New York Apartment Demand Surges As The City Jumps Into Reopening Mode

Good deals abound throughout much of New York City.

A full year into the pandemic, New York City landlords are securing new leases at a rapid clip as depressed prices appear to be luring back—or holding on to—tenants willing to sign for the right deal.

In Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the number of leases signed during February beat a record set in 2012 during the comeback from the global financial crisis. The median rental price—lease value net of concessions—fell at least 11% across those boroughs last month, according to a new report by Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

The news comes as New York City slowly begins to reopen. Restaurants will soon be able to operate at 50% capacity and movie theaters are once again beginning to show films. It’s been a brutal year for the city; the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 11.4% in December, a 7.8% increase over December 2019.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers fled the city at the onset of the pandemic, to ritzy enclaves upstate, quiet towns in the Northeast and other pockets of the country. The coming months will help reveal how many intend to return, and whether rental prices will subsequently increase.

In light of the revived demand, some owners are temporarily keeping units off the market in the hopes of a sustained rebound that may help them get higher rates sooner than expected. According to UrbanDigs, a real estate insights firm, in Manhattan landlords took more than 1,800 apartments off the market in February, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. For their part, renters are enjoying the reprieve from record prices, which peaked just before the pandemic.

Below is a closer look at the current New York City rental market, utilizing data from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants.

Manhattan

Non-luxury units offer the best deals, with apartments of three or more bedrooms having the biggest year-over-year discounts, possibly a sign that after living through lockdowns, renters are looking to live with fewer roommates. The median rental price dropped 22.7% over the last 12 months on those units. Two-bedroom apartments are down 8.9%, while studios are down 19.3%.

New signings are up dramatically from February 2020, but the overall vacancy rate remains high, at 5%, compared to 2.01% last year. More than 40% of new leases come with some form of landlord concessions, the authors said, often one or more months of free rent during the first year after signing.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn saw the “highest number of new lease signings since tracking began during the financial crisis,” Miller Samuel reports, at 1,834 for February, a 133% year-over-year increase. Still, the median effective rent dropped 16.3%, more than any other year in almost a decade. Nearly 40% of new signings last month included landlord concessions.

Studios are commanding the best discounts; median rental prices fell 18.8% compared to last February, while second place goes to apartments with three or more bedrooms, at a 12.5% decline. Still, a glut of inventory remains; there are 3,438 listings in Brooklyn, up from 1,375 a year ago. That figure doesn’t even account for units that have been pulled off the market.

Queens

The story is largely the same in Queens, where February also set a nine-year record. Inventory is up 64% compared to last year, and 36% of signings include concessions.

Overall, the median rental price dropped 13% compared to last February, to $2,522, with studios taking the biggest hit at a drop of 28.7%.

I’ve been a reporter at Forbes since 2016. Before that, I spent a year on the road—driving for Uber in Cleveland, volcano climbing in Guatemala, cattle farming in

 

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