Deciding where to live, be it a suburb or city, can be tough. Even if you can't imagine yourself outside of an urban center, the high cost of rent may get in the way of your big metropolitan dreams. Some cities in the United States are so expensive — with high rent and low pay — they can destroy your budget.
So it's important to do your homework before you make a move to a new city — or sign a lease. It's no secret that cities like San Diego, for example, are expensive. But how have markets changed since last year — and how do rent prices stack up against overall affordability?
In a new study, Forbes examined 46 of the largest rental markets, using data from Marcus & Millichap. They then ranked all the cities based on four factors that show or affect affordability: average monthly rent in the last quarter of 2016 (weighted 20%), change in rent from the end of 2015 to 2016 (weighted 20%), average apartment vacancy rate (weighted 20%) and the amount of monthly income share dedicated toward rent (weighted 40%).
Although Manhattan rent was the priciest at about $3,500, and New York City renters dedicate about 54% of their monthly income to rent, the city actually did not earn the "least affordable" title — primarily because prices have not risen as much recently as they have in other markets.
With a national average monthly rent of $1,284 — up 3.3% from last year — and the average renter shelling out 27% of (median household) income, you might wonder how your city compares to other major urban centers across the U.S.
Here are the five least affordable cities, followed by the five most affordable ones, according to Forbes. The list might surprise you.
The 5 worst U.S. cities for affordable rent
California dominates the least-affordable list — though no city in the state earned the number-one "least affordable" moniker.
5. Orange County, California
Average monthly rent: $1,900
Kicking off the top five is Orange County, where the average monthly rent of $1,896 sucks up 28% of renters' average monthly income. Vacancy rates are lower than the national average of 3.9% — at 3.2% — and year-over-year change in rent prices increased considerably at 4.5%. The problem with low vacancies is it means renters have less bargaining power.
4. Los Angeles, California
Average monthly rent: $1,940
Average monthly rent in L.A. stands at $1,938 with 37% of renter's average monthly income dedicated toward rent. Rents have increased only 2.4% year-over-year and the average vacancy rate stands at 2.9%
3. Manhattan, New York
Average monthly rent: $3,500
New York's priciest borough ranks as the most expensive place on the list in raw dollars. Renters pay an average of $3,497 per month, which eats up 54% of their monthly income, and the vacancy rate is 2.7%. Sounds like Manhattan should be sitting at the top (or bottom), right? But apartment rental prices haven't really budged much, rising only 1.3% since last year, which kept the Big Apple a few notches above the "worst."
2. San Diego, California
Average monthly rent: $1,750
San Diego renters can expect to pay an average of $1,748 a month, which consumes approximately 30% of renters' monthly wages. The market is tight, and vacancy rates stand at 3.1%, which may have contributed to its 4.8% year-over-year rent increase.
1. Miami, Florida
Average monthly rent: $1,390
Rent isn't overly high in Miami — the monthly average is $1,386 — but when you factor in wages, you see how unaffordable it is: consuming approximately 36% of renters' monthly income. Plus there are low vacancy rates, 2.2%, making competition to find affordable housing fierce. Last year alone, those vacancy rates boosted rent by 6.6% — the eighth-biggest hike in the country.
The 5 best U.S. cities for affordable rent
Rent affordability is easiest to find in the Midwest, as many cities throughout America's heartland provide more housing choices and lower rent prices. One city on this list even experienced a drop in prices since last year!
5. Columbus, Ohio
Average monthly rent: $850
Average monthly rent in Columbus is $847, which consumes only 17% of renters' average monthly wages. True, rent increased 3% year-over-year, but apartment availability is decent, at 3.7%.
4. San Antonio, Texas
Average monthly rent: $910
Rents haven't risen much since last year, but vacancies abound in San Antonio. The rise in rent prices was only 1.7%, but housing availability is an above-average 5.7%. Average monthly rent hangs under $1,000 a month, at $910, eating up only 20% of the average renter's monthly income.
3. Kansas City, Missouri
Average monthly rent: $870
Housing choices are plentiful in Kansas City, with higher-than-average vacancies at 5%. Rent rose less than average year-over-year — 2.7% — and renters can expect to pay an average of $866 a month, consuming only about 16% of income.
2. St. Louis, Missouri
Average monthly rent: $830
Rent prices actually decreased in St. Louis year-over-year, dropping 1.9%, while vacancies are above-average at 4.6%. Average rent is $829 a month and consumes only about 17% of renters' monthly income.
1. Indianapolis, Indiana
Average monthly rent: $800
With the average monthly rent at $806, taking up only 17% of renters' average monthly income, Indianapolis was ranked by Forbes as the most affordable place to rent in the U.S. Vacancy rates are high, at 5.6%, so renters have many choices. Plus rent increased only 2.5% year-over-year.
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