Manhattan’s super-high-end rental market, comprising apartments that start at $22,000 for a month’s rent, has slowed to a trickle as wealthy foreign and domestic renters refuse to return to New York.

“If someone has $22,000 a month to spend on rent, they’re probably wealthy, and probably renting temporarily,” says Nancy Wu, an economist at StreetEasy. “Far fewer of those people are coming to the city, so it makes sense there’s less demand.”

Most of Manhattan’s rental apartments are in rental buildings. A much smaller percentage, including condominiums purchased on Billionaire’s Row as investment apartments, are rented out by owners with no intention of living in them. It is this class of rental, analysts say, that has seen both its supply and demand plummet since the city’s shutdown in late March.

Just 44 of these top-tier condos and co-ops were listed for rent since the shutdown. That’s a 75% decline from last year during the same time period, when 179 apartments came onto the market, according to data provided by StreetEasy.

Of those 44 apartments, only 12 have been leased, meaning that however low supply might be, demand is even lower. “Overall, there’s less demand in this sector of homes this year relative to last year, even though we expected more to come onto the market,” says Wu. That expectation was based in large part, Wu says, by the rest of the market, where listing numbers have surged as renters fail to renew their leases.

“July is usually the biggest month for rentals in the city,” says John Walkup, the chief operating officer and co-founder of UrbanDigs. “The busy season started as it normally does, with a huge influx of supply, but the amount of leases signed was coming in at roughly a solid third lower than the previous year’s amount.”

Today, Walkup says, “we now have 50% or more supply on the market than usual.”

In July alone, there were 6,698 new rental listings in total, an increase of 38% compared with July 2019, according to UrbanDigs data. At the same time, the number of leases signed plummeted to 3,101 last month, a decrease of 34% from the previous year.

But at the high end, total inventory has contracted along with new listings. Last year there were 295 such condos and co-ops for rent on the market; this year there are just 130.

The difference between the very top of the market and the rest, Wu says, is “these are rentals in condos and co-ops, so they don’t behave the same as the overall rental market where someone lives in the apartment, their lease expires, and the apartment comes back on the market.” This high-end tier “can stay empty,” she says, because units are often owned by individual owners with deep pockets, rather than landlords with quotas to fill.

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