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Manhattan Bargain-Hunters Drive a 94% Jump in Apartment Leases

Alex Wittenberg
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Manhattan apartment leases almost doubled last month, a sign that sliding rents and landlord freebies are drawing tenants to New York’s costliest borough.

The number of new deals jumped 94% from a year earlier to 5,459, the biggest annual increase since April 2011, appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report Thursday.

About 54% of those leases came with move-in incentives such as free months or payment of broker fees. With the value of those perks factored in, the median rent tumbled 17% to $2,800, the firms said.

Manhattan renters are on the hunt for bargains -- and they’re finding them. Landlords are working hard to fill apartments in a city that’s largely been shut down since March, when the Covid-19 pandemic stifled its famed nightlife and closed office towers, sending workers scattering to remote locales.

While the jump in leases may signal that Manhattan hasn’t lost its attraction, it failed to put a dent in the pileup of available apartments. The number of listings was up 172% from a year earlier to 13,718, according to the report.

The vacancy rate was 5.52%. While that’s down from November’s record high of 6.14%, it compares with just 1.81% for December 2019.

“New leasing has surged because of a newfound affordability for renters,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “The mistake here is to assume that this is a sign of imminent recovery.”

Other boroughs also saw leases rise. In Brooklyn, 1,291 new deals were signed, up 59% from a year earlier, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. Northwest Queens -- including the neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria -- had a 34% increase to 269.

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