Rental listings in Manhattan hit 14-year high as vacancies soar

Median rental price fell 11 percent as residents retreat from Manhattan

The vacancy rate hit 5.75 percent (iStock)
The vacancy rate hit 5.75 percent (iStock)

Looking for a new apartment to rent in Manhattan? You’ve got options.

The number of listings in the borough hit a 14-year high last month. The total of 15,923 is more than triple that of the same period last year, according to the latest Douglas Elliman rental report from appraiser Jonathan Miller.

The vacancy rate hit 5.75 percent — for New York City, a stunning figure.

Concessions in September also reached a record high, as landlords compete for tenants in a city struggling with mass unemployment and the departure of several hundred thousand residents.

Another factor working against landlords is that many New Yorkers are no longer tethered to their apartments: Remote work remains the norm and most schools are still operating virtually.

The median net-effective rent, which is rent with concessions factored in, fell to $3,036 in Manhattan, an 11 percent drop from $3,411 in September 2019.

The type of properties renters are choosing sheds light on the effects of the pandemic. Leases for two- and three-bedroom homes went up year-over-year, for example, while the number of new leases for studios fell by 6 percent. Leases for one-bedrooms also dropped.

The median net-effective rent for studios and one bedrooms saw the largest declines in four years that Miller has been tracking them. Rent for studios fell a staggering 17.1 percent.

“The unemployment situation that we’re seeing now is heavily skewed to lower-wage earners,” Miller noted.

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In Brooklyn, the real estate market is down overall on the previous year, but the borough has come out far less bruised than Manhattan, in part because the greater space and cheaper rent in Kings County has attracted boxed-in Manhattanites.

“It’s performing much better than Manhattan is, and this is the same parallel with the sales market,” Miller said.

Last month, new leases in Brooklyn hit the highest level in 14 months. The median market rent was down from last year, but the median price for luxury rentals increased 7 percent to $6,500. That figure was $6,076 in the same period last year.

Listing inventory also climbed, reaching a high of 4,235, compared with 3,890 listings the month before. In Queens, the rate of rental inventory was the highest in five years.

Net-effective median rent also declined in Queens for the fifth month in a row. Miller said the declines were tied to the shift in sentiment about Manhattan.

“If you look at the Queens results, they’re more negative than Brooklyn because this is Northwest Queens, not the whole borough,” Miller said of the study area. “One subway stop away.”

“So it has more to do with Manhattan than it does with Queens.”

While the rates of available units in Manhattan will likely alarm homeowners and landlords, Miller said nuance within the figures may offer some comfort.

Notably, the growth rate for new listings appears to be leveling off: After new listings shot up 57 percent in May, that trend has been cooling ever since, with new listings growing by just six percent in September.