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.