How The Size Of NYC Apartments Has Changed Over The Last 25 Years

Is Your Apartment “Average”?

By Annette Barlow September 12, 2016
Photo courtesy of

If you’re used to living in a New York apartment the size of a tiny dish towel, it can feel like there is no middle ground. Everyday people pay a small fortune for a small amount of space, and super-rich people pay a huge fortune for huge amounts of space. Whoever you are, a fortune is spent. But the difference in square footage jumps dramatically from what the thrifty average Joe can afford and the penthouse-loving fat cats choose to settle in.

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And with such a drastic difference, it can seem difficult to ascertain the size of the average Manhattan apartment. Because of the huge disparity in apartment size, the average size may not be the most common. After all, you’re factoring in the sky palaces as well as the ten by ten cubby holes some call home.
To get to the bottom of the issue, real estate appraiser and Housing Notes newsletter-writer Jonathan Miller has investigated and charted the rising and falling average apartment sizes in NYC over the last 25 years, looking at how the economic climate has affected how city-dwellers live.

Photo courtesy of

The biggest takeaway from his exploration is that both average sales and rental properties have diminished in size since the early 90’s, falling from around 1,500 square feet to 1,200 square feet, and 1,100 square feet to 1,000 square feet respectively. Rentals have seen a less dramatic drop, peaking at around the 1,150 square feet mark in the mid-90’s and dropping to around 900 square feet in 2012, before settling around the 1,000 square feet mark.

Sold properties have noticeably shrunk, however, declining pretty steadily over the decades. So what causes these adjustments?

Miller has some theories: the 1990-1991 recession caused the low end of the market to drop out, with stalled foreclosures and conversions tending to hover around entry-level price points. High interest rates and unemployment simply shut down demand for low-cost housing (or the number of people that could even afford that), and therefore the average apartment size skewed a little larger for a few years (with the size dropping again in the late 90’s).

According to Miller, the 2003-2008 dip in average sales size can also directly be attributed to the economy, as prices rose so dramatically during this time that huge numbers of new developments began to skew their properties smaller, to stop affordable housing stock from damaging sale volume. The average size began to rise again towards the end of the 00’s, and has stayed fairly consistent since, only dropping off significantly over the past two years.

In fact, the period from 2009 to the present reveals a larger average sales apartment than since the early 00’s. Miller cites new luxury developments as a contributing factor, whose radically larger units present more living space than ever before. However, these units—asking in excess of $5 million—represent just 8% of the market.

So it would seem that an NYC “average” does exist—it is, as you might expect, just an ever-changing. idea, evolving as much as the city around it.

Annette Barlow



Annette is freelance editor, sub-editor, journalist and proofreader with a fierce love of all things feminist, food and music. She is a regular fixture on the arts, culture and feature desks at The Guardian, and her words have appeared on NME, Great British Chefs, The Fly, The Line of Best Fit and Australian Times.

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