Unhappy Trending? For NYC Rentals, January Was Another Month Of Lower Vacancies and Higher Rents

We'd start this post with a "stop us if you've heard this one before," but for two reasons -- the first being that you have certainly heard this news before, and the second being that you've heard it often enough that we've probably already rolled out the "stop us if you've heard this one before." And because we don't want to stop, and because you've certainly heard this news before, we'll just go ahead and say it -- January was another month of (incrementally) increased rents and (notably) tightened vacancies in a NYC rental marketplace that has been defined by those trendlines for months now. This is the thing with trends, of course -- they tend to be linear, and they tend to be difficult to blog about without repeating oneself. The problem, here, being that -- when it comes to Manhattan rental listings over hte past few months -- the trend has proven to be especially persistent. How much so?

Oh, about as much as last month. "Rents were up only slightly compared to the December stats, but the difference is sharper when looking at the January 2010 numbers," Curbed's Sara Polsky writes. "Studio prices went up 7 percent, one- and two-bedrooms were up by 9 percent, and three-bedroom rents were 9.5 percent higher."

As we (sigh) wrote last month, though, these incremental increases in rents on Manhattan apartments conceal a more disturbing trend -- an ongoing tightening of inventory. Or, if you prefer your real estate bummers jargon-free: there are fewer and fewer apartments for rent in Manhattan -- a trend which, as we noted last month, looks likely to intensify due to a lack of new apartment rental construction starts. "The vacancy rate also dropped in January, to 1.26 percent," Polsky reports. "That's compared to 1.59 percent a year ago, with the lowest vacancy rates now in the expected neighborhoods of the West Village, Chelsea, and Soho/Tribeca."

There are still a healthy number of luxury rentals in the West Village, Chelsea and Soho, but with vacancy rates there approaching eye-popping levels -- the vacancy rate on West Village rental apartments is just 0.61%, and just 0.63% on Chelsea rental listings -- it seems safe to say that looking for apartments on the Upper East Side (1.87%) or Upper West side rentals (1.60%) looks like a safer bet. How do we know it's safe to say? Because we said it last month. You can't negotiate with Manhattan real estate trends, as any New Yorker knows. It's not easy to blog about them, either.