February frenzy: Manhattan rents smash records as bidding wars become norm

Vacancies fell to lowest February levels since 2008

Manhattan (iStock)
Manhattan (iStock)

Forget the winter rental doldrums. Apartment hunting in New York City last month was not for the faint of heart.

Rents in Manhattan broke records in February, hitting $3,700 and outshining the previous high of $3,450 in April 2020, according to a report by appraisal firm Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman.

Relocating renters now have a one-in-five chance they’ll face a bidding war before locking down a new lease. Rentals sat on the market for 24-days on average, a 10-day decline from the month prior and down fifty percent from the same month last year.

The surge comes as available units are drying up. Vacancies fell to their lowest level for the month since 2008 and listing inventory slumped by 81 percent year over year — the fastest decline on record.

The first months of the year typically mark the slow season for rental turnover, but brokers have characterized this February as a period of unprecedented demand. Tenants who tabled moving plans through the rise of the delta and omicron variants are now gearing up to be back at their desks this spring.

That demand is hitting all apartment types in the borough. The median rent for doorman buildings surged for the seventh straight month to $4,500. The increase marked a record jump of nearly 29 percent year over year.

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Rents in buildings without the luxury service popped to $2,875, a 16 percent increase from the same time last year, the second month in a row of record annualized gains.

And the median rents for luxury digs hit $11,500 in February, the highest price in a decade of tracking and an 18 percent increase from last month alone.

Renters will be hard-pressed to find a deal across the East River, too.

In Brooklyn, median rents hit $2,900, the third-highest price for the month in a dozen years. In Northwest Queens, rents slumped 2 percent from January, clocking in at $2,888. That price still marks the borough’s second-highest rent for the month of February.

In both boroughs, supply slumped from a year ago, dropping by the second-highest rate on record. Still, more apartments came online in February than in the month prior.

Brooklyn inventory rose by 8 percent month over month and the number of new lease signings hit the second-highest level for the month since the firm started tracking metrics in 2008.

In Queens, inventory rose by 10.7 percent in February from January and new leases reached the second-highest level ever.