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Renter's Guide to Madison, WI
Madison, Wisconsin is a city filled with Midwestern charm. It's a place where you can instantly feel at home, especially if you love the outdoors, sports, and cold beer—because Madison, WI has no shortage of those three.
Madison ranks within the top 10 of US cities for healthy and active lifestyles, including swimming, biking, and parks. But it also rates highly for economic growth and STEM professionals. That makes Madison a great place to flatten your abs while fattening your wallet.
Madison is a fairly small city. At 94 square miles, it's roughly the same size as Milwaukee, but only 40% the size of Chicago.
If you're the type of person who enjoys distinct seasons, Madison may be right up your alley. The weather in Madison is a tale of two extremes, with winter temperatures that regularly drop below freezing, often as low as 0ºF. Meanwhile, summers are warm and humid, regularly pushing into the 80s and sometimes even into the 90s.
Madison, WI Demographics
- Total Population248,856
Female 123,054Male 125,802
- Median Age31
Cost of Living in Madison
When it comes to living on a budget, you could definitely do worse than Madison.
If you choose public transportation, you can go for the expansive bus system, which has dozens of different routes and offers rides for $2.00 each—or a 31-day pass for $58.00. The city is home to four cab companies, which means it's easy to get around.
When dinner rolls around, a meal for two at a mid-tier restaurants will only set you back about $45, while the average cappuccino costs less than $3.50.
As for your bills, utility costs in Madison are around $109 for a 915-square-foot apartment, which includes electricity, water, heating, and waste collection. That's almost $40 less than the national average of $147. Not bad at all.
Average Rent in Madison, WI
- Madison, WI Average Rental Price, December 2019 $1,253 /mo
Madison, WI Apartment Rent Ranges
- > $2,0008%
Madison, WI Rent Trends
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Living in Madison
Even as a relatively small city, Madison has plenty of things going for it. It's fairly inexpensive, while being home to some great food and beer. And it's surrounded by lakes, which is a real plus for any nature loves.
On the other hand, winters in Madison are brutally cold, and it does lack some of the entertainment options of a bigger city.
The city has a predominantly white population, with roughly 15% split evenly between Asian and African-American inhabitants.
Things to do in Madison
What exactly is there to do in a city like Madison? Plenty.
Madison is also known as “The City of Four Lakes”, which refers to Lake Kegonsa, Lake Waubesa, Lake Monona, and Lake Mendota. There's even a fifth lake, Lake Wingra.
That means there are plenty of fishing, boating, and camping options nearby—in the warmer months, at least. During the colder months, there are plenty of winter sports options around the city too, like skiing, ice skating, and more.
Did we mention the Olbrich Botanical Gardens? It’s a can't miss for any nature lover.
Or if you're looking for something a little more cultural, there's the annual Art Fair on the Square or the Chazen Museum of Art. Even though it's a typical Midwestern city in many ways, Madison is definitely the most progressive and liberal city in Wisconsin.
For shopping, there's the very popular Madison Farmer's Market, where you can buy fresh produce straight from the source. And for your other shopping needs, you can check out the West Towne Mall or the Hilldale Shopping Center.
When it comes to food, Madison is known for its cheese, its beer, and its bratwurst. After taking one of the local food tours, you'll understand why.
But no Madison, WI guide would be complete without talking about the sports. Not only is the city very accessible to Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Chicago, where you can find some of the best professional football, basketball, baseball, and hockey teams in the country, Madison is also home of the University of Wisconsin's athletic teams.
That means some of the best college basketball, hockey, and football you can find anywhere. UW's hockey team has more titles than almost any team in the country, and their men's basketball team has made it deep into the NCAA tournament three years in a row.
Working in Madison
Madison's biggest industry is manufacturing, though there are still plenty of options in agriculture, healthcare, tech, service, and government.
Some of the city's biggest employers include John Deere & Co., Kraft Foods, Lands' End, and the Madison-based Sony Creative Software.
Madison, WI Households
- Total Number of Households107,890
Family 50,806Non-family 57,084
Children 23,288No Children 84,602
- Average People Per Household2.2
- Median Household Income$59,387
- Median Housing Costs Per Month$1,151
Top Colleges in Madison
Madison ranks among the best cities in the country for education, with more college degrees and PhDs per capita than almost anywhere in the United States.
The city is home to the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, one of America's largest universities.
Madison, WI Education Statistics
- No High School2%
- Some High School19%
- Some College19%
- Associate Degree7%
- Bachelor Degree32%
- Graduate Degree20%
Tips for Renting in Madison
It's helpful to know what you're getting into before you decide to rent a place in a new city, so here are a few tips to keep you covered.
When you first move in, you have 7 days to inform the landlord of any pre-existing problems or damages in the residence. There is no limit on how much landlords can charge for security deposits, but there is a 21-day deadline for your deposit to be returned after you move out.
If the landlord feels you broke the lease, whether through a failure to pay rent or anything else, you'll be given a 5, 14, or 30 day eviction notice. During that time, you can either resolve the case with the landlord, or wait until it goes to court and make your arguments there.
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