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Goodbye City Life: Rising Rents Match Homebuying Hotspots

February 19 2021

Realtor.com January Rental Report finds declines in expensive high-tech hubs persist, while smaller markets that offer quality of life become less affordable

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 18, 2021 -- Renters, much like homeowners, are favoring smaller more affordable markets that offer highly rated schools, strong local economies and more space over expensive tech hubs, a trend that is pushing rents up in many of the same markets where home prices are rising the most, according to the realtor.com® Monthly Rental Report released today.

"Although rents across the U.S. have been growing at a slower pace since the onset of COVID-19 and the major tech hubs continue to see declines, some markets are seeing rents grow by double digits," said realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Many of the same factors that attract homebuyers to an area -- highly rated schools, job opportunities, affordability and quality of life -- attract renters. Like homeowners, the pandemic has given many renters the freedom to work remotely, and the rental trends reflect that reality."

In January, the U.S. median rent, which is calculated by averaging the median rent of the 50 largest metros, was up 0.8% to $1,442, below its pre-COVID growth rate of 3.2%. Despite the continued slower growth, January marked the first month since July 2020 where rental growth didn't slow further, indicating that rent growth may have reached a floor.

Seven of the top 10 metros with the largest rent increases in January -- New Orleans*; Sacramento, Calif.; Rochester, N.Y.; Cleveland; Riverside, Calif.; Cincinnati and St. Louis -- were also among the metros where home prices grew more than 5% year-over-year.

Renters typically have more flexibility to move, and with remote work allowing many people to live anywhere, markets that offer affordability are in hot demand.

In California, Riverside and Sacramento have become desirable alternatives to the pricey Bay Area and Los Angeles housing markets. Despite a sizable 9.6% increase in the last year, the median rent in the Riverside metro was $1,858 in January, 25.4% lower than the median rent in neighboring Los Angeles. Likewise, the median rent in Sacramento was $1,649 in January, still 36.8% lower than the median rent in San Francisco despite its 11.0% rise in the last year.

Four of the top 10 markets with the largest year-over-year rent increases in January are located in the Midwest, a region that in recent years has attracted affordability-minded homeseekers looking for an alternative to the pricer coastal markets.

Markets With the Largest Rent Increases in January 2021

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Markets With the Largest Rent Decreases in January 2021

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Rental Data - 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas January 2021

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*Editor's Note: New Orleans' exceptional year-over-year growth in median rent was driven by shifts in the underlying inventory of rental units. The number of studio units has declined by 17% year-over-year, while one-bedroom and two-bedroom unit inventory has increased by 50% and 31%, respectively. The larger space commands larger rents, therefore driving up the median rent in the area.

Methodology

Rental units include apartment communities as well as private rentals (condos, townhomes, single-family homes). All units were studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom units. National rents were calculated by averaging the medians of the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

About realtor.com®

Realtor.com® makes buying, selling, renting and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone. Realtor.com® pioneered the world of digital real estate more than 20 years ago, and today through its website and mobile apps is a trusted source for the information, tools and professional expertise that help people move confidently through every step of their home journey. Using proprietary data science and machine learning technology, realtor.com® pairs buyers and sellers with local agents in their market, helping take the guesswork out of buying and selling a home. For professionals, realtor.com® is a trusted provider of consumer connections and branding solutions that help them succeed in today's on-demand world. Realtor.com® is operated by News Corp [Nasdaq: NWS, NWSA] [ASX: NWS, NWSLV] subsidiary Move, Inc. under a perpetual license from the National Association of REALTORS®. For more information, visit realtor.com®.