Manhattan lease signings fell to 10-year low in May because of the shutdown

By Jennifer White Karp  |
June 11, 2020 - 9:30AM

New leases fell 62.2 percent in Manhattan, and Brooklyn and Queens also saw a plunge in new leases, according to The Elliman Report.


A new report shows how the shutdown squelched New York City rental activity. The number of new Manhattan leases signed in May was the lowest for that month in a decade as a result of agents not being able to show apartments in person.

Brooklyn and Queens also saw a plunge in new leases, according to The Elliman Report for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens for May. New leases fell 62.2 percent in Manhattan, the second largest year-over-year decline in new leases in a decade. Brooklyn saw the number of lease signings fall 53.9 percent, a near record decline, and Queens had a 60.7 percent fall.

The report by Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel, attributes the drop to “the inability of real estate agents to physically show property per state ‘shelter in place' rules."

Not surprisingly, there are a lot more apartments available for rent in Manhattan, where the number of listings increased 34.2 percent, the largest year-over-year increase of listing inventory in 45 months. And concessions—the freebies that landlords use to entice you to sign a lease—are also up. The share of new leases in Manhattan with a concession was 41.9 percent, up from 33.9 percent.

A bunch, but not all, of the metrics used to track rents are up—a shift from April, when rents measurements were nearly uniformly higher year over year.

In Manhattan, the median rent rose 1.3 percent from the same period last year to $3,546, however, there was a decline in median rent for non-doorman apartments, representing the first drop in 17 months. New development median rent and luxury rent also fell.

The number of Brooklyn listings on the market increased for the first time in 11 months, and the number of new lease signings fell annually for the eighth straight month.

“The challenge of a near-record decline in new leasing activity and the recent gain in market share of landlord concessions have been amplified due to Covid-19 'shelter in place' rules for real estate agents," the report says.

The median rent for Brooklyn was up 3.4 percent to $2,999. And the percentage of new leases with concessions rose marginally over last year to 33 percent. It's the first time in 17 months there's been an increase in new leases signed with some kind of freebie thrown in. 

In Queens, the median rent fell year over year for the first time in eight months, falling 1.9 percent to $2,944. The portion of new leases with a concession set a new record over four and a half years of tracking this metric: It was 65.1 percent, up from 33.3 percent. Nearly two-thirds of one-bedroom rentals had some form of landlord concession, a new record, the report says.

Other market reports

MNS released rental market reports for Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx for May and found declines in average rents.



Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

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