The impact of the pandemic on New York City real estate has perhaps been most stark in the Manhattan rental market, which had vacancies skyrocket in 2020 as tenants fled to greener places, to less expensive places from which they could work remotely, or to their parents’ homes. But record numbers of new lease signings in the last quarter of 2020 show that renters are once again filling apartments, lured by incentives like slashed rents, free months of rent, and the elimination of fees.
Manhattan can be an outlier when it comes to national real estate trends, but it was far from the only place where the cost of a rental apartment shifted after the pandemic hit. Apartment List’s most recent National Rent Report reveals the cities across the country where rents changed the most from January 2020 to January 2021 — and not all of them went down. It’s the basis of this week’s chart.
Year over year, the report showed, rents are down 1.2 percent nationally. But looking more locally, a pattern emerges: Large coastal cities, including San Francisco and New York, had the greatest rent decreases in those 12 months, while more affordable mid-sized cities, including Fresno, Calif., and Memphis, Tenn., saw the greatest increases.
Now those fluctuations have begun to slow, according to the report, suggesting that a period of stability is setting in. New York, Boston and San Jose, Calif., among the cities with the greatest rent drops in 2020, had small rebounds from December to January; Boise, Idaho, and Chesapeake, Va., among the cities where rents rose the most during 2020, had small decreases. So rents may have reached their upper and lower limits, at least for now.
The median rents listed in this week’s chart may seem low if you’ve been apartment hunting recently. That’s because the methodology used by Apartment List seeks to find the most accurate median for all rentals, not just those available. It begins with median rents reported in the census bureau’s American Community Survey, then adjusts them in several ways to arrive at a truer median for all units.
Below, the top 10 cities for rent decreases and increases over the past year.