Rental agents amp up efforts as college grads say goodbye to plans to move to NYC

TRD New York /
Aug.August 17, 2009 07:24 PM
alternate textFewer college grads coming to NYC, particularly Murray Hill (above), since recession

As the Manhattan real estate market sits at a standstill and once
filled-to-capacity towers rapidly empty out, landlords and brokers
struggle to fill apartments with a class of renters they would normally
count on at this time of year — out-of-state college graduates.

Because of the collapse of financial firms, some doe-eyed grads have abandoned plans to move to the Big Apple.

“We used to get new hires from Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns looking
for apartments, but now that they’re out of business, it hurts our
business because we lose that secured flow of clients,” said Jeremy
Abelson, president of Urban Hostess, a company which helps place
college graduates in New York apartments.

One neighborhood that has been particularly hard hit by the recession
is the relatively affordable Murray Hill, a neighborhood where
20-somethings tend to gravitate for dwelling and bar hopping.

“A New York company that would normally hire 500 graduates is now
hiring 200. And while those other 300 graduates probably found jobs
elsewhere, it still leaves those Manhattan apartments they would have
occupied, mostly in Murray Hill, empty,” Abelson said.

Real estate rental company Stonehenge Partners has beefed up its
presence on college campuses, relying on its
Stonehenge-on-Campus program, launched two years ago, to snap up those
few New York-bound grads.

“We have campus representatives that have put signs all around campus
promoting Stonehenge and have been giving many informational
presentations on campus,” said Jon Fishman, director of business
development at Stonehenge.

The company has aggressively worked to recruit newly-minted college
grads at the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, the
University of Pennsylvania and Syracuse University.

“We already have very good relations with NYU and Columbia,” noted Fishman.

With the national unemployment level at its highest in 26 years,
sometimes out-of-work parents cannot afford to help out and graduates
feel stuck.

In comes Insurent, a company which secures leases for first-time
renters without a guarantor, which has increased its presence on
college campuses.

At the University of Pennsylvania, “Insurent ran their ad five times
between April 9 and May 15 in the Daily Pennsylvanian, our student-run
daily newspaper, which is a lot more than in the past,” said Miranda
Lum, credit manager at the Daily Pennsylvanian and full-time University
of Pennsylvania student.

Bad times can mean good deals for those grads able to take the plunge.

Cullen Hilkene, a senior associate salesperson at Citi Habitats who
designed the Citi Habitats Graduate Relocation Program, which assists
graduates in securing New York City apartments, said: “At one point,
when a good apartment was found in Murray Hill by a recent college
grad, it was scooped up immediately and two months rent was paid upon
signing. It was tough to find any kind of discounts.”

Now, it is customary to receive two months of rent free, among other discounts and incentives.

“Brokers used to hustle young professionals into apartments. Now, grads
are taking a wait-and-see approach — pushing back target move-in dates
as they attempt to solidify employment,” Hilkene said.

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