”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.
Buzz: Many renters seem willing to live in high-cost cities known for economic opportunities and high quality of life.
Source: My trusty spreadsheet retooled RentCafe’s “best place for renters” report which sampled 115 cities with 10,000 or more apartments. I compared population-weighted averages, sliced into towns I dubbed “renter hubs” — the list’s 25 cities with the biggest share of tenants, averaging 65% of all households — and “renter rarity regions” — the 25 cities where you are least likely to meet a tenant, averaging 41% tenant households.
Renters tend to flock to big cities. These 25 hubs average 646,319 residents vs. 351,063 where renters are a rarity, or 84% more people.
However. These large towns come at a price.
The average renter hub ranking from RentCafe’s overall cost-of-living benchmark was a lousy 79 of 115. And one living expense index cited in the study showed renter hubs costs running 60% above where renters are rarities.
Renters seem to be willing to trade high costs for better business opportunities.
RentCafe’s own economic indexes show renter hubs topping 68% of all markets in local business strength vs. 52% for renter rarity regions.
Renter hubs pay 30% more, too, averaging $57,999 vs. $44,653 where renters are rarities. Recent job growth in renter hubs averaged 5.9% vs. 4.7% in renter rarities, however, unemployment was higher in renter hubs averaging 6.6% vs. 5.4% in where renters are rare.
And the local workforce is better educated in renter hubs — 40% with college degrees vs. 32% — and there was more entrepreneurism as measured by 28% more new business applications filed.
Additionally, there’s a higher livability factor in renter hubs. RentCafe’s quality-of-life index shows the average rating of renter hubs topping 66% of all markets vs. only 52% where renters are rare.
Tenants in renter hubs do make sacrifices to afford the cost of big-city lifestyles.
Apartments average 797 square feet in living space in these markets vs. 882 square feet where renters are rarities — that’s 10% less room.
And mass transit is a key factor. Renter hubs claim 49% of residents as car users vs. 80% for spots where renters are rarities.
But big-city expenses certainly help explain the pandemic era’s popularity of cheaper suburban markets and more affordable states.
RentCafe’s overall rankings, which put half its weight on cost of living factors, graded California markets this way: San Diego, No. 50 out of 115; San Francisco, No. 58; Oakland, No. 72; Los Angeles, No. 83; Sacramento, No. 86; Anaheim, No. 94; Bakersfield, No. 99; and Stockton, No. 107.
Top spots for renters, by RentCafe’s math? Round Rock, Texas, Raleigh, NC and Conroe, Texas.
Worst? Newark, NJ, Detroit, and Hartford, Conn.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com