It’s a snapshot of the horror that is now the NYC rental market.
A mob of apartment hunters recently lined up and waited more than an hour – street-side and up several flights of stairs – to view a 371-square-foot, one-bedroom, third-floor walk-up listed for 2,337.39 in the East Village.
“It’s ridiculous,” 36-year-old apartment hunter Aidan O’Donoghue, who captured the wild throng on camera, told The Post. “By the time you think about [renting] an apartment, it’s gone. “
The rent-stabilized unit at 169 Ave. A – about the size of a single-car garage – is now considered relatively cheap. Earlier this month, the median rent for a Manhattan apartment surpassed 4,000 for the first time. The small one-bedroom has an estimated rental market value of nearly $ 3,000, according to real estate agents – which no doubt fueled the chaos that unfolded over its June 12 open house.
O’Donoghue, an art director currently living on the Upper West Side, recalled how she blithely walked up to the doorbell, buzzed and was told, “We’re kind of at capacity in the apartment.”
It was only then that she realized the true nature of her surroundings.
“I looked behind me and realized the crowd [on the street] wasn’t there for brunch, they were there for the apartment, ”she said of the ordeal.
“When they finally buzzed me in after several other people, the line started at the door to get inside and then it snaked up the stairs,” she continued.
She spent a half-hour outside and close to 45 minutes queued up in the stairwell before finally reaching the threshold of the in-demand rental.
But, for O’Donoghue, adding insult to injury was what greeted her after the exasperating 75-minute wait: an underwhelming unit with a tiny kitchen and bathroom, as well as a small bedroom with a closet. While that room had an exposed brick wall, a decorative fireplace and two windows, there was no living room to speak of.
“The apartment was the size of mine [current] kitchen… If you were going to work from home, if you were a couple, it was not a livable space, ”she said of the apartment’s claustrophobic layout.
The annual rent on the paltry Alphabet City pad is $ 27,960. Since financial advisors recommend spending no more than 30% of income on rent, those clamoring for it should ideally earn at least $ 90,000 a year. The average salary in New York City is only 69,182.
Nevertheless, potential renters came strapped with paperwork-loaded laptops and were applying on the spot because that was their only shot at nabbing the high-demand rental, said O’Donoghue.
Although the Times Equities, Inc., property had only 39 sign-ins at the open house, associate broker Seth Coston acknowledged “even more attended.”
He added that “several of the prospective tenants asked to pay above the legal rent to secure the apartment,” which is forbidden for rent stabilization laws. Ultimately, “the most qualified application” was chosen, he said.
The showdown for apartments is reaching a fevered pitch this summer due not only to the high volume of people returning to the city after fleeing it early on in the pandemic, but also to first-time movers and incoming students.
Also driving the phenomenon is the influx of “many young professionals who want to live in Manhattan,” said Coston.
“There is strong demand for extra space to allow them to work from home more comfortably. We are also seeing less roommates sharing than before the pandemic began, ”he said.
“This has increased the demand for residential space in NYC; Meanwhile, there has been very little newly developed residential space or space converted to residential. “
And with landlords increasing rents by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, current New Yorkers are being forced to suck it up and battle it out.
O’Donoghue, for instance, is seeking a new apartment because her current landlord is raising her $ 2,850 rent for a spacious one-bedroom with an office by an eye-popping 47%.
Since she started her hunt earlier this month, she says she’s been repeatedly told she’d have to cough up more than the advertised rent now that bidding wars on rental units are becoming commonplace.
“You’re going to need to play with the numbers,” one real estate agent told her. “Think about what you can offer. Is it that you’re going to offer them $ 200 over the rent, is it $ 250, is there something else you can throw in? ”
She added: “There’s the listed rent and then there’s the expectation that you’re going to offer more than that. I think, so far, four or five realtors have said it to me upfront. “
Brian Hourigan, managing director of Bond New York, said the “absurdity” that is the current rental market is due to “demand is outpacing inventory.”
“We’re telling tenants to arrive with their paperwork ready and to be prepared for a bidding war in many cases,” Hourigan told The Post.
He added that the trend is now reaching Harlem, having begun in Chelsea and Soho last year.
But Hourigan thinks that this inferno may quell by the fall or early winter once the current influx of residents settles in.
Upper West Sider Leela Rothenberg, 32, certainly hopes so.
She said her $ 1,795-a-month “COVID deal” apartment on West 101st Street recently shot up by an additional $ 1,000.
And so she’s opting to crash at her brother’s apartment at no cost and leave her belongings in storage throughout the summer.
Rothenberg isn’t emotionally ready to go through the daunting hunt and will wait for the fall.
“I’ve lived in New York for 10 years… I’ve never, ever had a home,” she said.
Meanwhile, O’Donoghue, who’s lived in NYC for 13 years, continues her desperate search.
“I’ve never had trouble getting an apartment in New York,” she said. “I have good credit, I have a great job, I have a guarantor. There’s no reason I wouldn’t get an apartment. I don’t have a blemish on my record. “