Here Are the Hottest Rental Markets in Early 2024

A Florida metro takes the first spot, but several new arrivals shake up the rankings.

Even some of the most competitive, sought-after rental markets in the U.S. have slowed down since last year, as people readjusted to the current economic context. RentCafe research, leveraging Yardi Matrix data, analyzed the 139 largest rental markets in the nation to see which stood out in early 2024.

To determine this, RentCafe uses a Rental Competitivity Index, based on five metrics:

  • the number of average renters competing for each vacant apartment
  • the average number of days that an apartment stood vacant
  • the share of apartments that were recently built
  • the share of renters that renewed their leases
  • overall occupancy

There was less mobility than last year, as apartments stood vacant for longer and there were fewer people competing for each unit. On average, seven people competed for an apartment in early 2024, down from eight last year. Rental units remained vacant for an average of 41 days, three days more than they did in early 2023.

You can check out below RentCafe’s top, as well as a separate ranking for smaller markets.

Miami-Dade County remains on top

The most competitive rental market in the first months of this year was Miami-Dade County, with an RCI of 91.9. According to the latest Yardi Matrix metro report, Miami’s strong performance from previous years was tempered by a heavy construction pipeline.

A total of 14 renters competed for an apartment in Miami-Dade, down from the 20 recorded last year. The lease renewal rates hit 73.4 percent, while just under 1.0 percent of apartments were recently built. An apartment in Miami stood vacant for an average of 36 days, five less than the U.S.

Midwest markets dominate the ranking

The Midwest remained a rising choice for renters, with seven markets in the region making the top 20. Milwaukee, Wis., ranked as the second-most competitive market at the beginning of the year, with an RCI of 87.0.

Apartments remained vacant for an average of 37 days in Milwaukee, with nine prospective renters competing for a spot. The lease renewal rate stood at 72.3 percent, while 0.5 percent of apartments were newly built. Meanwhile, occupancy in the market was at 95.1 percent.

Six other Midwestern markets made the top 20: Suburban Chicago (RCI 85.3, ranking fourth), Grand Rapids, Mich. (RCI 84.5, ranking fifth), Cincinnati, Ohio (RCI 82.4, ranking eighth), Lansing-Ann Arbor, Mich. (RCI 82.3, ranking ninth), Omaha, Neb. (RCI 79.9, ranking 13th), Kansas City (RCI 78.5, ranking 16th).

The Northeast and Midwest show their strength

Northern New Jersey fell into the third spot nationwide for competitivity, with an RCI of 85.4. Markets like Jersey City, Hoboken or Union City, N.J., all provide a cheaper alternative to Manhattan. Northern New Jersey also had one of the highest occupancy rates, at 95.8 percent. There were nine prospective renters competing for each apartment, while the market’s lease renewal rate stood at 73.1 percent.

According to a different report, Northeast and Midwest markets saw above-average rent growth in February—New York City led the nation with 5.4 percent year-over-year. It was followed by New Jersey (3.8 percent) and several Midwest markets, including Columbus, Ohio (3.6 percent), Kansas City (3.3 percent), Chicago (3.1 percent) and Indianapolis (3.0 percent).

Small competitive markets tell a different story

RentCafe also looked at competitivity in smaller markets, where the main drivers of competition were proximity to colleges and alternatives to expensive large metros. Fayetteville, Ark., boasted the highest RCI of these markets, at 88.1. An average of six prospective renters competed for an apartment in Fayetteville, with rentals staying vacant for only 22 days on average.

Since inventory is smaller in these markets, the range of lease renewals was higher than for the large markets. It ranged from a whopping 80.8 percent in Lehigh Valley, Penn. (RCI of 85.8, ranking third), to 61.0 percent in Madison, Wis. (RCI of 84.8, ranking sixth).

Development was more sluggish in these small cities, but two of them bucked the trend. Asheville, N.C. (RCI of 77.4), had the largest share of new units—2.6 percent—followed by Portland, Maine (RCI of 79.0), where 1.5 percent of apartments were recently built.

Midwestern markets stood out here as well, with seven entries, as the boost in manufacturing jobs drove some of this. Examples include Wichita, Kan. (RCI 79.0), Dayton, Ohio (RCI 78.0) and Lafayette, Ind. (RCI 87.5).

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