Which Areas of the Country Are Most—and Least—Expensive?
Which part of the country wins the battle of the rent rates? In one corner, we have the West Coast with golden California beaches, sprawling vineyards, temperate rainforests, and more. In the other corner, there’s the East Coast, whose highlights range from Florida sunshine to Appalachian vistas to the bustle of New York City. Both contenders have plenty of attractions for renters—but which will cost them more?
It’s an interesting question—but answering it is a bit more complex than simply pitting East against West, says Dwellsy CEO and cofounder Jonas Bordo.
“To get an accurate picture of America’s rental landscape, you need to break the country down into smaller chunks (don’t forget that there’s a fantastic middle section, too) and look at rent by property size and type,” says Bordo, coauthor along with Hannah Hildebolt of Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster (Matt Holt, August 2023, ISBN: 978-1-6377439-2-8, $21.95). “While location, amenities, and overall cost of living have an impact on asking rent, demand also plays a large part—and it can vary substantially from month to month.”
To put Dwellsy’s regional breakdown into perspective, the nationwide rental market remains in a period of moderation. From June 2022 to June 2023, median asking rent for a three-bedroom single-family home rental (SFR) rose 5.3 percent, or $95, to $1,875. Year-over-year rent for a one-bedroom apartment has decreased by 1.6 percent, or $21, to $1,300.
Dwellsy, the largest home rental listing platform in the country, regularly mines its 14+ million residential rental listings for statistics and data. Because Dwellsy allows landlords to post listings free of charge, it has a pool of data that’s more diverse—and more representative of the true rental landscape—than that of pay-to-play listing services. Each month, Dwellsy breaks down this data regionally across the U.S. so renters and landlords can see up-to-date trends in rental housing and current affordability in over 250 markets.
“Especially with the rise of remote and hybrid work, more people than ever enjoy flexibility in where they live,” Bordo says. “This data can impact where—or whether—some renters choose to relocate. While living in a certain area or being near specific amenities is a deciding factor for some, others may choose to move to a lower-cost location that offers larger rentals for less money. For instance, $2,060 will get you a three-bedroom home in Nashville, Tennessee, but you’ll need $2,095 to get a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, California.”
When analyzing rental trends, Bordo and his fellow data-crunchers focus on one-bedroom apartments because they are similar to two-bedroom apartments in terms of inventory but are more price-accessible. Three-bedroom homes are also featured because they are by far the most common rental home type. For a more detailed look at Dwellsy’s rent price analysis methodology, see this article.
Now, let’s dive into the details of how rent varies across U.S. regions.
Cost of Three-Bedroom Single-Family Home Rentals by Region
In this category, the West is the clear winner of the “most expensive” trophy. States like California, Washington, and Oregon are dramatically more expensive than other areas of the country. The Southwest and Southeast are neck-and-neck for second place (although the Southeast is edging ahead), while the Midwest easily boasts the lowest costs. Both nationwide and in the Midwest, you’ll find the least expensive three-bedroom SFRs in Flint, Michigan ($850 per month); Fort Wayne, Indiana ($950 per month); and Kokomo, Indiana ($975 per month).
“Median asking rent for a three-bedroom SFR in the Western states will probably cost you $1,000 more than a similar property in the Midwest,” says Bordo. “You might have assumed that living in the Northeast, with its notoriously pricey cities like New York and Boston, would be more expensive than the Southeast, but nope! Alongside these high-cost areas are numerous low-cost markets like Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Hartford, Connecticut; all of which are more oriented toward single-family housing.”
Cost of One-Bedroom Apartments by Region
The West wins again, but in this category, the Northeast gives it a much closer run for its money—and currently, the gap is closing.
“This time, apartment-dense cities like New York and Boston do have a large impact on the regional numbers,” explains Bordo. “The Southeast is in the middle of the pack, while the Southwest and Midwest are least expensive.”
Rolla, Missouri, currently offers the least expensive one-bedroom apartments in the country ($485 per month), followed by Zanesville, Ohio ($500 per month). The Cape Girardeau-Jackson, Missouri-Illinois, area is third-least expensive in the Midwest and fourth-least expensive in the country ($550 per month).
“The results are clear: If you go west, you need to budget (a lot) more each month for rent,” concludes Bordo. “But if you move to the Midwest from another region, you can save quite a bit of money…or get a much bigger rental. Just don’t forget your casserole dish.” # # #
About Jonas Bordo: Jonas Bordo is the coauthor, along with Hannah Hildebolt, of the upcoming book Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster. He is the CEO and cofounder of Dwellsy, the free residential rental marketplace that makes it easy to find hard-to-find rentals. Prior to cofounding Dwellsy, Jonas was a senior executive at several leading real estate firms including Essex Property Trust and BentallGreenOak, and was with the Boston Consulting Group after graduating with his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. About the Book: Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster (Matt Holt, August 2023, ISBN: 978-1-6377439-2-8, $21.95) is available for pre-order from major online booksellers. About Dwellsy: Dwellsy is the renter’s marketplace: a comprehensive residential home rentals marketplace based on the radical concept that true, organic search in a free ecosystem creates more value than the pay-to-play model embraced by all of the current rental listing services. Dwellsy has more than 14 million residential rental listings—more than any legacy classifieds site—as well as the most diverse set of listings, including single family rentals, condos, and apartments. Dwellsy’s entirely different approach to residential rental listings focuses on presenting houses and apartments based on features renters need and want, not based on how much landlords pay to show their listings. Dwellsy investors include Frontier Ventures, Ulu Ventures, Blackhorn Ventures, Heroic Ventures, and the University of Chicago. For more information, please visit our newsroom or find your next home at Dwellsy.com.