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Real Estate Broker Offers Apartment-Hunting Advice As Manhattan Rents Surpass Pre-Pandemic Levels

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- CBS2 reported Thursday about a new real estate report showing rents have not only rebounded in Manhattan, many have surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge spoke to a broker who has some advice for those no longer able to find any good deals.

"They gave me three months along with a small additional discount and gym membership, so it was a slightly better deal during the pandemic, but now basically all that's been erased," Dr. Amir Mahajer said.

His discounted lease from last year is coming due. He was told by management at his full-amenities apartment building in Hell's Kitchen that he has ten days to respond to a new offer.

"With a 25% increase from year over year ... Even as a higher earning professional in the city, I think I'm probably going to have to move," Mahajer said.

If successful working professionals are being priced out, recent college grad Andrew Merchant is wondering what will happen to first-time renters like him and his two roommates, who were thrilled to be able to afford a place in Midtown.

"Signed on for a two-bedroom apartment here for about $5,400 a month ... The same apartments are actually going for somewhere between $6,000, $6,500. So we're a little but concerned," he said.

The average rent in Manhattan for a doorman building is at an all-time high for December -- $5,304. That's up 15.2% from last year and up 2% from pre-pandemic levels.

A non-doorman building in Manhattan is averaging $3,604. That's up 14.2% from last year and up 0.7% from pre-pandemic.

For example, in April 2021, a one-bedroom apartment on 55th and Lexington rented for $3,000. In December 2021, an identical unit in the building rented for $4,250.

"Now it's like, please don't let 15 people show up and have a fist fight in the apartment," said Keyan Sanai, a broker with Douglas Elliman.

He says this cycle isn't new. Post-9/11 and 2008 recession, rents dropped and tenants grabbed deals only to be pushed out a year or two later. He expects once again, the discounts are done.

"I said take whatever deal they give you," Sanai said.

Sanai's advice for those forced to move: look farther uptown, search for a non-doorman building with fewer amenities, and consider a move to the outer boroughs, like Brooklyn, which is still averaging below pre-pandemic prices.

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