April 26, 2022
First-quarter 2021 was a time of optimism. Vaccines rolled out en masse. Sports and concerts began to come back, slowly. And people started to move back home to the cities they escaped. Because of demand, rent prices were just starting to climb.
Flash forward a year to the first quarter of 2022. The latest pandemic wave began to wane after the holidays. Attending indoor events, visiting friends and family and going back to the office became normalized. But even during the winter pandemic blip, rent prices continued their upward trajectory. Lease rates were way up from the previous year. But even as record-high rents plateaued and the economy struggled, apartment rental prices stayed high.
So, based on the mass of rental data, how did the prices fluctuate between the first quarter of 2021 and this year? Where in the country were rent prices up from last year and where did they continue to fall?
We examined rent prices for the first quarter of 2021 in every city in the nation with a population above 50,000 and with a qualifying number of available rental units. We then matched those prices in almost 200 cities to those same spots a year later in 2022's first quarter, comparing cities in the same population windows. We ran the same survey for each qualifying state and nationwide, as well. Below are the results of those studies, divided between one- and two-bedroom apartment units.
Table of Contents
As expected, across the country, rent prices are up from the first quarter of last year to this year. As vaccinations started in earnest this time last year, demand in cities rose, as did rents. People wanted to come back, and property owners responded to the opportunity.
Nationwide, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment rose by just over 14 percent yearly. Rents now average $1,781, up $219 from last year's first quarter. That's also a rise of $51 from the fourth quarter of last year.
For two-bedrooms, the increase was slightly higher. Average rents were up 15.65 percent to $2,106. That's an increase of $285 a month from a year ago and $89 from a quarter ago.
Even as we began to emerge from our pandemic hibernation, rent prices stayed relatively low during the first quarter of 2021. People had not yet moved back to cities or their old apartments en bloc yet. But, in the first quarter of 2022, prices continued to rise from the previous quarter's recovery. This pattern repeats in almost every region of the nation. Of the states with enough qualifying units, 78 percent saw increases in one-bedroom rents and up 80 percent for two-bedrooms.
Just nine lone states enjoyed a decrease in single bedroom rents. Of those, only two had decreased by double-digit percentages. On the flip side, 20 states increased by over 10 percent, with three over 30 percent. Two-bedroom units experienced a drop in just nine states, as well, with five in double digits. However, rents in 23 states were up 10 percent or more, with three nearing 40 percent jumps.
The states that saw the highest increases in yearly rents were the usual suspects like California, New York and Florida. Other West Coast and Southeast states shot up, as well. The most precipitous drops tended to cluster through the Snow Belt, the Upper Midwest and the Great Plains. And as opposed to its ever-increasing Northeast Corridor neighbors, Pennsylvania's rents continued to drop.
As 2020 turned to 2021, rent prices still remained low as the pandemic's primary wave simmered. That was true across the board, coast to coast. But a year later, even as the economy felt pressure from prices at the pump and heating fuel, the increase in rent prices didn't abate. Most states saw an increase in one-bedroom rents. And 10 were up over 20 percent in a year.
Nearly every state in the West and Southwest saw a steep increase in one-bedroom rents. And led by Manhattan and suburban D.C., New York and Virginia were also among the 10 biggest rises. Conversely, prices were down in nearly the entire upper Great Plains and along the Great Lakes rust belt.
While six states saw an increase of over 20 percent, only one approached 50 percent. One-bedroom rents in Oregon jumped 48 percent, to $2,168 a month on average. That ranked the Beaver State with the sixth-highest rent overall, up from 15th a year ago. California had the highest rents over $2,891 a month on average, with New York right behind. The two had the eighth- and ninth-biggest yearly increases, respectively. Oklahoma and Alabama also saw top 10 increases, but still remained among the 10 cheapest state rents.
Just nine states saw a yearly decrease for one-bedrooms. But shoulders above everyone was Kansas. The Sunflower State saw a 28 percent decrease in rents, two-and-a-half times as much as any other state. It averages $824 a month in rent, which were second-lowest in the nation. And with a decrease of 5.3 percent, Pennsylvania was the only state in the Northeast to experience a significant drop in rents, despite being the 17th priciest state.
Just as it was a year ago, South Dakota remained the cheapest state for one-bedrooms overall. Notwithstanding a slight increase from last year, rents in the Rushmore State were over $100 less than any other, with an average of just $824 monthly.
For the most part, rent price trends among two-bedroom apartments were similar to those for singles. The biggest increases year-to-year clustered in the East South Central and in the upper Northeast. States where rents for doubles decreased were all around the nation, stretching from New Hampshire to Oregon.
New York State and Florida, already among the priciest places to live, saw the largest yearly increases for two-bedroom rents. Each approached a near-40 percent rise. The Empire State, at $3,488 a month, rose from sixth to second priciest. Already the most expensive state for doubles a year ago, California rose another 17 percent to stay No. 1. And despite the nation's 9th steepest increase of 21.73 percent, Mississippi maintained the seventh-cheapest rents (though up from fourth last year). In all, nine states were up over 20 percent from last year.
On the reverse, just nine states overall fell from a year ago. Just like for one-bedrooms, Kansas was far and away the cheapest for two-bedrooms. The $619 a month average rents are the cheapest in the nation, down nearly 42 percent and eight spots from a year ago. Arkansas, at No. 2, was a full $100 higher a month than the Wheat State.
Rhode Island, with the third most expensive rent last year, fell 31 percent. That figure helped it tumble to just the 15th priciest this year. Last year's cheapest state, Wyoming, saw a 5.4 percent raise to $811 a month. That was still good for the third-lowest rents for two-bedrooms in the nation.
Even prior to the pandemic, most people could gather a strong guess as to where rents were going up as opposed to where they were going down. Big cities and coastal cities are pricey, while the middle of the nation has more reasonable rents. And despite recent anomalies, that remains true. Florida, the Northeast and California are high and getting higher. Meanwhile, the Great Plains and Great Lakes have cities where rents and population are both falling.
Looking at rent data state-by-state along with city-centered data shows both similarities and differences. Drilling down gives a more broad perspective. Comparing cities from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of this year expands already existing truisms. To compare apples to similarly-sized apples, we divvied up the data trends into population size categories.
Excluding smaller golf courses and tourist enclaves, the biggest cities tend to have the highest rents. And biggest disruption occurred in the biggest cities as the great apartment exodus occurred. But at the start of last year, it was also the biggest cities that saw people begin to come back. And with that, the notoriously high, big-city rents shot up.
But come the beginning of this year, even as the tenuous economy spreads, big cities still saw big rents keep rising — by a lot. As per usual, the largest increases in rent were in places rent was already high. That means spots like California, Arizona and Florida. As for where rents fell over the last year? Those clusters appear primarily around the Great Lakes and Central U.S.
Rent price trends for both one- and two-bedroom units generally follow the same patterns. But the difference becomes less pronounced the bigger the city. And as usual, the per-room rate decreases with more rooms available.
Below, we examined rent price trends for large cities. A large city is any with a population over 250,000.
One-bedroom rents in large cities that increased the most were along the coasts. California, despite its already high prices, got even higher. As did cities in its neighboring states of Oregon and Arizona. Cities around the Great Lakes in places like Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, were the primary beneficiaries of steeper decreases.
Three cities experienced increases of over 45 percent, and they're all satellite suburbs, highlighting the flight out of the city cores. L.A.'s Long Beach was up a whopping 55 percent. Meanwhile, Phoenix's Gilbert and New York City's Jersey City were both up 46 percent. Jersey City was also the most expensive big city overall for one-bedrooms, at a pricey $3,790 a month.
Both San Diego and Oklahoma City saw rises of 28 percent. However, these cities show the differences in regional rents. Despite matching increases, San Diego has risen to become the sixth-most expensive big city, while O.K.C. fell to rank as the sixth cheapest.
On the opposite side, it was a good quarter for renters in Northern Ohio. With a yearly rent drop of 15 percent, the largest of any big city, Toledo jumped up from seventh place to become the cheapest large city in the U.S. Just down the lake, Cleveland saw the second-biggest yearly decline, about 8.4 percent.
Last year's most expensive large city, Boston, and least expensive, Lubbock, both fell to No. 2. Both actually got cheaper in the last 12 months, both by nearly 7 percent, the 22nd and 23rd such ranked cities.
Taking into consideration rental availabilities in large cities, it fits that two-bedroom price trends would end similar to one-bedrooms. The cities where two-bedroom rents are rising fastest are once again clustered in Florida and California. And if you're looking for the region where rents are decreasing most rapidly, look towards America's Breadbasket in the Central Plains.
Gilbert, AZ, is one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. With a population as low as 5,000 as recently as 1980, it's now the sixth-largest in the state. All those people have to live somewhere. And that helps explain Gilbert's whopping year-to-year increase in rent of nearly 120 percent. That's the biggest two-bedroom increase of any qualifying city in the nation. A year ago, it had the country's seventh-lowest rent. This year, it's the 45th.
And this year's seventh-steepest growing rents were in Jersey City, NJ. Up over 30 percent from last year, the New York metro area city now carries the highest two-bedroom rent of any city of any size, at $5,062 a month. Last year's highest, Boston, fell to second, after an increase of just 1 percent from a year ago.
While Toledo, OH, had the steepest drop among one-bedrooms, it actually had the fourth-biggest increase among two-bedrooms. However, it remained the eighth-cheapest rent despite its 34 percent jump. Seattle, WA, with a top 10 rise of 29 percent, comes in with the eighth highest rents.
The lowest big city rent belongs to Wichita, KS. Its $619 a month two-bedroom rents fell 19 percent from last year, which was also the nation's lowest. But the steepest drop came three hours up the Kansas Turnpike in Kansas City, MO, at over 22 percent. But that still only dropped K.C. to the 15th lowest rent overall.
Los Angeles, CA, and Philadelphia, PA, two of the country's largest cities, both actually experienced rent price drops between 4 and 5 percent. L.A. fell from second-priciest two-bedroom city to fourth.
Generally, medium-sized cities have steadier rent prices due to less turnover in population. These spots are often state capitals, college towns and satellite cities. Their residents are less inclined to city hop, or their replaceable populations, like students and politicians, tend to level out.
Price trends in one and two-bedroom rents experienced similar fluctuations. Once again, medium-sized cities in places like Florida and the Western U.S. saw the highest jumps. Meanwhile, decreases were evident in the South and the Upper Midwest. For this study, cities with populations between 100,000 and 250,000 are medium-sized.
In a waning pandemic world, people are getting back out in the world while staying safe. So, what better place to socialize safely than outdoors and at the beach? This has been a boon for medium-sized resort cities. A look down the cities that experienced the top five steepest increases, and you'll see a swath of tourist and snowbird getaways.
Two Florida beach communities, West Palm Beach and Clearwater, were among the top three increases, both up over 35 percent. As well, two California cities, Huntington Beach and Fremont fell in the top five, both up over 30 percent. West Palm's increase pushed it from 14th most expensive medium city to fourth.
Looking to really get a bang for your rent payment buck? Then, take a look at the college town of South Bend, IN. The Notre Dame town saw a drop in year-to-year of over 23 percent. That represents the most precipitous drop of any city of any size in the country. Its two-bedroom rents of $684 a month are the second-lowest for medium cities.
As expected, medium city two-bedroom rents experienced similar trends geographically as one-bedrooms. Once again, the highest rises were in coastal cities. And the South and Rust Belt were among the places where rents were declining.
Among the cities with the highest increases were sunny, beachy spots like Clearwater and Huntington Beach, staying consistent. But the steepest increase of all medium cities? Not an expected place, the Lehigh Valley city of Allentown, PA, experienced the highest jump. Its $2,661 a month two-bedroom rent was up 54.8 percent, a nearly $1,000 increase.
Overall, the highest two-bedroom rent for any medium-sized city was the L.A.-adjacent city of Glendale. Its rents soared another 15.35 percent to an atmospheric $4,326 a month. That was just the 37th-biggest jump.
Conversely, Shreveport, LA enjoyed a significant 30 percent drop in yearly rents, down to $851 monthly. That's the biggest decline of any medium city, as well as the lowest rents, nearly three times as much as number two. In the first quarter of last year, Shreveport had just the 23rd-lowest rent.
Overall, just nine medium-sized cities experienced a yearly drop. That includes No. 2 Evansville, IN, with the sixth-lowest rent at $914 and Burbank, CA, with the sixth-highest rent at $3,487. Six of the top seven biggest decreases were also among the 10 cheapest rents.
For reasons such as demand, infrastructure, amenities and cost of living, rents in small cities are generally well below those of large ones. The exceptions tend to occur among satellite cities and primary suburbs around large, expensive coastal cities. But cities of every size have dealt with pandemic-era extreme rent trends.
But is often the case, rent fluctuations because of, not despite, their smaller rates, can have a bigger impact on individual renters. Fewer availabilities and lower rents make each dollar more significant. For the data below, small cities are those with populations between 50,000 and 100,000.
As with medium-sized cities, many high and increasing small city rents belong to resort and beach cities. Wealthy populations fled to the suburbs or relocated, or stayed year-round at summer homes, increasing demand and pushing rents even higher at the start of the pandemic. In fact, six of the top nine small city increases are also among the top 10-highest small city rents.
Every small city with a yearly increase over 25 percent falls within the top 10. Among these are four Florida resort hideaways: Boca Raton, Doral, Fort Myers and Pensacola. This is in addition to the ritzy California towns of Santa Monica, Palo Alto and Mountain View. Mountain View had the steepest increase, up 53 percent. That pushed the Bay Area town to the second-highest small city rent. Mirroring that, Santa Monica had the highest small city rent overall, at $4,104 monthly. That's after the second-highest increase of over 40 percent.
Almost every small city with top increases was also among the most expensive, with one exception. Bubbling just under with the 11th-steepest increase is Greenwood, IN. Despite a nearly 24 percent raise, the Indianapolis suburb retained the eighth-lowest small city rent.
While cities on the rent rise were spots for the elite, hearty Rust and Bible Belt folks were the beneficiaries of the sharpest decreases. Only 12 small cities saw a decrease, with many of these strewn throughout the Upper Midwest and South. The biggest decrease among small cities occurred in Greenville, SC. The Upstate city was the only one to decline by double digits. The $916 a month average rents are the sixth lowest.
However, it's Port Arthur, TX, that has the lowest rent of any qualifying city of any size. That's a title it held a year ago, as well. The minuscule $619 a month average rents were down over 9 percent from last year, and are $130 cheaper than the second-lowest. That title belongs to Kokomo, IN, which saw the fifth biggest drop, as well.
Last year's cheapest city was Montgomery, AL. The state capital increased in the last year by 6.8 percent to fall one spot to second-cheapest. The Bay Area city of San Ramon, CA saw the 8th-biggest drop. That was enough to move what was the fourth-most expensive small city last year to just the 17th a year later.
The relative affordability of apartments in small cities leads many to spring for that extra bedroom. That can help flatten out the per-room rents, evening out one and two-bedroom costs.
Twenty small cities experienced two-bedroom rent rises of over 20 percent. But the far and away rent rise winner was Fort Myers, FL. Rents in the Gulf Coast city exploded by over 60 percent. That's nearly 20 percentage points higher than second place, and the second-most of any city of any size.
Just out of the top 10 was Valdosta, GA at No. 11. As opposed to most of the cities ahead of it, its increase didn't stop it from maintaining one of the lowest rent prices. Despite its 22 percent year-to-year jump, it was the eighth-lowest overall small city rent, just over a grand monthly.
Overall, 14 small cities saw decreases in two-bedroom rents from a year ago. Three decreased by double digits. Leading that pack is Grand Forks, ND. The city, just an hour from Canada, dropped by 14 percent yearly, to the seventh-lowest average rent of $884 a month. Grand Forks sits on the border with Minnesota, where three of the top seven biggest declines fell. The Minneapolis suburbs of Burnsville, Edina and Bloomington all declined by over 4 percent.
Just a few hours down I-35 from Minneapolis is Ames, IA. Just as it did last year, the college town offered the lowest two-bedroom rents of any city of any size in the country. Despite a rise of 8.58 percent year-to-year, its rents remained at a shockingly low $512 a month. At the other extreme is Palo Alto, CA. That college town had the highest small-city rent, just as it did a year ago, up 14.66 percent to $4,590 monthly.
10 small cities with the highest two-bedroom rent price percentage growth
To determine average rent prices, we used Q1 2022 data from ApartmentGuide.com's multifamily rental property inventory. From there, we evaluated changes seen since Q1 2021. Prices are based on the average price for that respective quarter as a whole.
We used a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets. From there, we looked at historical standard deviations of our weighted rent prices to remove outlier markets and minimize potential volatility caused by lower inventory. Rent price increases and decreases per time period are based on the percentage change of apartment rental prices from Q1 2021.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
|Rank by Population||City, State||Population||1-BR Rent, Q1 2021||1-BR Rent, Q1 2022||1-BR % Change|
|14||San Francisco, CA||881,549||$3,068||$3,509||14.36%|
|1||Los Angeles, CA||3,979,576||$2,656||$2,978||12.09%|
|65||Jersey City, NJ||262,075||$2,607||$3,790||45.40%|
|9||San Jose, CA||1,021,795||$2,440||$2,711||11.09%|
|100||Fort Lauderdale, FL||182,437||$2,436||$2,882||18.27%|
|7||San Diego, CA||1,423,851||$2,376||$3,053||28.47%|
|50||Santa Ana, CA||332,318||$2,339||$2,874||22.86%|
|88||Huntington Beach, CA||199,223||$1,953||$2,785||42.62%|
|39||Long Beach, CA||462,628||$1,941||$3,008||54.96%|
|56||Saint Louis, MO||300,576||$1,821||$1,859||2.07%|
|46||New Orleans, LA||390,144||$1,765||$1,757||-0.45%|
|25||Las Vegas, NV||651,319||$1,514||$1,607||6.12%|
|55||Saint Paul, MN||308,096||$1,445||$1,463||1.25%|
|40||Virginia Beach, VA||449,974||$1,395||$1,501||7.58%|
|84||Salt Lake City, UT||200,567||$1,241||$1,506||21.31%|
|35||Colorado Springs, CO||478,221||$1,215||$1,401||15.34%|
|82||Grand Rapids, MI||201,013||$1,213||$1,204||-0.70%|
|11||Fort Worth, TX||909,585||$1,191||$1,258||5.64%|
|78||Baton Rouge, LA||220,236||$1,003||$1,071||6.78%|
|80||Des Moines, IA||214,237||$1,000||$1,182||18.19%|
|6||San Antonio, TX||1,547,253||$962||$1,130||17.49%|
|52||Corpus Christi, TX||326,586||$883||$986||11.69%|
|20||El Paso, TX||681,728||$866||$954||10.26%|
|23||Oklahoma City, OK||655,057||$729||$935||28.21%|
|98||Sioux Falls, SD||183,793||$719||$720||0.14%|
|Rank by Population||City, State||Population||2-BR Rent, Q1 2021||2-BR Rent, Q1 2022||2-BR % Change|
|1||Los Angeles, CA||3,979,576||$4,286||$4,094||-4.48%|
|14||San Francisco, CA||881,549||$4,101||$4,520||10.23%|
|64||Jersey City, NJ||262,075||$3,889||$5,062||30.15%|
|100||Fort Lauderdale, FL||182,437||$3,257||$3,891||19.45%|
|7||San Diego, CA||1,423,851||$3,055||$3,923||28.41%|
|9||San Jose, CA||1,021,795||$2,995||$3,224||7.63%|
|49||Santa Ana, CA||332,318||$2,914||$3,492||19.84%|
|88||Huntington Beach, CA||199,223||$2,644||$3,903||47.63%|
|45||New Orleans, LA||390,144||$2,415||$2,274||-5.86%|
|55||Saint Louis, MO||300,576||$2,104||$2,258||7.29%|
|54||Saint Paul, MN||308,096||$1,866||$1,823||-2.31%|
|24||Las Vegas, NV||651,319||$1,837||$1,881||2.38%|
|34||Kansas City, MO||495,327||$1,780||$1,383||-22.31%|
|39||Virginia Beach, VA||449,974||$1,574||$1,714||8.89%|
|35||Colorado Springs, CO||478,221||$1,563||$1,653||5.80%|
|84||Salt Lake City, UT||200,567||$1,553||$2,061||32.74%|
|82||Grand Rapids, MI||201,013||$1,489||$1,654||11.13%|
|11||Fort Worth, TX||909,585||$1,432||$1,641||14.59%|
|6||San Antonio, TX||1,547,253||$1,179||$1,325||12.37%|
|51||Corpus Christi, TX||326,586||$1,152||$1,238||7.45%|
|20||El Paso, TX||681,728||$1,127||$1,249||10.85%|
|77||Baton Rouge, LA||220,236||$1,120||$1,081||-3.43%|
|79||Des Moines, IA||214,237||$1,050||$1,274||21.28%|
|23||Oklahoma City, OK||655,057||$907||$1,108||22.13%|
|98||Sioux Falls, SD||183,793||$833||$858||2.92%|