Asking rents in New York City have been consistently dropping throughout the pandemic. The market reached a new milestone in the first quarter of 2021, as NYC rents hit record lows. The StreetEasy Rent Index dropped by 16.8% year-over-year in Manhattan, and rents fell to a new low of $2,700 a month. That’s the cheapest on StreetEasy record, dating back to 2010. During the first quarter of 2020, right before the pandemic hit, the median asking rent in Manhattan was more than $700 higher at $3,417.

Manhattan wasn’t the only borough with a significant decline in rents during Q1 2021. In Brooklyn, the median asking rent was $2,390, the lowest since 2011. And in Queens, the median asking rent was $1,999, dropping below $2,000 for the first time in eight years. 

Manhattan Rentals Under $2,700 on StreetEasy Article continues below

In addition to NYC rents hitting record lows, NYC renters also found a record number of units offering free months of rent. In Manhattan, 44.2% of landlords advertised a concession in the form of at least one month’s rent. That’s by far the highest StreetEasy has ever seen, and 22 percentage points higher than last year. Brooklyn and Queens also had a record high share of concessions at 25.4% and 26.6%, respectively. 

So, will NYC rents keep falling? The number of rental units available is one of the key factors driving the rent drops and surge in concessions. In the first quarter, rental inventory in Manhattan and Brooklyn was more than twice as high as it was in Q1 2020. And Queens inventory was 97% higher. 

While inventory is still about double what it was a year ago, the number of available apartments has fallen for the past two quarters. It’s down from the peaks seen during the summer of 2020. Given all of these factors, StreetEasy economist Nancy Wu believes that prices could stay low, while rental activity will pick up more rapidly this summer.  

Brooklyn Rentals Under $2,400 on StreetEasy Article continues below

“With the weather getting warmer and more people rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated, New Yorkers are starting to feel a sense of normalcy,” says Wu. “As this continues, the rate at which apartments come off the market will continue to ramp up.” 

“Renters don’t need to rush to sign a new lease this second to claim a great deal, though,” Wu adds. “It will take time for prices to rebound. But the rentals market does react to economic activity much more quickly than the sales market. As the city continues to recover, competition will slowly start to pick up.” 

Renters Can Snag a Serious Apartment Deal in Midtown Manhattan

The median asking rent hit a new low in Manhattan overall, but some areas saw bigger declines than others. Midtown saw the most dramatic annual decline in rents with a decrease of 14.8%. The median asking rent in midtown fell to $2,895. A close second was the Upper East Side, which saw rents slide 13.9%. The median Upper East Side rental asked $2,400 in the first quarter. Upper Manhattan had the least significant drop in rents relative to the rest of the borough at a 9.4% decline compared to last year. The median asking rent in Upper Manhattan, which includes neighborhoods like Washington Heights, Inwood, and Harlem, was $2,150 — the cheapest since 2015.

Brooklyn Rents Are Tumbling, Too 

NYC rents hit record lows in other boroughs, too. While Manhattan had the lowest rents on record, Brooklyn met a milestone of its own. Rents fell by 10% year-over-year, the largest annual decline the borough has ever experienced. This shows that, while demand for apartments in Brooklyn might be higher than the levels seen in Manhattan, there are still deals to be had. The median asking rent for a 1-bedroom in North Brooklyn, comprising Williamsburg and Greenpoint, was $2,500. That’s the lowest it’s been in more than 10 years. 

Queens Rents Drop Below $2K 

The median asking rent in Queens was $1,999 in the first quarter, the lowest in eight years. Queens rents remained relatively stable during the pandemic compared to the declines seen in Manhattan. But the first quarter of 2021 brought the largest annual decline the borough has ever seen at 10.5%. Rents fell the furthest in the borough’s most expensive submarket, Northwest Queens, home to Astoria, Long Island City, and Sunnyside. They dropped 9.0% year-over-year, and the median asking rent in the area was $1,800. 

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.

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