Whether it’s for more job opportunities, better cultural offerings or a more diverse community, more Americans are moving into big cities. The 2010 U.S. census revealed that population in urban areas grew by 12.1 percent in the last decade, faster than the country’s growth rate of 9.7 percent. Last year, more people moved into New York City than out of it for the first time in more than 60 years, Huffingtonpost.com reports.
While many Americans dream of bright lights and big cities, this influx is making it even more difficult to find housing in the major metropolitan areas. New York renters know how difficult it is too find affordable housing, but how do apartment hunters in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., fare?
New York City
Big Apple residents won’t be surprised to learn that apartments for rent in New York remains the most expensive market to shop for an apartment. Average monthly rents for the city’s four largest boroughs was $3,017 in the second quarter of this year, 50 percent higher than second-place San Francisco, according to a report by the real estate research firm Reis Inc.
Even if you can foot the bill for a Manhattan apartment, finding a place isn’t easy. The second-quarter apartment vacancy rate was just 2 percent, well below the 4.3 percent national average. Owners have it slightly easier than renters, Forbes reported—NYC homeowners paid $217 less per month on average in 2012, and with many banks still offering no-cost refinance options, owners can work down their monthly payments even lower.
After New York, Chicago is arguably the most prominent city in the nation. Predictably, the Windy City experienced one of the highest rent spikes in 2012. Cnn.com reports that median monthly rent in 2012 was $1,586, well below New York City’s average cost. Prospective Chicago residents also had an easier time finding apartments for rent in 2012. The vacancy rate that year was 4.1 percent, much closer to the national average. All in all, Chicago’s housing market is much friendlier to renters at the moment.
Los Angeles is usually the first city that pops into Americans’ minds when they think of the West coast, but San Francisco is much more dense and in demand. With an average monthly rent of just under $2,000 (as reported by Reuters.com), San Francisco is the second most expensive city to rent an apartment. Capitolweekly.net reported in May that the San Francisco Bay Area was the fastest growing region in California. It might not be quite as expensive as NYC, but with a low vacancy rate and more people entering the city, apartment hunters are having just as difficult a time finding San Francisco space.
Our nation’s capital is a popular destination for young professionals looking to break into this unique market. Washington, D.C., was third on Forbes.com’s list of the Happiest Cities for Young Professionals, and when these fresh-faced workers move, they look for low-cost apartments. The D.C. area’s median rent is the second highest in the country at $1,391, just behind the San Jose metro area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s well under the average rent in NYC’s top four boroughs, but D.C. is more expensive than the entire NY metro area as a whole. A robust economy makes it easier for D.C. residents to pay their bills, but renters better have a well-paying job lined up.