Manhattan and Brooklyn renters sign leases in record numbers

Activity for January hit 13-year high as rent prices drop

Manhattan and Brooklyn renters sign leases in record numbers. (Getty)
Manhattan and Brooklyn renters sign leases in record numbers. (Getty)


The surge in rental activity that defined the Manhattan and Brooklyn markets at the end of 2020 has continued in the new year — and so has the trend of tumbling rents.

According to Douglas Elliman’s latest report, January was unusually active in both boroughs, with the most number of new leases signed for that month in 13 years. Real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, who authors the report, said January was the fourth straight month that new lease signings reached their highest level since the 2008 crisis.

There were 6,255 new leases signed in Manhattan, compared to 3,969 a year prior — a nearly 58 percent increase. The number of new leases isn’t the only thing that was up: There was a 170 percent increase in inventory year-over-year, with 12,447 available units versus 4,610 in 2020. And while the vacancy rate has been slowly decreasing from November’s record of over 6 percent, it remains stubbornly high, at 5.33 percent.

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Rents, however, were down year-over-year: The median rent in Manhattan was an even $3,000, compared to $3,595 in 2020.

The story is similar in Brooklyn: There were 1,546 new leases signed, a nearly 46 percent increase from the 1,060 inked the previous year. And 3,623 apartments were available, compared to 1,456 in January 2020. But the median rent was down, from $2,987 last year to $2,600 last month.

Where the boroughs diverged was concessions: In Manhattan, landlords are offering more than they did at the beginning of 2020, with 46.5 percent of all signed leases including some sort of perk for the renter. The average concession was about 2.3 months of free rent.

But in Brooklyn, about 40 percent of all new leases came with a concession — a dip from January 2020, when 43 percent came with a perk. The average concession in the borough was 2.1 free months of rent.

The number of leases with concessions was even higher in Queens, where close to 58 percent of all new leases had some kind of perk. In the northwestern part of that borough, the median rent was $2,471, a 17 percent decrease from the same period in 2020. But the number of new leases signed also decreased, if only slightly: 294 were inked last month compared to 308 at the same time last year.