NYC apartments: Renters face steep competition, high prices this summer

Residential buildings  in the East Village  along East  1st Street between First  and Second  avenues.
Residential buildings in the East Village along East 1st Street between First and Second avenues. Photo Credit: iStock

Renters looking to move in Manhattan this spring and summer face steep price tags and fierce competition, according to real estate experts.

“The overriding issue with the rental market lately is that it’s extremely high-priced,” said Gary Malin, president of the real estate group Citi Habitats. “There’s not a lot of jobs that are being created, and those that are being created aren’t paying the kind of wages that can handle the sticker shock in this market.”

The average studio rent in Manhattan in the first quarter of 2016 was $2,187, up 2.6% from $2,132 in the first quarter of 2015, according to Citi Habitats.

And while the number of apartments that came with concessions from landlords, such as a free month’s rent or payment of the broker fee, hit a five-year high in January, the company reported, that will become less prevalent into the summer, Malin said.

The best course of action for renters in this market would be to move as soon as possible or wait out the summer, according to Lawrence Zhou, co-founder of the SoHo-based listings site RentHop.

From December to August, rents rise about $10 a month, he said.

For those who can’t relocate now, Zhou recommended trying to tack on a few months to an existing lease, “that way you can look in the fall,” he said. “And then you’ll forever be on the fall schedule.”

Alan Lightfeldt, a data scientist at the listings site StreetEasy, added that it’s best to see apartments with first month’s rent and security money in-hand.

“If you find a rental apartment that you love, you have to act fast,” he said. “Bring your checkbook to the open house.”

Vacancy rates in the city are low — 1.77% in the first quarter of 2016, according to Citi Habitats — and are expected to decline further into the summer, meaning fewer apartments will be available and competition will heat up with the weather, Lightfeldt added.

An affordable option might be to rent out a three- or- four-bedroom unit, such as a duplex, with roommates, Zhou said.

“If you’re a new graduate and you can get a crew together and you’re happy to live together you can probably find a pretty decent deal,” he said, noting that such homes can often be found on the Upper East Side as well as on the Lower East Side and in the East Village.

Malin also recommended the Upper East Side near the river for renters who desire a Manhattan address.

“Anything that’s away from public transportation, you’re going to get better value,” he said.

Here’s a snapshot of this winter’s rental market, from StreetEasy:

Median rents by borough in February:

Bronx: $1,575

Staten Island: $1,878

Queens: $2,150

Brooklyn: $2,500

Manhattan: $3,395

Nabes with the highest median rents in Manhattan in February:

-Central Park South: $7,550

-TriBeCa: $6,476

-Flatiron: $5,300

-Midtown: $4,950

-Battery Park City: $4,750

Nabes with the lowest median rents in Manhattan in February:

– Inwood$1,800

– Washington Heights$2,100

– East Harlem$2,250

– West Harlem$2,350

– Central Harlem$2,40