April leases soared across city; so did concessions

Rental signings hit record highs but prices fell as landlords cut deals

Manhattan and Brooklyn saw all-time records in lease signings in April (iStock)
Manhattan and Brooklyn saw all-time records in lease signings in April (iStock)

Manhattan, Brooklyn and parts of Queens saw record residential lease signings in April, the latest indicator of the market’s steady rebound. But overall rent prices also fell, as landlords across the city were still willing to offer concessions to close deals.

In Manhattan, there were 9,087 leases signed last month, while Brooklyn had 2,175, according to Doulgas Elliman’s rental market report. In Long Island City, Astoria and Woodside, there were 570; those Queens signings were the most since 2011.

The eye-popping year-over-year signing increases — 546 percent in Manhattan and 395 percent in Brooklyn — highlighted the record low numbers in April 2020, when Covid lockdowns slammed the brakes on leases.

Jonathan Miller, who authors the Elliman report, said college students are contributing to what he called the “unbelievable surge in activity.” As schools prepare for in-person classes, rental demand has picked up.

But the jump in leases has not driven up prices. Rents declined at the highest rate on record, as concessions boosted activity.

Manhattan’s net effective median rent — which factors in concessions — was $2,791 in April. That was 6.2 percent less than the month before, breaking a four-month streak of rising prices. It was also the largest month-over-month price decline in a decade, Miller said. The April rent price was a 21.2 percent drop year-over-year, marking the second sharpest dip since 2008. The sharpest drop was in November.

“The metrics are still too weak,” Miller said. “The good sign for landlords is that there’s been a significant surge of activity, but at the same time, there’s still high vacancy, a large use of concessions marker-wide.”

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The 2.2 months of free rent Manhattan landlords offered in April was the second highest concession total that Miller’s appraisal firm Miller Samuel ever recorded.

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In Brooklyn, net effective median rent was $2,614, essentially flat from March. But that was an 18.2 percent drop year-over-year. And the 1.9 months of free rent landlords offered was also the second highest total since June 2010, according to the report.

In the three Queens neighborhoods, net effective median rent rose 3.4 percent from March to $2,370. Still, that price was 15.7 percent below April 2020. Tenants last month also received 2.6 months of free rent, the highest amount Miller Samuel has recorded.

The high number of new developments to hit the Queens market has also given tenants more options, Miller said. A third of leases signed in that area last month were for new construction buildings, though most of the deals were the result of landlord concessions.

Despite the deals, there is still an inventory glut in the three boroughs.

The number of units on the market in Manhattan stood at 20,743 in April, 5.7 percent more than March. But the total was far above the roughly 4,700 units on the market in April 2020. In Brooklyn, the 16,154 units on the market last month fell by 8 percent from March. But that didn’t tell the whole story. Last month’s total compared to just 1,350 units on the market in April 2020.

And in the Queens neighborhoods, available inventory stood at 3,598 last month, a 10.5 percent drop from March. But that compared to just 336 units on the market in April 2020.