Generous incentives, hope for pandemic's end help fuel NYC lease signings

As the coronavirus pandemic drags into its second year, many landlords in New York City are offering significant incentives to tenants and prospective renters to get them to sign long-term leases.

"I have people who have signed two-month leases and have gotten seven months free," said Hal Gavzie, the executive director of leasing for Douglas Elliman. 

He added that he could not recall landlord concessions as generous and commonplace as Manhattan has seen this winter since the months immediately following 9/11.

"Out of the gate, for a 12-month lease: minimum two months free and an owner's concession — meaning they play the broker's fee or a portion of it," Gavzie said.

Those concessions coupled with historically low prices and a spike in hope for a vaccine-driven end to this global pandemic have resulted in months of records for new-lease signings in this city. January saw a nearly 60% spike in renters signing Manhattan leases and a more than 45% bump in new Brooklyn leases from January a year ago. That is the largest such bump in more than a decade.

"The numbers of lease signings, the percentage they've increased — it's a step in the right direction but the overall vacancy in Manhattan is still at historic highs," Gavzie said.

While he welcomed the apparent influx of new renters and the return of old ones, he expected it might take another year or two for the city to return to pre-pandemic levels of residential rental vacancies

"That's me being optimistic and hoping that, yes, within 12 to 18 months we're close to that," Gavzie said.

Between now and then, the city should continue to welcome new residents and old residents to new neighborhoods they previously could not afford.

"Overall, I think we're going to see that younger renter coming in," Gavzie said. "I am confident that within, say it's 18 months to 24 months, we'll be in a much better place."

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