Brooklyn brownstone rental market awakens

Brooklyn’s brownstone rental market began 2009 as a lamb, but left as a lion, according to a recently released report.

The study, by the borough-based Ideal Properties Group, found that overall, the rental market has proved to be resilient —despite deteriorating conditions that date back to 2008.

As the temperature dropped, rental activity increased markedly. “The hyperactive November and December 2009 are a true testament to the resiliency of the brownstone Brooklyn rental market,” the report states. “It is as if everyone had been asleep and then mid-November capriciously happened.”

While most of the year was hardly a cause for elation, December certainly impressed: 15.3 percent of all rental transactions for the year were completed that month alone, the report found.

The feverish end to the year is attributed to more balanced pricing, continued tenant interest in the area, and a slight increase in no-fee units in comparison to 2008, and the affordability of renting over buying, the report notes.Moreover, rental and sales markets are inverted, and the area’s sales market remains lethargic, the year-end report indicates.

Still, conditions are certainly more favorable for renters than they were at the irrational heights of the last real estate bubble. Over the last year, virtually all rental units decreased in price in comparison to 2008. Two bedroom apartments lead the general trend, renting for an average of $2,605 a month, shaving $225 a month from 2008. One bedrooms fell an average of$214 and three bedrooms on average were $141 cheaper in 2009, down to an average of $3,000 a month.

On average, renting a studio in Brownstone Brooklyn — Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Clinton Hill, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Fort Greene,Prospect Heights, Park Slope —would have cost $1,540 a month — $73 less than a year before.

The most tenant friendly neighborhood of those surveyed is Gowanus, where average monthly rents were the lowest:$1,324 a month for a studio; $1,588 for a one-bedroom; $1,946 for a two-bedroom;and $2,665 for a three bedroom. Brooklyn Heights was the most expensive, at $1,813 a month for a studio, $2,596 for a one bedroom; $3,117 for two bedrooms and $4,035 to live in a three bedroom.

The report found that nearly 17 percent of tenants who signed new leases in the area signed two-year leases, a jump of 15.8 percent from 2008. “The landlords were apparently more open to a longer commitment out of concern they would have to go through another round of finding a qualified tenant…quicker than they’d be willing to in an uncertain economic climate,” the report notes.

Brownstone Brooklyn’s maintains its “magnetism” in part because of the type and scarcity of inventory, but also because local landlord are less likely than large corporate property owners to offer concessions and price cuts, keeping a particular neighborhood’s patina intact.