MANHATTAN — For many New Yorkers, the end of the summer spells the end of one lease and the search for a new home.
The scramble to find new digs is fraught annually by an incoming crop of newbies, including students starting school, jobs or internships, and families eager to get settled before the school year begins.
"August for the rental market is the busiest month," said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, noting that there's been an even bigger flurry of activity than usual this year. "All of a sudden in the last 10 to 12 days, [brokers] say it's been busier than all season."
He has a few theories as to why.
Some people may have been waiting, hoping for more inventory to choose from. But the vacancy rate in Manhattan was a tight 1.2 percent in July, according to a Citi Habitat's July monthly rental report. That was higher than last July's 0.86 percent, but still low, Malin noted.
For recent college grads, the price of rentals may be so prohibitive that instead of moving here to spend the summer in the city, they waited for September, he suggested.
"Obviously it's a phenomenal experience to get your bearings if you can move to the city at the beginning of the summer," Malin said, "but the price point puts things in a different perspective."
The average Manhattan apartment rented for a record high of $3,459 a month in July, the Citi Habitats report found.
July's average Manhattan rental price for studios inched up 5 percent from last year, to $2,078 a month. For one-bedrooms, the price crept up 5 percent to $2,812, andit was up 6 percent to $4,001 for two-bedrooms, Citi Habitats said.
"The rental market is skyrocketing," said Jacky Teplitzky, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "I rented something last year for $8,000 a month. I put it on the market now for $9,000, thinking it would be hard to get that. But there is a bidding war, and it will probably go for close to $10,000."
To help renters navigate the end-of-summer market, DNAinfo.com New York got tips from estate and moving experts to help prep for a move and make it as stress-free as possible:
For apartment hunters...
Make sure your finances are in order and you're ready to pounce.
Because deals are being made so swiftly and competition is so high, brokers advise coming prepared — and having great credentials.
"If you're not coming with a perfect credit score or no blemishes — if you missed a payment on your Bloomingdale's credit card by one day — you won't get it," Teplitzky said. "There are five to six applicants for one apartment."
She added: "Tenants are having huge difficulties in finding good apartments."
Teplitzky noted that some landlords who rented out condos during the downturn are no longer renewing rental leases, making the pool even smaller for renters.
"Timing is everything. If you're not prepared to jump, you'll get run over," Malin said.
"You have to come with all your paperwork. People think they can dabble and make low offers," he added. "I understand, it's a lot of money. But in a market like this, one hour can mean the difference between getting the apartment you want or not."
If you can wait, maybe — just maybe — it could open the door for negotiation.
"Sellers in particular get a little concerned, because they know a lot of people are waiting to put homes on the market for the fall and they're worried about the competition."
She added, however, that negotiations won't likely lead to tremendous cuts in this tight market.
"I'm not talking about huge amounts," Braddock said, but sometimes the change in season creates a sense of urgency for landlords looking to rent out units or sellers whose apartments have languished on the market.
"You always want to clean up before fall starts," she said. "Owners don't want to carry their apartments for another month and people want to be in their homes by September... Real estate is as much psychological as it is financial."
Braddock noted that New York's real estate market, however, is less seasonal than it was in the past, and many brokers remained unsure whether there would be much of a slowdown this September.
Brokers advised house hunters to manage their expectations.
"I think people will compromise," Teplitzky said. "It used to be 'location, location, location.' Now it's more about the building and its amenities."
With rents so high, many people are looking for an on-site gym, storage or other amenities that can help them cut other out-of-pocket expenses, she said.
"You can't get tunnel vision about what you want," Malin said.
People should be prepared to reevaluate what they're looking for, whether it's the neighborhood, apartment size or amenities, like having a doorman, he offered.
A project Malin's company is doing in Queens Plaza, for instance, may not have Manhattan cachet, but it offers an easy commute to Midtown at a lower price, he said.
Especially if you're buying, make sure your broker will be around.
Even though it's easier than ever for apartment seekers to find listings online, many real estate experts said the help of a broker is even more crucial to help navigate this competitive market.
Some brokers go on vacation at the end of the summer, but if you're eager to make an offer, make sure you're broker is around or can connect you with a colleague, Braddock suggested.
"Most good brokers will make sure they're covered when they leave town, like doctors," Braddock said.
If you've found a place and are gearing up to move, book early.
"The recommendation is to book at least a month or two in advance," Michael Hunt, manager of Yankee Movers said, of securing a moving company.
Setting up advance appointment gives movers more time to do research for a better estimate, Hunt said.
"To run on a job a few days before would be too much," he said.
"A lot of companies will go out and take the best jobs for themselves and then sub-contract out other jobs. We never overbook."
Dana Bitton, of Arthur Werner Moving & Storage, said her company has passed on several jobs this summer, preferring not to do a job at all if they can't do it right, because it's too busy.
"We work hard to have a good reputation," she said.
Try to avoid the end or start of the month.
Most movers said they're busy all summer long, but there can also be a crush over Labor Day weekend, noted Hunt, just having completed three estimates for the holiday weekend.
At Yankee Movers, for instance, it's more expensive to move between Aug. 28 through Sept. 2, because those days are busier. Their $155 hourly rate for that chunk drops $20 to $30 an hour on other days.
"If people are flexible with the move," Hunt said, "it helps."
Bitton also advised, if at all possible, to wait a couple of days until after the beginning of the month.
"Obviously, in the summer everybody is trying to get in before school starts and tries to get in during the last days of the month," she said. "It's more stress on the guys, it's hot, and people who are moving are always stressed when putting stuff in boxes and having strangers touch their stuff."
Make sure you have proper building approvals.
Some elevator buildings require new tenants to sign up for elevator usage to move in and have to coordinate with other new residents.
"Many buildings have move-in times between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., because people come home from work and want the elevator," Bitton said.
Some buildings also require board approval or insurance to move, experts noted.
Be wary of low prices.
"A lot of companies give a low price to get a job and then come and charge extra," Hunt said. "Always have a licensed mover. Make sure they have experience."
If the price quoted is too good to be true — it probably is, Bitton said.
Make sure the apartment is ready, and be prepared if it's not.
"If we're talking about someone buying their first or second home, the first advice is to get a good contractor," said David Cohen, owner of Divine Moving and Storage. "Even a paint job can go wrong and you have to be in storage."
A recent customer moving to a home in Westchester arrived last Saturday only to find the painters in the midst of a job that was supposed to have been done three days prior.
"We have more than a dozen people in storage," Cohen said of their 60,000-square-foot space in Hunts Point. "We tell people to pack a few suitcases of clothes just in case. Who knows?"
Another customer was moving in at the same time the old tenant was moving out.
"The industry is crazy, and it's only during the summer," he said. "Something like that would never happen in the winter."