Many real estate headlines center on how pricey it is to buy a home these days, especially in the nation’s larger cities.
We recently reported on the cost of a starter home in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Spoiler: They’re not cheap.
But what about renting an apartment? There are pros and cons.
You’re not building equity, and you may not be able to make the kind of cosmetic or physical changes you’d like. But if you’re unsure which neighborhood to live in or might be moving again soon, a rental gives you flexibility.
While opting to rent might seem like a cheaper option — no down payment, after all — it’s not always inexpensive. Business Insider and Zillow rental site HotPads recently compiled a list of the median rents for one-bedroom apartments in the nation’s 49 largest metro areas.
As you might suspect, popular places such as Silicon Valley, San Francisco, L.A. and New York City are right up at the top of the list. But even smaller places such as Sacramento, California, or Portland, Oregon, can be spendy places to rent an apartment.
Here’s a look at rental costs across the nation, from the most expensive to the least expensive cities in which to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
49. San Jose, California
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $2,640
San Jose is in Silicon Valley, the tech-company-filled region of the San Francisco Bay Area. And if you hope to rent an apartment here, it would help to have a fat paycheck, as the San Jose area tops HotPads and Business Insider’s list as the priciest metro based on the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment there.
Some good news, maybe: According to The Mercury News, the San Jose area is expected to increase apartment construction by 283% from last year to this year. But even if those apartments are built, you’ll still need to find a way to pay for one.
48. San Francisco
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $2,560
Stunning San Francisco, with its Golden Gate Bridge and iconic cable cars, has long been an expensive place to live, whether you’re a renter or a homebuyer.
The nearby San Jose area came in with a higher median rent in the HotPads/Business Insider analysis. But a recent report by 24/7 Wall Street says San Francisco, not San Jose, is the most expensive place in the country to live.
The analysis found that a family of four needs $11,165 a month to maintain a “modest yet adequate standard of living” in the San Francisco area. (No surprise, San Jose comes in at No. 2 on that list.)
47. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $2,131
Sure, Los Angeles and its surrounding region is affordable for the movie stars and studio moguls we hear so much about. But not everyone there earns a big-screen salary. And there’s just not enough affordable housing in the L.A. area for those who need it.
According to Curbed Los Angeles, citing a report by the California Housing Partnership and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing, Los Angeles County needs to add more than a half-million units of affordable housing to meet existing demand.
46. New York City
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $2,070
What’s that they sing about New York? If you can afford rent there, you can afford rent anywhere. Not quite, but the Big Apple still sits, unsurprisingly, near the pricey top of HotPads and Business Insider’s apartment rental list. And the situation isn’t improving.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,945
Here’s to good old Boston, the home of the baked beans and cod. But maybe not of affordable apartments, as even a one-bedroom is pricey here in the Massachusetts capital.
According to the Boston Business Journal, the Boston area is adding more apartments than many metro areas. Apartment rental website RentCafé projects that 5,336 new apartments are coming to the Boston area in 2019. But the region’s strong economy means that’s still not enough, the report says.
44. San Diego
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,885
Sunny San Diego may not be quite as pricey as Los Angeles and San Francisco, but naturally, you’ll be paying for its perfect temperatures and proximity to the ocean.
And don’t expect to be able to sprawl out unless you’re paying big for spacious digs. What about a one-room unit? The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper recently spotlighted a 200-square-foot studio that cost over $1,000 a month to rent.
A spokesperson for the rental company told the paper that roughly 100 people had inquired about renting the unit, which has a small kitchen area and bathroom.
43. Washington, D.C.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,820
The nation’s capital can be an exciting and vibrant place to live, especially for those involved in or intrigued by politics.
However, you’re going to have to elect to spend a good deal of cash. A recent HotPads analysis cited by Curbed D.C. reports that nearly one-third of the searches on its site for Washington, D.C., rental homes are coming from outside the D.C. area and that the percentage has been rising.
D.C. locals still dominate the rental searches at 68%, but when other metro areas are tallied, it’s those in the famously pricey New York City metro area who are most likely to be searching for D.C. rentals.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,800
Scenic Seattle is drawing new residents from all over, as Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia and other tech companies continue to hire.
If those Emerald City newbies plan to rent, there may be good news for them. Mayor Jenny Durkan recently signed new legislation strengthening tenant protections.
As reported by NBC affiliate KING-TV, those new laws now require at least 60 days’ notice for all rent increases and expand the eligibility for low-income tenants to receive emergency relocation assistance, among other changes.
41. Portland, Oregon
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,595
Quirky Portland isn’t quite as pricey as its northern neighbor, Seattle, but it’s not cheap.
Portland’s home state is trying to keep things under control. Oregon passed the nation’s first statewide rent-control law earlier this year.
It’s a bit complicated and doesn’t apply to all rentals, but according to the Oregonian newspaper, “the law caps rent increases at 7% plus the rate of inflation for the urban West.” That number came to 10.3% in 2019 and will drop a bit, to 9.9%, for 2020.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,555
The Windy City comes in at No. 40 on this list, but it took the top spot on another, more encouraging list. Chicago recently was rated the best big city in the U.S. for the third year in a row by readers of the travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler.
The publication raves that Chicago is “a world-class destination known for its impressive architecture, first-rate museums, brilliant chefs, and massive brewing scene.”
39. New Orleans
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,515
When you think of New Orleans, you might think of the frozen daiquiris and thumping musical beats of Bourbon Street, or the sprawling historic mansions of the Garden District. There are many reasons to rave about the Big Easy, but according to the Louisiana Weekly, affordable housing isn’t one of them.
A recent report card from HousingNOLA gave the city a “D” grade. The city saw a net loss of affordable housing opportunities for the second year in a row, the report notes.
New Orleans is even harder on homeowners, according to the report card, which noted a dramatic increase in the cost burden rate for homeowners, while that rate for renters basically remained the same.
38. Sacramento, California
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,500
Like other cities, California’s capital is introducing rent-control laws.
In August, the City Council approved the Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act, which went into effect in September.
New rules spell out when a landlord may evict a tenant and prohibit landlords from raising annual rent more than 6% plus inflation. Should inflation run higher than 4%, rents cannot increase more than 10% for the year.
37. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,445
Miami-area residents have been worried for some time about higher-than-normal “king tides,” which along with sea-level rise from climate change have led to regular flooding in the Florida city.
Housing affordability in the Miami area is now as much a threat to the city as the rising waters, the Miami Herald reports, citing a recent market update prepared by Florida International University’s Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,415
There’s now a novel residential option near Denver. More than 130 homes are being built specifically for renters, not owners.
According to NPR, the company building the homes expected they’d appeal to those who didn’t have the financial credentials to buy, but soon discovered that interested renters had “great” credit and income, but didn’t want the commitment and responsibility of owning.
33. Baltimore (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,405
Renting isn’t always a bad idea. Baltimore recently landed at No. 13 on a list of cities where renting a home is cheaper than purchasing a home.
But if a home purchase becomes an option for you there, three metro Baltimore neighborhoods are among Redfin’s choice for 10 great affordable neighborhoods for 2019.
33. Providence, Rhode Island (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,405
No state is a good place to lose one’s job. But tiny Rhode Island is one of the top 10 states as far as generous unemployment benefits are concerned, according to a recent report from HowMuch.net.
According to the report, the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit in the Ocean State is $576.
33. Philadelphia (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,405
Paying for an apartment is difficult enough these days. At the very least, tenants ought to expect that a rental home is safe.
Philadelphia recently became the largest U.S. city to pass a bill requiring that landlords test for lead paint. Lead was a common component of household paint until 1978, WebMD notes, and can cause serious health problems if ingested or inhaled, especially by children.
The Philly bill requires landlords to test all rental properties built before 1978 for lead every four years. Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill into law.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,400
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported on an upcoming apartment complex that will utilize the co-living concept, where residents have their own rooms, but share spaces such as the kitchen. Furniture is included, and rents include utilities, Wi-Fi and weekly cleanings.
The 345-bed complex is scheduled for a 2021 opening.
31. Austin, Texas
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,390
Living in a city’s downtown area has plenty of advantages: You’re sure to be close to restaurants, bars and other businesses, and you may not even need a car to get around.
But in Texas’ capital city of Austin, downtown living will cost you.
A recent report from RENTCafe, as cited by Curbed Austin, reveals that downtown Austin’s 78701 ZIP code has the highest average rents in the Lone Star State.
30. Riverside, California
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,330
Some renters may long to be homeowners, but be careful what you wish for.
A recent report from real-estate site Redfin named Los Angeles neighbor Riverside, California, as the most vulnerable U.S. housing market should a recession strike, bringing such impacts as declining prices and a glut of homes for sale.
The report looked at the 50 biggest U.S. housing markets and ranked them based on such factors as price volatility, number of flips and employment diversity.
Riverside was found to be especially vulnerable in part because homeowners don’t often have as much equity in their homes as in other cities.
29. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,325
It’s been a robust year for home and apartment builders in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper noted that in September builders were issued 26 permits for 1,009 multifamily units, mostly market-rate rental apartments.
This, the paper notes, is a 21% increase over September 2018.
Single-family home permits showed a 6% increase over last year.
28. Nashville, Tennessee
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,290
Lively Nashville is a favorite destination for country-music fans and musicians.
And, if you want to stay there long after your prime honky-tonk days, you’re in good company. U.S. News & World Report put Nashville high on its list of best places in the U.S. to retire, ranking Music City, U.S.A., at No. 8.
We dig into more great places for retirement living, including Nashville, in this story.
27. Salt Lake City
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,227
Renters might be able to find an apartment in Salt Lake City, but paying for it is another issue entirely.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the mountainous city has been building record numbers of new apartments in 2019. But there’s concern about affordability: The newspaper notes that average apartment rents have jumped 78% since 2000.
Although more apartments are being built, the state of Utah has a residential shortage of about 50,000 housing units of all kinds, the paper notes.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,190
Don’t feel guilty about renting in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin city comes in No. 2 on this list of cities where renting is cheaper than buying a home.
Renting saves Milwaukee residents $301, when comparing the city’s median monthly rent with its median mortgage payment, according to the rankings by LendingTree.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,180
If you’re seeking sunshine and cacti, Phoenix is for you.
But brace yourself: Rental prices are going up faster here than in much of the country.
According to a recent analysis by RENTCafe, the average rent for a Phoenix apartment was up 8% in August 2019 compared with rates at the same time the year before.
24. Charlotte, North Carolina
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,145
Charlotte’s popularity is working against it. WCNC-TV reports that local rents have shot up 45% since 2010, and there’s not nearly enough housing that’s priced right to serve the population.
North Carolina’s largest city needs 34,000 affordable housing units to meet its needs, a figure that’s nearly double the number from 10 years ago.
23. Tampa, Florida
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,140
It’s not easy to be a renter in Tampa, according to the 2019 Rental Market Study done by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the study found that nearly a third of all renters in the Tampa Bay area are “cost-burdened,” which means more than 40% of their income must go towards rent.
21. Hartford, Connecticut (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,120
If you’re employed in Connecticut right now, you might want to hang on to your job.
According to an analysis performed earlier this year by career site Zippia, Hartford’s home state is among the 10 worst states for finding a job.
21. Detroit (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,120
The largest city in Michigan has seen tough times, many due to the struggles of its once-vibrant automobile industry.
But that’s kept the cost of living low in the Motor City. Detroit is one of the more affordable U.S. cities, coming in at No. 11 on the LendingTree list of cities where it’s cheaper to rent than to buy.
20. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,105
If you want to move from renting to the world of homeowning, Virginia Beach is a good place to make that move.
The coastal city was listed on a LendingTree list of cities where homeownership is actually cheaper than renting. Homeowners pay an average of $155 per month less than renters, according to the list.
19. Richmond, Virginia
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,085
Many of the baby boomers, that giant generation born in the years immediately after World War II, are either retired or thinking about it.
Richmond, Virginia, might be a good place to spend those golden years. According to an analysis from Homes.com, Richmond is among the top 12 U.S. cities for boomers to live.
18. Dallas-Fort Worth
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,055
Dallas-Fort Worth is a hustling, bustling metropolitan area, and if you’ve got some cash you’d like to see grow, it should definitely make your list.
The Texas metro recently topped the list of cities in which to invest in real estate, based on the annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report.
DFW earned kudos for high activity among business startups and a young workforce, among other things.
17. Las Vegas
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,030
Go ahead, take a gamble on Las Vegas.
If you can manage the move from a rental to owning a home, Sin City is a good place to roll the dice.
Personal finance site LendingTree placed Vegas sixth on a list of places where a median monthly mortgage payment costs less than the median monthly rent.
16. Jacksonville, Florida
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,025
Dreaming of starting your own company? Jacksonville might be a good place for you.
Jacksonville.com cites a ranking by Listwithclever.com, a real estate site that put the Florida city at No. 4 among 50 in the nation for starting your own business.
The city scores high thanks to its startup density, education level of potential employees and cost of living, among other criteria.
15. Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,010
Homeownership has its benefits, but it can be pricey. Louisville is No. 1 on a 2019 list from online loan marketplace LendingTree that ranks cities where it’s cheaper to rent than to own.
In Louisville, home to the famed Kentucky Derby, renters benefit from a median savings of $329 a month over those making a monthly mortgage payment.
14. Orlando, Florida
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,005
Magic Kingdom, indeed. Orlando, home of the Walt Disney World Resort, tops this 2019 ranking of the best places in the U.S. to retire.
As a matter of fact, five of the top 10 cities on that list are in Florida.
12. Buffalo, New York (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $995
Whether you’re renting or buying, Buffalo is an affordable town. The city comes in at No. 10 on this 2019 list of the nation’s least-expensive housing markets.
12. Columbus, Ohio (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $995
Temperature-wise, Columbus is no Phoenix. But when it comes to the rental market, Ohio’s capital city is hot, hot, hot. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the city keeps adding new apartments, but they fill up quickly.
Not only is the city gaining residents, but apartment-dwellers are staying put longer; some empty nesters are giving up on the responsibility of a single-family home and choosing to rent.
11. Raleigh, North Carolina
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $975
Renting may not be such a bad financial choice in North Carolina’s state capital.
Renting is $183 cheaper per month than paying a mortgage on a home in Raleigh, according to this report from Money Talks News.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $960
Want to rock out in Cleveland, home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
The Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie hits the right note with homebuyers. On this list of 50 major cities, Cleveland ranks as the second-most affordable for homebuyers, trailing only Pittsburgh.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $945
Not many of us can afford to buy an apartment building, but if you can, Houston is a good place to do it.
According to a report cited by the Houston Business Journal, the sprawling Texas city is the nation’s top market for buying multifamily real estate.
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $930
Researchers in Cincinnati are looking well into the future, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Jobs Outlook 2028 report’s predictions are mixed, reports Cincinnati.com.
The Ohio city will add about 67,500 new jobs by that year — a 6.2% gain from 2018. But that growth rate will be slower than the projected national rate, 9.3%.
Also, many of those jobs will be low-paying, meaning that only 7 out of 25 of those jobs will pay enough for workers to maintain “self-sufficiency.”
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $925
Hoping to buy a home someday? Steel City is a good place to be.
When Money Talks News reported on annual base cost of owning a home in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh required the lowest salary of all to become a homeowner.
You needed to earn just $38,253 a year to afford a home in this Pennsylvania city, and the average median home price was $152,000.
5. Indianapolis (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $905
Renters have it tougher than homeowners in Indianapolis.
According to a report from the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy at the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, nearly 49% of renter households in Marion County, where Indianapolis is located, are struggling with rent payments.
In comparison, 21% of homeowners face the same struggle.
5. St. Louis (tie)
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $905
Renting in St. Louis may be a good financial choice.
Real estate marketplace Zillow put together a list of the most affordable U.S. rental markets, comparing the proportion of income residents spend on rent.
St. Louis nabbed the No. 2 spot, with only Pittsburgh being more affordable for renters.
Nationally, renters typically spend nearly 28% of income on rent, according to Zillow, but in this Missouri city, they spend just 21.5%.
4. Kansas City, Missouri
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $890
Apartment living is hot in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Business Journal reports that, in the second quarter of 2019, demand for apartments here reached a four-year high.
Occupancy rates are at 95% in the city, up 0.7 percentage points from the first quarter of the year.
3. San Antonio
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $880
The Beacon Hill neighborhood in this Texas city can boast of its charming bungalows, community garden and numerous public-art installations.
And now it’s recognized on Redfin’s list of the 10 hottest affordable neighborhoods in the U.S.
Redfin praises the neighborhood for combining “old San Antonio charm with 21st century urban living.”
2. Birmingham, Alabama
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $800
A college degree can often lead to a high-paying job. But in Birmingham, you may be able to land a comfortable career without that diploma.
A report by the Cleveland and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Banks includes Birmingham on its list of 10 cities with the most high-paying jobs for workers without a bachelor’s degree.
1. Oklahoma City
Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $710
Oklahoma City takes the top spot on this list, with the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment coming in at just over $700.
Low rent isn’t all the city has going for it. If the charms and opportunities of a college town appeal to you, Oklahoma City should be on your list to check out.
The state capital, home to Oklahoma State University, landed in the No. 3 spot on the list of most affordable college towns published recently by Apartments.com.
What are the costs of renting versus buying a home where you live? Share your experiences in a comment below or at the Money Talks News page on Facebook.