Are Manhattan Rental Apartments Now A Rich Person Thing?

Rich people things: New York City is full of them, from the hundred different takes on seared foie gras to the chilly boutiques of Soho and so on up and down the market. While our media has done a good job of making sure that New Yorkers are up on the latest trends among very wealthy New Yorkers -- and we've certainly done our part here at the Luxury Rentals Manhattan blog, at least insofar as noting the popular renting-a-condo trend among the city's  star athletes -- there's a sense, at least for those of us still living in the actual-existing economy, that these are trends not worth chasing. Which makes it all the more appealing that, albeit at the highest of high-end price points, the wealthiest New Yorkers are now making like everyone else in NYC. Where most of us live in Manhattan rental apartments, the richest New Yorkers long turned to ultra-exclusive co-ops. Now, though, with uncertainty the word throughout the economy, New York's rich are opting to do what everyone else does -- and rent. Yes, they're renting the highest of high-end Manhattan rentals, but for the wealthiest New Yorkers as well as everyone else, renting seems to be the move. The reasoning behind it, unsurprisingly, is proof that -- at least when it comes to finding a place to live in NYC -- the rich are not so very different from you and I.

Rather than selling apartments for seven figures, developers and building owners are removing the expensive price-tag and renting out these spaces instead, making them more affordable. Buildings like New York By Gehry at 8 Spruce Street, above, the tallest residential building in the world, which were originally designed as condo/rental splits, as  are now renting out all of their apartments -- quickly, and at a very high price-point. Buildings like the luxurious midtown rental MiMA could have gone into some serious tug-of-war when it came to selling their apartments, but after putting 500 of them up for rent, over 70% of them have been leased, so residents experience the amenities that usually can only be found in new construction apartment complexes at rental costs rather than full purchasing cost.

These buildings once offered apartments for sale to Manhattan’s elite, but now offer the same the same apartments, with all of the perks of an upscale new construction building, as luxurious apartments for rent. That means state-of-the-art gyms, dog spas, pools, day care/children’s playrooms, green roofs, movie theaters, ballrooms.  You name it, they’ve got it.  Now you can be the New Yorker who says, “Oh, you wanna go swimming, let’s go back to my apartment, the building has a rooftop pool,” and actually go back to your apartment, rather than just pretending.

Renting an apartment used to have this stigma about it: if you were renting an apartment, the thought was you couldn’t afford to buy one, but now Manhattan’s elite are renting apartments as the “new thing to do” -- the flexibility of a rental apartment, as well as the veneer of recession-appropriate frugality, have made Manhattan rentals into something of a trendy accessory. In recent years, about 3 million households have turned into rental properties and by 2015, 3 million more are expected to do so, opening up a huge market when it comes to renting luxury apartments. Of course, the Manhattan rental marketplace has always been pretty strong, and renting an apartment -- especially considering Manhattan condo prices -- has always been smart. Now, however, it's also looking kind of cool.