When remote workers fled big cities during the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial wave, the country’s priciest places suddenly found themselves reeling from a dramatic increase in the number of empty apartments. From New York to San Francisco, rents were in free fall. Deals that might have been unthinkable just a few months prior — $1,000-plus discounts on luxury apartments, for example — became reality. Moving companies were slammed with clients looking to abandon crowded urban centers. While some landlords slashed rents by more than half, others glumly hung on to vacant units.