Realtor’s selfie with record applicants sparks market fury

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A New Yorker’s behind-the-scenes look at an apartment tour went viral earlier this month, sparking anger over intense competition for housing in New York City.

Sarah Lou Kiernan, a freelance cinematographer, captured a crowd showing up to view an apartment in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood on May 7. His TikTok video has racked up over a million views.

As dozens of hopeful tenants crowded outside, the estate agent who would show the apartment took a selfie with an outstretched arm, trying to capture the large group behind him.

“A New York real estate agent takes a selfie with apartment applicants because he’s ‘never seen so many people for an open house in 17 years,'” Kiernan explained in the text overlay.

In the clip’s caption, she added, “The apartment market is crazy in Brooklyn, maybe 50 people for 1 apartment.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of residents fled the city and rents plummeted. Some rental prices fell by almost a third when the virus surged in 2020, according to a report by Apartment Guide.

However, that trend has reversed over the past year as New York City has seen some of the fastest rising rents in the country. In March, rents rose 35% in the city from a year earlier, according to real estate firm Redfin. Across the country, soaring mortgage rates and record home prices have pushed many potential buyers out of the market, driving demand and price increases for rentals.

The apartment shown in Kiernan’s video was “rent stabilized,” she said in a comment, explaining the exorbitant interest. Rent stabilization is a system of rent regulation, covering approximately 1 million apartments in New York City.

A New Yorker’s behind-the-scenes look at an apartment tour went viral earlier this month, sparking anger over intense competition for housing in New York City. Over the past year, New York has seen one of the fastest rising rents in the country.
Spencer Platt/Staff/Getty Images North America

In a follow-up video, Kiernan suggested that even this coveted apartment could make a “sucker” of potential tenants.

She shared a 2021 Greenpointers article about the building, which is called the Astral, alleging its longtime superintendent “has been recording unwitting tenants with cameras planted around their apartment.” According to the article, law enforcement found three years of footage of tenants showering and changing clothes.

Kiernan’s audience fumed over his encapsulation of the painfully competitive rental market.

“This is…very sad and infuriating,” the lead comment read.

“That’s why I can’t find another place in Greenpoint even though I’ve been looking for two years,” a local commented.

The city’s infamous rental market has gone viral before, with New Yorkers regularly sharing outrageous lines to view apartments. An apartment that cost $2,500 a month was mocked last year for lacking a working oven door, while a man’s documentation of ‘New York’s smallest apartment’ sparked controversy horror of viewers around the world.

Newsweek contacted Kiernan for comment.

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