A studio apartment is a great option for a variety of renters, from recent college grads to temporary workers to seasonal visitors.
While studio apartments can be an affordable choice, they need not be the old cliché of sitting on your bed, one hand stirring a pot on the stove and the other grabbing something in the bathroom because you're in a cramped space. Sure, there are plenty of tiny studio apartments but technically any apartment with a single combined living/dining/bedroom space with a bathroom and kitchenette is a studio apartment. In places like New York, studio apartments can be gigantic open-concept palaces spanning several thousand square feet.
In the U.S., an average studio apartment is about 530 square feet, and rents for a national average of $1,618 a month. But where can you find the best values? In which cities has the nation seen the largest studio rent price decrease? We surveyed the 100 largest cities in America, valued the average studio apartment rent in each over the course of 2018 and compared it to the average rent through all of 2019 to determine which cities saw the steepest decreases.
The top 10 cities for the largest drop in studio unit rentals from year to year run from large coastal cities to bastions of the Midwest, college towns, state capitals and industrial hubs. Some have seen demand drop due to population fluctuations and others have experienced family growth and an economic renaissance.
Even some of the biggest cities have experienced a significant decrease, with four cities among the top 20 most populous — including the fourth-largest — placing inside the top 10, with even New York and Philadelphia, the nation's first and sixth-most populated, falling just outside at Nos. 11 and 12.
At times, Baltimore can feel like the black sheep of the Eastern Seaboard, settled amongst the giants of New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Though to many, it's just a pass-through on Amtrak along the coast, Baltimore is an artistic, historic city that was one of the U.S.'s top 10 largest from the nations' founding through the 1980s.
Although Baltimore has fallen out of the top 20 biggest cities, it's still a keystone of the East Coast, and a great place in which to live and visit with famous landmarks like Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry, Fells Point and Camden Yards, home of the Orioles. And with easy access by highway and mass transit, it's convenient to those other nearby cities, as well as the Maryland Eastern Shore and the Delaware beaches.
While the population has declined by nearly half since 1950 as residents flock to the suburbs and closer to DC, a looser housing market has limited demand, causing rental rates to fall. The average rent for a studio of $1,439 a month may seem on the high side, but it's very competitive for its Northeast location and down 8 percent from last year.
It might be surprising to see San Francisco on a list of places where rent has gone down. After all, not only is it the most expensive city in the most expensive state, it features the No. 1 most expensive neighborhood in the entire nation. The home of companies like Salesforce, Visa, Charles Schwab, Gap, McKesson and Wells Fargo, San Francisco has always attracted a diverse workforce in white-collar industries like finance and tech.
But the advantage of all the business and industry across the Bay Area means not every company needs to be in San Francisco proper, and neither do their employees, with San Jose to the south larger in population and Oakland just across the Bay larger by area. And with companies from Google to Chevron to Facebook spread out over the region in suburbs and outlying towns, residents don't have to bear the expense of living in the Golden Gate City to be convenient to work or play.
At an average of $3,841 a month, rental prices for a studio unit within the San Francisco city limits remain relatively high. But the irony is that as price points continue to push people to elsewhere in the region who can't afford to live there, studio rents are actually falling, down from 12 months ago by 8.2 percent.
Isolated in the northeastern enclave of New England, Bostonians are protective of their city. But once you come to town, you'll experience a friendly populace and a ton to do. For those shipping on up to Boston, you'll find a wonderful city filled with so much for students, scholars, foodies, medical professionals, sports fans and music fans.
Not only is Boston famous for the plethora of musicians that call this city home, from Aerosmith and The Pixies to New Kids on the Block and New Edition to The Lemonheads, Belly and Letters To Cleo (not to mention the band actually named Boston), but its beloved music venues, as well. Music halls like Great Scott, The Sinclair, Brighton Music Hall, Orpheum Theatre, Paradise Rock Club and Berklee Performance Center are favorites not only among concertgoers but performers, as well.
And of course, there are few cities in America with the winning sports heritage Boston offers, with 12 championships combined between the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots since 2000. That's music to sports fans' ears.
Along with New York and Philadelphia, Boston has also seen its rental prices drop over the last 12 months. And of all the metropoli along the I-95 corridor, it's the one where rents are down the most. An average studio apartment rents for a pricey $3,061 monthly, but that's down 8.8 percent since last year.
Raleigh, NC, is a lot of things to a lot of people. It's a research town, a tech town, a college town, a historic town, a vacation town, a family town and a state capital town. Raleigh is the centerpiece of what's known as the Research Triangle, a scholastic, academic and scientific region encompassing the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
Raleigh's contribution to the Research Triangle is the North Carolina State University land, sea and space grant institution. NC State is the largest university in the Carolinas, nationally renowned for its engineering, agriculture, life sciences and design programs. But the school is certainly also known for its Wolfpack sports programs, with the two-time championship basketball program playing at PNC Arena, the fifth-largest off-campus college arena in the U.S. (shared with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes).
Raleigh is also the state capital, a business hub and home of corporations, including Truist Financial (formerly BB&T), Martin Marietta, Carquest and Capitol Broadcasting.
Raleigh is experiencing a Southern renaissance, with a growing high-tech and biotech sector, a recent Stanley Cup championship and an exciting nightlife scene including the Raleigh Beer Garden, which holds the Guinness World's Record for Most Different Beers On Tap at one time (366, by the way). It's a good time to find a studio apartment in the City of Oaks, as rents are down year to year by 8.9 percent, at $1,272 a month.
One of the “Best Cities for Bookworms," Cincinnati is one of the Midwest's most underappreciated cities and possibly one of the smartest. The city's massive half-million-square-foot downtown main branch has more than 4 million volumes in circulation, the most of any single library branch anywhere in America.
But Cincy residents know how to have fun, too. The city is one of the “Best Cities for Pet Lovers" and “Cheapest Cities to Bring a Family to a Football Game," which allows the faithful to go home and curl up with their pup after yet another Bengals defeat.
The city contains many legendary hotspots for food and drink, including The Maisonette, the longest-running five-star restaurant in the nation (for an incredible 41 consecutive years until it closed in 2005) and Arnold's Bar and Grill, which was named one of the "Best Bars in America" by Esquire and The Daily Meal's "150 Best Bars in America."
And the new Smale Riverfront Park along the Ohio between the stadiums, part of The Banks mixed-use development project, features 40 acres of green space that includes playgrounds, boat docks, a carousel, bike trails, pools and waterfalls and oversized porch swings overlooking the river and is scheduled for final completion in 2020.
If you're kinda tired of packing and unpacking, Cincinnati has much to offer beyond “WKRP" and Skyline Chili 5-way. Those that settle along the Ohio River in Cincinnati can find a surprising drop in rental rates for a studio apartment, down 10.7 percent to an average of $950 a month.
One of four state capitals that fall in the top 10, Indianapolis is an oft-overlooked city aside from Memorial Day weekend when the annual running of the Indianapolis 500, the world's largest single-day sporting event, takes place. But there's more to the Indianapolis sports scene than going fast and turning left.
The Colts, despite the retirements of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, are still a huge draw as the third-winningest team in the league since the millennium. In fact, Indy is the number one “Best Football City for Renters in America," along with the third “Cheapest City for NFL Tailgating."
Right nearby the Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium in the Mile Square downtown entertainment district is also the Pacers' Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the AAA Indianapolis Indians' Victory Field. Indianapolis is also home to the NCAA's National Office and its Hall of Champions Museum in White River State Park just west of Mile Square.
Mile Square is also the site of the Indiana Convention Center, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and Monument Circle with the Indiana State House at the center. The Indianapolis Zoo, one of the nation's 10 best according to Conde Nast Traveler, is also in White River State Park, and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children's museum in the world is a short ride away in historic Meridian Park.
If you're racing to get a place in Indianapolis, no need to hire a pit crew. All it takes is $1,101 a month for an average studio apartment, down 12 percent from a year ago.
There are few locales in the U.S. where you can experience living along a four-star beach and also reside in a large urban area for an affordable price. Hampton Roads, VA, is such a place. Sharing the region with the Tidewater towns of Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake and Hampton, Virginia Beach is Hampton Roads' true oceanfront city.
Despite its status as Virginia's largest city, Virginia Beach offers a suburban, relaxed feel alongside its 35 miles of beachfront, the longest pleasure beach in the world, and hundreds of resorts and hotels, mainly in the Virginia Beach Town Center. It was on that oceanfront in 1607 at Cape Henry where the first English colonists landed and where four centuries later, the East Coast Surfing Championships are held just seven miles down the coast at 5th Street Beach.
But it's not all fun-and-sun in Neptune City. Virginia Beach is also home to four military bases — Naval Air Station Oceana, Training Support Center Hampton Roads, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and Joint Expeditionary Base–Little Creek — and a number of corporate headquarters, including Christian Broadcasting Network and STIHL. As well, the city is the southern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the longest bridge-tunnel complex in the world.
With all that to offer, you'd be surprised to learn a studio apartment can be had for an average of just $1,279, which marks a 12.6 percent drop over the past year.
Last decade, Las Vegas was the fastest-growing metro area in America. And even with all that influx, the city continues to grow rapidly, still the third-steepest increase in population in the West as recently as 2018. One of the top 10 most-visited cities in the nation caters just as much to the local populace, even adding an NHL hockey team in 2017, an NFL franchise in 2020 and most likely an MLB club in the next few years.
But why do people move to such a tourist-heavy city? Factors like a low cost of living, a thriving job market (due to that tourism industry), a stout commuter infrastructure (including a monorail along The Strip), warm weather, access to places like the boutique shopping and robust arts scene in 18b and dining and entertainment district The Park, no state income tax and the third-lowest state and local taxes in the nation are a big part of the appeal. And when you feel like disappearing among the tourists, even locals can partake in more than 25 all-you-can-eat buffets, some for as little as 20 bucks.
Despite all its growth in population and continual influx of tourists snapping up short-term rental housing, demand would dictate a rise in lease prices. However, the opposite is serendipitously true for studio units. An average studio lease runs just $669, a downward yearly trend of 14.1 percent.
Home to the Johnson Space Center and NASA Mission Control, Houston has always been known for Space. But there was plenty of space being filled in the 21st century, as the area gained a full 1.2 million new residents from 2000 to 2016, many in 2005 as a refugee city for Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans.
But then, growth leveled off significantly, due to the oil recession and Houston's own Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Now the city is experiencing another rise in population post-Harvey as neighborhoods affected by flooding and damage try to reach pre-2017 numbers.
Houston is a behemoth. The city has boomed over the last half-century, doubling in size since 1970 and has slowly risen to become the fourth-most populated city on the continent. That growth was built on the back of revitalization from oil port city to an economy based in the logistics industries of new energy, modern manufacturing, shipping and air and space travel, tourism and health care. Much of the latter is based in the Texas Medical Center, more than 60 medical institutions over five square miles which make up the largest medical complex in the world.
Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. But not rental prices for Houston's studio apartments. The increase in available housing due to population fluctuations has caused a residual-related decline in lease rates, with a large 15.5 percent decline for an average studio unit, down to $1,305 a month.
While New Orleans gets all the press and attention, Louisiana's state capital quietly sits under the radar. Baton Rouge has its own vacation-worthy Mardi Gras party with eight parades, its own delectable Cajun and Creole cuisine and its own vibrant jazz, hip-hop and Delta blues music scene.
But what Baton Rouge lacks in glitz and fame, it makes up for in spades. Just 100 minutes up I-10 from the Big Easy, the Red Stick city offers the best of New Orleans but with smaller crowds and fewer tourists, a lower crime rate, a lower cost of living and a 30,000-head research institution in Louisiana State with a (yet another) championship football team.
Baton Rouge's economy has continued to grow over the years since its heyday as one of America's chief oil refinery and shipping ports, much of it owed to the construction of the Huey P. Long Bridge under which large tankers cannot pass making B.R. the last stop.
Today, the city has diversified to become an important locale for legacy industrial and petrochemical industries, plus newer entries into the medical, research, film and technology sectors. Much of that can be attributed to the proximity of LSU and Southern University and its graduate capital. In fact, college students make up one out of every five residents of Baton Rouge.
With a lower cost of living than its neighbor to the south, rental prices remain low in Baton Rouge, despite the large student population. And not just low, but the lowest. Rental prices for an average studio apartment have dropped more here than anywhere else in the nation, down a whopping 27.4 percent from a year ago to an affordable $1,013 monthly.
Now you know the top 10 cities with the largest studio rent price decrease, but where have those same lease prices gone up the most? It's a diverse group with some of the nation's fastest-growing cities like Phoenix and Oklahoma City.
At the top of the list is New Jersey's largest city, where a studio apartment is up nearly 50 percent from a year ago and rents for an average of almost $2,000 a month.
|Rank||City||Population||2019 Average Studio Rent||1-Year Studio Price Change|
|3||St. Petersburg, FL||265,098||$1,707.10||28.5%|
|5||Oklahoma City, OK||649,021||$788.00||22.1%|
|8||San Antonio, TX||1,532,233||$1,197.65||16.7%|
|9||Long Beach, CA||467,354||$2,276.87||13.6%|
|10||Kansas City, MO||491,918||$1,131.16||13.4%|
To determine our average rent prices, we took data from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory from the first week in each month in 2019 and averaged those prices together to find an annual average for that year. We used a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type. This specific methodology was used because it provides a better overall average for the year as a whole and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets. Rent price increases and decreases are based on the percentage change of apartment rental prices from 2019 to 2018.
The top 100 cities are determined by 2018 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. We excluded cities with less than 50 average available studio units to eliminate potential outliers or highly volatile data caused by a small sample size.
The current rent information included in this article is for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein does not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
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