In December, 5,459 apartment leases were signed in Manhattan, 94 percent more than a year earlier, according to real estate agency Douglas Elliman and research firm Miller Samuel.
For three-bedroom apartments, which averaged $8,000 monthly rent, leasings were up 171 percent from a year previous, the report noted. 
This marks the third consecutive month of year-on-year increases and the largest jump in almost a decade.
Median rents continued to decline, falling 17 percent to $2,800, including discounts and incentives. Rents also fell for studio and one-bedroom apartments.
Many landlords are offering two or more months’ free rent; some go further, offering to pay for repainting and other changes to the properties.
Brokers report three groups are snapping up the flats:

  • people who live in the city and are taking advantage of cheap rents to move to better digs;
  • folks who fled the city during the pandemic and now are returning;
  • families who cashed out of their suburban homes as prices soared and who want to experience city life.

All three groups comprise well-off renters who have been able to continue working through the pandemic; low-wage workers are frozen in place because evictions have been banned, and they have no money to make deposits on new apartments.
Still, December showed 13,718 apartments available in Manhattan, a near-record total almost 2.5 times last year’s number; the current vacancy rate of 5.5 percent is almost triple the historical average, Miller noted in the report.
December’s gain is “a baby step in the right direction,” Miller Samuel CEO Jonathan Miller said in a comment reported by CNBC. “I think we’re in the preseason of recovery.”
Mirroring strength in rentals, luxury apartment sales also increased in December, with flats priced above $5 million chalking up a 23-percent boost in sales in 2020’s fourth quarter, compared to the period in 2019.
TRENDPOST: Leasings are on the rise not because people are flocking back to Manhattan but because prices finally fell to a level that makes sense in a city where fewer people want to live. Even with the number of rentals rising, commercial property owners still face a dire struggle to maintain their properties, pay the city’s steep property taxes, and have any money left.
And, with evictions prohibited by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, it will push landlords deeper in debt, which will also lower city and state tax income. 

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