:

1. Contact big landlords

Many big, corporate landlords have guidelines for how they handle short-term leases, which means that you'll have a good shot at finding one that'll rent you a place for less than a year. (It also helps that large buildings tend to have higher turnover, which means more available apartments.) 

For example, at the Columbus Square rental complex on the Upper West Side, the management company offers an "early termination rider" if requested at the lease signing: Anyone who signs a 12-month lease can pay a one-month penalty to get out early, provided you give 60-days notice.

But you have to know the exact date you are looking to vacate during the initial lease signing. There's also a lease break addendum that requires 30-days notice and a two-month penalty fee. This option does not require an exact termination date at the time of the lease signing.

Like regular rentals, these apartments are searchable on listings websites, but they're not easy to find. On some sites, like StreetEasy and Realtor.com (for New York only), you can go to the advanced search page and select the filter for furnished apartments, which is more likely to allow short-term rentals. Another option is to put "short term" into the keyword window. You can also go to the websites for large landlords like GlenwoodRelated, or Equity and use their contact forms. 

And timing can be everything. Landlords are sometimes willing to offer short-term leases or waive certain fees during the winter because the lease can come due during the spring, a busy time for rentals, allowing them charge the next tenant more. 

Another option is to rent in a larger townhouse, says Andrew Rose of brokerage Vanguard Residential. "At the lower end of the rental spectrum, you can find short-term furnished residences in multi-unit townhouses where the owner can simply provide a 'roommate agreement' for the apartment in question. That's especially easy if the owner lives in one of the units of the building," he says.

2. Move into a corporate pad

Many companies provide furnished housing for employees, particularly in office-heavy neighborhoods like Midtown and the Financial District, Philip Horigan, founder of Leasebreak, says. And they're also a source of short-term rentals for renovators.

On the plus side, corporate relocation services are convenient, since everything from the electric to the furniture is already hooked up. On the downside, the rent is about twice as much as you'd pay on a year-long lease. Prices at providers like Furnished Quarters, AKA Apartments and Churchill Living range from $5,000-$6,000 for a one bedroom and around $9,500 for a two bedroom.

“A similar one bedroom in a ‘regular’ 12-month lease situation would be in the $3,000 range,” says Victoria Vinokur, a Halstead Property agent.

3. Think like a tourist 

Vacation sites like VRBO and Airbnb curate rentals in desirable neighborhoods and the luxury home-sharing service OneFineStay offers temporary accommodations—including, should your household require and your budget allow, dozens of bespoke townhomes for rent. OneFineStay's hotel-like touches include housekeeping, linens, and toiletries, and a maintenance team is on hand to handle problems like getting locked out. 

Short-term rentals aimed at tourists can be a pricey long-term solution since they're competing with hotel rooms, not regular apartments. That said, you can try to negotiate a lower rate, especially in winter months when tourist traffic is down.

Or, consider an actual hotel. "I encourage those who are working with shorter-term/minor renovations to explore hotels such as Arlo, as their rates are reasonable and it's an opportunity to live in a full-service space and perhaps explore other neighborhoods of the city," Vinokur says.

4. Find a sublet

Leasebreak is a listings site that specializes in legal short-term rentals, sublets, and lease breaks (meaning the new renter is taking over someone's lease before it expires) from one to 12 months. Most lease breaks are posted by the current renter or a broker, and most are unfurnished. 

“The soup-to-nuts apartments are more expensive than the lease breaks in most cases," Horigan says.

You may be able to rent a condo from the owner for a short period. Search listings sites for "furnished" or "short term" apartments and you may find that some condo owners have listed their apartments.

However, it’s gotten more difficult to find condo buildings that smile on short-term tenants because of the negative publicity surrounding Airbnb, XL’s Pichulik says. "Most condos will say rental leases need to be for at least six months to a year,” he says. “If someone’s renting for less time, ask to see the condo board’s bylaws to confirm it’s okay."

And you probably want to stay away from co-ops, which tend to have strict restrictions against subletters. “You’ll likely have to go through a long board-approval procedure, and residents are usually looking for someone who’s going to take it for a whole year,” Triplemint's Lang says.

5. Rent a co-living space

If you're single, the world of co-living spaces is open to you. The concept is not unlike dorm living, but with modern perks, such as bill management, house cleaning, and the occasional happy hour or pop-up event. There are now at least 10 of these companies operating in New York, so competition has heated up and you might be able to snag a good deal. Plus, depending on the company, some minimum stays can be as little as three months. Read more in "Brick Underground's guide to co-living spaces in NYC: How to tell the communal disruptors apart."

6. Let a broker do the work

Another option is to hire a broker to do the heavy lifting for you. While referrals from friends and family are always a good way to find a place, if you’re keen on staying close by, you may want to choose an agent who works in your neighborhood, since they’ll be more familiar with the options. Also, many of the city's large brokerages have relocation departments stocked with brokers who specialize in short-term housing. 

As far as fees go, most firms charge one month's rent for a lease of up to six months. Anything over that is the standard 15 percent. And it never hurts to negotiate. 

7. Tap your social networks

Now’s a good time to use Facebook or whatever social channel you're on to see if any of your friends (or friends of friends) are breaking their lease or temporarily leaving the city. Online groups that cater to certain audiences, like neighborhood groups on Facebook, can also be a good place to go if you’re set on staying in a particular area.

Related:

Considering a sublet? Read here first

How not to get scammed on a sublet

Yes, it's still illegal to rent out your NYC apartment for less than a month