Manhattan rental market shifted slightly toward landlords in March: Report

Notch one for the big guys in the tug-of-war between landlords and tenants.

The rental market shifted slightly in property owners’ favor over the last month, but still provides renters with greater say in transactions, according to Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats.

A market report the realty firm is slated to release Thursday shows Manhattan rents did not change significantly from February to March. The portion of leases signed with extra perks fell from 46 to 35 percent and the borough’s vacancy rate hit a 10-month low of 1.63 percent, according to the report.

“It’s still more tenant-friendly than landlord-friendly, but it is balancing back a little bit more toward equilibrium,” Malin said. “Landlords have put themselves in a situation where they’re absorbing apartments, and they’re not having to offer as much concessions to get things done. But in this market, it’s very month-to-month.”

The pool of renters may be a bit larger than normal, given that some New Yorkers who were considering buying homes may have held off so they could assess how federal tax changes impact them or to gauge the recently volatile stock market, Malin said.

A seasonal uptick in leasing traffic may also explain some of this shift. Still, the increased activity remains less pronounced than it was during early spring of other years, Marlin said.

The market looks less competitive when reviewing its quarterly performance. More Manhattan landlords — 41 percent — used incentives to speed lease signings in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the 34 percent who offered benefits in 2017. Manhattan’s vacancy rate in early 2018 was 1.77 percent, just slightly less than the 1.93 percent rate recorded in the first quarter of 2017.

Agents have said that the number of new rental buildings opening and clients’ tendency to consider several neighborhoods have forced landlords to work harder to attract tenants.

“Owners always felt that when the summer season comes to play, it’s always in their favor, so they became more aggressive than the market could bear,” he said of recent summers. “It’s going to be sort of like a cat-and-mouse game, I think. If owners want to all of a sudden do an about-face, I think they’re going to end up racking up vacancies.”