A new study aims to compare the prices of renting an apartment or room in the largest U.S. cities. Property values of all types fluctuate constantly, but since turnover is much higher in rental properties and landlords frequently adjust rates from year to year to remain competitive and profitable, rental prices are a great gauge of the cost of living in a city. As industries and cultural centers wither or bloom and neighborhoods and entire cities decay or are revitalized, rental prices vary to keep pace with these trends. The question is, then: where is it most and least expensive to live in 2016? And how much would your current rent get you in another city?
The good people of RENTCafé.com initially set out to compare the value you would get for your buck in the 30 most populous US cities. Setting the baseline at $1,500 a month or $18,000 for the year, the company used data from sister company Yardi Matrix on the average price per square foot of property in each city. Now they’ve expanded the scope of the study to the nation’s 100 most populous cities, putting New Orleans—the nation’s 49th biggest—into the mix. We land squarely in the middle of the list: The Big Easy is the 47th most expensive city in the U.S. to rent an apartment.
$1,500 will get you around 1,282 square feet in New Orleans. This puts rent in Louisiana’s historic tourist destination at only a few dollars below other Southern cities, like Tampa, Florida (1,261 feet), and Houston, Texas (1,271), and at the exact same price point as Northern business centers including Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio. Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia, residents get a bit more space than we do; your $1,500 will get you 1,200 feet in Nashville and 1,172 feet in Atlanta. Infamously hip towns like Madison, Wisconsin, and Austin, Texas, have higher rent to match.
Once we enter the top 25 most expensive cities, however, the disparity in rental prices really starts to become obvious. Chicago, which often produces crime statistics similar to those in New Orleans, is somehow twice as expensive to rent property. Further up the list, it gets even crazier: five out of the 10 most expensive cities are in California, including the usual suspects like San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as more low-profile enclaves like Oakland, San Jose, and Fremont, which sit at #5, #6, and #7 respectively.
It should come as no surprise that New York wins out overall. The east coast’s international business hub costs $5.54 per square foot. As rentCafe pointed out, the 271 square feet that $1,500 will get you in Manhattan is basically unlivable. Instead, New Yorkers end up forking over an average of $4,031 a month for spaces that are often a measly 700 square feet. Compare this to Memphis, Tennessee, whose low-priced rentals come in at the very bottom end of the list. For the price of a cramped studio in Manhattan, you could rent a sprawling 5,235 square foot estate in Memphis.
To check out the rental comparisons, which include a calculator for estimating your rent in other cities, click HERE.