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Best and Worst Cities for Renters in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of Americans’ social and financial lives. Initial shelter-in-place mandates reduced mobility and resulted in enormous job loss that continues to cause hardship and impact the real estate and rental markets. Many consumers are searching for the best places to rent where they can find the greatest overall value.

For tenants who can work remotely, many haven’t renewed their leases for apartments in large cities. They’ve relocated to surrounding counties or smaller cities with the cheapest rent. As working from home becomes a new norm, getting an apartment with more space or more lavish amenities for the same or less rent is a welcome upgrade.

To determine which cities are the best and worst places to rent, we analyzed various affordability and apartment amenity data. Creating a ranking system, we gave cities with the cheapest rent and higher apartment quality higher scores than cities that are less favorable.

The study used data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development about cost-burdened renters, who pay more than 30% of their income for housing. The analysis included a rent-to-price ratio, comparing the median home value to the median annual rent — higher ratios indicate that renting is better than buying a home.

The full methodology can be found at the end of the study. It includes details about how scores were calculated.

RankCityState% of available rentals with Washer/Dryer and Dishwasher% of available rentals that are pet-friendlyApartment size (2 Bedroom)Average rent for a 2-bedroomPercentage of household income that is spent on rent on averageHistorical Rental-Price Changes (year-over-year change in rent prices)Share of Cost-Burdened Renter HouseholdsRent-to-Price RatioRegional price parity of goodsRegional price parity of servicesOverall score
1 Omaha NE 11.8% 100.0% 1,090 $1,100 28.0% 5.8% 44.51% 16.9 94.6 92.2 64.9
2 Louisville KY 22.7% 99.8% 1,004 $1,000 27.9% 4.2% 44.59% 15.3 96.6 90.5 62.8
3 Columbus OH 13.1% 93.8% 998 $1,080 26.8% 2.9% 41.75% 16.0 95.3 91.3 62.4
4 Raleigh NC 28.7% 100.0% 1,063 $1,330 28.8% 9.0% 47.20% 18.9 96.6 95.1 61.7
5 Virginia Beach VA 28.5% 98.2% 1,029 $1,370 27.6% 8.7% 43.08% 16.3 96.4 95.1 61.2
6 Durham NC 25.6% 100.0% 1,037 $1,340 28.6% 7.2% 46.41% 18.1 95.8 95.2 60.8
7 Baton Rouge LA 77.1% 94.1% 1,021 $950 34.8% 4.4% 56.58% 13.5 95.6 91.2 60.5
8 Oklahoma City OK 19.5% 100.0% 984 $940 28.2% 4.4% 46.44% 13.1 96.3 91.3 60.2
9 Austin TX 8.3% 100.0% 1,032 $1,650 28.2% 5.1% 45.76% 25.5 96.5 91.3 60.2
10 Minneapolis MN 16.4% 82.8% 1,005 $1,540 27.6% -19.4% 44.27% 18.2 104.9 97.1 59.8
11 Jacksonville FL 27.6% 99.8% 1,080 $1,230 29.9% 11.8% 49.84% 15.9 96.5 95.1 59.7
12 Nashville TN 17.3% 99.0% 1,047 $1,490 28.8% 5.7% 46.71% 17.3 96.6 90.5 59.6
13 Kansas City MO 23.2% 89.7% 1,012 $1,200 28.4% 3.4% 46.20% 16.5 95.5 95.6 59.6
14 Wichita KS 10.9% 98.4% 965 $790 27.9% 9.7% 45.53% 15.8 94.7 92.2 59.4
15 Charlotte NC 29.4% 93.4% 1,051 $1,520 28.8% 7.0% 46.84% 15.4 96.2 95.1 58.7
16 Salt Lake City UT 2.0% 99.8% 958 $1,360 27.8% 6.3% 44.66% 28.0 93.2 99.0 58.5
17 Orlando FL 53.6% 97.1% 1,048 $1,530 31.3% 6.3% 52.30% 14.8 96.5 95.1 58.3
18 Greensboro NC 12.9% 97.6% 993 $890 28.8% 4.7% 47.23% 12.1 96.2 95.1 58.1
19 Pittsburgh PA 27.4% 80.0% 976 $1,370 26.3% 1.5% 43.75% 13.1 98.9 92.4 57.5
20 Tampa FL 35.1% 98.5% 1,051 $1,510 30.3% 9.4% 50.56% 13.9 93.0 100.8 56.5
21 Portland OR 20.7% 100.0% 960 $1,730 28.9% -1.1% 46.75% 26.1 101.6 97.6 56.4
22 Madison WI 2.2% 98.9% 996 $1,470 28.5% 11.4% 45.96% 20.2 95.3 91.2 55.6
23 Tulsa OK 25.6% 77.3% 983 $890 29.4% 8.5% 48.71% 12.6 96.3 91.3 55.6
24 Richmond VA 45.0% 83.8% 938 $1,320 31.0% -3.6% 51.59% 17.7 96.5 95.1 55.5
25 Colorado Springs CO 22.5% 99.5% 950 $1,330 30.5% 2.3% 50.91% 20.8 93.2 99.0 55.5
26 Chicago IL 1.4% 98.3% 1,055 $1,700 28.5% -5.6% 46.51% 13.3 100.2 100.1 55.4
27 Dallas TX 18.0% 98.0% 1,033 $1,760 28.6% 3.5% 46.68% 16.0 98.9 98.6 55.4
28 Knoxville TN 49.7% 50.3% 1,042 $1,090 30.5% 10.1% 51.00% 14.2 96.3 90.5 55.2
29 Seattle WA 13.4% 93.6% 956 $2,100 27.4% -7.5% 42.83% 28.7 108.1 104.7 54.0
30 San Antonio TX 14.5% 85.5% 1,002 $1,200 30.3% 9.1% 50.60% 15.9 96.2 91.3 53.6
31 Milwaukee WI 22.4% 36.8% 1,025 $1,100 29.8% -2.7% 49.45% 16.5 96.3 94.1 53.1
32 San Francisco CA 12.1% 100.0% 1,004 $3,750 22.3% -10.9% 32.47% 37.6 114.7 118.5 52.6
33 Cincinnati OH 19.6% 37.2% 955 $1,050 29.0% -12.5% 48.12% 13.2 95.9 92.3 52.6
34 Memphis TN 9.6% 98.9% 981 $900 33.0% 2.3% 54.70% 11.1 96.7 90.5 52.5
35 Houston TX 19.6% 100.0% 1,035 $1,480 30.7% 8.8% 51.17% 14.8 95.6 106.8 52.4
36 San Jose CA 19.5% 100.0% 1,024 $2,740 30.4% -2.8% 50.81% 42.1 109.1 110.3 51.5
37 New Orleans LA 37.3% 100.0% 1,004 $1,680 34.8% 1.8% 56.69% 15.3 96.3 91.3 51.4
38 Atlanta GA 26.9% 99.4% 1,124 $2,080 30.3% 10.1% 50.44% 14.3 98.2 98.1 50.7
39 Las Vegas NV 25.3% 73.5% 1,007 $1,300 33.2% 4.0% 56.86% 18.6 93.0 99.2 50.1
40 Denver CO 17.1% 54.3% 1,001 $2,000 28.6% 5.3% 46.39% 25.6 97.7 95.9 49.9
41 Cleveland OH 22.8% 84.2% 954 $1,360 29.5% 23.6% 48.89% 11.8 95.9 92.2 47.6
42 Boston MA 16.4% 99.0% 1,037 $2,700 29.5% -3.9% 48.86% 19.2 103.7 111.3 47.1
43 Detroit MI 25.5% 97.0% 984 $1,100 33.1% 22.2% 56.42% 13.4 97.8 97.7 47.0
44 Indianapolis IN 8.3% 44.4% 982 $990 31.2% 6.5% 52.12% 13.8 95.3 91.3 46.8
45 Phoenix AZ 8.3% 44.4% 939 $1,440 28.3% 11.6% 45.52% 18.7 94.2 101.0 45.1
46 Fresno CA 16.2% 100.0% 952 $1,390 34.4% 6.9% 57.00% 16.1 98.2 102.2 45.1
47 Washington DC 2.8% 96.6% 990 $2,940 27.1% 2.1% 42.73% 20.9 104.4 107.0 44.8
48 San Diego CA 34.5% 100.0% 996 $2,650 31.4% 15.2% 53.04% 27.4 100.4 109.8 44.4
49 Philadelphia PA 27.5% 69.6% 980 $1,700 32.5% -1.2% 54.74% 14.6 100.1 108.5 43.8
50 Sacramento CA 13.1% 93.8% 913 $1,860 31.6% 12.0% 52.99% 22.1 98.2 102.2 43.1
51 Los Angeles CA 0.0% 86.8% 1,030 $2,800 33.8% -5.7% 57.20% 27.7 105.7 106.9 39.8
52 Tucson AZ 0.0% 24.2% 90600.00% $1,010 30.8% 12.2% 52.17% 17.1 93.0 99.2 38.6
53 Miami FL 27.6% 99.8% 1,016 $2,360 35.6% 2.2% 62.62% 13.0 103.5 105.8 38.4

Top 5 cities that are best for renters

The following five cities had the highest scores for renters based on the factors listed. It’s not surprising that none are among the country’s largest cities. For 28% of income on average, renters in Omaha, Nebraska, pay about $1 per sq ft for a two-bedroom apartment.

1. Omaha, Nebraska – Score: 64.9

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 11.8%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 100%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,090 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,100
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 28%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 5.8%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 44.5%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 16.9
  • Regional price parity of goods: 94.6
  • Regional price parity of services: 92.2

2. Louisville, Kentucky – Score: 62.8

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 22.7%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 99.8%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,004 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,000
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 27.9%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 4.2%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 44.6%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 15.3
  • Regional price parity of goods: 96.6
  • Regional price parity of services: 90.5

3. Columbus, Ohio – Score: 62.4

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 13.1%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 93.8%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 998 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,080
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 26.8%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 2.9%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 41.7%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 16
  • Regional price parity of goods: 95.3
  • Regional price parity of services: 91.3

4. Raleigh, North Carolina – Score: 61.7

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 28.7%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 100%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,063 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,330
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 28.8%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 9%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 47.2%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 18.9
  • Regional price parity of goods: 96.6
  • Regional price parity of services: 95.1

5. Virginia Beach, Virginia – Score: 61.2

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 28.5%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 98.2%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,029 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,370
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 27.6%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 8.7%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 43.1%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 16.3
  • Regional price parity of goods: 96.4
  • Regional price parity of services: 95.1

Top 5 cities that are worst for renters

The following five cities had the lowest scores. Miami is the worst US city for renters, who pay an average of $2.32 per square foot for a two-bedroom apartment.

1. Miami, Florida – Score 38.4

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 27.6%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 99.8%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,016 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $2,360
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 35.6%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 2.2%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 62.6%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 13
  • Regional price parity of goods: 103.5
  • Regional price parity of services: 105.8

2. Tucson, Arizona – Score: 38.6

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 0%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 24.2%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 906 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,010
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 30.8%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 12.2%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 52.2%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 17.1
  • Regional price parity of goods: 93
  • Regional price parity of services: 99.2

3. Los Angeles, California – Score: 39.8

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 0%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 86.8%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 1,030 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $2,800
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 33.8%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: -5.7%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 57.2%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 27.7
  • Regional price parity of goods: 105.7
  • Regional price parity of services: 106.9

4. Sacramento, California – Score: 43.1

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 13.1%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 93.8%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 913 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,860
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 31.6%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: 12%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 53%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 22.1
  • Regional price parity of goods: 98.2
  • Regional price parity of services: 102.2

5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Score: 43.8

  • Percent of available rentals with a washer, dryer and dishwasher: 27.5%
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals: 69.6%
  • Apartment size, two bedroom: 980 sq ft
  • Average rent, two bedroom: $1,700
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average: 32.5%
  • Historical rent price changes year over year: -1.2%
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households: 54.7%
  • Rent-to-price ratio: 14.6
  • Regional price parity of goods: 100.1
  • Regional price parity of services: 108.5

Fast facts: How your city stacks up for renters

How does your city compare when it comes to finding the best places to rent?

  1. Cheapest rent in America: Renters in Akron, Ohio, pay an average of $750 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  2. Most expensive rent in America: Renters in San Francisco, California, pay an average of $3,750 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  3. Cost burden: Renters in Miami, Florida, have the highest number of households — 62.2% — paying more than 30% of their income for housing. While San Francisco, California, has the highest rent, it ranks the least cost burdened due to the relatively high income of residents.
  4. Drops in rent: Analysis shows that Minneapolis, Minnesota, had the greatest change in average rent from the previous year — a 19.4% drop.
  5. Pet friendly: Renters in Omaha, Nebraska, enjoy the most pet-friendly housing, allowed by 100% of apartments on average.

Tips when buying vs. renting a home

Choosing to buy a home versus renting is a decision that has to be weighed carefully. On the one hand, getting a mortgage to purchase a home can be a wise financial move. But on the other hand, renting can be an excellent way to build wealth depending on your situation and financial goals.

Some upsides of owning a home include:

  • Building equity that you can cash out by refinancing your mortgage or selling your property.
  • Having price appreciation over time, depending on factors in your local market.
  • Cutting taxes by claiming allowable deductions for mortgage interest, points and property taxes — up to certain annual limits.
  • Avoiding up to $250,000 — or $500,000 for taxpayers filing jointly — of capital gains tax when selling a home after living in it for a period.
  • Paying historically low mortgage interest rates.

When you rent, you don’t qualify for housing-related tax deductions. However, you may not have additional expenses that typically come with homeownership.

The benefits of renting include:

  • Not having to pay a sizable down payment or have as much income to buy a home.
  • Paying average rent in the US is less per month than buying in some areas of the country, such as large cities.
  • Avoiding the expense and hassle of ongoing home maintenance and repairs.
  • Being protected from economic downturns, such as a recession or a real estate price bubble that pops.
  • Having the flexibility to relocate quickly for your family or work.

Getting a mortgage is a significant financial commitment that must fit your lifestyle and financial goals, such as investing for retirement and paying off debt. Many economic and nonfinancial considerations may factor into your decision to buy or rent a home.

The bottom line is that if buying a home has more advantages, finding an affordable property in a city with cost-effective living expenses is key. However, if renting is more suitable for your lifestyle and budget, choosing a place to rent in one of the best cities on our list might lead to big savings.

Methodology

To determine which cities were the best and worst for renters, we looked at which cities had the best apartment quality and which cities were the most affordable for renters. We gave higher scores to cities that had higher apartment quality or were more affordable. Scoring was determined as follows:

Apartment quality — 30 points
  • Percent of available units that have an in-unit washer, dryer and dishwasher — 10 points
  • Percent of available pet-friendly rentals — 10 points
  • Average size of a two-bedroom unit — 10 points
Affordability — 70 points
  • Average rent for a two-bedroom — 20 points
  • Percent of household income spent on rent on average — 10 points
  • Year-over-year change in rent price — 10 points
  • Share of cost-burdened renter households — 10 points
  • Rent-to-price ratio — 10 points
  • Regional price parity of goods — 5 points
  • Regional price parity of services — 5 points

The percentage of available units that have an in-unit washer, dryer and dishwasher and the percentage of available rentals that are pet friendly was calculated based on the available listings for each city in RentCafe that were labeled as having each factor.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines cost-burdened renter households as families who pay more than 30% of their income for housing.

The rent-to-price ratio was calculated based on the median home value versus the median annual rent. In general, higher ratios indicate that it’s better to rent, while lower ratios suggest buying a home.

The cost of living in each city was approximated based on the regional price parity of goods and services in each city.

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