Rental rates fluctuate constantly, sometimes down, most often up. Many factors can contribute to this change in lease pricing, from demand and availability to new businesses and construction projects.
Cities where the rents are going down tend to be in the heartland and the Midwest, and rising prices are often along the coasts. But there is a diversity of rental markets in the U.S., so how do you know where the best bang (and bust) for your rental dollar is?
We compared price changes for two-bedroom apartments in the 100 biggest cities in the nation in 2018 to reveal the top 10 cities in America where rent is getting cheaper and the top 10 where prices are on their way up.
These are the cities where rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased by the largest percentage in 2018. As a comparison, the average two-bedroom rent increased by 4 percent last year.
For some, Orlando is the happiest place on Earth year-round, with more people deciding to move full-time to the land of Disney. But in a tourist-heavy market in a tourist-heavy state, a number of available rental units are already in use for short-term or seasonal occupancy, keeping both demand for permanent space and lease prices high.
As Central Florida has become more than a Disney World and Universal Studios vacation destination, rents for an average two-bedroom have increased in the last year by 13.6 percent, to an average of $1,635.
Loving L.A. has never been cheap. As the second-largest city in America, rental prices in Los Angeles are astronomical. As populations of beachcombers and surfers, college students and Hollywood dream chasers pour into the city in numbers as high as ever, rental units remain in steady demand.
An average two-bedroom apartment is currently renting in L.A. for $4,132, higher by 14.8 percent than this time last year.
Upon its founding a mere 65 years ago – a time when many of its current residents were already alive – Scottsdale had a mere 2,000 residents. Flash forward to today, and that figure has risen to a population of nearly a quarter-million. With a downtown described by the New York Times as "a desert version of Miami's South Beach," Scottsdale isn't a sleepy retirement town like so many of its neighbors.
As people discover Scottsdale's vibrant nightlife and resort and spa city trappings, the population continues to rise. And with that increase in residents comes an increase in rental costs, with a two-bedroom unit running an average of $1,929, a 15.2 percent rise from a year ago.
For 12 seasons on the TV show M*A*S*H, Toledo was the butt of jokes as Corporal Max Klinger's hometown. But actor Jamie Farr's birthplace – and his beloved Mud Hens baseball team – always got the last laugh.
Today, Toledo has shed its rustbelt reputation and has emerged as an arts center, education hub and green energy producer. Its strategic location on the western corner of Lake Erie has always been desirable, even once precipitating a war.
Rents remain reasonable but rising, with the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment up 15.9 percent year-to-year to an average of $829.
Just a short 10 miles from Wall Street, it's no surprise that Newark enjoys a certain proximity glow. But the largest city in New Jersey is more than a mere bedroom community.
Home to the New York area's third hockey team and third airport, Newark enjoys a strategic location for commuters into the City but also offers its own outstanding arts, culture and entertainment for residents not tied to Manhattan.
But alas, convenience has its price, and as prices in New York go up, so do those in Newark, where the monthly cost of a two-bedroom unit comes in at $2,109, a climb of 16.4 percent from a year ago.
Who wouldn't want to live in a city that's 70 degrees and sunny every single day? San Diego has always been a destination for those seeking clear skies, comfortable temperatures and ocean breezes. But the city also has many other faces – Navy town, border town, tourist town, college town, tuna town and technology town.
All those factors combined make San Diego an extremely desirable location to reside, and keep rents growing. A two-bedroom apartment is up 16.6 percent from the prior year, averaging a breezy $2,997.
Just the third largest city in the Bay Area – behind San José and San Francisco – Oakland has been emerging from the shadows of its larger neighbors to claim its own identity. No longer the city of high crime rates and a bad-boy NFL franchise, Oakland is now the land of thriving industries and Steph Curry's world championships.
But with a new attitude and new economy comes a hike in residential living prices. With an average two-bedroom apartment renting for $4,331 – an increase of 18 percent from a year ago.
Holy potatoes! Yes, the home of russets and Yukon Golds is the fastest-growing metro area in America. But that shouldn't be a surprise for anyone that's traveled to the Treasure Valley.
Over the last decade, Boise has become both a hub for tech start-ups and a new population for Silicon Valley giants to mine new employees. Boise's technology future, lively music and arts scene and quiet, mountain setting have combined to make it an appealing destination for millennials and young professionals.
As the population and salaries increase, so do rental rates. A two-bedroom in Boise lists at an average of $1,340, a 20.2 percent jump over the last year.
If you're seeking one of the most unique places in the U.S. to live, look up. Anchorage is on top of the world, literally and figuratively. Just 370 miles from the Arctic Circle, Anchorage isn't the land of sled dogs and glaciers you may think.
The city is actually a thriving small metropolis like many in the Lower 48. Sure, its natural mountain beauty is seriously unmatched, but Anchorage also features trendy restaurants (with the freshest seafood) and fashionable retail, a diverse population (with more than 100 languages spoken), a strong economy and two universities.
And as people discover the wonders of 20 hours a day of summer sunshine, rental prices are steadily climbing just like any city to the south. An average two-bedroom unit runs $1,440 a month, a whopping 23.4 percent increase over the course of the last year.
On first blush, Plano might seem like another sleepy prairie suburb. But in reality, it's a thriving Dallas exurb, the fourth biggest city in the DFW Metroplex, named both best place to live by AreaVibes and safest city in America by Forbes.
Many large corporations are headquartered in Plano, including J.C. Penney, Rent-A-Center, Keurig, Dr Pepper, Pizza Hut, FedEx Office, Siemans and Frito-Lay, and the nightlife of Big D is just a DART ride away.
But the problem with Plano is that it's run out of room. The city is fully surrounded by others in the Metroplex and contains very little undeveloped land. As companies need more people, demand for housing is pushing rental rates up, with a two-bedroom rising a massive 25.3 percent since a year ago, to an average of $1,824.
These are the cities where rent for a two-bedroom apartment dropped by the largest percentage in 2018.
Just 100 minutes up I-10 from the Big Easy, Baton Rouge offers the best of New Orleans, including great Cajun cuisine, hot Delta blues and a vacation-worthy Mardi Gras. But the state capital is also a world away from its neighbor to the south, with a lower cost of living, lower crime rate and a 30,000-head research university.
And those differences are highlighted by smaller average rents, including $1,072 for a two-bedroom apartment, down 4.47 percent from a year ago.
Much like Baton Rouge, Madison is also a state capital with a large public university. Those two factors often quoted in rankings for most livable cities help make this Upper Midwest city so appealing.
Populations of state workers and college students often destabilize the rental market, and while leases for a two-bedroom in Madison remain on the high side – averaging $1,496 a month – the prices have seen a drop in the last year by 4.7 percent.
Just 12 miles from Dallas at its closest point, Fort Worth is undeniably overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the East. But with a population almost 60 percent of Big D's, Fort Worth is no secondary city.
With a robust job market, easier commutes and a more laid-back “real Texas" vibe, Fort Worth is becoming a popular choice for those moving to the DFW Metroplex as well as those moving within the area.
A two-bedroom apartment rents for a reasonable $1,376 in Fort Worth, a surprising fall of 5.6 percent from the year before.
Sometimes, a bad reputation can be a good fortune. Sure, Detroit has dealt with its share of economic hardships in the last couple of decades. But years of population decline are slowing as young professionals are discovering the rebirth of the Motor City, taking advantage of some of the lowest rental rates of any big city in America, averaging just $1,398 for a two-bedroom.
The public at large has generally ignored the new Detroit renaissance, and with a drop of 5.6 percent year-to-year for those units, Motown is an underrated but positive option for renters.
Smack in the middle of California's extensive Central Valley, halfway between the Bay Area and Yosemite, Stockton is also a city on the comeback.
Stockton had the highest foreclosure rate of any city in the U.S. during the 2007 housing crisis. But as the city begins to stabilize and re-emerge, savvy renters can find low rental rates (especially for California).
In this beautiful inland waterfront city, leases for a two-bedroom can be had for an average of $1,210, a reduction of 5.7 percent from a year ago as the city's economy steadies.
There are few locales in the U.S. where you can experience living close to a four-star beach and also reside in a large urban area for an affordable price. Virginia Beach is such a place.
Sharing the region with the Tidewater towns of Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake and Hampton, Virginia Beach is a true oceanfront city. Despite its status as Virginia's largest city, Virginia Beach offers a suburban, relaxed feel alongside its 35 miles of beaches and hundreds of resorts and hotels.
With all that to offer, you'd be surprised to learn a two-bedroom apartment can be had for an average of just $1,186, which marks a 6.3 percent decline over the past year.
For live music fans of any genre, Nashville is a mecca of top talent playing at the largest concert halls, the smallest sunken-alley clubs and every venue in-between. The fourth-fastest growing economy in the U.S., Nashville is more than Music Row with numerous healthcare industry headquarters, a major research university in Vanderbilt and, of course, the Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans and a brand new MLS team.
With everything going on in Music City U.S.A., rents are pricey as expected, with an average two-bedroom listed for $1,822. But that marks a significant dip of 8.1 percent in the last year.
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 metro area gained a million new residents from 2000 to 2016, many in 2005 as a refugee city for Hurricane Katrina victims.
But growth has leveled off significantly since, due to the oil recession and Houston's own disaster, Hurricane Harvey. The increase in available housing has caused a related decline in rental rates, with an 8.4 percent drop in price for a two-bedroom to $1,548.
Situated along the Mexican border on the Rio Grande, Laredo is the nation's largest inland port of entry, with millions of vehicles and pedestrians crossing the border each year. With such a transient population coming in and out of the city on a daily basis, rents and availabilities fluctuate.
With such a regular influx, rents are elevated in comparison to non-border Texas towns of its size, with a two-bedroom apartment running an average of $966 per month. But rents have dropped and those same units are down 11.6 percent from where they were a year prior.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city of New Orleans lost half its population, nearly a quarter of a million people. But New Orleans never lost what made it special, the raucous French Quarter revelries, the world-famous cuisine, the quirky neighborhoods and that laissez les bon temps rouler attitude.
Thankfully, New Orleans' population is back to more than 80 percent of what it was in 2000, and an economic boom has followed. Leasing rates remain high in this fascinating city, with a two-bedroom rental averaging $2,145 a month. But as that rapid population growth has begun to slow, and with it the demand for residential space, that's a precipitous 17.93 percent drop from the previous year.
Curious how the other cities in the top 100 fare for two-bedroom rents in 2018? Here's the full list of the hundred largest cities in the U.S. sorted by biggest year-to-year increases in average two-bedroom apartment rent.
|City, State||2-BR Rent Change|
|San Diego, CA||16.6%|
|Los Angeles, CA||14.8%|
|Des Moines, IA||13.1%|
|Chula Vista, CA||7.1%|
|Las Vegas, NV||6.8%|
|North Las Vegas, NV||6.1%|
|Kansas City, MO||4.9%|
|Saint Paul, MN||4.8%|
|San Francisco, CA||4.5%|
|San Antonio, TX||4.0%|
|Saint Louis, MO||3.6%|
|Colorado Springs, CO||3.0%|
|Fort Wayne, IN||2.9%|
|San Jose, CA||2.7%|
|New York, NY||2.0%|
|El Paso, TX||0.9%|
|Jersey City, NJ||-0.1%|
|Santa Ana, CA||-0.2%|
|Saint Petersburg, FL||-0.4%|
|Long Beach, CA||-0.5%|
|Oklahoma City, OK||-2.1%|
|Corpus Christi, TX||-2.3%|
|Baton Rouge, LA||-4.5%|
|Fort Worth, TX||-5.6%|
|Virginia Beach, VA||-6.3%|
|New Orleans, LA||-17.9%|
Figures on annual average changes for two-bedroom apartments in the nation's 100 most populous cities were compiled using available multifamily rental property inventory from December 2017 to December 2018 on Apartment Guide and Rent.com. Current rental prices are based on available multifamily rental property inventory from January 2019.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein does not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.