Apartment List has released results from our third annual Apartment List Renter Survey.
The Apartment List Renter Survey is the largest survey focused exclusively on renters, providing unique insight into what states and cities must do to meet the needs of America’s 111 million renters.
Apartment List researchers analyzed 45,000 survey responses to determine the best (and worst) U.S. cities for renters. Renters gave their city an overall score, in addition to rating their city on 11 factors, including affordability, job opportunities and safety.
Often, even top-scoring cities have areas for improvement, and cities that received low marks overall usually excelled in at least one aspect. An exclusive Apartment List map (above) shows the cities and states that earned the highest marks in each category in the study.
Key findings from the study include:
- Overall, the top-rated cities for renters are Scottsdale, AZ, Plano, TX, Huntington Beach, CA and Cambridge, MA.
- Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Raleigh, NC, Minneapolis, MN, Boston, MA and Virginia Beach, VA earn the top scores for renter satisfaction. Detroit, MI, Tulsa, OK, Oakland, CA and Tucson, AZ receive the lowest ratings from renters.
- In general, small and mid-sized cities receive better ratings: 38 percent of them received an A- or higher, compared to only 24 percent of large cities.
- At the state level, Idaho, Minnesota, South Dakota, Alaska and Colorado are rated most highly by their renters. Renters are the least satisfied in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia.
- In 26 cities, Apartment List analyzed the satisfaction of renters with children. These renters give Hollywood, FL, Tampa, FL and Austin TX top marks.
- In 68 cities, Apartment List analyzed the satisfaction of millennial renters. These renters love Boulder, CO, Madison, WI and Arlington, VA.
In addition to scoring their cities overall, renters rate their cities on 11 diverse factors, including job opportunities, public transit and weather. Key findings include:
- Renters are the most dissatisfied with job opportunities in cities in Southern California and the Southwest that were hard hit by the recession, including San Bernardino, CA, Santa Ana, CA, Glendale, AZ, Mesa, AZ and Albuquerque, NM.
- Renters feel the least safe in Stockton, CA, San Bernardino, CA, New Orleans, LA, Memphis, TN and Newark, NJ. The highest rated cities for safety are Plano, TX, Cambridge, MA, Boulder, CO and Irvine, CA.
- Expensive coastal cities and exurbs on the outskirts of strong job markets earn the lowest scores for commute times. The poor grades could be from renters who had to move further from work, in order to find more affordable housing. Cities that earned failing grades for commute time include Bridgeport, CT, Stockton, CA, Santa Ana, CA, Miami, FL and San Jose, CA.
- California, Colorado and the South Atlantic have the best weather. Renters in the Rust Belt and Northeast give the cold weather in their cities low marks.
- Renters are the least satisfied with state and local taxes in cities in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Changes to the tax code, including capping the mortgage interest deduction and state and local tax (SALT) deduction, will increase the burden of state and local taxes in these states. Although the impact will be most significant for homeowners, it could also make it more difficult for renters to ever become homeowners.
*Renters are extremely satisfied with the local schools in Spring, TX, Boulder, CO and Ann Arbor, MI. At the state level, schools quality receives failing marks in Louisiana, Hawaii, Nevada and West Virginia.
- Large East Coast cities, including New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC received the best public transportation scores. On the West Coast, renters in Portland, OR were the most satisfied with public transportation.
- College towns, including Cambridge, MA, Boulder, CO, Provo, UT, Ann Arbor, MI, Madison, WI and Raleigh, NC are rated highly for their social life.
Apartment List also dug into the data to determine the most important drivers of renter satisfaction:
- Only 38.4 percent of renters are satisfied with the cost of living in their city.
- The top three individual factors with which renters are most satisfied include recreational activities, pet-friendliness and commute time, with over 60 percent of renters reporting satisfaction in each of these categories.
- The four factors that are most closely tied to overall satisfaction are safety, job opportunities, social life and recreational activities.
- Despite overall displeasure with affordability, the cost of a rental is weakly correlated with overall satisfaction. This indicates that renters choosing to live in expensive cities are satisfied enough with other aspects of their city to express overall satisfaction. Additionally, such renters skew towards higher income brackets, as the higher rents have already pushed out many lower-income renters who struggle with affordability.
Data from Apartment List’s renter survey is available upon request and contains specific information for 50 states and more than 160 cities nationwide. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with data requests and press inquiries.
Renter satisfaction grades are based on over 45,000 responses collected in the Apartment List renter survey between Oct. 1, 2016, and Dec. 6, 2017.
We asked renters:
- On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with your current city or neighborhood (one being extremely dissatisfied and 10 being extremely satisfied)
- How satisfied are you with your current city or neighborhood in each of these categories: Local job and career opportunities, Safety and low crime rates, Commute time, Weather, State and local taxes, Quality of local schools, Affordability/cost of living, Access to public transit, Opportunities to date and make friends (social life), Access to parks, community activities and nightlife (recreation), Pet friendly
Apartment List calculated overall satisfaction grades using the average city ranking (from one to 10). Apartment List calculated category satisfaction grades using the percent of residents who were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with that aspect of life in their city.
Apartment List determined the factors that have the largest influence on overall satisfaction by calculating the correlation between overall satisfaction and satisfaction in each category for all individual survey responses.
For our calculations, we defined cities with a population under 200,000 as small and mid-sized, and we consider cities with a population over 200,000 as large.