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Make yourself at home in N.Y. Short-term apartment rentals offer a unique Gotham view

New York Habitat featured in USA Today
February 21, 1997
Section: Make yourself at home in N.Y.
Page 5D

NEW YORK - For $135 a night, there was no bellman to schlep my bag or front desk to collect messages. In lieu of a "Please Make Up This Room" tag, I was asked to strip the trash before I checked out.

But my Manhattan digs offered plenty of accouterments, from a choice location near Greenwich Village's Washington Square to a full kitchen and a wood-burning fireplace in a living room studded with African artifacts.

And the tab was paltry by Big Apple standards, where a plain-vanilla hotel room costs an average of $160 a night.

As New York City room rates and occupancy levels climb to record levels, bed-and-breakfast agencies and real estate companies are doing a booming business in short-term (typically three nights to one month) furnished apartment rentals.

Other major cities in the USA and Europe offer the same alternatives.

Their customers: value-conscious, adventuresome travelers who don't mind trading room service for a trek to the corner deli.

Or perhaps, as I did, sharing bathroom space with their host's Prozac.

"This is a very personal type of travel. You might hear sirens and honking horns, but staying in an apartment gives you a better sense of what it means to be a New Yorker," says Mazelle Habbaz of New York Habitat. Her real estate agency lists about 3000 apartments at nightly rates ranging from $65 for a studio to $260 for a two-bedroom penthouse and estimates its short-term rental business has tripled since 1995.

New York Habitat and its Manhattan competitors also offer traditional, bed-and-breakfast stays in a spare bedroom. But many say demand is greatest for unhosted apartments, which can be anything from an opulent midtown high-rise rented exclusively to overnight guests to a SoHo studio occupied by an opera singer who spends most of her time on the road.

Because the rate for an unhosted apartment includes the use of a kitchen, travelers can save money by eating occasional meals "at home."...

Check into the details before you book

If you're considering an unhosted apartment for your next visit to Manhattan, remember that most booking agencies require at least a three-night minimum stay. Since availability is often limited, reservations should be made as far ahead as possible.

Last minute changes can be costly: Several agencies charge guests for one night's stay if bookings are canceled less than 10 days before their arrival.

Before you book, ask about location, décor and amenities. If anonymity is important, consider an unoccupied apartment that's used exclusively for short-term rentals.

Keep in mind that rates are often higher for apartments in doorman buildings (particularly those in midtown) and for those with balconies or other special features.
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Laura Bly