By Al Barbarino
Manhattan rents nudged closer to their all-time high last month with the average rent hitting $3,376, according to Citi Habitats.
The firm’s monthly rental market report for February 2012 put the average Manhattan apartment rented up 5 percent from a year ago and a mere $18 off the market peak of $3,394 during Mary 2007.
“The city’s rental market has remained remarkably stable over these past winter months,” said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. “Much as our city avoided heavy snow and extreme cold this winter, our city’s landlords avoided any wane in demand for their available apartments.
“Be it the mild weather or Manhattan’s magnetic pull, apartment seekers remained active during February and landlords took notice. It’s a great time to be a Manhattan landlord, and a potentially frustrating time to be an apartment seeker.
“The big question is will these trends continue – or even accelerate – as we enter spring?”
A report simultaneously released by MNS shows that monthly rent changes are minimal, but year-over-year Manhattan rents are up 6.5 percent compared with February of last year.
MNS’s Manhattan Rental Market report states that the average Manhattan lease-signer will pay $200 more than they would have last year, for both doorman and non-doorman buildings. Limited inventory and increased demand is credited for much of the growth.
“After the downturn, the only buildings that were being completed were buildings that were started before and there was a bit of a lull where construction and cranes sort of went away,” said Andrew Barrocas, CEO of MNS.
But he added, “People are still coming into New York as the city continues to expand,” creating a crunch in the market that has brought rents up.
The greatest increase in rents occurred downtown, up 7.6 percent from last year, while Middle Manhattan neighborhood rents grew 6.7 percent. But renters looking for a deal should look uptown, the report suggests, where year-over-year rents are up only 4.2 percent and 38 percent of the listings on the market reside.
“In the downtown area there’s more movement than there is uptown,” Barrocas said about the lagging uptown rents. “There tends to be more families and less movement uptown.”
Compared with last month, average Manhattan rents were down just 0.1 percent from last month overall. One bedroom apartments dipped 1.43 percent, while studios and two bedrooms crept up, 0.64 percent and 0.33 percent, respectively.
The greatest rent changes in non-doorman buildings since January were seen among Chelsea studios, up 6.6 percent; Harlem one-bedrooms, down 3 percent; and Murray Hill two-bedrooms, down 2.4 percent.
Last summer the city opened a second section of the High Line, between 20th and 30th Streets. The continued spike in Chelsea rents (average 3.2 percent since January) had much to do with the park’s resurgence, Barrocas said.
The greatest rent changes in doorman buildings since January were seen in Murray Hill studios, down 3 percent; Upper West Side one-bedrooms, down 4.8 percent; and Upper West Side two-bedrooms, up 1.4 percent.
Renters looking for doormen buildings should check out FiDi or Harlem, where an additional $500 a month will get you into a doorman building with amenities.
*this article appeared in the March 14, 2012 print edition of Real Estate Weekly