NYC rent is still pretty cheap, and it’s luring New Yorkers back to the city

New York City
Returning New Yorkers are taking advantage of affordable city rent.

It’s a fine time to be in New York City right now.

Covid cases are dropping as vaccination rates are rising, New Yorkers are staying out past midnight again, and rent is, by NYC standards, actually affordable. It’s proved the perfect recipe for the return of those who left the city as the pandemic raged.

The number of new Manhattan lease signings hit a record high since the Great Recession at 9,941 in May, per a report by appraiser Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman. That’s four times what it was a year ago, and nearly 60% of these renters signed two-year leases.

As Bloomberg’s Oshriat Carmel wrote, New Yorkers are taking advantage of the city’s downtrodden rental market to plan their return, snagging concessions and discounts while they can at a long-term rate.

The pandemic saw the largest year-over-year declines on record for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, dropping 15.5% in Manhattan and 8.6% in the outer boroughs, per StreetEasy’s January Rental Report. The median asking rent in Manhattan was $2,750 – its lowest since March 2010, when rents dropped during the great recession.

“The pressures COVID placed on the marketplace created a unique opportunity to secure leases in prime locations and great buildings for significant discounts,” agent Ryan Kaplan, of Douglas Elliman, previously told Insider.

Many young professionals turned the plunging rents to their favor, upgrading to luxury apartments for $1,000-plus discounts that finally fit their budgets. Now, returning New Yorkers are catching on to the savings game.

Read more: New York City is back

New Yorkers are making their comeback

New Yorkers are returning in droves, Insider’s Avery Hartmans reported. She cited data from location-data firm Unacast, which found that migration to New York is growing twice as fast as in 2019.

Mansion Global previously reported the number of outward migrants from the NYC metro area ticked upward from 2019 to 2020 – a loss of 6.6 per 1,000 residents grew to 10.9 – but those who left for the suburbs were already returning.

“It’s preparation for a return to school, return to work, escape from your parents’ homes,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, told Bloomberg’s Carmel. “We’re undergoing a return back to normal life and this is part of it.”

As part of the return to normalcy, rent in the city has since begun to rebound. In April, it was no longer at the bottom of the market for the first time since the pandemic began, according to a follow-up StreetEasy report. But the same report says that the rebound will be slow.

Libertina Brandt reported for Insider in March that rents could stay widely cheap for the rest of the year.

As Nancy Wu, a StreetEasy economist, told Brandt, “Prices will continue to fall until the inventory settles a bit, more people come back to the city, more jobs are recreated from the loss of small businesses, and the city returns, somewhat, back to where it was before the pandemic started.”

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