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Are We Out of the Woods Yet?


There's an old joke: How far can you walk into the woods? Answer: Halfway, because after that you're walking out.

As those regularly communicating with us heard us say at the time, New York City’s apartment market started its journey out of the woods at the beginning of March. From our on-the-ground perspective, after many months of declining sales, sinking rents and rising vacancies, we watched the market find its footing. Manhattan home sales contracts signed in January and February 2021 outnumbered those a year prior by 103% and 73%, respectively. Specifically for three- and four-bedroom homes, February’s increase was even higher at 80%, signaling interest from families with children. February brought the highest number of new Manhattan apartment lease signings since tracking began in 2008, reflecting a 112% increase over a year prior. Leasing agents reported worries expressed by prospective tenants that if they didn’t sign a lease soon, they might face higher rents later. Tenants started requesting two-year leases in an attempt to “lock in” current rental discounts. In March pedestrians reappeared on Midtown sidewalks and shoppers were back in stores, not in droves but in noticeably greater numbers than anytime we’ve witnessed around the city during the last 12 months. We watched as museum attendance and park usage increased, and we even spotted some tourists.

What caused this shift?

The COVID-19 Vaccine

While the vaccine rollout had a slow start in December, the pace picked up dramatically d