Key Highlights

  • Apartment lease signings surged in December to highest levels in nearly a decade
  • Lease deals doubled in December compared to November 2019
  • Sliding rents and freebie concessions drawing tenants to NYC’s most expensive borough

According to a recent report by Miller Samuel Appraisers and Douglas Elliman, apartment lease signings surged by +94% in December 2020. This +94% increase represents the biggest annual increase in signed apartment leases since April 2011.

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Landlord freebies and sliding rents were the combined impetus for this tremendous uptick in apartment leases signings. Approximately 54% of December’s signed leases came with move-in incentives such as free months rent or payment of broker fees. Factoring in all the combined incentives, the median rent fell -17% to $2,800/month in Manhattan, the most expensive borough in New York City.

Despite this jump in leases, there was barely a dent in the pileup of available apartments in Manhattan due to COVID’s devastation in jobs, closed office towers, stifled nightlife, etc. that scattered workers to other locations. The number of available listings in Manhattan was up +172% compared to one year ago. Meanwhile, December’s vacancy rate was 5.52% compared to just 1.81% in December 2019.

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According to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, “New leasing has surged because of a newfound affordability for renters. The mistake here is to assume that this is a sign of imminent recovery.”

Around NYC’s other boroughs, signed apartment leases increased +59% compared with one year ago in Brooklyn and +34% in Northwest Queens, including the neighborhoods of Long Island City and Astoria.


Thanks to Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman and Bloomberg.

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