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Home sellers come to Sandy victims' rescue

The Walbridge Avenue home in Babylon was put

The Walbridge Avenue home in Babylon was put on the rental market in December 2012 for $2,100 and was leased with in a day, according to listing agent Natalie Petrelli-Mills of Winkler Real Estate. Credit: MLSLI

Home sellers have proven to be a source of relief for Sandy victims in need of rentals. The shortage of available rental properties on Long Island was compounded by the storm, which damaged some of that inventory and left more people in need of shorter term housing options.

Many home sellers have responded by opting to make the homes they are trying to unload available for rent, too, say real estate agents across Nassau and Suffolk counties. It’s a trend that the real estate community foresaw in the days immediately following the storm, and it's now coming to fruition. In some cases, the homeowners themselves are the ones suggesting listing their properties for rent; and in other cases, agents are pitching the plan to their clients as a way to capitalize on the scarcity of short-term rentals and earn income on their unwanted property.

“I did encourage the sellers to put their home up for rent right now because of the housing shortage,” said Luisa Fazzalari, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in East Norwich, of a property she is listing in Oyster Bay. “It’s a potential source of income in the interim.”

Several factors were weighed during the decision, Fazzalari said, but the combination of the Sandy effect and the time of year, when home sales are typically slowest and more visitors descend upon the tri-state area, made it the right call.

This arrangement can be the perfect antidote both for frustrated sellers and for Long Islanders displaced by the storm. These renters typically covet the flexibility of a month-to-month lease, says Natalie Petrelli-Mills of Winkler Real Estate in West Islip, and that benefits sellers who want to be able to deliver their house vacant once a buyer shows interest.

Month-to-month leases are also perfect for insurance adjusters who have descended upon Long Island to survey damage for their firms. They need housing for a period of about three months, several real estate brokers told Real LI, so some adjusters look to share homes with colleagues also assigned to the area.

There are, however, significant downsides to the seller-turned-renter arrangement.

“The dilemma is once you get a renter in your home, it’s much more difficult to show the house,” said Jyll Kata, a Douglas Elliman agent and director of sales in East Norwich. Not every renter will be so accommodating about showings and open houses, and they might become an obstacle when a buyer is finally found. “So you have that trade-off.”

Additionally, renters displaced by Sandy might also have mortgage obligations, so there’s a greater risk that they find it difficult to pay a monthly rent while staying current on payments for their home.

“Not everybody wants to be a landlord,” Winkler’s Petrelli-Mills says. “But if a home is already vacant, it could help pay off maintenance and tax expenses until a buyer is found.”

But considering the demand for rentals across all price ranges, Deirdre Severine of Signature Premier Properties in Huntington advises her clients to hold out hope for a renter willing to be cooperative of the selling process. After all, she says, “there are definitely more people looking to rent than there are properties available for them.” 

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