Going Nomad to Avoid Summer Rent Spikes

With Ms. Leonor studying for her social worker licensing exam, and Mr. Scharf for the New York state bar exam, they needed an apartment with enough room for each of them to hit the books.

Since finding a suitable rental seemed out of the question, the couple changed tactics and started looking for a short-term Airbnb rental. Their search in Manhattan was brief. Ms. Leonor realized “this is silly — we’re not even working and it feels like with rent and cost of living, we would just be throwing money away.”

They eventually found the Paramus Airbnb, which is just a few towns over from where her parents live in Teaneck. “We got more bang for our buck,” Ms. Leonor said.

Although Ms. Leonor and Mr. Scharf have enjoyed the perks of living in New Jersey for the summer (cheaper grocery stores and restaurants, more space), Mr. Scharf has not wavered on their plan to relocate to Manhattan come fall, especially as he anticipates some long workdays. “I lived in Teaneck and interned in Midtown last summer, and it takes at least an hour each way,” he said. “The Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour is the stuff of nightmares.”

Their time in the Airbnb ran out late last month and they have moved in temporarily with Ms. Leonor’s parents. They have started their online search for Sept. 1 rentals and estimate that the number available within their budget is almost double what they found previously.

Summer is the most common time of year to move for three reasons, according to Grant Long, the senior economist at StreetEasy: graduation, the weather and employment cycles.

“A big factor is school turnover,” he said. New graduates moving to the city for a job or college provide a steady flow of new residents through the summer.


Daniel Reisner carries items into his childhood home in Merrick, N.Y. Mr. Reisner plans to stay with his parents for the first semester of his third year of law school.

Brian Harkin for The New York Times

People generally don’t want to move in the slushy, frigid New York winter weather, he said. Job turnover — specifically in the finance and insurance industries — is another factor. “Bonus season in finance comes from January to March, depending on the company,” Mr. Long said. “It’s typical for people to wait until they get their bonus, give it a couple of months, and then find a new job over the summer.”

But then begins the vicious cycle. A year or two later, those same people have decided to move when their leases run out and are once again on the hunt for a new place.

Daniel Reisner, 25, and his two roommates were presented with a rent increase of several hundred dollars a month when the lease on their Upper West Side apartment expired this spring. Unable to take on more rent, Mr. Reisner, a third-year law student, decided to move into a two-month sublet with his girlfriend, a college senior, who was in New York for the summer.

“We found it on Craigslist,” Mr. Reisner said. “It was around the corner from my apartment. We needed a place to live for a few months and this was perfect.”

Mr. Reisner’s next housing solution as he enters his final fall semester of law school will be a bunk under the parental roof in Merrick, N.Y., on Long Island. “I’m going back to sharing a room with my brother, who just graduated from college and moved home, which will be interesting.”

Despite the extra burden of the commute to the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Greenwich Village and a hit to his social life, Mr. Reisner said the move home is a necessity. “I’ve had other people ask me to move into their apartments this summer, but it was too expensive.

“My plan is to move back into the city in January, when rent is a little bit lower,” he said.

The rental cycle is deliberate, said Gary Malin, the president of Citi Habitats. “Owners can try to stagger leases to have them expire during the May and June months, knowing full well it’s the highest demand for apartments.” Savvy renters try to negotiate a summertime lease beyond the typical 12 months to push their tenancy into the fall, when demand and prices drop.

Even “D.I.Y. landlords,” who rent and manage, at most, a few properties, often try to maximize their rental income when demand is high, said Ryan Coon, the chief executive of Rentalutions, an online property management platform.

“As a D.I.Y. landlord myself, I’ve experienced that first hand,” said Mr. Coon, who is based in Chicago. “If I have units that are being rented during the summer, I am able to charge 10 to 20 percent more in rent. So in big cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, 10 to 20 percent is a very meaningful dollar amount.”

Daniel Gallant, 41, has considerable experience in short stays. Over the years, “there have been several times when I was nomadic,” he said. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Gallant and his two roommates were preparing to re-sign the lease for their Turtle Bay apartment, only to learn that the rent had doubled.

At the time, Mr. Gallant, now the executive director of Nuyorican Poets Cafe, was directing a play with daily rehearsals in Midtown. With the help of friends, Mr. Gallant found a series of short-term sublets. “I don’t think I stayed anywhere for a full week,” he said. “Remember — this was a time before Airbnb.”

He had a college buddy who let him stay at his place while he was out of town. And when he ran out of places to crash, Mr. Gallant convinced New Dramatists, a playwrights organization where he had once interned, to let him sleep in rooms reserved for members — when they were empty, of course. He also spent some time at Penington Friends House near Union Square, a Quaker boardinghouse, and at Menno House, a Mennonite boardinghouse also near Union Square. He is neither Quaker nor Mennonite.

“There are a lot of places like this, but each has its own rules,” Mr. Gallant said. “There’s a yoga place in the West Village that was a combo yoga studio and a residence. These places were not incredibly luxurious, but they are all clean and safe places to stay.”

For Mr. Gallant, this uncertain lifestyle was thrilling at times. “I was constantly trying to figure out the next place that I would be staying, he said. “It was exciting, it was nomadic, it was a little bit frightening. But I had the luxury of knowing I was in this situation by choice.” He was comforted by the thought that “if I didn’t need to keep pursuing this directing project, I could have gone home to my family” in Maryland.

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