Boston, MA Rental Market San Francisco, CA

Credit Scores to Rent an Apartment Are on the Rise – SF, Boston and NY Top the List

What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment in 2021?
Good credit is becoming increasingly crucial for renting an apartment. In fact, the average credit score needed to rent an apartment has been going up one point each year for the past three years. Specifically, according to our analysis of more than 5 million lease applications nationwide, the average credit score of renters in the U.S. was 638 in 2020.

Plus, credit scores can also vary widely in different types of buildings. For example, renters in high-end buildings had an average credit score of 669 last year – just 43 points separated them from renters living in mid-priced buildings, whose average score was 626. Meanwhile, the credit score of those living in low-end buildings was 597, exactly 29 points below that of renters in mid-range apartments.

Baby Boomers lead with the highest average credit scores

By generation, Baby Boomer renters led all other generations in 2020 with an average credit score of 683. Since they’ve had more time to build up their scores, they’re in better shape than Gen Xers (653), Millennials (644) and the youngest renters, just starting to live on their own, Gen Zers (586).

And, while all generations increased their average scores in the last three years, Gen Z renters made the most impressive leap. This generation increased their average scores by 30 points between 2018 and 2019, and then by 25 points between 2019 and 2020.

By building type, Baby Boomers lead the way again with some of the highest average credit scores for all three types of buildings, followed by Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers. The only discrepancy is in low-end buildings. In this case – and just behind Baby Boomers – Millennial applicants have a higher average credit score (612) than both Gen Z (551) and Gen X (606).

Notably, all generations that desire to live in high-end buildings would need higher scores than their generation’s average. In particular, Gen Z would need 38 additional credit points; Millennials would have to have 30 more; Gen X would need to go up by 22 points; and Baby Boomers would need to add 32 points to their credit score.

Top 10 cities with the highest and lowest credit scores to rent apartments

According to data from the top 50 largest cities, credit scores of apartment renters range from more than 700 in some of the most competitive markets – like San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle and Oakland, CA to less than 600 in Arlington, TX, Memphis, TN, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Baltimore.

More precisely, San Francisco is the most competitive city to rent in. Renters here boast average credit scores of no less than 719. It’s followed by cities of the same caliber, such as Boston (716), New York (715) and Seattle (706). In this way, Minneapolis, MN is the surprise among the top 10, with this city’s average credit score sitting at 688 – higher than Los Angeles renters’ credit score of 682 and San Diego’s 680, and similar to Washington D.C.’s 689.

Top 10 Cities with the Highest Credit Scores for Renting in 2020

CityStateAvg. Credit Score
San FranciscoCA719
BostonMA716
New YorkNY715
SeattleWA706
OaklandCA702
San JoseCA699
WashingtonD.C.689
MinneapolisMN688
Los AngelesCA682
San DiegoCA680

Top 10 Cities with the Lowest Credit Scores for Renting in 2020

CityStateAvg. Credit Score
ArlingtonTX580
MemphisTN583
Las VegasNV584
IndianapolisIN590
BaltimoreMD598
MilwaukeeWI601
AlbuquerqueNM602
MesaAZ602
HoustonTX606
TulsaOK607

 

For those with lower credit looking to score a nice apartment, chances are they can find it in Arlington, TX. This city has the lowest average credit score (580) among the cities studied. Next is Memphis, TN with 583, followed by Las Vegas with 584 and Indianapolis, IN with 590.

Top cities with highest credit scores by generation

Baby Boomer renters living in New York have the highest average credit score of 732. They are followed by Boomers in Austin, TX, with 722 and Omaha, NE, with 720.

New York also takes the first spot for Gen X renters (Slide 2). With an average credit score of 724, the New York Gen Xers surpass both those living in Boston (721) as well as those in San Francisco (711).

However, San Francisco is where Millennial renters have the highest average credit score, of 726 (Slide 3). Boston Millennials are next with an average score of 721, followed by New York Millennials with 719.

The youngest generation, Gen Z, boasts the highest average score for renting in Boston (691), one of the top college cities in the country (Slide 4). San Francisco takes second place for the youngest adults, with Gen Z’s scores averaging 688 here, followed by 666 in Seattle.

Similar scores can get you from a low-end apartment in a competitive market to high-end living in less competitive locations

Even renters with less-than-ideal-credit scores who wish to live in a luxury building could do so in cities like Mesa, AZ (598), Las Vegas (608) or Houston (619). In these cities, the average credit scores for high-end buildings are the lowest in the country.

Top 10 Cities with the Lowest Credit Scores for High-End Buildings

CityStateAvg. Credit Score
MesaAZ598
Las VegasNV608
HoustonTX619
SacramentoCA635
CharlotteNC635
TucsonAZ637
LouisvilleKY639
TampaFL641
TulsaOK641
AtlantaGA645

Top 10 Cities with the Highest Credit Scores for Low-End Buildings

CityStateAvg. Credit Score
San FranciscoCA703
SeattleWA682
Los AngelesCA675
BostonMA675
ChicagoIL666
New YorkNY665
WashingtonDC665
San JoseCA664
San DiegoCA638
PhiladelphiaPA637

 

Conversely, living in a competitive market like the Bay Area will require high credit score, even for low-end buildings. For instance, with an average score of 703, renters in San Francisco could hypothetically trade up from their low-end building with a high-end one in cities like Mesa, AZ, Las Vegas, Houston, Sacramento and many others where average credit scores for high-end buildings range between 645 and 598. The same goes for renters in other competitive markets, like Seattle (682), Los Angeles (675) or Boston (675) that live in low-end buildings.

 

Methodology: 

This analysis was compiled by RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.

Rental application data was sourced from RentGrow, Inc. and was received completely anonymized and aggregated. No personally identifiable or other confidential renter information was disclosed or used in conjunction with this article.

The average credit score is the arithmetic average of the credit scores on all applications analyzed for the time period specified. It does not represent a minimum or maximum credit standard required to rent an apartment. Credit score standards for renting vary depending on location, the local rental market, rental property, and property management company. The applicant’s credit score is just one element as part of a larger, comprehensive rental application process, and it is used in conjunction with several other elements to determine whether an applicant is eligible for a lease.

Credit scores are based on the VantageScore credit score model using a scale of 300-850.

Gen Z are defined as the generation born between 1997 and 2012, Millennials are defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1996, Gen X as those born between 1965 and 1980 and Baby Boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964.

The top 50 largest U.S. cities are ranked by population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 ACS 5-year estimates.

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. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at media@rentcafe.com.

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 7-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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