The owners of New York private members club Fasano Fifth Avenue opened in spring 2021 with 12 fully furnished luxury rental residences on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, aiming to meet a demand for bookings of 30 to 60 days.
The new business didn’t turn out as planned. Some guests checked in for a stay of a month or two but ended up staying for a year to 18 months and more. “The demand has been delightfully surprising,” says Gero Fasano, founder of upscale Brazilian lodging and dining company Fasano Group.
The higher demand comes despite rents of $140,000 a month for one of the five, three-bedroom duplexes. Rents are $40,000 a month for one of the seven smaller clubhouse suites. Meanwhile, the rental process has been simplified. Bookings are secured with a credit card. Guests stay for as long as they need, and when they are ready to go, they simply announce they are leaving.
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For the fee, renters get a sophisticated home with furnishings selected by French architect Thierry W. Despont, in cooperation with Mr. Fasano. They also get a host of luxury amenities, including access to a restaurant and bar, a gym and services that include a 24-hour doorman, 24-hour room service, housekeeping and a concierge.
Fasano Fifth Avenue is part of a new trend in New York: flexible luxury rentals, where move-in-ready apartments can be booked for short to not-so-short periods with hassle-free extensions. Renters pay six-figure monthly rents to live like rich New Yorkers, minus the responsibility of second-home ownership, or being tied down by a lease, or the limited experience of high-end tourism.
By contrast, luxury hotel rooms often lack full kitchens, and luxury hotel apartments typically are purchased outright, and those homeowners and hotel brands tend to have booking restrictions for sublets. Other renters rather not live in other people’s homes via an Airbnb or Vrbo, while corporate housingcan lack a homey feel. None of these options are known for seamless month-to-month living with easy extensions.
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Today, a number of companies are experimenting with high-end rental flexibility. Fasano Group, whose parent company is real-estate developer JHSF, along with the French residential hospitality brand the Collection, have small, bespoke residential hotels that specialize in stays longer than a month. Blueground, with more than 800 rentals in New York and 14,000 rentals globally, has translated the month-to-month concept to a larger scale. Related Cos., like other global residential real-estate concerns, has a new flagship brand, the Set, that offers flexibility as an amenity.
“The whole thesis is luxury rental meets five-star hotel,” says Hailey Sarage, senior vice president of development at Related, which has properties globally and operates more than 20 buildings in Manhattan.
The Set resident Jessica Dang, 41, an American living in Copenhagen, was looking for quick, turnkey housing when she moved to New York in 2022 to launch her wellness business, the Essentialist Method.
“I didn’t have the time to do the broker thing and look at apartments, pay a broker’s fee and buy furniture, especially because I didn’t know how long I was going to stay in New York,” says Ms. Dang, adding, “at 41 years old, crashing on a couch isn’t that cute anymore.” She previously lived in New York from 2000 to 2013, having found unfurnished apartments, and roommates.
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Her online search led her to the Set, which opened in New York’s Hudson Yards in September 2022. The Set’s 270 units—mostly studios and one-bedrooms—come fully furnished or not. Furnished choices include several design styles meant to appeal to a range of demographic types. Those rentals start at $5,200 a month, and apartment dwellers have access to the complex’s food and beverage services, housekeeping, dry cleaning, laundry and concierge help overseen by so-called directors of experience.
“In the future, every residential building will be its own city, like ‘Melrose Place’ on steroids,” says Ms. Dang, comparing her new lifestyle with the 1990s prime-time soap opera about the goings on at a Los Angeles residential complex.
Ms. Sarage says the demand for furnished rentals at the Set has been higher than the company initially expected. Most residents, she adds, have opted for 12-month leases. The Set also offers stays for six, seven or eight months. Its rental-leasing process requires an application, a background check and financial information. No broker is necessary.
When Ms. Dang first considered the Set, it was out of her price range—she had been targeting $3,500 a month—but she went to look anyway. “Right away, I was ready to move in,” she says. She points to the sea grass wallpaper, Matouk linens, Williams Sonoma kitchen gear and even the Diptyque dishwashing liquid. Her king studio with a king bed is $5,300 a month. She says she feels like she belongs to a private club.
Erin Boisson Aries, who works forDouglas Elliman,is the marketing and sales agent for Fasano Group and the Collection’s New York property, Maison Hudson,set to open inNew York’s West Village this fall. She says today’s New York clients are looking for ease and convenience.
“They aren’t looking to go through an arduous application process or hire designers to set up their house,” she says, noting that flexible agreements are especially appealing to those who consider New York only as a second- or third-homeownership city, not a primary residence.
Prepandemic, she says, the demand for medium-term, fully furnished rentals in New York came from corporate relocations, temporary work assignments, medical procedure recoveries or displacement during home renovations. Now, renters are also experimenting with new ways of living.
Maison Hudson, is a private property that plans to offer 10 fully furnished luxury residences—one-, two- and three-bedroom—available to rent month-by-month for a one-month minimum. Prices range from $40,000 to $150,000 a month. Guests will have the flexibility to extend their stay once they are living there.
Maison Hudson is planning a restaurant, wine bar, cafe, courtyard, and spa and wellness facility that nonresidents can access via a private-club membership. Services include a concierge, housekeeping and maintenance. The interiors are high-end, with Giorgetti furniture, Rivolta Carmignani linens and Mühldorfer pillows and duvets.
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“The devil is in the details,” says Jacques Oudinot, chief operating officer of the Collection, Maison Hudson’s parent company. The Collection has luxury rentals in France and in London.
“A lot of hotel brands have residences,” he adds. “Our residences are different. They aren’t attached to a hotel. We create small properties that are focused on residential living.”
Blueground operates a global network of move-in-ready apartments for month-to-month rentals.Blueground was founded by Alex Chatzieleftheriou, 42, who, as a business consultant out of college, got tired of living out of a hotel in 15 cities over more than six years. “I wanted to create a company that would make it super easy to book a flexible place to live and you’d know the design would always be great,” Mr. Chatzieleftheriou says.
He founded Blueground in Athens in 2013 and gradually expanded regionally, landing in New York in 2017. New York isthebiggest and fastest-growing market of the 11 large U.S. cities where Blueground has properties. The averageBluegroundone-bedroom apartment in the city is $7,000 a month, though prices fluctuate seasonally, and the average stay is four months. The New Yorkunits rent for up to $17,000 a month for three bedrooms.
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“The main difference we are seeing after the pandemic is that more and more people want to live a flexible lifestyle,” he says. “Someone might want to spend seven or eight months in New York, but then spend three or four months in Austin.”He adds that some of his renters don’t even have a primary address.
Today, 20% of Blueground guests stay in multiple locations in one year, Mr. Chatzieleftheriou says, and that number continues to grow. In New York City, the furnished-rental supply is 2% to 3% of all rentals, he says, and he predicts the percentage will reach 15% to 20% in the next 10 years.
Sannyu Harris, 45, lives in North Carolina in a house she owns, but she and her daughter are renting a Blueground apartment in Midtown Manhattan because her daughter got a job in the city. “We needed something with no strings attached, so when we were ready we could pack up and leave,” says Ms. Harris, who doesn’t know how long they will stay. She likes that Blueground provides them the opportunity to extend their rental rather than having a set period.
Ms. Harris wanted to stay somewhere more relaxed than a big, transient hotel, but she also wasn’t interested in living in someone else’s space via an Airbnb or Vrbo. She describes her one-bedroom Blueground apartment as “a home away from home” with kind and consistently responsive service.“You are home, per say, but you have the comfort of being able to ask for things you need,” she says.
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