Where to Get the Most Space for the Least Rent

The latest report from RentCafe compares rates and locations.

Lew Sichelman

Lew Sichelman

The numbers are striking, but the visuals even more so.

In Wichita, Kan., $1,500 will rent a nice 1,597-square-foot apartment with three bedrooms and three baths, according to RentCafe. But in Manhattan, that same $1,500 will pay for only a tiny 262-foot efficiency.

Think about it. The NYC efficiency is only 17 percent the size on the Kansas apartment. But it costs exactly the same. Now visualize it, as the national apartment search engine did for a recent report. The New York apartment is only about the same size as one of the Wichita unit’s bedrooms.

Using data from Yardi Matrix for the 100 largest cities, RentCafe sought to help renters find where they could get the most bang—or the most space—for their buck, in this case $1,500. And as might be expected, metros in the South and Midwest are living large. On the other hand, renters’ dollars don’t go nearly as far on the East and West Coasts.

According to RentCafe’s report, renters in Kansas’ largest city do best. But those in Toledo do almost as well. With a budget of $1,500, renters in the Glass City can get a place with 1,482 square feet of living space.

In Tulsa, Okla., renters who can afford $1,500 per month can find the most apartment space in the state, 1,447 square feet. In Oklahoma City, $1,500 can net a unit with 1,431 feet, and in Ft. Wayne, Ind., the typical $1,500 apartment has 1,356 feet.

Paying More for Less

At the opposite end of the spectrum, that amount of money will get you less than 400 square feet in spots like Brooklyn, San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan.

The NYC boroughs may be large, but not when it comes to affordable apartments. As noted earlier, six Manhattan units renting for $1,500 could fit into one renting for the same amount in Wichita. In Brooklyn and Queens, renters on that budget could afford units with only 357 and 399 square feet, respectively.

Image and data courtesy of RentCafe

More space, of course, is why some people are moving further out. But, as the report points out, renters need not go very far to notice a considerable difference in the size of the apartment they can afford. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, $1,500 will get an 410-square-foot unit. But in Newark, just 9.5 miles away, it will get 800 square feet, or almost twice as much space.

More often than not, though, apartments are larger in the suburbs and, therefore, offer more space for the same amount of money. Take the Atlanta metro area, for example. In Atlanta itself, $1,500 is enough for a 821-square-foot apartment. But in 10 towns within the region, it’s enough to rent a place that’s at least 350 square feet larger (Lithonia) and possibly one almost 600 feet larger (Clarkston).

That phenomena is not universal, though. Aurora, Colo., matches its suburban neighbors in terms of square footage on a $1,500 budget. But, as the report notes, it’s the only urban market that does so.

Winston-Salem, N.C., isn’t exactly a suburb of Greenboro, which is 33 miles away. But the typical renter there pays $1,097 for a 915-square-foot apartment. In Greensboro, on the other hand, the average rent is $1,245.

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