Rent Renewal…again

Late last night, I put together a succinct yet thorough email to my lease agent, with lots of support for my arguments. Kinda glad I didn’t rush with my answer, because the November report on rent trends has been published, and studio rents in my specific part of NYC fell by 4.7% in the past month alone – which I took great pleasure in pointing out.

I am, however, having second thoughts about my desire to stay here…it seems like this moment in time is ideal for pursuing a better $$$ deal on rent, and that’s not going to happen without moving. However, there are other, very significant factors at play here, and I’m not sure how to weigh them…

Location: I’m on 7th Avenue, which is extremely central and has very few residential buildings on or just off it. I worry that if I move to 8th Avenue, I’ll lose appointments. Not sure if I’m over-estimating the importance of this, since it’s not like there are other independent massage therapists more central than me (truly, there aren’t – and besides, compatibility of therapist/client usually trumps location, especially if we’re talking about a difference of 3-5 minutes’ walking time).

Building support:  The staff in my building are truly excellent, which is not as common as you might think – I’ve seen some bizarre Seinfeld-esque doormen on my housecall adventures. Even more important, lots and lots of people who live here work from home, and there are some serious rule-breakers whose heads would roll long before mine if any zoning issues arose. I’m not sure how amenable other buildings are to this type of situation – I imagine in this day and age, it’s pretty common, but I’d hate to find myself in a building full of busybodies who draw conclusions about my work based on my mostly-male clientele.

Security: As much as I like knowing that every person who walks through the front door of my building is vetted by two members of staff and caught on three video cameras, I’m very confident in my abilities to screen new clients and handle difficulties. I would seriously miss having someone there to accept packages (because Murphy’s Law states that any delivery is likely to happen while I have a client trying to de-stress on my table) and prevent random ringing of my bell. Of course, picking a building with a live-in super might do the trick.

Rodents: I live in mortal fear of unwanted creatures with fur. Most of the residential buildings around here are on the older side, which vastly increases the odds of having to deal with such things.

Utilities:  I love that my utilities are included in my rent (no individual metering). I know I’m benefitting a fair bit because I’m here 24/7 – can you imagine the a/c bill in the summer?? My unit’s responsibility is $60/month for gas/electricity/heat/water, and I like having that variable out of the equation.

Financial Qualification:  I’m self-employed, which landlords don’t like. Landlords also prefer not to rent to you unless you gross 40x the monthly rent. Well guess what – I don’t. This means I’d need a guarantor, but I’m not sure I even know anyone who would qualify…and it’s not a fun favor to ask. I heard about a less common option that I could offer: put, say, 2-3 months’ rent in an escrow account that the landlord could access only in the event of non-payment. I don’t know what expenses might be involved in setting that up though. I just ordered toner for my printer and will get my free, full credit reports as soon as it arrives – according to CreditKarma, my score is 780, which is 65 points lower than it was 5 years ago and i want to know why.

And here’s the really fun part – I need to figure all this out by December 15th.

Sorry if you guys find all this boring…it weighs heavily on my mind because it’s not just my home, it’s my business. There will no doubt be another post about it this week once the agent speaks to the investment partners and gets back to me.


7 Responses

  1. I actually find it really interesting…but I’m waiting on my renewal lease from my apartment in NYC and I fully intend on challenging a ridiculous raise myself, if it’s there. Where is this rent report you mention?

    Re: building support staff–I have lived in three buildings with live in supers, and let me assure you, they are NOT the same thing as doormen, and unless you find a really fantastic one, are not likely to be happy about intercepting packages frequently, especially if they know you work from home.

    Also re: income. I have never had a landlord or management company hold to the 40x monthly rent. I certainly don’t make 40x the monthly rent for my current place. While your situation might be slightly different because you’re self-employed, I’m sure you can get around the 40x “requirement” with no problem and without a guarantor. I only had one broker express reservations and I offered to show him the budget spreadsheet I’ve been using for years, and he caved.

  2. Hey, Little Miss…

    The website is – click on “current report” for Nov 2008. I also like comp info from and

    Package delivery is personal stuff, not business, and I don’t get that many (maybe 1 a month). My real worry is that if the UPS guy doesn’t reach his intended apartment, he’ll just ring others until he gets an answer from someone. Like me.

    I’m in a cash business, and pretty much everything in my life is a tax deduction. As such, my net income is a pittance…therein lies the potential for problems. But that’s great to know about the 40x rule! Obviously I got into this place pretty easily, but I’ve noticed that landlords are polarized on creditworthiness at the moment – either they’re super-lax to fill vacancies or they’re hardasses out of fear. Something for everyone, I guess!

  3. I don’t think your move will affect your business. As you mentioned, if there’s a therapist that provides excellent service at the right price, I’m not going to trader her in for someone else. Besides, it doesn’t seem like you have much competition in your area.

    The rodent issue can easily be investigated by asking existing tenants, no? Also, I think some of the current residents will tell you what they pay in utilities on average.

    The building support and security is a biggy for us women, I would think. This is the issue that I think will be the “swing vote” issue.

    This is a tough decision to make in less than 2 wks. Good luck!

  4. I also find this deeply interesting. I ask people from NYC all kinds of real estate questions. It’s a different world. If you found a place that tolerates your work from home situation, I would keep it at all costs.

    Other options require more information. Why not ask your clients if they would care if you moved a few or a few dozen blocks?

  5. […] Vote Rent Renewal…again […]

  6. Living in LA where people drive 60+ miles to work I find it interesting that in NY a move of even several blocks has to be carefully considered. If you are happy where you are at I’d do everything I could to stay, moving is a PITA.

  7. I’ve enjoyed following your rent situation. Personally, love the email you sent to the landlord.

    And through it all… I have considered those very issues you have listed in this current posting. I would have to vote for renewing your lease and stay put.

    You seem to have it made. 😉

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