Best & Worst Places to Rent in America
Homeownership isn’t for everyone. Roughly 43 million American households have opted to rent rather than buy their homes because of convenience, cost or both. But renting isn’t always a cheaper or better alternative to owning a property. The right road to take depends on a variety of factors, including an individual’s or family’s financial means and how well the local real-estate market is doing.
One reason this is such an important decision financially is that rental prices have soared over the years, jumping 2.8% in 2017 alone. And with demand for affordable housing exceeding supply, more than one-quarter of all renters – 11.1 million people in total – spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. They are classified as “severely cost-burdened” by federal housing agencies as a result.
Like home prices, however, rental rates can vary significantly by region, state or city. And in some places, renting will prove to be more cost-effective and a better overall value than owning.
To determine where renters can get the most bang for their buck, WalletHub compared more than 180 rental markets based on 22 key measures of attractiveness. Our data set ranges from the difference between rental rates and mortgage payments to historical price changes, the cost of living and jobs availability. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Best Places to Rent
‘Rental Market & Affordability’ Rank
‘Quality of Life’ Rank
|7||Overland Park, KS||61.76||17||16|
|13||Sioux Falls, SD||59.15||4||86|
|19||El Paso, TX||57.24||50||37|
|20||Cedar Rapids, IA||57.06||5||81|
|28||South Burlington, VT||55.37||81||25|
|29||San Diego, CA||55.33||157||6|
|30||Rapid City, SD||55.05||8||100|
|36||Fort Smith, AR||53.80||9||108|
|37||Grand Prairie, TX||53.77||97||22|
|39||Las Cruces, NM||53.70||13||102|
|42||Cape Coral, FL||53.22||145||11|
|43||Des Moines, IA||53.01||45||68|
|44||Huntington Beach, CA||52.80||161||5|
|45||San Francisco, CA||52.55||107||41|
|48||Las Vegas, NV||52.38||40||77|
|49||Newport News, VA||52.19||11||120|
|50||Virginia Beach, VA||52.01||24||98|
|51||Colorado Springs, CO||51.93||62||64|
|54||Santa Rosa, CA||51.49||165||10|
|56||Chula Vista, CA||51.26||146||32|
|58||St. Petersburg, FL||50.71||141||42|
|59||Grand Rapids, MI||50.69||96||56|
|60||Fort Worth, TX||50.67||71||70|
|64||Santa Clarita, CA||50.43||171||8|
|68||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||50.04||151||21|
|70||San Antonio, TX||49.89||70||79|
|72||Kansas City, MO||49.62||46||103|
|80||Port St. Lucie, FL||48.96||166||24|
|82||Long Beach, CA||48.71||163||39|
|83||Oklahoma City, OK||48.69||43||116|
|84||San Jose, CA||48.53||156||45|
|88||Los Angeles, CA||48.33||172||33|
|93||North Las Vegas, NV||47.78||47||122|
|96||Little Rock, AR||47.33||25||160|
|103||West Valley City, UT||46.91||100||90|
|106||Pembroke Pines, FL||46.70||175||20|
|107||Garden Grove, CA||46.66||176||19|
|110||St. Paul, MN||46.39||120||85|
|119||Salt Lake City, UT||45.48||69||132|
|123||New York, NY||44.81||142||84|
|124||Moreno Valley, CA||44.73||148||73|
|125||Corpus Christi, TX||44.72||102||112|
|130||St. Louis, MO||43.66||55||158|
|132||Jersey City, NJ||43.55||80||138|
|145||Fort Lauderdale, FL||42.42||174||62|
|152||Santa Ana, CA||41.35||179||60|
|153||San Bernardino, CA||41.33||144||119|
|154||Fort Wayne, IN||41.01||99||151|
|158||Pearl City, HI||40.26||181||31|
|167||Baton Rouge, LA||38.93||126||159|
|168||New Orleans, LA||38.40||143||145|
|179||New Haven, CT||32.39||173||174|
Ask the Experts
Finding a suitable rental unit is a similar process to buying a home. Your search may be based purely on cost or also on needs, such as the number of bedrooms or close proximity to work. For guidance, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for a person looking to get the best value in an apartment?
- What are the most common mistakes that renters make when searching for a new apartment?
- In evaluating the best and worst cities for renters, what are the top five indicators?
- Are the fastest growing cities a good place for renters? Why?
- How can local policymakers make housing more affordable for renters without upsetting homeowners?
In order to determine the best local rental markets, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across two key dimensions, including “Rental Market & Affordability” and “Quality of Life.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 22 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for renters.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. Our sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.
Rental Market & Affordability – Total Points: 60
- Share of Renters: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the share of renter occupied housing units among total occupied housing units.
- Rental Vacancy Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Sublet Laws-Friendliness: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Average Home Square Footage: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Newer Homes: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Newer Homes” include housing units built between 2010 and 2016.
- Rental Affordability: Triple Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Median Gross Rent / Median Annual Household Income.
- Historical Rental-Price Changes: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric specifically measures the year-over-year percentage change in rent prices (2016 vs. 2015 vs. 2014).
- Forecasted Change of Median Rent: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Zillow Rent Forecast over the coming year.
- Share of Severely Cost-Burdened Renter Households: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Severely Cost-Burdened Renter Households,” as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, refers to consumers who spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing.
- Average Annual Renters-Insurance Premium: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Rent-to-Price Ratio: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Cost of Living: Triple Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Buy vs Rent Breakeven Horizon: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: The “breakeven horizon” is defined by Zillow as the point, in years, at which buying a home becomes less expensive than renting the same home.
- Security-Deposit Limit: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the maximum security-deposit amount that landlords are allowed to charge in the state. A lower amount is ideal for renters.
Quality of Life – Total Points: 40
- City Satisfaction Ranking: Full Weight (~5.71 Points)
- Job Market: Full Weight (~5.71 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Jobs” ranking.
- Driver-Friendliness: Half Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities to Drive in” ranking.
- Recreation-Friendliness: Full Weight (~5.71 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst Cities for Recreation” ranking.
- Weather: Half Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Cities with the Best & Worst Weather” ranking.
- Quality of Public School System: Half Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This metric is based on GreatSchools.org’s ratings of U.S. public school systems.
- Safety: Double Weight (~11.43 Points)
Note: This metric measures the violent- and property-crime rates.
- Presence of State Bedbug Laws: Half Weight (~2.86 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of bedbug laws in the state. Bedbug laws address bedbug infestations in rental properties.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Insurance Information Institute, Flex Zone, Gallup, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Regents of the University of California, GreatSchools.org, NOLO and WalletHub research.
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