It happens. You manage to finally buy property in New York City, and then, for any number of reasons — a new job, new love, new priorities — you need to move out. Of course, you can sell, but it can be hard (and maybe even foolish) to give up your own slice of NYC real estate. That’s when the question of whether it’s better to rent vs. sell comes into play. Before you decide, here are important factors to consider.

Table of Contents

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    Can You Rent Out Your Apartment?

    First thing’s first: find out if it’s even possible to rent out or sublet your apartment. Subletting policies vary from building to building, with condos generally being more relaxed about the practice. That said, some buildings forbid it, while others limit the duration or frequency of sublets; there may also be a minimum residency requirement (i.e., you have lived in your building for at least two years). It is also common for co-op rules to require board approval of subletters; just because you like someone doesn’t mean your board will. These kinds of restrictions can shrink your pool of potential renters. (Own your own single- or multi-unit home? Congrats! You call the shots on who can live there.)

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    Do You Have the Time and Patience to Be a Landlord?

    If you do have the approval to rent out your place, you should consider if you are up to the task of being a landlord. If a faucet leaks or something in the apartment breaks, your tenant will be calling you. Will you be available? Will you have the time and skills to address the situation promptly? If not, you can consider hiring someone to support you (perhaps an all-around handyperson), but of course, that expense affects your net income from the rental.

    In some co-ops, the superintendent will only take repair requests from the shareholder, not the subletter. Are you willing to be the go-between for all communications? And if your tenant is less than ideal — creating issues in the building or being late with payments — are you prepared to deal with that aggravation and even possible credit issues? When it comes to rent vs. sell, lastly, it’s important to understand the legal aspects of being a landlord, and the local and state tenants’ rights you must comply with.

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    What Is Your Home Worth?

    If you need cash right away for a down payment on another home, selling your apartment makes the most sense. (You may want to read our guide for buying and selling a home at the same time). However, if you’re not in a hurry, it pays — literally — to dig deeper. To figure out whether it makes more sense to rent vs. sell, you need to investigate what your place is worth in either scenario.

    How much will you get if you sell your home today?

    The StreetEasy Data Dashboard is a great starting point to find the median sales price in your neighborhood. You can also consult a real estate agent who will create real estate comps to determine home value.

    Additionally, StreetEasy offers tools for NYC home sellers. To start exploring your options, get your free StreetEasy Valuation.

    When it comes to maximizing your profits, how long should an NYC homeowner wait before selling their home? Danielle Rial, a licensed real estate salesperson with Brown Harris Stevens, notes, “In New York, the sweet spot for owning a property is about 10 years. If you can hold onto it that long before selling, you can usually see an excellent appreciation in value.” In some cases, Rial has seen sales price increases as high as 65%  of the original purchase price.

    And here’s another useful tip: If you renovated your apartment, add those costs to your original purchase price and compare it to the current asking prices. This can be a quickie way to settle the rent vs. sell debate: Will you make a significant profit — or will you lose money? Don’t forget to include the additional expenses that can come with selling property in New York City such as closing costs — yes, sellers pay them too.

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    Research Rental Prices in Your Area

    Renting out a New York apartment can be lucrative, especially if yours is in a desirable neighborhood. The StreetEasy Data Dashboard is a great tool for finding the median asking rent in your area. Compare current rents to what you pay monthly for your home, and don’t forget to factor in any sublet fees your building requires.

    “You may also want to calculate an annual five percent rent increase,” says Rial, although she notes that sometimes private landlords prefer to keep the increase smaller to entice good tenants to stay longer.

    Once you calculate all these factors, take a look at the total. Is the price differential enough to make it worthwhile for you? This can be key in deciding not only whether to rent vs. sell, but also what rent to charge.

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    The New York real estate market can be unpredictable. That’s why the question of whether to rent vs. sell can be difficult to settle. Housing market trends are in constant flux — ebbing and flowing, with prices rising and falling. If sales prices appear a bit flat, it may be the best bet to rent during a buyer’s market. Rial says, “you could sublet your place for a few years and sell at a later date when sales prices go up. That way, you reap the dual benefits of having income in the meantime while your apartment appreciates in value.”

    On the flip side, if you can’t fetch a rent that’s profitable for you, or if your neighborhood is becoming a prime location for first-time buyers, it may be in your best interest to sell while the bidding is hot.

    No matter what, it’s important to be educated about what’s happening in the NYC sales or rental markets. A great way to stay on top of those trends is StreetEasy’s Market Reports, which offer numbers and analysis on real estate in the city.

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    You’ve Made Your Decision Regarding Rent vs. Sell

    Regardless of your decision to rent vs. sell, you should polish up your place to its best condition to command the highest sale or rental price. Keep in mind that the improvements and upgrades you choose to do may not be the same, depending on whether you decide to rent or sell your home. For instance, a slightly dated kitchen in a desirable neighborhood could be fine for a renter but could be a deal-breaker for a buyer.

    If you’re selling your place, know that an appraiser or inspection engineer will assess your apartment. Be sure to complete any improvements or critical repairs before they come calling. Also, keep in mind these tips on how to get your home ready to sell. Many people hire a real estate agent to handle the logistics of selling but it is also possible to list it yourself, which can help save yourself the commission fee.

    If you’re subletting, make sure your apartment is a solid rental property. Thoroughly check the basic requirements for habitability: working appliances, an AC unit, smoke detectors, no water leaks, etc. 

    Looking to buy, sell, or rent?


    Disclaimer: StreetEasy Valuation is our estimate for a home’s market value and is not an appraisal. Use it as a starting point to determine your home value and monthly rental price.