What to Know Before You Rent a Property in Westchester

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With the market thrown into flux, many potential homebuyers have decided to rent instead. We consulted a local real estate maven to ascertain the best renting practices.

Dawn Knief of Compass is recognized as one of the most successful real estate agents in Westchester. As a leading agent in the luxury real estate market, with over 20 years’ industry experience, Knief has more than $350 million in sales volume. She is also a member of the exclusive Sports and Entertainment Division at Compass. We spoke with her to get an expert’s insight into the county’s rental landscape.

The current real estate market has been unpredictable. How has that affected the rental market?

It’s become extremely competitive, just as the for-sale housing market is, but for rentals. People are moving out of the city because they’re starting to get priced out. It’s cooling off a little bit now, with what’s going on with the economy and interest rates, but people still need a place to live. If they have been losing out on bidding wars, especially those who have young kids who need to be in for the school year, they’re looking to rent.

What do you feel is the most important thing someone should consider before renting?

I think it’s important to know whether you want to rent for an extended period, and you need to know what the owner’s motivations and objectives are. An owner may say, “I’m going to rent it for a year” and then want to sell it, but some may not want to move again in a year. It’s important to investigate that in advance, to know if you have an option to stay, because a year goes by quickly.

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What is the best advice you would offer first-time renters?

You’ll need a very good credit score. They’re going to run a credit check and background checks on you, so it’s very important to establish good credit. Having good references is also very important, both personal and business. It’s also smart for them to know where you previously rented, what your history is, that you’re stable, and that you will be a good tenant who will not cause too much aggravation for the owner.

Where do you see the county’s rental market in the next year?

I think that builders and developers recognize the value, need, and demand for rentals, so buildings are popping up all over the place right now. It’s a very hot portion of the market. Many people who can afford to pay a substantial rent might not necessarily have 20% to put down on a house. They have a good monthly income, but they don’t necessarily have that huge nest egg. They’re either not quite sure where they want to eventually land or may be a young couple who are saving to buy a house one day.

Where is the hottest rental community in the county right now?

White Plains, because it has the most land. There are countless buildings going up there now that are rental buildings. There’s the Avalon, and Toll Brothers is building there. The vast majority of the boom is probably in White Plains and New Rochelle, but White Plains is just exploding with rentals. There’s Mitchell Place, One City Place… all of these buildings are in hot demand right now. There’s a lot happening in the Rivertowns too.

Related: The City of Yonkers Works Toward Rent Relief for Families in Need

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