International Property

Manhattan landlords race to fill flats in declining market

Owners cut an average 2.4pc off their asking prices, then sweetened deals with incentives, such as rent-free months on 48pc of new leases

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 6:58pm

Flats rents are dropping in Manhattan, and so is the patience of landlords.

Units that found tenants in February spent an average of just 34 days on the market, the shortest stretch since October 2011, as owners cut rents, offered incentives and did whatever else they could to fill vacancies, according to a report Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel, and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

“Landlords are not playing around,” said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel. “They’re being more aggressive in terms of time. They just want to get people in.”

Rents fell from a year earlier for the third consecutive month in February as landlords competed for tenants in a market that is overflowing with choice.

Owners cut an average 2.4 per cent off their asking prices, then sweetened deals with incentives, such as rent-free months on 48 per cent of new leases, Miller Samuel and Elliman said. The median rent, with concessions subtracted, dropped 2.8 per cent from a year earlier to US$3,168.

Concessions are getting more creative. Publicly traded landlord Equity Residential, for instance, is reducing security deposits to US$1,000, instead of the usual full month’s rent, for tenants who sign leases at most of its Manhattan towers by the end of March.

Signers at Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, the borough’s biggest flat complex, will get a year of free Wi-fi and cable.

At one Upper East Side property, a letter from owner Hakim Organization was slipped under residents’ doors, offering half a month of free rent if they help find occupants for vacant units by April 1.

“If you have a friend or relative looking for a flat, we are willing to rent to them through you,” read the letter, signed by Ely Samuels. He didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Landlords seeking the advice of brokerage Citi Habitats have been calling regularly to ask “what else can I do?”, said Gary Malin, the firm’s president, who tells them that ingenuity helps.

That is translated into some owners lifting restrictions on pets, and others offering to pay a portion of a new tenant’s moving costs, he said.

“A lot of owners are taking a wait-and-see approach, but unfortunately, the market has changed as has the sentiment of tenants,” Malin said. “Landlords realised that what they were doing wasn’t getting the right results.”

About 5,630 newly built flats will be listed for rent in Manhattan this year, according to data compiled by Citi Habitats. That is on top of the 4,270 units that reached the market in 2017.