Apartments, an untapped market By Nadine Godwin / June 06, 2005 Share 1 -- NEW YORK -- Metro-Home, based here, markets apartments as an alternative to hotels for corporate or leisure travelers, and it pays agents 10% commission. However, Linda Coughlin, founder, president and sole owner of the business, said she gets only about 10% of bookings from travel agents, down from 20% to 25% a few years ago, because she has not promoted aggressively to the trade for a long time.She aims to turn that around, urging agents to keep the apartment option in mind when a client needs housing for an extended stay in New York. Besides, clients also can rent Metro-Home apartments for a few nights or only one night.Based on her per-night rates, Coughlin estimated that the apartments produce, on average, a savings of 20% off the cost of traditional hotels.Metro-Home also offers specials based on a three-night minimum, starting at $99 a night for a studio apartment; $189 for the Family Escape in a one-bedroom with pullout sofa in the living room; and $249 for the Luscious Lovers Escape in a one-bedroom; and $320 for a two-bedroom.Metro-Home holds the lease on all the apartments it markets, mostly in rental buildings, although some are in condos. They are located on the Upper West Side, in Midtown, in Greenwich Village and in Soho.The apartments, Coughlin said, are generally of two types. One is the A-plus category, in new buildings, more expensive, but they are very vanilla.By contrast, Metro-Home has 55 units in prewar, art deco apartment houses, which have more character, more space -- and older bathrooms.And there are a few quirky ones, Coughlin added, such as those in a former factory downtown, with big windows and circular staircases.It is important, she said, to gauge client preferences for apartment type, though the more modern choices are often the preference of business travelers. Coughlin said about 60% of her business is corporate.Among corporates, she added, about 80% are domestic travelers. However, because overseas travelers are more accustomed to staying in apartments and homes, she said, international guests account for about 60% of the leisure business.Metro-Home frequently is asked to accommodate or coordinate accommodations for groups of travelers, such as the entire cast and crew for a Broadway show. Coughlin organized housing in March for the production crew of The Apprentice TV show.Agents can view apartment choices at www.metro-home.com and use e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the telephone, (800) 987-1235, to book.Agents need to identify themselves (generally with ARC or IATA numbers), and they have to invoice for their commissions; this can be done electronically, Coughlin said.To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at email@example.com.Apartment broker courts agentsBy Nadine GodwinNEW YORK -- The New York Habitat, a specialist in brokering short-term rentals of apartments here and in other cities, gets less than 5% of its bookings from travel agents but is looking to boost that piece of the business, said COO Nicholas Borg.The company, which pays 10% commission, traditionally hasnt pursued agent participation, he said, but is now seeking support from agents and tour operators. In particular, Borg said New York Habitat wants to identify potential big producers in the U.S. and overseas.Borg said New York Habitat represents owners or leaseholders of about 2,000 New York condo, cooperative or rental apartments, each of which is available for short-term rentals when owners or leaseholders are not using the apartments themselves.Rentals can be from one night to several months, and per-night rates in Manhattan vary from $85 for a studio to more than $600 for a luxury penthouse.For the budget-minded, New York Habitat offers some units in New Yorks outer boroughs, Borg said.The firm reported that its business for short-term rentals (three nights to one month) in New York was up 28% in 2004 over 2003, reflecting the continuing recovery for the travel business post-9/11 and a growing interest in apartments over standard hotel rooms.The majority of customers for New York apartments, Borg said, are tourists, and about two-thirds of the clientele is from overseas.Bookings can be made by phone at (212) 255-8018 or via the Web at www.nyhabitat.com.