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In January, rents fell slightly off their peak

Manhattan tenants found a welcome respite from ballooning rents in January, as more home hunters were pulled into the sales market, according to a monthly rental market report released today by Douglas Elliman. The average monthly rent for a Manhattan apartment was $3,794 in January, a 4.5 percent decrease over December, the report shows.

However, rents are up modestly compared to the same month-long period in 2012, following a rapid 12-month rise. The average rent climbed to $3,794 per month in January, a 1.6 percent increase over the previous January, when the average rent was $3,736 per month.

“We’re still continuing to see [the Manhattan rental market] ease,” said Jonathan Miller, president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, who compiled the report. “Rents are still elevated but they’re not growing at an alarming rate.”

Miller attributed the lack of a price spike to competition from the purchase market, buoyed in part by continuing falling mortgage rates.

Additionally, the number of rental transactions in January swelled to 4,729 — a dramatic 63 percent increase from the 2,901 transactions in December, and a 25.4 percent increase over the 3,772 rentals available last January, the report says.

However, Miller said that this was consistent with data from the past year.

In Manhattan, the vacancy rate in January was 1.37 percent, unchanged from December’s rate, according to a monthly rental market report released today by Citi Habitats.

“Conditions in January remained relatively stable compared to the previous month,” Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, said in the report. “While some of these recent declines can be attributed to the historically slow season, many renters are seeing value in the sales market, and are taking the leap to homeownership if it’s feasible for them.”

However, listing inventory was up this month by 6.5 percent year-over-year to 5,186 from 4,868 in January 2012, Elliman’s report said.

Continuing a trend, luxury rents “outpaced the overall market,” the Elliman report noted, with the median rental price of a luxury apartment — the top 10 percent of the market — increasing by 5.4 percent year-over-year, to $7,595 per month from $7,207 per month.

Meanwhile, across the river in Brooklyn, rents remained at elevated levels, Miller said. The average rent for a Brooklyn apartment in January increased 4.6 percent year-over-year, to $2,958 per month from $2,827 per month. The number of new rental listings increased a staggering 32.9 percent over the previous year, to 331 listings from 249.

The average rent for a Brooklyn studio in January fell by 9 percent, to $2,155 per month from $2,369 per month, as more potential tenants were “lured” into the sales market, Elliman’s report noted.

“Many renters are taking a pioneering approach and choosing homes in the outer boroughs, where monthly rents can be 25 percent to 30 percent lower than the equivalent Manhattan apartments,” Malin said.