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My New York Holiday: Finding A Vacation Rental in NYC

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As a native New Yorker, nothing irks me more than having to pay outrageous amounts of money for a place to stay in Manhattan. Last year hubby and I had it easy; we rented our friend  West Side apartment – 1BR, doorman building, right across from Central Park – for three weeks and then stayed at a hotel for the last week. This year, however, we have five and a half weeks in NYC during the Fall high season and MB's apartment is taken.

I started out on Craigslist on the advice of even my realtor friends, looking at the NYC Vacation Rentals and NYC Sublets pages, each of which has hundreds of listings per day. So my first problem was simply being overwhelmed by choice, sifting through thousands of ads. I made some inquiries and immediately slammed into two more Craigslist problems: scams and "dealing locally."

Several people responded to my emails by flat-out declining any willingness to work with me since I am living in the Caribbean. Even though I have social media presence, several blogs and websites, and a job with one of the most exclusive hotels in the Caribbean, people just didn't want to hear about me. Of the people who didn't seem to mind my location, about 70% were scams.

How to identify a Craigslist scam? First, Google whatever street address it gives you for the property. Most will send you an address of a commercial-only property and then paste photos from other sites and ads. Then ask for the contact information of the person. I had one woman who sent me a commercial address, tried to say that she would meet me at her office at midnight when our flight gets in (because the doorman can't hold the keys so we had to come to her office), told me that I couldn't call her directly because she was hearing-impaired, and then yelled at me for wasting her time and not sending money to book the listing. My experiences on VRBO were similar.

When I had enough of getting yelled at by strangers, I decided to try the corporate furnished apartment sites, such as Furnished Quarters. The problem there is that they are used to dealing with the deep-pocketed corporate clients that were spending lots last year on travel, and haven't quite come to grips with the new economy. $200 a night for an apartment is just not happening when good hotel rooms are going for less!

Now, one problem with NYC real estate is apartment size. I was offered a cheap sublet in Greenwich Village from a friend of a friend, but the apartment was about 300 square feet, in a walk-up building, with no oven (and we like a kitchen so we can cook when we tire of fabulous restaurants).

After many hysterical requests to friends and family, I went through a few real estate brokers and finally settled on Glenn Davis of New York Living Solutions who found us a nice 500-square-foot studio apartment at 1 Bank Street in Greenwich Village via his friend and "cooperating broker" Valerie Zingaro of Ardent Property Group. Great price, great service, great people for a long distance booking!

My advice for finding a New York City vacation rental is to use licensed real estate brokers such as Glenn and Valerie. You may have to pay a small fee, but at least you can be assured that your apartment will be there and will be as advertised. I spent so many days and hours screwing around with non-existent buildings and apartments, and I could have just saved the energy and let these guys do the work for me from the very beginning. I will post another article with photos in a few weeks so you can see the apartment, the building, and the neighborhood.

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About Lynda Lippin

  • http://www.pinehollowlodging.com jason frome

    It’s true that there are a lot of scams on CL. Unfortunately, CL doesn’t monitor the site. All you can do is go back to the poster and flag the page.
    I was surprised to hear of scams on VRBO though. I hope you reported them to the site. As part of the Homeaway group, they take scams pretty seriously!
    We know of a NYC vacation rental site that is legit. Prices seem reasonable and the apartments are lovely.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    I do know this website and it is legit. However, at the moment you can get a full service hotel room in NYC for well under $200 per night, and I ended up in a nice studio in a great building for around $100 per night total.

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/elvira-black Elvira Black

    I have never trusted Craigslist. Time is money, and CL seems to be in the “pennywise and pound foolish” category. There are sites that specialize in this kind of furnished rental, as you mentioned. In fact, when I finally make it to Amsterdam, I plan on staying in one of the furnished apts in the center of the city, comparable in price to a good hotel. Don’t want to do the “tourist” route–yuck.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    For Manhattan, using sublet.com has worked for me. Right now they seem to have an estimated 100 rentals all over Manhattan for less than $750 with some fine looking ones at around $600/week or $100/day.

    There also seem to be some really nice shared bathroom hotels cheap–based on reviews and articles, not experience. ($85 day, I think) I will be trying them out as our NYC budget is very tiny these days. I’ll post some links from home, if I can get to it.

    Anyway, my sublet.com experience as a tenant was perfect. Lots of photos too. I also have experience on sublet as a landlord, since I’ve turned half our unecessarily big house into an apartment to help meet the expenses. They send landlords a renew link weekly to make sure all info is kept up to date. If the landlord does not respond they will call and ask if your place is still available. If you don’t answer, they will hide your ad until you take action. That way, prospective tenants don’t go there and find old ads that waste their time. So, all around my experience with sublet.com is excellent.

    Tried an ad from craigslist once, even the exchange was a terrible experience, didn’t rent it, the people sounded shady and untrustworthy. The price kept changing.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    The shared bathroom thing is a bit creepy for me. Even in college I wasn’t thrilled with that idea. The only problem for me with sublet.com is that again I get overwhelmed with too much info. That is why, for me at least, using an agent even with a small fee (built into my total) was preferable as Glenn could check out the building for me.

  • Kim T

    Vacation rentals are becoming more and more popular and so, the internet is making it easier to find quality homes. The place you want to start is on FlipKey.com. It’s like shopping for a toaster on Amazon.com – on FlipKey you will find vacation rentals that are reviewed by guests who have actually stayed at that individual property and ONLY those people. You can only review the property if you’ve stayed there so you know it’s not being padded with good reviews from the owner or their friends. That’s the kind of reassurance everyone is looking for and it can’t be beaten. Every horror story I read is about VRBO. I guess that’s why they have a ‘buyer beware’ bit on their front page. If you are looking for great value, check out GetMoreVacations.com where you will find professionally managed vacation rentals that provide you with free golf, free deep sea fishing, water parks, amusement parks, zoos, etc – every day of your stay. Neither one of these sites (GetMore or FlipKey) charges you anything for booking. FlipKey is the go-to place for vacation rentals, so much so that now TripAdvisor features the reviews on their site.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks for the useful information! We are actually in our studio apartment at 1 Bank Street and it’s fine. The building is nice and the location is fabulous. Comfy bed, good water pressure, great neighborhood!

  • Lori Katori

    But aren’t all rentals in NYC illegal if under 30 days? I’ve experienced all kinds of scams even on Flipkey. Nothing is really safe is it?

  • http://www.pilatesandreikiinparadise.com Lynda Lippin

    Only 30+ day rentals are strictly legal. Where we are on Bank Street we used a broker, signed a lease, and even have a mailbox key. Anything under that and you are basically subletting from a stranger with all that that entails.

  • Lori Katori

    Thanks for the information. New York Habitat is illegal as well subletting for less than 30 days. There are so many realitors doing the same thing. I can’t imagine they are leaving the rental empty for the remainder of those days.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    It is important to remember that the rental market is not what it was and that many people are looking for short term deals, so an agent will try to fill a listing however they can and many specialize in vacation rentals. Plus the daily rate is higher than a monthly per diem. If you own an apartment or are an agent for an owner you can usually sublet your apartment, so the shorter term rentals fall into a very shady legal area.

  • anna

    By renting an “vacation” apartment at 1 Bank St., you have unwittingly engaged in the illegal use of this apartment.

    Please read One Bank Street illegal hotel coverage in “Motel Sucks” in the “Village Voice” and in “Chelsea Now” for all the details of what has occurred in this building and many others in our city. Long term, legal residents are being forced out of our homes and communities to convert these newly vacant apartments into illegal hotel use.

    By patronizing illegal hotel businesses, you endanger yourself and are participating in destroying communities and lives. Please alert your readers!

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    Hi Anna
    This article is 2 years old and I still believe that the 30+ day rental is not illegal. There are many empty apartments in NYC right now and at least these are producing some income!

  • anna

    Hi Lynda,

    The NYC illegal hotel problem has actually been growing explosively over the last 5 years and has been covered by many media sources. Since you were recommending One Bank in particular, I referenced the Voice’s detailed 2 year old article about our home and community. The facts presented in this article are as pertinent today as they were when first published.

    FYI, regarding NYC residency requirements: the NYC Dept. of Finance specifies that apartment buildings with a “residential” certificate of occupancy, such as One Bank, may only be occupied by “permanent” residents. They define “permanent” as someone who resides in an apartment for a minimum of 90 days, not 30 days.

    If a tourist is not interested in the potential negative impact on individuals or communities caused their patronage of an illegal hotel, perhaps they would be interested in their own safety. Be aware that buildings zoned as “residential”, are not required to meet the same safety or fire code regulations as hotels. Many NYC officials are very concerned that tourists are at risk in apartment buildings being operated as illegal hotels. Property owners who advertise “vacation” rentals in these buildings are breaking the law. Several have already been prosecuted and shut down. For confirmation of the facts pertaining to illegal hoteling in NYC, contact Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office. He and some of our other elected and appointed officials have been working hard to put an end to illegal hotel operations in our city.

    As to your final comment that “there are many empty apartments in NYC” and that “at least illegal hotel rooms are producing some income”, please be mindful that this comment seems to blithely disregard the destruction of our community wrought by illegal operations. One Bank (and many other apartment buildings operating as illegal hotels) always had a waiting list of people who wanted to live there as legal residents. Your “empty” apartments would most certainly not be empty, but occupied with legal, permanent residents were it not for the illegal hotel operations.

    Again, I’m sure you didn’t intend to contribute to the loss of our homes and community by booking an illegal hotel room at One Bank Street. I encourage your readers to read the Voice article and the coverage in “Chelsea Now” and “The Villager” online before they reserve a “vacation apartment” at One Bank. It would be in every tourist’s best interest to research the NYC illegal hotel issue on Trip Advisor and elsewhere before booking any so-called “vacation apartment” in our city. Many people from around the world admire the history and culture of NYC, and our Greenwich Village neighborhood in particular. I’m sure most of these NYC “fans” would not want to contribute to the destruction of that which they admire.

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    OK, I never said that at least illegal hotel rooms are producing some income. What I did say was that I was under the impression that 30+ day rentals were legal and in that sense the apartments were producing income. As a native New Yorker who plans on living in the Village again at some point in the future I am of course interested in the survival of the neighborhood. The companies I worked with offer long term and short term rentals in the building with the price dropping for a longer term. I do not appreciate being misquoted.

  • anna

    Many apologies for the misplaced quotation marks. I meant to write “at least these” (illegal hotel rooms) “are producing some income”.

    If you plan on visiting (or living in) the Village again, I’m hoping your interest in the survival of the neighborhood will motivate you to research the damage done to our community by illegal hotel operations. Many of the creative artists, families and seniors who make up our vibrant and unique community have been pushed out of our neighborhoods due to illegal hotels. This loss of community is not just a tragedy for those of us who live here, but for the tourists (and potential future neighbors) as well.

    Residents of our neighborhoods ask that tourists assist our overwhelmed city agencies in their efforts to stop illegal hoteling by refusing to patronize these businesses.

  • AG van der Westhuizen Cape Town

    Hi Lynda.
    After being in the tourism accommodation business for 14 years and doing reservation everyday of my life, I thought I was quite awake when it came to scams. From time to time, we get the odd outlandish request, but I soon identify the ‘Joker’ and just calmly delete the e-mail.
    Till, I had to try and find us accommodation for a two-month stay in New York! Well, I have never in my life experienced the scams I came across on the different sites. My first encounter was Craig’s list….. Travelling with ZAR, one has no choice but to strictly keep to one’s budget.
    The stories these ‘advertisers’ come up with are unbelievable! I am very worried about the smaller accommodation industry worldwide. How can the older generation and not so well informed tourist survive these scams? If everyone has to try and book only via reputable booking agents, after fees, etc. is added, much less people will be able to afford to travel.
    Well, let me get back to searching and hopefully I will find an honest advertiser.
    Good luck
    AG

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    Email or call the realtors I list at the end of the article to get a true idea of available places!

  • steve

    The reason vacation rentals are so popular these days is because they make a whole lot of economic sense. Nightly rates are often at or below average hotel rates, and vacation properties provide money-saving flexibility thanks to full kitchens, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and larger living spaces. For travelers, they are a necessary alternative to expensive hotels and eliminate the need to eat out for every meal. Intangible benefits such as increased privacy or the sense of living like a local are also a draw.

  • Brittney Leigh Stonewall

    Hi Lynda. My name is Brittney and from experience, finding vacation or long-term rentals can be pretty tough. Believe me: I’m a writer and theatre performer, who travels quite often. I am aware that there is a myriad of scams out there and it is hard to decipher what’s the truth versus a phony listing. People can sell you anything these days with a potential buyer (renter) having the lack of knowledge. I can also see why in the end, you’ve chosen to find real estate brokers to ease the tension from the tedious process. I have been in this situation before and I know that finding a place in New York can be quite difficult, at the rate hotels tend to charge. Times like these are meant for people to stick together and I can only imagine what goes on in the minds of the illicit proprietors. There’s a company that I’ve become well accustomed to using, which is New York Habitat, and their website features exempt properties from the Multiple Dwelling Law. You can google the company and examine what they have to offer in the New York City area and they also offer vacation rentals in Paris, London and South of France. Check them out; I think they’re very good in terms of business etiquette and matching your ideal needs. I hope you find what you’re looking the for on your next travel to the “Big Apple.”

  • http://www.lyndalippin.com Lynda Lippin

    Actually, I now live in the Big Apple, so always have a place to stay :).

  • Jo

    TRIP
    ADVISOR and Flipkey -FRAUD

    I
    booked apartment in central London
    via Tripadvisor paying also for their “peace of mind policy”
    insurance (88 $). I gave visa card number and instead of blocking money on my
    account they collected it immediately.

    I
    tried to contact the owner Martin C., I wrote him several times on his e-mail
    stated on flipkey but he did not respond. So I called the number provided in
    booking and man picked up: he said that I got the wrong number, that he is
    Martin indeed but he does not rent any apartments…

    I
    tried to find property on flipkey or trip advisor but …It was not listed
    anymore…They removed it as they “found out that this individual does not
    have right to rent those apartments” but they were happy to keep my money
    on tripadvisor account (quite profitable business if you think about number of
    clients) and they didn’t bother to inform me about the situation!

    I
    contacted flipkey and they said they will “cancel” my booking of
    non-existing property and return me money. I got 1 day to find a hotel in London and I do not have
    to mention that prices were overwhelming.

    Trip
    advisor returned my money (US$2358.00) after 10 days (payment on 4.04, return
    on my account on 18.04) but… I am from Poland so to my horror I noticed
    that I miss 910,47 PLN (about 300 $, which is actually half of my monthly
    salary) – there was the spread!!!

    I
    paid the insurance so of course I complained to tripadvisor to give me back that
    difference: without any result, they said that they reimbursed fee in full (so
    even if that was totally their fault, I had to bear the cost of this
    transaction. Their insurance is obviously meaningless. Contact with support
    desk is not so easy and stress I had trying to find accommodation for 5 people
    just before departure was terrible.

    It
    is a disgrace for renown service to behave like this. So: never ever again!

    Summary:


    seek other agencies DO NOT book via Trip advisor or Flipkey, – they do not take
    any responsibility of whatsoever they advertise, just your double fees you are
    paying

    -never
    give them your card number- they do not block money like booking.com but
    collect it and keep on own account. They call it safe way- think for yourself
    for whom it is safe and profitable. Pay after arrival and if it is not
    possible, seek other accommodation (that was advice from their support desk 1
    day before my departure, when money for my hotel in London were still on their account!)

    -do
    not bother with this insurance- it is worthless- they said it covers up to
    10.000 $ but just try to get something of cost you paid (actually they should also
    give me back money for my hotel- it was much more than cost of this apartment)