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Manhattan Apartment Hunters See No Relief From Near-Record Rents

In a season when prices and competition usually ease, February’s median of $4,095 is down just $55 from the all-time high, reached in July. 

Manhattan Rents Soar To A Record With Landlords In Driver's Seat
Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
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Manhattan apartment hunters have seen little relief this winter from near-record rents.

The median rent on newly signed leases last month was $4,095, down just $2 from January, according to appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The median peaked at $4,150 in July and has held close to that level ever since, breaking with the market’s traditional pattern for the cooler months, when costs typically drop as competition for apartments eases.   

At the same time, there are signs that renters are pushing back on renewal increases. Roughly 1,200 more new leases were signed in February than a year earlier, while the number of units left on the market at the end of the month was up by 1,400. Those numbers suggest that a larger-then-usual share of people are rejecting their landlords’ rent hikes and searching for new apartments, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

“Landlords are still trying to catch up” and align renewal rates with the prices they’re getting for new leases, Miller said. “So that’s pushing people to churn, to look for new space.” 

In some cases, renters seeking to renew are being quoted prices that no longer include the discounts and free months they were able to score early in the pandemic.

“There is a definite sticker shock,” said Gary Malin, chief operating officer of Corcoran Group. “People are saying, ‘I was paying this and I’m supposed to be paying that if I want to stay.’” 

While vacancies are ticking up, landlords haven’t felt particularly compelled to fill empty apartments by cutting prices. Instead, they’re holding out to see how demand looks during the traditionally high-volume spring and summer months, according to Malin.