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New York City Apartment Leases Tumble While Renters Stay Put

In Manhattan, new leases fell by 38 percent in March compared to March 2019.

(Bloomberg)—New York apartment leases plunged last month as coronavirus stay-at-home orders kept the city’s renters from moving.

In Manhattan, new agreements fell 38% in March from a year earlier, the second-biggest decline in 11 years of record-keeping by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. In Brooklyn and Queens, signings were down 46% and 34%, respectively, the firms said in a report Thursday.

Not Going Anywhere

Restrictions on gatherings have made in-person showings illegal, and landlords, worried about units going vacant during a recession, did what they could to retain current tenants.

“Well, what are you going to do?” said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel. “Tenants can’t really look at new apartments other than virtually. And then they’d have to move, and moving has become one of the biggest problems because many buildings are restricting or prohibiting moving trucks.”

New leases that were signed set price records -- a vestige of the overheated demand that existed before the pandemic as would-be buyers sat out a sluggish sales market.

Rents for the smallest apartments reached new highs in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The monthly median for studios in Manhattan jumped 9.3% to $2,843, while one-bedroom costs climbed 4.4% to $3,650.

Brooklyn studios and one-bedrooms rented for a median of $2,700 and $2,995, respectively.Those gains aren’t likely to continue. A prolonged economic shutdown costing thousands of jobs will leave many tenants unable to pay rent and fewer people seeking to move to new apartments in the city.

“There’s going to be downward pressure on rents going forward,” Miller said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oshrat Carmiel in New York at [email protected].

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Giammona at [email protected]

Christine Maurus

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

TAGS: Leasing
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