Manhattan Rental Apartments Remain Scarce and Expensive

Published on Oct 31, 2011

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I'm feeling a bit like a broken record on this front, but here's the latest story on Manhattan rental apartments: rents are high, vacancies low, concessions few and far between. And while it sometimes seems like that's ALWAYS been the case (or, at least, for the nearly 30 years that I've been renting apartments in New York City), for much of 2009--just two years ago!--the shoe was on the other foot.

Back then, in the not-so-distant past, landlords routinely were offering such lures as two months free rent on two year leases, and the average price of a Manhattan rental apartment was nearly $10 less per square foot, per month.

There are, of course, still many excellent Manhattan rental apartments out there--and some bargains, if you look smartly and act quickly--and if you find your place through UrbanEdge, there are no brokers fees to worry about, saving you thousands of dollars.

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Recently the New York Times ran a monster article on all of the above, pulling numbers from the same Manhattan rent reports we all see, but adding another angle to the story: anecdotal evidence of Manhattan rental apartment residents getting hit with huge increases in their rent when it comes time to re-sign their lease.

The simple fact is, if you don't live in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled NYC rental apartment, your landlord or managing agent can raise your rent each time your lease expires to whatever they think the market will bear. That could mean a $50 increase; that could mean a $2,000 increase. You can try to negotiate, but with the average price of a rental apartment in Manhattan more than 7% higher than last year at this time, and vacancy rates under 1%, your landlord really has the upper hand here.

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It's in a landlords' best interest, of course, to keep their apartments occupied, and thus generating income, so in times when the Manhattan rental market is soft, your rent is likely to go up only a couple of percentage points--or even, as I've experience more than once, remain the same--lest your landlord lose out on several months rent while the apartment waits for a new resident.

But when, like now, Manhattan rental apartments in all neighborhoods, in all sizes and at all prices, are being snatched up the day they're being listed--especially those in the high priced, two-bedroom-and-larger section of the rental market--there's little financial incentive for landlords to keep their current tenants.

Plus, unless you wanted or needed to move anyway, and so have budgeted for all the expenses that moving entails, it's much easier and possibly less expensive to stay put, sometimes even in the face of a big rent hike.

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