The Market

Can anything stop the upward march of Brooklyn rents?

By Leigh Kamping-Carder  | April 11, 2014 - 8:59AM

Rents generally fall in the winter and come back in the warmer months, but in Brooklyn, it's been swimsuit season for almost a year now.

For 10 consecutive months, according to a Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel market report issued this week, rents have been higher than they were the year before—with no winter slowdown to speak of. They also rose 0.3 percent over February. In March, the median rent hit a record $2,900 a month--just $300 less than Manhattan rents, versus $1,100 in 2008, Bloomberg News reported.

As one Gawker blogger puts it: “We are primed for the pendulum to swing back to Manhattan—we are approximately 2 years away from a rash of trend stories declaring that ‘Manhattan Is the New Brooklyn.’”

So is there anything that would knock Brooklyn rents off their upward march? Yes!

The big one, experts say, is the economy: if employment dries up and jobseekers go elsewhere, rents across the city would likely fall because of a lack of demand.

Alternatively, if it became easier to get a mortgage or if interest rates slide, more people would buy instead of rent, says Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

Rents could fall if developers could build more rental housing, particularly non-luxury apartments.

Or renters could just say enough is enough.

“Tenant resistance is another factor that could cause a downturn in pricing,” says Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. “There will come a point where landlords cannot push rents any higher, as people simply will look elsewhere. There is a ‘pain threshold’ as to what people are willing to pay.”

But if you’re hoping to find a Brooklyn rental this summer, don't count on any of these things providing much relief. 

“As long as the borough continues to have this magnetic pull, there will always be more demand for housing than there is supply,” Malin says, “thus allowing building owners to charge top dollar for their rental units.”

The key figures

For the number crunchers, here are the key data points from the report released yesterday, prepared by appraisal firm Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman, plus the change over last year:

  • Median Manhattan rent, March: $3,200 a month, 0.2 percent increase
  • Median Brooklyn rent, March: $2,900, 13.3 percent increase

And from Miller Samuel and Elliman’s report on the Brooklyn sales market in the first quarter:

  • Median Brooklyn condo sale price: $625,000; 0.2 percent decrease
  • Median Brooklyn co-op sale price: $340,000; 12.2 percent increase
  • Number of Brooklyn sales: 1,572, 2.2 percent decrease
  • Brooklyn listings available: 4,092, 13.2 percent decrease

Dig deeper:

Where is the Next Brooklyn? (Gawker)

Manhattan rental rates up for first time since August (The Real Deal)

Brooklyn apartment rents jump to a record as leases surge (Bloomberg)

Brooklyn sales, rents sent Q1 records in crazy tough market (Curbed NY)

Gentrification is coming for Queens (NY Mag)

Related posts:

Survival tips from a decade-long survey of Manhattan real estate

What the latest real estate numbers really mean for buyers and sellers

16 staple-these-to-your-forehead tips for hunting down a rental

Major NYC landlord admits "we pushed too far" on rents--take advantage with these tips


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