Manhattan Apartment Search: Prices Back to Normal

As vacancy rates decline in Manhattan, renters scramble to secure apartments Manhattan was long considered to have an unpoppable real estate bubble and recession-proof powers. But it seemed that one of the nation's worst economic downturns had driven up vacancy rates and made leasing more affordable for renters in the New York borough.

Back in the heyday, only a year ago, New Yorkers could bargain with landlords and maybe have some utilities and a couple months free rent thrown in for good measure. Tenants ready to resign their leases were even requesting (and getting!) lower rents, while others could afford to move into nicer apartments.

But as predicted, the glory days seem at an end for renters. And unsurprisingly, it's starting in pricey and competitive Manhattan. According to The Wall Street Journal, with less empty apartments available to lease on the island, New Yorkers are being forced to scramble to secure even a coveted 500-square-foot studio.

The good times for renters, say real estate experts, are over.

"The rent reductions are pretty much over. It's bottomed," Hessam Nadji, managing director of Marcus & Millichap, a real-state-investment brokerage firm told The Journal. "The worst is over and we're starting to firm up, the stage is set for rent growth of 4% to 6% in 2011."

The rent reductions have ceased because vacancy rates are going down. In March, the vacancy rate in Manhattan was 1.38 percent, a dip from 1.54 percent in February, and a drop from 2.46 percent a year ago -- this according to data from Citi Habitats, a New York apartment search and real estate firm.

Another piece of evidence cited is the drop in average rents, though this one is less convincing as of yet. In March, the average rent for a one-bedroom was $2,341, down 4.2 percent year-over-year, but a tick up from February's number of $2,335, says Citi Habitats.

While renters aren't seeing an inflation in prices, they are losing the upper hand. Fewer apartments are sitting empty, which means landlords aren't buckling to drop rental prices, throw in promotions, or cover the dreaded broker's fee.

"Now it's sort of take it or leave it," senior vice president with Citi Habitats, Robin Schneiderman, told The Journal. "People are taking things occupied and even renting before the renovations are done. You didn't really see that."

With diminishing vacancies, pricey real estate, and home-hunting requiring aggressive behavior, it appears things are getting back to normal in Manhattan. But don't gloat, you outer-borough renters, your good times are nearing an end, too!

But despite the quote by Schneiderman -- an executive of a real estate company that gains by collecting broker's fees -- you still don't need to jump on an apartment without running water and missing a toilet.

See apartments for rent inNew York or elsewhere in AOL's rental listings.

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