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A 10 Minute Walk Could Be Worth 10% Off Your Rent

Originally posted on February 15, 2018 7:45 am
Updated on February 16, 2018 10:40 pm

NYC Rental Prices by Subway Proximity

 

If you’re like most New Yorkers, you (unfortunately) rely heavily on the subway to get you where you need to go. As such, proximity to the nearest subway is a determining factor when choosing your next apartment. With the subway as the backbone of the city, it’s pretty common knowledge that you’ll pay a premium to be nearest to a subway entrance. This extra cost is often worth it, and we’re reminded why every time it rains.

To find out just how much that premium is, RentHop data scientist calculated median rent of all apartments within different proximities of any subway entrance in all neighborhoods and boroughs. Below you’ll find maps of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens (Fig. 2,3,4) demonstrating the how rent usually decreases as you get further from a subway entrance. You’ll also find a chart with all available NYC neighborhoods and their rent prices by distance to a subway (Fig. 1).

 

Here are some of the key takeaways from this study:

 

  • For Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens; rent prices aligned with the borough median when about 1/4th mile from the nearest subway. Further than this generally offers a discount, while closer commands a premium (Fig. 2,3,4)
  • Apartments closest to a subway cost 6-8% more than the borough median, while those furthest cost 8-10% less. Neighborhood level fluctuations can be much larger due to smaller sample sizes
  • For most neighborhoods, the most expensive areas were those no more than 1/8th of a mile to the subway, although apartments closest to the subway in some places were cheaper, potentially because of subway noise. (Fig.1 shows all neighborhoods)
  • Except in Manhattan, apartments furthest from a subway were cheaper. For Manhattan, when you’re 1/3rd of a mile from any subway you’re likely by the waterfront. (Fig. 2 shows Manhattan’s map)
  • In the Bronx, rents were actually much cheaper nearest to the subway, possibly due to above-ground subway noise, but most likely due to the smaller sample size of available Bronx rental data for the study

 

Figure 1

The charts above show the median rent and percentage premium/discount vs the borough median. Most areas show that prices vary 5-10% in each direction depending on the subway proximity. Other areas are more extreme, Crown Heights South commands a 16.7% premium for apartments near the subway ($2,800), while apartments between a third and half a mile from the subway are 32.2% cheaper ($1,626) than the neighborhood median of $2,400. Colloquial Williamsburg (North Side-South Side) apartments within 1/16th of a mile are nearly 11% higher than the neighborhood median, ($3,675 vs $3,300).

Of course, the conclusion that the subway gives the apartments this value isn’t necessarily true. Common sense would indicate that developers and landlords choose to build or renovate apartments that are close to the subway first, especially in outer borough areas that are in a development phase. It would be naive to say that one or the other is the sole cause of higher rents though. It’s almost certainly a combination of subway proximity and the knowledge that a renter will be willing to pay a bit more if they’re a short walk from the subway and the apartment is new, regardless of the neighborhood.

It should be noted that neighborhoods without at least 200 unique listings during the past 12 months are not presented in the above chart, but are taken into account at the borough level in the maps below.
 

Figure 2

Brooklyn demonstrates the initial hypothesis pretty clearly. Looking at all apartments within 1/16th of a mile of a subway entrance in Brooklyn, we found prices to be 8.4% higher than the borough median. This means that instead of the borough median of $2,768, you can expect to pay around $3,000 per month for an apartment within a 2 minute walk of a subway entrance. On the other hand, if you don’t mind a 10 minute walk (depending on your walking speed) you can find apartments 6% below the borough median ($2,600) at the 1/3rd-1/2 mile distance, and nearly 8% cheaper at greater than half a mile ($2,550)
The apartments that fall outside of 1/6th of a mile and out towards 1/4th of a mile tended to have prices in line with the borough or neighborhood median. After 1/4th of a mile, there is a clear rent discount.

 

Figure 3

Manhattan is an interesting case; when initially analyzing the data, we found that about 90% of Manhattan was within a quarter mile of a subway. We decided it would be necessary to analyze smaller distance increments to see what’s really going on. At the the 1/16th of a mile (less than 2 minute walk) distance, apartments command a 4.2% premium ($3,595) but that quickly fades when getting a little further from the subway.

Apartments in Manhattan are actually cheapest when you’re between 1/6th and 1/8th of a mile from a subway entrance. It’s not a significant drop, just 2.9% off the borough median price of $3,450. Once you’ve passed 1/3rd of a mile price start to come back up again, presumably because we’re encompassing waterfront apartments with some of the best views in the city. Listings greater than one half mile from a subway are definitely on the water, and will cost an 8.7% premium or a median price of $3,750. this is likely to be worth it, but I couldn’t tell you first hand.

 

Figure 4

Queens follows a similar pattern to Brooklyn where rent is very clearly and consistently more expensive nearest to the subway entrances. Rent prices drop off slightly at the 1/6th and 1/5th of a mile range, but resume greater than median pricing until reaching the greater than half mile
looking outside of one half mile, when rent drops by more than 10% of the borough median ($2,200 vs $2,470).
Another interesting statistic to note, which is visible in the tooltip of the map, is that our database had just under 8,000 unique listings over the past 12 months for Queens outside of the 1/2 mile perimeter, which is a very large area. For the much smaller region of Queens between 1/16th of a mile and 1/8th, there were nearly 10,000 unique listings. This points to a conclusion that further from the subway, there tend to be less apartment buildings and higher rates of homeownership. It is also less densely populated and a less popular place to live.

It’s no secret that Queens suffers from poor access to subways, but it wasn’t widely understood exactly what that does to the rent of those living in Queens. Now we can visually see that transit desert areas are much cheaper places to live. We don’t take into account bus routes that serve most of the borough, but we can imagine it painting a similar, if not more complicated, picture.

Methods

To calculate median rent by proximity to subway we first started with the publicly available NYC dataset of MTA subway entrances. Using ‘QGIS’ topographic software, we created buffer areas around the entrance latitude/longitude at varying distances. We took the last full year (to combat seasonality) of our actual listings data, with apartment of all sizes, and removed duplicated listings.

When choosing the subway distances, we tried a few variations until deciding on distances that would give large enough sample sizes to draw confident conclusions. It’s important to note that each region is non-inclusive of the smaller regions inside of it. We decided to omit maps of Staten Island and Bronx due to our small sample sizes. In Figure 1 we omitted neighborhoods that didn’t have at least 200 total listings.

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