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The Most Competitive Rental Markets

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Feb 08, 2024


We calculated the most competitive rental markets in the U.S. right now, using our rental data as well as the Q4 vacancy rates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on January 31, 2024. The Syracuse, NY metro area came out on top.

Does renting an apartment in your city seem harder than ever before? If you’ve been to a crowded open house for an apartment rental, had an application denied because someone else submitted one faster, offered more money than the asking rent to snag the perfect apartment, or went on an apartment hunt that lasted months, you may be living in an increasingly competitive rental market. 

When demand for apartments is higher than the supply — if, say, an influx of new residents moved to your city while new residential multifamily construction stagnated — prices go up, average time on market for apartment listings goes down, and renting becomes a lot more challenging.

In 2021, lower vacancy rates and steep rent hikes were a national trend, with rent inflation peaking toward the middle of the year. Thankfully, rent prices across the country finally stabilized during the last year — but in some markets, the competition is still just as steep.

For this report, we found the most competitive rental markets in America. We analyzed 75 of the largest metro areas in the United States, creating a competitiveness score for each metro area based on its vacancy rate, average time on market of apartment listings, and median cost per square foot, based on our own rental data as well as data from the U.S. Census. We also considered year-over-year trends, looking at how the competitiveness score and median cost per square foot has changed when compared with 2022. As explained in our methodology, total scores are a weighted average of these metrics, with the highest scores being most competitive. 

Below, we've highlighted the top 10 metro areas on our list. You can find the full-ranked list of all 75 metro areas we looked at here.

RankMetro AreaOverall ScoreCompetitive ScoreCompetitive Trend ScorePrice Trend Score
1Syracuse, NY77.2763.9596.3499.99
2Greensboro-High Point, NC71.7658.7399.9965.21
3New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA70.3774.9951.2799.99
4Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC68.663.0477.7774.46
5Toledo, OH67.253.899.9949.26
6San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA66.6572.9370.8416.4
7San Diego-Carlsbad, CA65.7170.3944.9299.99
8Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH6577.5555.4518.35
9Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT64.5275.3941.5968.07
10Dayton, OH61.3251.6974.9978.06

Renting in New York Continues to Be a Statewide Challenge

While it’s no shocker that renting in and around New York City — not only the most expensive but also one of the hottest rental markets in the country — is tough, you may be surprised to find that landing an apartment in Syracuse, NY is actually even harder for renters right now. Competitiveness in the rental market is a statewide issue in New York: The Syracuse metro area came in as the No. 1 most competitive rental market in Q4 2023, the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area came in at No. 3, and Rochester, NY landed the No. 11 spot on our list.

The Affordable Housing Crisis in Syracuse is Reaching a Tipping Point 

The cost of living in Syracuse is on the rise. The Syracuse metro area has maxed out our Price Trend Score for the last three quarters and shows no signs of slowing down. Over the last two years, the median cost per square foot when renting an apartment has been steadily increasing, climbing from $1.22 per sq ft. in Q1 2022 to $1.50, where it’s sitting now. This 23% hike can likely be attributed to a few factors. 

For one, there is not enough affordable housing being built in the Syracuse metro area to keep up with demand — and not enough incentive to change that fact. A 2023 city housing study found that building costs in Syracuse proper typically exceed real estate values, deferred maintenance on housing stock has led to thousands of units becoming unusable, and less than one in five residents in the city could afford a newly built apartment. At the same time, young people have been flocking to the area in recent years search of cheaper rent and home prices and employment opportunities causing population growth in Syracuse for the first time in decades.

All this coupled with the low vacancy rate reported by the US Census in Q4 2023 (1.8%) has led to the Syracuse metro area’s rise to the top of our most competitive rental market lists. 

Renting in the NYC Area is Harder Than Ever. What Else is New?

A more familiar tale is that which describes the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area. The East Coast hub is notorious for its difficult rental market, characterized by meteoric prices (the highest in the country), low vacancy rates, high demand, and listings that fly off the market.

For the last two years, the vacancy rate of the metro area has rested at 4.1% or below every quarter — a figure that is half of what’s considered a “healthy” vacancy rate for a city. With more people moving into New York City than out of it according to Census data, the number of vacant apartments at any given time may get even smaller in the future.

And while those looking to move out of five boroughs may find discounts in easily accessible Jersey City, where the median rent for a one-bedroom ($3,073) is over $1,000 cheaper than in NYC ($4,391), prospective renters will still be paying handsomely to live in the second most expensive city in the country. As always, those who want to live, work, or play in the Big Apple continue to flood the surrounding areas, driving up prices and competition across commuter cities in areas like North Jersey and Connecticut as well.

There are Ever-Rising Costs and Ever-Dwindling Housing Supply on the Coasts

There were a few big swings since we put out this report last year, but one trend held steady: Coastal cities are competitive and expensive places to rent. In both this year and last year’s report, the following coastal metro areas snagged spots in the top 10 on our most competitive rental markets list: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, San Diego-Carlsbad, CA, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH, and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT.

In the San Diego metro area (ranked No. 6 most competitive), renters this year are being asked to pay $0.12 more per square foot to rent an apartment when compared to last year — and $0.33 more when compared to Q1 2022, a 12% increase. The rent growth is less steep in the San Jose area (which has seen a median cost per square foot increase of only 5% since Q1 2022), but the competition is high. In Q4 2023, the Census reported that the San Jose metro area (ranked No. 7) had just a 2.3% vacancy rate.

It's a similar story in the Northeast. In Greater Boston (ranked No. 8 most competitive), for example, the price of a one-bedroom apartment has increased nearly every quarter over the past two years — meaning that renters are now seeing asking rents that are 13% higher when compared with Q1 2022. Plus, vacancy has remained incredibly low over this time, hovering at around 3% or lower. The Boston had the sixth lowest vacancy rate of all the metro areas that we looked at in Q4 2023 at 2.6% — and the Bridgeport, CT area (ranked No. 9), popular among NYC commuters, had the lowest at just 0.6%.

Affordability is Not Synonymous with Ease of Renting in the South

Population is growing in the Greensboro, NC area, and while the city has plans to up affordable housing development to create new apartments in response, renters are starting to feel the effects of the aging housing stock. The Census reported that, of the available housing in the Greensboro metro area, only 3.3% of units sat empty — contributing to its ranking as the No. 2 most competitive market in the US right now. Meanwhile, in the Virginia Beach metro area, renters may not even be competing with other residents for housing. The prevalence of short-term rentals in the area is high due to its popularity as a vacation destination, which can lead to a lack of available apartments for permanent residents, an issue that local governments in Virginia have been cracking down on recently. The rising cost of living in the Virginia Beach metro area — where the median price per square foot increased by 4% from $1.38 to $1.43 YOY — coupled with its low vacancy rate (3.6%) and relatively low average number of days on market of listings (19 days) led to its ranking as the No. 4 most competitive rental market in Q4 2023.

Midwest Markets Have Seen Less Rent Relief in 2023

Historically affordable rental markets like the Midwest have seen much less relief than the pricier coasts in 2023, where rent shot up during the pandemic in 2022 and then stabilized throughout this past year. So, it’s not surprising that two metro areas in Ohio made the top 10 most competitive rental markets list: Toledo and Dayton, ranked at Nos. 5 and 10, respectively. Both markets are heating up according to our scoring system, with Toledo maxing out our Competitive Trend Score due to the decrease in its vacancy rate YoY and Dayton not far behind.

The Full List

Below is the full-ranked list of all 75 cities we analyzed.

The Most Competitive U.S. Rental Markets in Q4 2023

RankMetro AreaOverall ScoreCompetitive ScoreCompetitive Trend ScorePrice Trend Score
1Syracuse, NY77.2763.9596.3499.99
2Greensboro-High Point, NC71.7658.7399.9965.21
3New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA70.3774.9951.2799.99
4Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC68.663.0477.7774.46
5Toledo, OH67.253.899.9949.26
6San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA66.6572.9370.8416.4
7San Diego-Carlsbad, CA65.7170.3944.9299.99
8Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH6577.5555.4518.35
9Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT64.5275.3941.5968.07
10Dayton, OH61.3251.6974.9978.06
11Rochester, NY59.8762.0551.3972.23
12Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI58.2963.1247.0862.88
13Tulsa, OK58.1251.2568.3368.69
14Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA57.9564.7246.4851.78
15Urban Honolulu, HI56.6852.6650.2899.99
16Knoxville, TN56.3647.5962.0991.8
17Providence-Warwick, RI-MA56.2664.4146.3936.93
18Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA56.1462.0243.0460.18
19New Haven-Milford, CT55.6754.5750.9576.42
20Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV54.7756.2146.6670.4
21Worcester, MA53.6563.2535.0951.75
22San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA53.255.5751.743.43
23Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY52.5535.4785.8755.09
24Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI52.0856.1348.7337.83
25Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO51.8455.4442.7157.6
26Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA50.7858.1737.5846.04
27Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN50.4450.0953.9641.92
28Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN50.1643.7153.4778.95
29Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI49.8741.8955.6780.33
30Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI49.8444.4859.453.32
31Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT49.2846.9339.9691.32
32Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD47.5146.7846.6954.36
33Columbus, OH46.5347.8135.9670.52
34Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA45.950.9539.0136.33
35St Louis, MO-IL45.1841.9654.6536.14
36Dallas-Ft Worth-Arlington, TX44.6746.7347.7722.99
37Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD42.4240.5548.6634.92
38Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN42.144.0435.251.18
39Kansas City, MO-KS41.2535.7548.0253.94
40Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN41.2233.6751.6655.17
41Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ40.5743.6347.960.01
42Tucson, AZ40.5435.2342.6366.12
43Fresno, CA40.4843.4124.9469.57
44Richmond, VA38.4245.6836.171.57
45Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL37.938.2134.4146.46
46Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC37.8326.1143.2891.8
47Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC36.8742.0220.3655.47
48Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA36.8541.9417.2465.09
49Albuquerque, NM36.1736.2427.462.01
50Akron, OH36.023028.0396.11
51Baton Rouge, LA34.9132.8733.4551.53
52Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV34.0635.6930.1436.05
53Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR32.9712.8263.2363.03
54Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX32.9123.2343.9357.92
55North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL32.8544.9913.8816.95
56Raleigh, NC30.8834.1531.549.33
57Salt Lake City, UT30.1639.8319.115.28
58Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA30.0236.6923.110.79
59Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater, FL29.6227.6624.8155.77
60Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI29.2135.6515.1332.81
61Austin-Round Rock, TX25.9333.9618.50.01
62Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ25.2626.4614.3850.69
63Oklahoma City, OK25.089.1142.9867.23
64Pittsburgh, PA23.623.3915.4149.39
65Birmingham-Hoover, AL23.425.6649.5251.66
66Cleveland-Elyria, OH20.7825.280.0156.13
67Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA19.2727.098.375.07
68Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL18.6626.489.260.01
69New Orleans-Metairie, LA16.867.9818.0466.55
70Memphis, TN-AR-MS13.179.875.1257.05
71Jacksonville, FL12.7911.664.8843.24
72Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY12.025.370.0188.01
73San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX11.5110.9510.4917.96
74Columbia, SC10.275.710.0268.33
75Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL5.884.7210.170.01

Methodology

Sample

For this report, we analyzed 75 of the most populated metro areas (MSAs) in the U.S. (per the U.S. Census Bureau) for which all required data was available.

Metrics and Data Sources

The metrics used to create the “Competitive Score” were quarterly vacancy rates, the estimated average time on market of apartments in the MSAs, and the median cost per square foot of an apartment in the MSA. To compute the score, these metrics were normalized and combined using a weighted average.

To create the “Competitive Trend Score,” we took the normalized difference between the Q4 2023 Competitive Score and the Q4 2022 Competitive Score. To create the “Price Trend Score,” we took the normalized difference between the Q4 2023 median cost per square foot of an apartment in the MSA and the Q4 2022 median cost per square foot.

The vacancy rate data came from the U.S. Census Bureau. Time on market and cost per square foot data came from ApartmentAdvisor. We used a min/max data normalization approach.

Ranking

The Overall Score was calculated with a weighted average of the Q1 2023 Competitive Score (60% weight), the normalized year-over-year competitive score change from Q4 2022 to Q4 2023 (30% weight), and the normalized year-over-year median cost per square foot change from Q4 2022 to Q4 2023 (10% weight). The highest final score is considered the “most competitive.” The Final Rank is calculated by ranking the metro areas where the highest final score is the most competitive.

Notes About the Data

For more information about this study, please contact pr@apartmentadvisor.com

We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.

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