The Median American Rent Jumped 17 Percent in One Year

The most expensive cities to rent in are San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New York City

February marked a 17 percent increase in the national median rent cost, setting a new record high for the country at $1,792, compared to roughly $1,487 a year ago.

Before the pandemic in 2020, a typical apartment was roughly $283 cheaper than it is now, according to statistics from, CNN reports. Rent for studio apartments, one-bedroom and two bedrooms all saw a significant double-digit increase in cost since the beginning of 2021.

Last month’s figure was particularly important, as it was the seventh straight month of a double-digit percentage rent spike across the country following the pandemic’s decimation of the market.

In a 2021 study titled “The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Rental Market: Evidence From Craigslist,” published by Sage Journals, researchers assembled a data set on rental housing and prices in the 49 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The study looks at 2,449,753 listings between the period of Mar. 1, 2020 and June 1, 2020.

“There are clear mechanisms by which the market for both rental and purchased residential property could be affected,” the study says. “Shelter-in-place orders, for example, reduce the ability to search for and view available properties while rising infection rates may reduce homeseekers’ desire to search.”

It added that a 2020 industry report on Manhattan’s property market supported this idea, with completed sales transactions down roughly 50 percent, signed contracts dropping 76 percent in the second quarter of 2020, and the number of properties listed in the first half of 2020 down 26 percent as compared to a year earlier.

The market has seemingly bounced back, with some cities witnessing a staggering increase in rent prices. Miami saw a median rental price increase of 55 percent in February from a year ago, making it the least affordable market in the top 50 cities.

Of all U.S. cities, the most expensive place to rent is San Jose, California, with a median cost of $3,024 a month. San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New York City follow just behind.

“There’s a shortage of rental properties in Los Angeles, and there has been for years,” Brad Keyes, a managing partner at Keyes Real Estate in L.A. said. “This fact, coupled with inflation, and would-be buyers being pushed back into the rental market due to lack of supply is causing the perfect storm.”

He added that his company is “seeing staggering rental increases coupled with multiple offers on almost every rental we list.”

The cities that saw the smallest median rent cost increases over an annual period were Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Detroit, with prices rising by six percent or less.

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