It’s been a full year of plummeting rents and an extreme surplus of available apartments. But the StreetEasy April 2021 Market Reports show that New York City rentals appear to be past their low point. In fact, the NYC rental market is starting to rebound, slowly.  

For Now, Rents Are No Longer Dropping

New York City rents have declined for the last 12 consecutive months. April marked the first time rents were no longer at the bottom of the market — though the changes were marginal. The city-wide rent index increased $4 from March to a median asking rent of $2,499. But it’s still down from April 2019 (pre-pandemic), when the median asking rent was $2,800. [We are comparing rents to 2019 because year-over-year comparisons to April 2020, when the city was in full lockdown, are not an accurate representation of trends. See the Editor’s Note below for more.] 

Manhattan Rentals Under $2,800 on StreetEasy Article continues below

Rental Inventory Is Steadily Falling 

While rents have stopped falling, available inventory is shrinking. The number of rentals available in April was down 26% from the record pandemic highs seen in August 2020. That’s a signal that demand is on the rise, and renters are signing new leases. 

In addition to prices and inventory showing green shoots, StreetEasy is also seeing a spike in renter activity. In April, the number of rental listing views on StreetEasy was up 110% compared to April 2019 (pre-pandemic). Renter visits to StreetEasy were also up 64%, and there were 59% more messages sent to listing agents about rental units.

While this is a significant turnaround, rental inventory is still incredibly high relative to a typical spring renter season. For context, there were nearly 15,000 more rentals available on StreetEasy in April 2021 than there were in April 2019.

NYC Rental Market Rebound Will Be Slow 

All factors considered, StreetEasy economist Nancy Wu believes that the city’s economic recovery will be slow. The NYC rentals market rebound will mirror that. The unemployment rate in NYC is still three times as high as it was a year ago. It will take a significant amount of time for new jobs to be created to attract new (or return) renters to the city. Renters should not expect rent prices to spring back to pre-pandemic levels in a matter of months. 

“All in all, it appears that the days of record low rents may be coming to an end. But we’re not on solid ground just yet,” says Wu.

“The city’s unemployment rate is still high, there are still a massive amount of apartments to choose from, and each renter is working with a specific timeline and new needs. The summertime, which in the past was peak renter season, will look very different this year. Commute times have become obsolete for some, opening up flexibility for when to sign a lease. This means that city renters can take their time to move, and rents will creep back up slowly.” 

Manhattan Rents Tick Up, but Record Concessions Mean More Deals

In April, the median asking rent in Manhattan was $2,799 — up $14 from March. But it’s still down significantly from April 2019, when the median was $3,400. There were 28,185 units available for rent in Manhattan in April. That’s a 32% decline from the record high inventory seen in August 2020. But it’s still 40% more than what was available in April 2019. While inventory is coming down, there are still deals to be had. A record-high 45.2% of Manhattan rentals advertised concessions of at least one month of free rent in April. 

In Brooklyn, Rents Remain Flat

Brooklyn’s median asking rent stayed stagnant between March and April at $2,400. In April 2019, the median was $2,595, so while rents have stopped falling for now, they are still far from a full recovery. There were 18,992 rental units available in Brooklyn in April. That’s down 25% from August, when available inventory peaked during the pandemic, a sign that demand is picking up steam. Similar to the rest of the city, the borough’s recovery will be a slow burn. Inventory is still 34% higher than it was in April 2019. 

Brooklyn Rentals Under $2,600 on StreetEasy Article continues below

Rents Rise Slightly in Queens, but Rental Inventory Remains High

In Queens, the median asking rent in April was $2,050. That’s $50 higher than it was in March, giving Queens the most significant uptick in rents of all boroughs analyzed. In April 2019, the median asking rent here was $2,250. However, while rental inventory in neighboring boroughs is starting to drop, the number of units available in Queens remains relatively close to record highs. There were 7,448 units available in April, and 7,434 in August, when Manhattan and Brooklyn inventory were at their peaks. This shows that even though monthly rents are ticking up, there are still relative deals to be had in Queens. 

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 the 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.

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