Mon. Oct 18th, 2021

The New York City rentals market recovery is speeding up. Median asking rents are still below where they were before the pandemic began. But, less than one year after Manhattan rents fell below $3,000 to $2,750 for the first time in a decade, our July Market Reports show they are back at that threshold. NYC rents are rising citywide as well. The city’s median asking rent in July was $2,675 — up from a pandemic low of $2,500. 

The quick rise can be attributed in part to this summer’s massive spike in demand. New Yorkers who left town during the pandemic started returning. Meanwhile, those who stayed were upgrading, or moving to avoid rent increases on their lease. And many people who always wanted to live in NYC decided that, with prices unusually low this summer, it was finally the right time.

In July, renter activity exceeded pre-pandemic levels — significantly. Compared to July 2019, StreetEasy saw 59% more renter visits, 63% more rental listing views, and 76% more overall contacts on rental listings.

The Era of Pandemic Discounts in NYC Rents May Be Over 

With NYC rents rising, the share of rental discounts around the city is also changing rapidly. Last July, in the midst of the pandemic, 29.1% of rentals in New York City advertised a discount. This July, only 9.1% were discounted — a significant drop of 20 percentage points. 

In July 2019, during a typical busy summer rental season, 15.6% of rentals were discounted. So this year’s figure of 9.1% is particularly low. In fact, it’s the lowest it’s been in a decade. 

In Some Areas, Rents Are Now Surpassing Pre-Pandemic Levels

Median asking rents borough- and city-wide remain lower than they were prior to the pandemic. But in some neighborhoods, asking rents have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels. This is particularly the case in popular downtown Manhattan neighborhoods, including Flatiron, the East Village, the Financial District, and Nolita. 

Parts of Brooklyn are also experiencing a rapid recovery in rent prices. Bedford-Stuyvesant, Greenpoint, and Downtown Brooklyn all had higher median asking rent prices in July 2021 than they did before the pandemic started. 

NYC’s Rising Rents: Looking Ahead

“I expect rental price growth to continue, but not at such a rapid clip,” says StreetEasy economist Nancy Wu. “Renters began returning to the market in full force this summer, and landlords are taking notice. They are trying to make up for time and money lost during the pandemic’s lull by raising prices and erasing discounts. Prospective renters should be prepared for tougher negotiations over the next few months as NYC rents continue rising. But I expect price growth and landlord expectations to normalize as we head into the colder months.”

Manhattan Rental Inventory Is Disappearing Fast 

  • Manhattan’s median asking rent rose to $3,000. That’s the highest it’s been since last July, when rents were still in a free-fall. It’s still significantly lower than pre-pandemic asking rents, though. They hovered around $3,500 from 2019 until the beginning of the pandemic. 
  • Rental inventory in Manhattan also continued its steady decline. There were 21,567 rentals available in Manhattan in July, down an incredible 48% from the peak of inventory supply during the pandemic last August. 
  • In July, 9.5% of Manhattan rentals were discounted. That’s the highest share of all boroughs analyzed, but much lower than a typical year. In July 2019, for instance, 15.6% of Manhattan rentals were discounted. 
  • Many neighborhoods are already seeing asking rents surpass pre-pandemic levels. In Flatiron, for example, the median asking rent rose to $5,304 in July — the highest on record by more than $100.

NYC Rental Discounts Are Rarest in Brooklyn

  • The median asking rent in Brooklyn rose to $2,600, closing in on the pre-pandemic highs of around $2,700 seen in summer 2019. 
  • The number of available rentals in Brooklyn fell to 17,411 in July. That’s down 33% from the peak of inventory supply in August 2020. This was still higher than the amount of inventory available in July 2019, when 15,437 rentals were on the market. 
  • In Brooklyn, 8.7% of rentals were discounted in July. That’s the lowest share of all boroughs analyzed, and significantly lower than last August, when the share of discounts peaked at 26%. In July 2020, 24% of Brooklyn rentals were discounted.
  • Of all Brooklyn neighborhoods, Greenpoint asking rents rose the most year-over-year. The median asking rent in the neighborhood reached a record high of $3,395 — $80 more than the previous high in August 2019. 

The Number of Rentals Available in Queens Remains High

  • Median asking rents in Queens climbed to $2,200 in July. They’re closing in on pre-pandemic prices, which hovered around $2,300. 
  • Queens rental inventory remained relatively elevated compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn. There were 6,266 rentals available in the borough in July. That’s down 21% from the inventory peak, which occurred in October 2020. In July 2019, 5,293 rentals were available in Queens. So there are still nearly 1,000 more available rentals now than there were in the summer before the pandemic. 
  • The share of rentals discounted in Queens fell to 8.9%. During the summer of 2019, 13.8% were discounted, signaling that Queens landlords are also responding to  the current spike in demand. 
  • Rents in some of Queens’s most expensive neighborhoods are rising quickly, but still have not met their pre-pandemic levels. In Long Island City, the borough’s most expensive neighborhood, the median asking rent rose to $3,250. It peaked in August 2019 at $3,382. During the pandemic, asking rents in Long Island City hit a low of $2,867 in September 2020.

View all StreetEasy Market Reports for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, with additional neighborhood data and graphics. Definitions of StreetEasy’s metrics and monthly data from each report can be explored and downloaded via the StreetEasy Data Dashboard.

Editor’s Note: In March 2020, New York City’s housing market temporarily froze as the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. in earnest. Stay-at-home orders were widespread. Year-over-year data comparisons over the next few months will be made against both the COVID freeze of the spring, and subsequent housing recovery that began last fall. Assuming 2021 is more typical of a “normal” year in housing than 2020 was, with little to no activity in the spring and summer, we expect many of our year-over-year measures will show large gains over last spring and summer. We urge you to use caution in extrapolating too much from year-over-year measures in coming months, and we will always try to provide appropriate context to anchor reported changes in metrics to what is normal or expected.