LI rentals: Choices are up, prices are down

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As the country's economic woes drag on, and selling homes continues to be a challenge, many homeowners have been turning to renting their houses, condos and co-ops as a way to bring in income.

This has resulted in a greater variety of housing available to those who want to rent - something Long Islanders have said they've needed for a long time. Units range from whole houses to legal apartments within houses to condominium, co-ops and town houses.

"This trend of more rentals on the market is helping both those who can't sell their homes but need rental income to help with cash flow, as well as those who can't quite make a purchase at the moment but are still looking for a new place to live and want to rent until they can buy," says Joseph Mottola, chief executive of the Long Island Board of Realtors and the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. "This trend will continue for a while."

In addition to "lots of inventory in rentals," rental prices have come down about 10 percent from the same time last year, says Susana Muir, licensed sales agent in the Locust Valley office of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty.

For Joyce Coletti, a licensed sales agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Long Beach, the total number of units rented in Long Beach is up - from 161 during January to March 15 compared to 152 during the same period last year.

Overall, the number of potential renters increased by 5 percent throughout Long Island during the first quarter of this year, says Julie Reynolds, spokeswoman for Move Inc. of Westlake Village, Calif., which runs Move.com, an online resource for consumers seeking information related to real estate, home financing, rentals and professional moving services.

LEGAL ADVICE FOR RENTERS

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Have a lease that goes for a specific length of time, such as a year. The lease should state the monthly rent amount and date due to the landlord.

Unless the lease has an early termination clause, you want a lease that cannot be broken. even if the house or apartment you move into is sold while you are living there.

Ask in advance if smoking or pets is allowed. That information should be stipulated in the lease.

Find out if you can use a garage or driveway to park your vehicle and how many vehicles are allowed. If you are in a building, also find out if the rental unit comes with an assigned parking space.

The lease should state whatever utilities will be included with your monthly rent.

If the landlord will ultimately want to sell the unit or house, have the lease state parameters for showing the home to potential buyers. You don't want real estate agents knocking on your door at all hours to show the residence without your advance knowledge.

In this tough economy, you may be able to bargain and get a lower price on rent in exchange for your doing maintenance - such as mowing the lawn - or repairs on the home. Have this stated in the lease as well.

SOURCE: LITA SMITH-MINES, COMMACK REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY

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