Even with landlords refusing to officially lower prices, renters have the upper hand in 2017

By Virginia K. Smith  | January 10, 2017 - 12:59PM

As has been the case for nearly a year, the flood of high-priced rentals into New York City's market has meant a lot of apartments sitting empty and, in turn, a lot of landlords offering up increasingly valuable concessions. The trend is only expected to grow in the coming year, so much so that the New York Times has dubbed 2017 "the year of the renter."

"Clearly, the market has reached a peak," FirstService Residential's Robert Scaglion told the Times. "There's a sense in the industry that rents are not going to go up" in the new year."

However, rents not going up isn't exactly the same thing as rents dropping. And while concessions have been breaking records for months now, it still seems that landlords are leaning on concessions and other extras rather than simply offering cheaping apartments. (As we've written previously, it behooves landlords and their property values to keep the legal rents for apartments high, even if they're tossing in several months of free rent to close the deal.)

On the bright side, deals seem to be working their way down from the world of $8,000/month apartments into the middle of the market, as well—the Times story cites one couple whose broker noticed that a $2,150/month one-bedroom in Sunnyside had been sitting on the market for seven weeks, and managed to wrangle a month of free rent. And even in apartments that have cut the list price, said Citi Habitats agent Kenneth Rhys, "lowering the price alone hasn't resulted in the units renting."

As Citi Habitats' David Maundrell told the paper, "Rents have got to come down. That's the only way to get the absorption rates back."

In the meantime, renters have more negotiating power, and anyone in the market for a new rental this year should come to the table armed with information on what other buildings in the area are offering. (Anecdotally, even simply asking if there's anything more a landlord can offer will often get you a break on price, or an extra month's free rent.)

You can also filter based on search terms like "no-fee" and "free rent" on search sites like StreetEasy, as we've written previously, and offer to sign onto a longer length lease in exchange for extra concessions.

It might not be as enticing as cheaper rent, but until landlords cave in and start lowering prices substantially, renters should be prepared to play concessions hardball.


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