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Peace and Stability for the Manhattan Rental Market?

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We've only just stopped reeling from the data dump that was the Q1 sales reports, which means it's time to dive into the first-quarter Manhattan rental market. Leading the way are Prudential Douglas Elliman report preparer Jonathan Miller and monthly market measurer Citi Habitats. And the byword in both of their reports seems to be stability, with rental numbers that aren't quite as dizzying as their sales counterparts. But the patterns in rentals and sales seem to be similar: rents were down compared to Q1 '09 but have improved since the end of last year, and rental activity is up. Want some numbers with those sweeping statements? Elliman has the first quarter average rent at $3,812/month, down 8 percent from the same time last year but up 0.6 percent from the end of the fourth quarter. Listing inventory fell 30.8 percent compared to last year but is hovering around the same amount as last quarter.
Citi Habitats doesn't break the data down in quite the same way, tracking quarterly changes by apartment size without overall averages. The firm's quarterly report records slight improvements in rents for studios from last quarter, but declines in 1BR, 2BR, and 3BR apartments. Year-over-year, the steepest drop is in 2BR apartments, with a 7 percent decline. Citi Habitats also tracks the 2009 rents across all apartment sizes in their doorstopper 2009 Black and White Report, painting a picture of a pretty indecisive Manhattan market. Some neighborhoods saw an 8 percent increase in 2BR rents over the course of 2009, while 2BR decreases in other 'hoods went as high as 15.9 percent.

Elliman also does the rent-by-bedrooms breakdown, here in chart form for the visual learners out there:

So, data digested, what does all this mean for the future? Citi Habitats' market horoscope has the renter goodies of recent months going the way of our wintertime light boxes: "Incentives are disappearing in areas with diminished supply and increased demand, and the next logical step will be that prices will begin to inch up as the peak summer rental season begins." Another one from the renter's market is over camp! Wanna weigh in?
· Prudential Douglas Elliman Market Reports [Elliman]
· Citi Habitats Market Reports [Citi Habitats]
· Market Report coverage [Curbed]