Best and Worst Times to Rent by City

Finding a new apartment or evening renewing your lease are among some of the more stressful events many of us must partake in every year. Part of it is the wild fluctuations in rent pricing that can take place every day. Especially with long-term leases, even a mild rent price increase can mean a significant sum over the duration of the lease. Utilizing month-to-month 1 bedroom rent data from Zillow, here’s a look at a few rent-related metrics:
 • Priciest and cheapest months to rent in the top cities in the US
 • Year-over-year rent price trends
 • Amount of pricing fluctuation seen in each market

Below I’ll present some of the most interesting nation-wide insights, but if you are interested in looking at specific states or cities, I highly recommend you visit my free interactive dashboard to allow to dig deeper in your locations of interest.

Most Expensive Cities to Rent: 1 Bedroom Rent Pricing — Ordered by Median Monthly Rent ($)

Looking at the top 50 markets, there are the usual players at the top. The big cities and Silicon Valley sit atop the carts, with the top 5 markets averaging over $2,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment! San Francisco leads with a median rent of $3,480 per month, which seems absurd. However, the median rent in these top 5 markets didn’t grow by more than 1.7% (New York) and actually dropped in San Francisco, San Jose, and Boston (I know what you’re thinking, “what a steal!”). So, if these top markets aren’t continuing to skyrocket, which markets are?

Rising Rent Costs: 1 Bedroom Rent Pricing — Ordered by Year-over-Year Change in Median Rent Price

When looking at which of the top 50 markets experienced the largest year-over-year growth, North Carolina and California dominated the top 5. North Carolina cities Raleigh and Charlotte grew at a rate of 29% and 14.5%, respectively. In California, Sacramento, Anaheim, and Long Beach saw year-over-year increases of 14.5%, 14.3%, and 14.0%, respectively.

Pricing Variability: 1 Bedroom Rent Pricing — Ordered by Monthly Pricing Variability

Another thing I analyzed for this is the monthly variability of pricing. For this, I looked at the difference between the most expensive month’s median rent and least expensive month’s median rent per city and divided the difference by the median rent for 2016. Memphis, Tennessee blows away the competition with a 30.2% variability and is followed by Detroit (22.7%). Both cities have relatively low monthly rent (both have median monthly rents of under $700), but #3 on the list, Anaheim, sees a variability of 18.9% (with a $308 difference between the least expensive month (a still-high $1,575) and priciest month ($1,883)). Another mention is warranted for San Francisco, coming in just outside of the top 10. There is a $535-month difference between renting an apartment in December ($3,100) and February ($3,635). Still, even a $3,100 monthly rent for the cheapest month is “Hella expensive,” to quote Northern Californians.

When looking at all 272 cities included at the top of the list, it turns out the cheapest rent can be found, on average, in January and December, during with 34.2% of all cities featured had the cheapest month. The most expensive time to rent tends to be in the heart of the Summer (September is the most expensive month for 13.1% of cities and is closely followed by June and July.

Now here’s a look at just the top 100 markets, which are labeled by the least expensive month to rent a one-bedroom. The tiles have been colored by state:

Now, these are just some sample insights, but I’ve built an interactive dashboard for you to visit and interact with on Tableau Public so you can dig deeper into the states and cities you care most about. Click here to check it out!

To read more data stories on topics such as free meal programs in public schools, NBA attendance rates, and tourism, go here!

Best and Worst Months to Rent (Top 30 US Markets):

New York, New York
 Cheapest month to rent in New York: December (5% less than median New York rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in New York: October (7% more than median New York rent)
 Los Angeles, California
 Cheapest month to rent in Los Angeles: December (7% less than median Los Angeles rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Los Angeles: April (1% more than median Los Angeles rent)
 Chicago, Illinois
 Cheapest month to rent in Chicago: July (3% less than median Chicago rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Chicago: February (11% more than median Chicago rent)
 Houston, Texas
 Cheapest month to rent in Houston: November (9% less than median Houston rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Houston: January (8% more than median Houston rent)
 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
 Cheapest month to rent in Philadelphia: January (3% less than median Philadelphia rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Philadelphia: May (4% more than median Philadelphia rent)
 Phoenix, Arizona
 Cheapest month to rent in Phoenix: December (5% less than median Phoenix rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Phoenix: June (7% more than median Phoenix rent)
 Las Vegas, Nevada
 Cheapest month to rent in Las Vegas: July (2% less than median Las Vegas rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in Las Vegas: June (3% more than median Las Vegas rent)
 San Antonio, Texas
 Cheapest month to rent in San Antonio: December (4% less than median San Antonio rent)
 Most expensive month to rent in San Antonio: March (3% more than median San Antonio rent)

To see the rest of the top cities’ cheapest and priciest months to rent, go to my website!

Thank you for reading my latest data post. As a product marketing and data analytics professional, I have a passion for data-backed storytelling. These data journalism posts are my way of integrating real data with my personal diverse interests, which include anything from travel and entertainment to economic and societal issues. 
If you have any comments, story ideas, or prospective data projects, please feel free to email me at dwpwriting <at> gmail <dot> com or contact me on
LinkedIn.

Originally published at dwpeterson.com on December 3, 2017.