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Warm winter heats up rent costs in Manhattan

Manhattan Skyline

Manhattan Skyline Credit: Getty Images

The weather outside isn't frightful, but some might say that what it's done to Manhattan rents sure is.

While winter usually puts a freeze on rental prices as demand chills until summer, unusually mild temps this year have further heated up an already soaring market - putting a major dent in renters' wallets.

The average Manhattan apartment rented for $3,376 a month in February - just $18 off a peak of $3,394 in May 2007, according to a Citi Habitats report released today. That's 5% higher than the average in February 2011, the report said.

But realty firm MNS released its own report today showing an even higher jump - 6.5% - in the same time frame. That means the average Manhattan renter could see a $200-a-month spike in both doorman and non-doorman buildings compared to February 2011, MNS said.

"Typically, most people don't love to look for apartments in the winter," said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. "But this year, that's different."

Malin also attributed the hike to a large pool of renters continuing to put off buying a home, seeing renting as "a safer option."
But Manhattan rents have been going up for quite some time. How much higher can they go?

"[Building owners] will push their rent until people push back," Malin said. "This [report] doesn't suggest that tenants aren't willing to pay higher prices."

MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas said that a crunch in inventory is helping raise prices, noting that there hasn't been a ton of additional development projects to meet demand. He noted, though, that there have been "pockets of growth" in areas such as downtown and Midtown West.

And if renters think they're feeling the pinch now, there's more bad news: Barrocas said that he expects prices will only rise from here.

It's a real test of financial resilience for Manhattanites like 24-year-old bartender Ryan Jordan, who moved to Midtown West from a shoddily converted one-bedroom on the Upper East Side ("I didn't even have a full wall," he said) after his rent shot up $200. Even so, the two-bedroom he now shares with his girlfriend is $250 more.

"We're going out less, buying less stuff, less shopping," Jordan explained. "And now we're eating in more and trying to buy more groceries instead of going out a lot. ... It's more stressful for me because I'm a bartender and don't have a set income."

There is one perk, however: "I have a real wall," he said.

(With Rachel Hawatmeh) 

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