In New York, a whole world of alternative lodgings is based upon what one critic called "the dirty little secret of American life, that no one has enough money." More supposedly well-off New Yorkers than you'd ever imagine are supplementing their incomes and balancing their budgets by inviting visitors into their well-appointed apartments, converting their homes into mini-hotels. There are also those New Yorkers who simply rent out a room within their apartments, often with a private bathroom attached. Though the privacy for the visitor isn't as complete, the prices are even lower.
And in that kind of "hosted" situation, visitors get a rare glimpse of actual life in Manhattan. They set up house in a real neighborhood, get to know the deli guy, the locals-only restaurant, and the bar around the corner.
In the world of New York apartment rentals there are basically two types of accommodations:
Unhosted apartments: Full apartments that the renters have entirely to themselves for the course of their stay. (Many agencies will not allow visitors to rent an apartment for fewer than 5 nights, though with certain units and at slower times of the year, a 3-night minimum might apply.)
Hosted apartments: Apartments that the guest shares with a New Yorker who lives on premises. Usually the host rents just one room and sleeps in another bedroom. Only a 3-night minimum stay is required for a hosted arrangement.
There are pluses and minuses to each type of lodging. At unhosted apartments, guests have total privacy. You can come and go at will without worrying about disturbing anyone, buy your own food, cook meals, and live essentially as you would in your own home. The downside can be the lack of any kind of guidance: If you need advice, there's no one on premises that you can turn to, and you're also alone if the toilet won't flush or the key jams in the lock (the rental agency or owner will fix the problem, but it will probably take a bit of time). Also, these types of rentals are usually a good 25% to 50% more expensive than hosted rentals.
At hosted rentals, you may feel constrained by the presence of the host and in some, but not all cases, may have to share a bathroom. That's usually the worst it gets. In the best-case scenarios, your host will act as an affable advisor, helping to pave your way in the big city, and perhaps forming a friendship that lasts beyond the visit. In fact, one unsung perk of doing a hosted rental is that you meet unusually gracious, resourceful, quirky New Yorkers. "Most hosts are off the corporate grid," explains Margaret Borden of City Sonnet. "We get a lot of artists, actors, musicians, chefs, and other creative types because these sorts of people have the time to do a second job and often need the extra income. Most are extremely well traveled and all really enjoy meeting travelers." In hosted situations, breakfast is usually included in the cost of the stay and, as I said before, guests typically pay less for this type of lodging.
Two very nice standard perks offered in both hosted and unhosted rentals are free local calls and Internet access. As with hotels, 99% of all apartments provide cable TV in the bedrooms.