Manhattan’s Smaller Apartments Are the Priciest Since 2008


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Seekers of smaller apartments in Manhattan have had plenty of company this summer. Swelling demand by both newcomers and locals drove rents for studios and one-bedrooms to an 11-year high.

The monthly median for a studio in July and August was $2,700, the highest it’s been since June 2008, according to figures released Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. One-bedroom units rented for a median of $3,595, a record in data going back to the beginning of that year.

People settling in to start new jobs are competing with current city residents in the search for a small apartment — and they’re not rushing to buy one. In the first half of 2019, sales of Manhattan studios fell 13% from a year earlier, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel. Supplies of studios and one-bedrooms listed for sale at the end of the second quarter rose 6.6% and 4.4%, respectively.

Would-be buyers at all levels are hesitating on deals while they wait for prices to come down further. The demand for smaller rentals suggests “that we may see less first-time buyer activity as we enter the fall market,” Miller said.

Signings at newly built luxury high-rises also pushed up median rents in the borough, said Hal Gavzie, executive manager of leasing for Douglas Elliman. New developments that are currently filling units include the Summit, a tower on East 44th Street with a squash court, theater and lap pool, where a studio is listed at $4,290.

Manhattan apartments of all sizes were listed for an average of 24 days before finding tenants in August, down from 27 days a year earlier, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.

To find the best deal, speed was of the essence for Mary-Kate Morrow — so much so that she agreed to lease an apartment without seeing it in person.

Morrow, 27, who’s moving from Washington, D.C., for a new job at the strategic-communications firm Rubenstein, set a budget of $2,500 for a studio on the Upper West Side, where the median rent was $4,150 last month, according to a report by brokerage Citi Habitats. She lost out on several listings she liked because she couldn’t come see them at a moment’s notice, she said.

Eventually, she spotted a posting on Craigslist for a studio in the West 90s, and arranged to view it remotely on a video call with the previous tenant. While getting a look at the place through FaceTime, Morrow could hear a knock on the woman’s apartment door.

“She said, ‘One second, that’s someone else coming to tour the apartment,’” said Morrow, who decided to rent the place for $2,200 a month without further inspection.

“In New York, you don’t choose your apartment,” she said. “It chooses you.”(Updates with days on the market in sixth paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the Rubenstein firm’s name.)

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