Upper East Side vs. Upper West Side: Read This Before You Rent a One-Bedroom

In these days of bitterly expensive apartments for the young and the restless, the late October news of declining Manhattan rents came as a pleasant surprise. The news (PDF) came from The Real Estate Group New York, a brokerage that analyzed rents in apartment buildings below 100th Street. Manhattan’s two biggest neighborhoods by area—the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side—both showed monthly declines in rents on average.

But which truly offers a better deal on one-bedrooms?

Our investigations show the Upper East Side as the cheaper market, despite the lower Upper West Side average from The Real Estate Group’s report.

The report shows Upper East Side rents for one-bedrooms in non-doorman buildings decreasing in October, from an average of $2,658 in September to $2,512. The results on the Upper West Side also show a decrease for one-bedroom apartments, from $2,307 to $2,231. However small these decreases may appear, they have to inspire a new wave of energy in the mouse-clicking of apartment searches.

But where are the actual deals below 100th Street on either side of Central Park?

Bargain-shopping Craigslist browsers have been known to find steals in Manhattan Valley (roughly 96th Street to 110th Street, east of Amsterdam Avenue to the park); the far West 60’s (northern Hell’s Kitchen);Yorkville (roughly 72nd Street to 96th Street, east of Third Avenue); and the far East Side (east of Second Avenue). And with rents going down in all of these neighborhoods, a potential shopper just needs a little direction.

We looked to our dear friend Craig, whose listings in a price range below both these averages–$2,500 for Upper East Side one-bedrooms, $2,300 for Upper West Side–showed what’s really out there.

Surprisingly, there seem to be more one-bedrom deals on the Upper East Side than on the West. The Real Estate Group has the average one-bedroom rent in the Upper West Side listed at $2,231, but finding anything in the $2,000 range is near to impossible.

A close Craigslist look brings up a "RENT STAB ROCK STAR PAD IN HELLACIOUS LOCALE", meaning a $1,950-per-month Hell’s Kitchen place, with the bedroom in the basement, from brokerage Manhattan Apartments. The broker didn’t answer our calls, but then again, the apartment didn’t seem all that appealing anyway.

In total, there were 65 one-bedrom listings on the Upper West Side from Oct. 31 under $2,200, the average rental rate according to The Real Estate Group. But that’s including the repeat listings, where brokers change the wording around and hope for more hits.

The Upper East Side definitely had more to choose from. There were 156 one-bedroom listings from Oct. 31 that fell below the average of $2,500–again, including repeat listings. A lot of the listings were even under the Upper West Side’s roughly $2,200 average.

As a means of comparison, Manhattan Apartments has another "RENT STAB ROCK STAR PAD", this time on the East Side and for $100 less than their "hellacious" West Side digs. From the images in the listing, this apartment appears to be all above-ground, as opposed to the dark basement bedroom in the last listing.

Marcus Medina, a broker with Mark David & Company who is familiar with the two neighborhoods, agreed that the Upper East Side is almost always a better deal. He attributes the price difference to the greater supply of rentals and the transportation on the Upper East Side.

"It’s only cheaper because you have to go further east," Mr. Medina said. "There’s only one line, the 4,5,6, so as you get further from the subway, the market is a little bit less. The Upper West Side is more accessible."