Update: Is your city not among the 30 most populous cities in the US? We’ve expanded our research to include 100 cities so that you can see where you stand when it comes to the amount of space that you get for $1,500! Check out the updated infographic here!
While location, location, location is something we tend to emphasize a lot, the best places often come with compromises that are hard to come to terms with—chief among which, the financial matters. But price in itself isn’t everything either. After all, renting a space to live in is all about, well, space. And if you’re anything like us, the more stretch you get for your cash, the wider your grin, so apartment size is important. Then again, you cannot lose sight of location completely…
When faced with a vicious circle like that, we always whip out our trusty market data tool, Yardi Matrix. This time we were curious to see how the 30 most populous US cities rank in terms of value for money—in this case value being square footage, for the sake of simplicity. We calculated the average apartment size in these cities, compared it with the average rents, and a simple division gave us the average price per square foot in each city. In other words, an indicator of how much bang you get for your buck.
Here’s what $1,500 rents across the US—from 271 sq.ft. in Manhattan to 1,948 sq.ft. in Memphis
Again, for the sake of simplicity, we took the sum of $1,500 as a basis to see how much space one could rent with a quasi-realistic amount, based on the average price per square foot in each of these 30 cities. The results are for the most part quite remarkable, illuminating even!
Hover over the tiles and see how much space $1,500 gets you in the 30 most populous US cities:
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For the record, the proportions in this infographic are correct—if apartments in San Diego seem twice as large as San Francisco apartments, it’s because its average price per square foot is half that of the Golden Gate City. And in case you were wondering: yes, the hypothetical Manhattan studio that you’d get for $1,500/month, fits loosely inside the living room of a four-bed, three-bath Memphis home you could rent for the same amount of cash:
Much to the relief of the data-aficionado in you, we have more of this. The following table includes the information we used to generate the infographic, in all its detail. It is also interactive, so feel free to play around with it. You can sort the cities by the amount of space you can rent for $1,500, average apartment size or average rent.
How much floor space can you get for $1,500?
|City||Sq. Ft. / $1,500||Price per Sq. Ft.||Average Sq. Ft.||Average Rent|
|Oklahoma City, OK||1,786||$0.84||845||$711|
|El Paso, TX||1,667||$0.90||815||$733|
|Las Vegas, NV||1,546||$0.97||893||$867|
|Fort Worth, TX||1,389||$1.08||864||$930|
|San Antonio, TX||1,376||$1.09||851||$931|
|San Diego, CA||698||$2.15||848||$1,820|
|Los Angeles, CA||570||$2.63||779||$2,050|
|San Jose, CA||526||$2.85||888||$2,532|
|San Francisco, CA||342||$4.38||748||$3,275|
|New York City, NY||271||$5.54||727||$4,031|
*New York City refers to Manhattan
Numbers don’t always tell the whole story
If you’ve read this far, it means you are starting to have a vague idea about what your money is worth in different cities. You’ve probably also worked out that the same amount of money gets you more than seven times more space in Memphis than in Manhattan. Sure, but at this point you are probably dying to see some examples and a bit of side-by-side comparison to see more clearly. Your wish is our command!
However… As we insisted to stick with our magic number of $1,500, the average per-square-foot prices in these two cities quickly gave us a headache. Small studios of 270-ish square feet are rare finds even in Manhattan, and their prices don’t even have a bowing acquaintance with the average… The same is true to Memphis apartments of close to 2,000 square feet, so $1,500 rentals were pretty much out of the question. At least in the case of these two cities. We had to move back a bit from each end, to get more realistic results.
Boston vs. Indianapolis
Three steps proved to be just enough. Beantown and the Crossroads of America are far enough from the extremes—in terms of per-square-foot price—that we could find decent apartments for $1,500.
In Boston’s 41 Saratoga community, one could rent a 386-square-foot studio unit for that price, and for an extra $100, that space could “grow” to 513 square feet. Although the apartments seem to lack bedroom furniture, they are brand new, featuring open floor plans with hardwood flooring, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
In the right column, Southport Crossing in Indianapolis offers three-bed townhome layouts with 2.5 baths in a broad price range topping out at a little over $1,600. The amenities here include a resort-style swimming pool as part of the common space, and individual units come with up to 400 square feet of enclosed patio area.
Manhattan vs. Memphis
Obviously, we couldn’t leave Manhattan and Memphis out. We just had to find a different approach. So we took the average rent in Manhattan as a basis this time.
Remember, the average Manhattan apartment rent is currently a hair above $4,000. The Gateway 400 tower, for example, offers several one-bed, one-bath apartments ranging from 653 to 810 square feet for around that amount—give or take $300. Apartments come equipped with air conditioning, efficient kitchen appliances, large closets and hardwood floors. The common-space amenities you get for this sum include covered parking and garage, picnic area, bike racks and fitness center, while door attendants and regular night patrol look after your safety.
In Memphis, a $700 monthly rent is completely normal. So what could Manhattan’s average rent be worth in the Birthplace of Rock and Roll?! It turns out you can make yourself at home on more than 4,500 square feet (plus yard) at 884 Drake Manor in East Memphis. True to its name, the property gives the impression of a modern-day mansion. It is equipped with just about everything there is to be included in a dream home, and probably even a bit more.
For $4,250 a month you can have yourself a fully equipped gym, an outdoor kitchen on a secluded porch with a really hardcore BBQ gear that many chefs would break the law for, a double-vanity bathroom you can play baseball in (hey, hey)—and the list goes on. Oh, and our favorite: in case you are still having trouble figuring out how big the space really is, they’ve put a grand piano in one of the smaller the living rooms. You know, for scale.
Who is RENTCafe and How Did We Compile the Data?
- RENTCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.
- To compile this report, RENTCafe’s research team analyzed apartment size and rent data across all multifamily rental properties of 50+ units across the 30 largest US cities by population.
- Apartment size data was provided by Yardi Matrix, an apartment market intelligence source and RENTCafe’s sister company which researches and reports on all multifamily properties of 50+ units across 121 markets in the United States.
Fair use and redistribution
We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to RENTCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.