The Market

Manhattan lease signings surged in March, but there are many empty apartments

By Brick Underground  | April 8, 2021 - 9:30AM

Manhattan saw the highest number of March new lease signings since tracking began in 2008, according to the Elliman Report for the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens rental markets. 


The New York City rental market is behaving like a big game of musical chairs with a few extra players jumping in at each round.

Renters are moving around in search of better deals, while at the same time, lower rents and concessions from landlords continue to pull in newcomers—a trend that’s been ongoing for the past four months.

Manhattan saw the highest number of March new lease signings since tracking began in 2008, according to the Elliman Report for the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens rental markets. There were 4,986 lease signings, an increase of 89 percent over March 2020.

That ate up some of the listings on the market—but there’s still a lot of available places, in fact nearly 20,000 in Manhattan, almost five times what was available in March 2020. The vacancy rate last month was an astonishing 11.25 percent—compared to 2.13 percent in March 2020. (In February 2021, there were nearly 24,000 listings.)

The median rent for Manhattan in March, $3,098, reflects a drop of 13.7 percent from March 2020, and the net effective rent, $2,975, which factors in concessions from landlords like a month or more free, is down 14.4 percent from last year.

“We are starting to see some stabilization in rents, says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report. Compared to this time last year, March rents are way down, he says, “but they’re not down as much as they were three or four months ago. We are definitely continuing to go in the right direction,” he says. (That’s good news for landlords, but not for renters counting on deals for the future.)

What is a good news for renters: The dollar amount of rental concessions for Manhattan apartments rose to the third-highest level since 2008.

The report also found that new lease signings in Manhattan doorman buildings continue to outpace lease signing in non-doorman buildings by about twice the rate. The same goes for lease signing in existing buildings compared to new development.

In Brooklyn, lease signings rose sharply year over year for the seventh consecutive month. There were 1,269 new leases, an increase of 76 percent over March 2020.

The median rent in Brooklyn for March, $2,696, reflects a 10.1 percent drop from March 2020. The net effective median rent fell year over year for the ninth straight month to $2,612.

The report covers the northwest part of Queens, which marches to its own beat. Despite the steady decline in rental price trends, the report says, new lease signings did not trend higher. New lease signing were down 18.5 percent compared to March 2020. This was the second time in three months that new lease signings fell year over year.

The median rent for Queens in March, $2,400 reflects a drop of 17.7 percent compared to March 2021. And the net effective median rent fell year over year for the 11th straight month to $2,293.

Even with the drop in lease signings, landlords are pulling back on concessions. The market share of leases with landlord concessions has fallen by nearly half since peaking in November, the report says.


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