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NYC lease signings spike in December, taking some pressure off landlords

New leases rose sharply for the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens rental markets in December, according to the latest Elliman Report.

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New York City landlords continued to chip away at the oversupply of vacant apartments in December and were under a little less pressure to offer concessions, but renters still have the edge, for now.

New leases rose sharply for the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens rental markets in December, according to the latest Elliman Report.

“For the third straight month, new lease signings rose to their highest level for the current month since the financial crisis,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report.

There were 5,429 new Manhattan leases signed in December—the most seen for what is typically a slow month for rentals—in more than a dozen years, the report says. In December 2019, there were 2,820 leases signed. December's vacancy rate was still very high, but it slipped to the third highest on record.

The median rent for Manhattan apartments was $2,996, down 14.4 percent from December 2019, and smaller apartments saw a larger percentage decline in median rent than larger apartments.

One theme of the rental market during the pandemic is that New York City renters have been trading up to larger apartments—thanks to rent drops bigger apartment became priced more with reach, so with less demand landlords cut rents for smaller apartments, especially studios.

Concessions were sharply lower for the luxury rental market compared to the rest of the market, the report notes. The number of leases for luxury rentals, which represent the top 10 percent of the market, nearly doubled compared to December 2019.

In Brooklyn, for the second consecutive month, new lease signings hit the highest level for the current month since the financial crisis, the report says. It was the most lease signings for a December in more than a dozen years.

With more demand, landlords did not offer as many freebies. The number of leases with a concession dropped below November’s record but still represented half of all new leases.

The median rent for a Brooklyn apartment last month was $2,700, down 9.7 percent from December 2019.

In Queens, lease signings were up in December as renters were lured by lower rents—lease signings were up after 16 months of year over year declines. The median rent, $2,400, was a 14.1 percent drop from a year ago.

Other market reports

MNS also released its reports for Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The reports drill down to look at rents by apartment size and neighborhood—and compare doorman to non-doorman buildings in Manhattan. Findings include: The largest rent drops were seen in doorman two bedrooms in Tribeca, and non-doorman two bedrooms in Soho and Midtown East.