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Manhattan landlords shrink freebies, raise rents as demand grows

New York

MANHATTAN landlords got a glimpse of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel in January as demand from frustrated buyers allowed them to raise rents and give away fewer freebies to attract tenants.

The share of new leases signed in January that included periods of free rent, covered brokers' fees, gift cards or other sweeteners fell from a year earlier, appraiser Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report on Thursday.

It was the first year-over-year decline after 43 consecutive months of gains, as would-be homebuyers chose to rent and wait for a better time to buy said Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel.

"I think this is a simple phenomenon of supply and demand," he said. "You have weakened demand on the purchase side in combination with a very detached seller side of the sale market, and the rental market is benefiting from that."

While the balance of power shifted slightly toward landlords, there were still plenty of tenant perks on offer.

The share of leases that included them fell to 44.5 per cent in January from 49.3 per cent a year earlier, according to the report. The size of the giveaways also shrunk, to 1.2 months' rent from 1.4 months a year earlier.

Median rent after concessions was US$3,320 a month in January, up 5.7 per cent from a year earlier - the biggest gain since August 2015, according to Mr Miller.

With more would-be homebuyers demanding leased space, vacancies tumbled annually for an eighth straight month.

"If there's uncertainty on the sales side and they see concessions and deals, it makes sense," Hal Gavzie, executive manager of leasing at Douglas Elliman, said.

"It makes sense to capitalise on some of those deals, and then 12 or 16 months out, take a look on the sales side again." BLOOMBERG