Real Estate

Rent Café has released its 2022 year-end report, which looks at the most competitive rental markets this year.

Although apartment construction is at a historic high, finding a rental in 2022 has been challenging. Nationally, the average renter had to compete with 14 other apartment seekers to secure a rental, which didn’t stay listed longer than one month.

With more than two-thirds of renters renewing their leases and an average occupancy rate of more than 95%, this year’s rental market was competitive, despite the autumn slowdown. And with demand climbing up in almost every metropolitan area, renters had the hardest time finding an apartment in Miami, Orlando, Grand Rapids and North Jersey.

Here are some highlights from the report:

Miami-Dade, Florida, was the hottest rental market in 2022, due to a high occupancy rate of 97.5% and a staggering 75% of renters deciding to stay put and renew their leases. As a consequence, despite the area’s supply of apartments growing by 2.8% in 2022 compared to the previous year, a record 32 renters competed for one vacant apartment, which got snatched in 25 days, on average.

In fact, Florida was this year’s renting hotspot: five of the nation’s hottest places to rent were in the Sunshine State, with Orlando being the third most competitive rental market nationwide, followed by Southwest Florida, Broward County and Tampa.

Apartment hunting intensified in the Midwest, especially in areas with slow construction like Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Omaha and Lansing – Ann Arbor, all of which continue to attract young professionals from pricier metros across the country.

Despite a modest 0.8% uptick in supply, renters in Grand Rapids faced the second toughest market this year: no less than 18 people competed for a vacant apartment, which got filled in 28 days. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids’ occupancy topped at almost 97%, prompting around 70% of renters to renew their leases instead of looking for a new place.

The Northeast continued to lure remote workers seeking extra space and better deals — so much so that seven northeastern markets were among the 20 hottest. Harrisburg, where virtually no new apartments were added this year, emerged as the regional leader, ranking 4th nationwide for competitivity. This was primarily due to its lower cost of living compared to many of the larger metro areas in the Northeast, as well as its family-friendly community and proximity to the great outdoors. Another advantage to living in Harrisburg is its relative proximity to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Central Jersey was twice more competitive than Manhattan this year. The area had the highest lease renewal rate in the nation (85%) and an average occupancy rate close to 97% (all the while its supply of apartments increased by a mere 0.9%). That said, finding an apartment for rent was quite challenging for most people in the area, as 15 renters competed for an apartment, on average. North Jersey renters were in a similar situation, despite an increase of 2.1% in apartments.

On the West Coast, California’s low-supply Orange County was the hottest renting spot, followed by San Diego, both of which continued to attract renters from Los Angeles and San Francisco. In fact, Orange County and San Diego were the only California markets to reach our top 20 this year.

Orange County was the 8th most competitive rental market nationwide. The low increase in supply (0.6%) failed to accommodate apartment seekers, mostly e-commerce workers, looking for rentals in a city where less than 3% of the apartments were vacant. Similarly, an average of 22 renters competed for a vacant apartment in San Diego, which ranked 13th nationwide.

Although large metros tend to offer more jobs and higher salaries, that doesn’t mean that smaller areas can’t be just as competitive in their own right— and Fayetteville, Arkansas is the perfect example. With a record-high occupancy of 98.3% and more than three-quarters of apartment dwellers opting to stay put this year, renters here had an extremely tough time finding an apartment for rent in Fayetteville. On average, it took just under two weeks for a vacant unit in Fayetteville to become occupied this year, with an astounding 28 prospective renters competing for one apartment.

Here, large employers like the University of Arkansas and Walmart, which is headquartered in nearby Bentonville, provide plenty of opportunities for both locals and newcomers. On top of that, the city is nestled in the Ozark Mountains, thereby making it a great place to live for nature lovers.

The second most competitive small market was Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where lots of remote workers fleeing tighter restrictions in Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey during the pandemic found larger apartments that better fit their budgets. At the same time, surging home prices forced many prospective buyers to keep renting until they could resume their house-hunting. Consequently, more than 80% of the people living in rental apartments in Lehigh Valley chose to stay in place this year.

Similarly, the expanding work-from-home trend led thousands of Boston, Manhattan and Washington, D.C, residents to reconsider their housing options in the last two years. Many of them chose to relocate to peaceful Portland, Maine, in search of a slower pace of life within reach of breathtaking scenery. This caused the average rental in Portland to be filled after 26 days, with a record 68 prospective renters competing for every vacant apartment this year. Of course, in all honesty, Bostonians have always had a soft spot for this charming corner of New England.

Other small markets that were highly competitive in 2022 included Lafayette, Indiana, Asheville, North Carolina, Madison, Wisconsin, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Providence, Rhode Island, Knoxville, Tennessee, North Central Florida, Little Rock, Arkansas, Columbus, Georgia, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Wichita, Kansas, Albany, New York, South Bend, Indiana, Fayetteville, North Carolina and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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