A record number of apartments landed on the rental market in August as new lease signings continued to decline in northwest Queens, according to a new report.
This past month, listing inventory rose to the second-highest level recorded by Douglas Elliman, the real estate group that conducted the report. Reaching 642 listings in northwest Queens, the number of listings rose by over 78 percent when compared to August 2019, the report said.
For renters, this means “greater affordability,” according to Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel, the group who authored the report.
“The market is continuing to weaken by just about every metric that we track,” Miller said. “The primary message is greater affordability.”
And while there was no shortage of available apartments in northwest Queens, the number of new leases signed continued to decline in August, dropping 31.5 percent when compared to August of last year, according to the report. The decline marked the 13th straight month new leases declined year-over-year.
Net effective rent — a calculation of the rent that takes landlord concessions into account — also saw a drop in August, the report found. The metric fell by 8.5 percent, to $2,622, making August the fourth straight month in which the borough saw an annual decline in net effective rent.
According to Miller, the continuation of the declines in these metrics suggests the rental market in northwest Queens was experiencing issues prior to the pandemic.
“The pandemic exacerbated what was already becoming an issue, which was affordability and excess supply,” Miller said. “The market was already seeing softness before the pandemic.”
Nonetheless, there is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the northwest Queens real estate market in a major way. Prior to the pandemic, one of the Queens region’s top selling point was its proximity to midtown Manhattan. But as offices were replaced by virtual meeting spaces, including Zoom, being close to Manhattan became less important.
“With the tether between work and home getting infinitely longer, that premium becomes challenged,” Miller said.
Queens wasn’t the only borough to see a surge in listings in August. In Brooklyn, the listing inventory doubled when compared to August 2019 and in Manhattan saw the highest number of listing inventory its seen in the past 14 years, the report said.
Manhattan also saw a 23.7 percent drop in new leases signed while the number of new leases signed in Brooklyn dropped by a little over 2 percent.
While some in the real estate industry suggested that the rental market in Queens may begin to normalize come fall, Miller is less hopeful.
“In the context of the pandemic, there is a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know when that ends, when there’s a vaccine,” he said. “I think there will be continued weakness well into 2021, simply because the pandemic isn’t going anywhere.”