Good resources for finding livable rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan?
June 24, 2009 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Good resources for finding livable rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan?

My husband and I are looking for the impossible - a livable, 700+ sqf, 1+ bedroom apartment in Manhattan that's not in Harlem, Washington Heights or the Upper East Side.

I've been living in the city for 15+ years, and I feel like I've exhausted the only resources that I know of - Craigslist, NYBits, friends and relatives... and I have nothing to show for it.

I know, it's ludicrous to even hope for such a thing. Nonetheless, does anyone have any suggestions of other things to try? I've heard people read the obits, but I'm afraid that as soon as a stabilized apartment opens up, it automatically goes to a family member of the managing company's boss or becomes destabilized.

So... any ideas? Success stories to share?
posted by jdruk to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
One thing that worked for me once was to essentially bribe the real estate broker. I made it very clear that he would be well rewarded if he found me an apartment with some very specific requirements.
He came through and I gave him an extra $1000 cash on top of the fee. This was at the peak of the market here in Manhattan, and there was some fierce competition for any good apartment that came up.
Of course, the success of this method depends on whether the broker is on his toes and gets access to the good listings.
Another method, which is more labor intensive, is to walk around your desired neighborhood and try to find the supers of the buildings, and ask them if they know of any apartments available. Usually, in smaller to medium sized buildings, the super will be taking care of more than one building, so they have access to more apartment availability. I see people asking the super of my building this all the time. Again, it wouldn't hurt to offer a "finders fee" to the super.
One last, but surprisingly successful method is to tell everyone you meet. I know you've probably told friends and relatives, but I'm talking random people at parties, dinners, the line at the bookstore, etc. Anytime you get into a conversation, somehow work it in that you are looking for a place. This method worked for me a few times back in the late 80's early 90s, and I don't see why it wouldn't work now.
posted by newpotato at 10:09 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Success story: I found my rent stabilized apartment through a serendipitous exchange I had with someone on a transcontinental flight. She was moving to L.A. and I was moving to NYC. I took her 1 bedroom apartment on the UWS. I sublet and there are definitely some drawbacks because I can't do anything without getting it cleared by the lease holder first, but it's still a sweet deal in a great area. Good luck.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2009


I know, it's ludicrous to even hope for such a thing. Nonetheless, does anyone have any suggestions of other things to try? I've heard people read the obits, but I'm afraid that as soon as a stabilized apartment opens up, it automatically goes to a family member of the managing company's boss or becomes destabilized.

This is most likely true. The people I know living in rent controlled apartments moved in during the 70s and some had the apartment passed down to them from previous tenants who had moved in during the 50s and 60s. Are you open to rent stabilized? I found my rent stabilized 1 bedroom in Brooklyn Heights just by going through the neighborhood and asking supers and boutique brokers if they had heard of any openings (and being an organized, good candidate who had all the paperwork ready and they would want to call). Our rent increased by less than 2% a year- not a bad deal.

Also, have you tried the housing lotto? Two of my friends who live in huge, beautiful apartments on the Upper West Side got them this way. There is an income cap, but the better the apartment, the more generous it is. Keep an eye out here and check back frequently.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:33 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


@Thin Lizzy Yes, I am looking for a rent stabilized apartment (see my post above). :)
I know there's no hope for a rent controlled apt. Sigh.
posted by jdruk at 10:40 AM on June 24, 2009


Actually, you most likely don't want a rent control apartment... the rent goes up 7.5% every single year... and the landlord can pass along an additional 15% in (state approved) capital improvements. My partner just gained control of his parents rent control apartment, and sadly we are probably going to be priced out of in about three years. Not all rent control rents are super cheap.
posted by kimdog at 10:54 AM on June 24, 2009


Lots of misinformation posted here. But let me begin by saying in the name of all that is good and holy please do not payoff your broker for a rent stabilized place. They just aren't that rare and the broker is already massively over compensated for their efforts.

Rent controled and rent stabilized are not the same thing.

There is no such thing as being able to get a rent control apartment. You can only inherit the lease and you had to have been living there before your loved one passed. Rent Control = rent doesn't change. New Rent Control building ended in 1971

Rent Stabilization is much more common and it is not as hard to find as some people here are portraying it. While classic rent stabilization ended in 1971, since 1974 landlords have had the option of permitting rent stabilization in new/renovated buildings in exchange for meaningful tax benefits. This is what the Tishman Speyer/PCV Stuy Town kerfuffle is all about.

I found a rent stabilized place as recently as 2001. My current apartment is not rent stabilized. Rent Stabilization means that City determines each year how much your rent goes up by. Here are the last several years rent increases (per this)

As best I can tell you need to go back to the 80's for rent stabilized increases greater then 5% for a one year lease.

Of course she is correct about the capital improvement rules. Your landlord can recoup improvement costs at 1/40th per month

The rent guidelines board will tell you all sorts of good stuff about how the system works

Including this list of all rent stabilized building in Manhattan. If you cross reference this against streeteasy listings <then 2000k a month I bet you'll come up with several places to look at.
posted by JPD at 11:23 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


And by discarding the UES you are actually missing out on tons of rent stabilized places. It may be boring but its cheap and safe. (I don't live there anymore tho)
posted by JPD at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


@JPD Thanks for clearing that up - yes, I've read up on all the laws, and you're right. I'm pretty clear as to the differences between stabilized/controlled - my problem is that it's ridiculously hard to find a stabilized place. Yes, apartments do open up - but almost everything I've seen has been either a shoebox or in an inconvenient/unsafe neighborhood.

As for the Upper East Side, I have no doubt that it's a pleasant place to live. But we're hoping to move to a location more convenient to work - and we both work on the West Side. It's just a pain to get anywhere from the UES, and the fact that only 1 subway line runs through it makes for a pretty awful, overcrowded commute.
posted by jdruk at 11:33 AM on June 24, 2009


There is no such thing as being able to get a rent control apartment. You can only inherit the lease and you had to have been living there before your loved one passed. Rent Control = rent doesn't change. New Rent Control building ended in 1971

The first part of this statement is absolutely true. There are only a few rare circumstances where one may take over a rent control lease. My partner moved in with his ailing parents and was able to take over the lease when they died.

However, the rent does change on rent control apartments... the rent can go up by 7.5% per year until it hits the Maximum Base Rent, which is determined by some complex calculations at DHCR. We just met with a housing attorney who laid this all out for us.

But granted, I was a bit flip in my description... and the entire issue is moot with regards to the OP.
posted by kimdog at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2009


Another method is to walk around your desired neighborhood and try to find the supers of the buildings, and ask them if they know of any apartments available.

In my experience, if you're doing this in any even vaguely desirable neighborhood this is an excellent way to get yelled at by pissed-off building superintendents who don't appreciate having their day interrupted by househunters. YMMV.
posted by ook at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2009


However, the rent does change on rent control apartments... the rent can go up by 7.5% per year until it hits the Maximum Base Rent, which is determined by some complex calculations at DHCR. We just met with a housing attorney who laid this all out for us.

I didn't know that. But I have to say I have a hard time feeling sorry for people when the Maximum Base Rent is : "Landlords must consider all expenses, including management and professional fees in addition to fuel, utilities, water, taxes, insurance, repairs & maintenance, supplies, superintendent, vacancy loss, etc. (Mortgage interest and amortization are not allowable expenses.)"

I mean if you looked at the expenses of any apartment building nearly all of them are related to the mortgage and MBR explicitly excludes this. Its like complaining about owning a home when all you pay for it is property tax. It only seems like a lot because you are already paying so much below market.
posted by JPD at 2:40 PM on June 24, 2009


As for the Upper East Side, I have no doubt that it's a pleasant place to live. But we're hoping to move to a location more convenient to work - and we both work on the West Side. It's just a pain to get anywhere from the UES, and the fact that only 1 subway line runs through it makes for a pretty awful, overcrowded commute.

Must disagree here. I live on the UES and work in Midtown West. Commute is wonderful courtesy of cross-town bus. I rarely take the 4/5/6 and when I do it's to go north or south.

ArdorNY had some rent stabilized recently, can't in link to the property search but they're easily findable via search.
posted by TravellingCari at 4:42 PM on June 30, 2009


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