Rental inventory cut in half as New Yorkers return to city

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It’s been a tumultuous 18 months in the New York City rentals market. Recently, as renter demand has come roaring back, record low rents have jumped back up to just shy of their pre-pandemic highs, according to the October market report  from Streeteasy.

As rents rise, NYC rental inventory has been on a downward trajectory since last October and now sits at 30,326 rentals available on StreetEasy. That’s a 59% decrease from October 2020 when there were 74,078 rentals available

Manhattan Rental Inventory Plummets

NYC rental inventory is particularly down in Manhattan. In October, there were 13,048 Manhattan rentals available on StreetEasy. That is the lowest since December 2012 (excluding an anomaly in April 2020, directly after the pandemic put New York real estate temporarily on pause). And the drop in inventory was significant — falling 68.3% from where it was just one year ago. 

Brooklyn and Queens Rental Inventory Drops, But Less Than Manhattan 

Compared to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens rental inventory is less volatile. It hasn’t dropped as significantly when compared to the pandemic highs, when a record number of apartments were available. But the changes are still significant. 

In Brooklyn, rental inventory was down 53.7% from last October (compared to 68.3% in Manhattan) to 11,150 rentals. In Queens, rental inventory was down 34.5% from last October to 5,186 rentals.

Studio Apartments Are Lagging Behind the Recovery 

Our latest data shows that rents are recovering quickly across the city — and they’re rising the most in Manhattan. The median asking rent in Manhattan in October was $3,330, just $200 shy of the pre-pandemic high of $3,500. 

With that said, not all apartment types are experiencing the same increases. Studio apartments have had the slowest recovery in rents month-over-month since the beginning of the year across all boroughs analyzed, but the difference is the most stark in Manhattan. 

The median asking rent for a Manhattan studio in October was $2,400 — a 14.6% increase from last year, when rents were $2,095. This is a significant rise, but it’s much smaller than 2-bedroom apartments, which saw a 25.4% annual increase from $3,350 to $4,200. 

NANCY WU

According to StreetEasy economist Nancy Wu, shifting priorities as a result of the pandemic have likely played a role in studios lagging behind. “Renters want more space after more than a year cooped up in their small apartments,” Wu said. “Remote work for many has brought about some cabin fever, and for those that are able to afford it, adding an extra bedroom or more space in general is a priority.” 

Why Manhattan’s Rental Trends Are Different

Wu says this is likely because of different trends seen across the city during the pandemic.

“Transient Manhattan renters were most likely to leave the city either temporarily or permanently during the height of the pandemic, which drove the highest share of rental vacancies in Manhattan among the boroughs,” she explained. “That’s why we’re now seeing Manhattan’s inventory experience bigger swings and more dramatic changes as it recovers — because it saw the biggest shift from what a normal market would look like.”

This makes for a competitive rentals market right now, which Wu expects to continue for the next several months, even during the typically slow winter season.

Those who can are renting bigger apartments with more space for remote working.

Below are some of the highlights from SteetEasy’s Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens reports

Downtown Manhattan Rents Hit Record High

  • The median asking rent in Manhattan in October was $3,330, up 17.9% from last year when rents were at $2,800. In Downtown Manhattan, rents hit a record high $4,300 in October.
  • The share of apartments with a discount on rent was 16.0% in Manhattan – down from 28.7% last year. 
  • The median asking price of for-sale homes in Manhattan was $1,487,500 – up 10.2% from last October. 

Brooklyn Rents Still Just Shy of Pre-Pandemic Highs

  • The median asking rent in Brooklyn was $2,600 in October — 6.1% higher than one year ago, but still a bit lower than the pre-pandemic highs around $2,700. 
  • The share of apartments with a discount on rent was 11% in Brooklyn — down from 23.8% last year. 
  • The median asking price of for-sale homes in Brooklyn was $948,000 – remaining stagnant from last year. 

Prices of For-Sale Homes Drop in Queens While Rents Rise

  • The median asking rent in Queens was $2,250 in October — 7.1% higher than one year ago.
  • The share of apartments with a discount on rent was 10.5% in Queens — the lowest share of all boroughs analyzed. That’s down from 20.7% last October. 
  • The median asking price of for-sale homes in Queens was $599,000 — down 6.6% from last year. 

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