As our growing database continues to reinforce, real estate is inherently local. Reflecting this notion, many of our previous posts revolve around analyses within cities. Whether comparing rental price trends to the Case-Shiller 20-city index or mapping out rental affordability, we’ve primarily focused on market-level data for our posts. Recently, however, our curiosity has led us to dig into broader questions on a national level. How do different cities, or even regions, compare on a variety of features? We have barely begun to showcase the geographical breadth of our data–until now.
The Kwelia rental database includes hundreds of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) nationwide, enabling us to provide insights into nearly every rental market in the United States. When taken together, that range allows us a uniquely macroscopic view of the national rental market. Although there are many dimensions (such as amenity composition, rental descriptions, unit types, etc.) on which we can compare different metros, we will save those for future discussions. For this post, we’ll focus on one high-level characteristic: price. Here, we consider prices as the median USD per square foot for a metropolitan area. Without further ado, the most expensive metro areas in the United States for 2014:
Riding the wave of the oil boom in the Bakken shale formation, Williston, ND catapulted to the top of the list of most expensive metropolitan areas in 2014. At $2.74/sqftmedian rent, it is a full $.16/sqft more expensive than the New York metropolitan area ($2.58/sqft) and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area (also $2.58/sqft). The surging demand for oil workers to tap the Bakken shale and a scant supply of people (mostly men) willing to endure the hard work, grueling hours, and remote location sent median wages Williston, ND soaring north of $75,000. High disposable income coupled with a limited supply of housing subsequently pushed median rents to the impressive level observed. Nevertheless, whether the market there can sustain those rents in the face of new apartment construction and tanking oil prices remains to be seen in 2015.
Among the rest of the most expensive metropolitan areas are few surprises, with the New York area and Silicon Valley rounding out the top four. Honolulu, HI cracked the top five with a median rent of $2.27/sqft. Notably, with the exception of Williston, ND, all of the top 15 most expensive metro areas are coastal (or in the case of Hawaii, an island).
Unlike the most expensive group, the least expensive MSAs are predominantly Southern/Midwestern and landlocked. Albany, GA (home of Ray Charles, Deion Branch, and Paula Deen, among others) had by far the cheapest median rent ($.50/sqft) of any metro area in the United States. However, with inflation-adjusted median income at just under $40,000 and unemployment above the national average, it also wasn’t the most well-off.
Taking the above example, “most expensive” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “least affordable”, and vice-versa. One’s purchasing power varies with real income, so an analysis of which MSAs are the most affordable requires consideration of real income (and typically also the price of a fixed basket of goods, which would include more than just rent).
Which metro areas are the most and least affordable? Check back soon for the next blog post in our ongoing exploration of the national rental market.