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The Best Cities for Renters in 2022: Round Rock, Raleigh & Conroe Steal the Spotlight

Austin suburb Round Rock is crowned the best city for renters in 2022, reconfirming the Lone Star State’s rising appeal as a coveted place to live. North Carolina’s Raleigh is in second place, followed by small cities located mainly in the South and Southeast. These are the findings of our new annual ranking of best cities for renters, which was based on proprietary data and a mix of 17 metrics that best define a great renting experience: from the cost of living and the quality of rental housing to the local economy and the quality of life.

We analyzed data for hundreds of cities across the nation and narrowed them down to 115 candidates for the best cities to live as a renter in 2022. Specifically, we used a unique combination of 17 metrics based on our proprietary data that covers more than just affordability. In addition to what it costs to live there, we also looked at the selection and quality of apartments available in each city, the quality of the neighborhoods where rentals are located, occupancy rates, opportunities for job growth, air quality; and much more. All these metrics were given a certain weight and were gathered under three main categories: Cost of Living & Housing, Local Economy and Quality of Life. You can check out the full list of metrics used for the index in the methodology.

So, without any further ado, here are 2022’s best cities to live in as a renter:

Small, Lively Cities Make for the Best Locations to Rent in, Led by Round Rock, TX

The best cities to rent in are a mix of small but vibrant places like Conroe, TX, balanced mid-sized cities like Raleigh, NC and large, established renter hotspots like Austin.

Small cities tend to offer the best life for renters, representing half of our top 50 — despite the fact that some people might expect larger cities to suit renters’ needs the best. In fact, many of these smaller cities are suburbs of large metros and are often clustered in the Southern and Southeastern United States. What they all have in common is a healthy pace of new apartment construction and a great selection of amenity-rich properties.

1. Round Rock, TX

As a small Texan city just 15 miles north of Downtown Austin, Round Rock earned the title of the nation’s best place to rent. An up-and-coming tech center and the “sports capital of Texas”, the state where renters have the most access to sports amenities, Round Rock benefits from great year-round weather and a suburban feel — much sought-after in recent years —, as well as many parks and great outdoor areas. Round Rock scores high in all the main categories of our index, the mix of which helped the city come in first place. More specifically, Round Rock ranks 13th in cost of living, 10th in terms of local economy and 12th in quality of life. At the same time, three-quarters of the apartments in Round Rock are classified as high-end, which means they check the most important features for modern renters — from large spaces to quality amenities and finishes. Put all of that together and you get a pretty good idea of why this charming city is the best place to be as a renter.

2. Raleigh, NC

The runner-up is Raleigh, NC, a city that ranks high in quality-of-life metrics, such as a high share of apartments located in top neighborhoods, while also boasting a booming job market. The city abounds in highly educated residents — more than half of them hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Raleigh also has that increasingly popular urban-suburban vibe, which allows people to enjoy the benefits of the big-city life, as well as the quiet and safety of suburbia. In 2021, Raleigh was one of the top 20 U.S. cities with the most apartment construction, thanks to a five-year high of approximately 4,800 new apartments delivered — a sign of constant development and demand that make this North Carolina city a thriving apartment scene.

3. Conroe, TX

Yet another city with a suburban feel, Conroe, TX located in Houston metro — is the third-best city for renters in 2022. In particular, Conroe comes in third place in terms of cost of living and housing, which makes it very appealing to renters. Here, more than 70% of apartments are high-end, ensuring a great selection of high-quality housing for apartment-dwellers. Additionally, the warm weather and variety of lakes and green spaces create the perfect location for active residents and nature-lovers.

4. Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC is fourth among the top places for renters of any age. A renter-majority city (56.9%), Greenville is the second-best U.S. location in terms of cost of living among the cities analyzed, while also boasting a high share of college-educated residents. Additionally, Greenville is home to many large companies that provide jobs in health services, technology and the automotive industry. In fact, the city has the second-lowest unemployment rate on our list, topped only by Arlington, VA and Madison, WI.

5. Orlando, FL

Florida’s presence at the top of our list comes as no surprise, as its ideal weather, access to beaches, and great housing options make it the state of perpetual sunshine in every way — and an all-time favorite destination for renters. More precisely, Orlando, FL is the nation’s fifth-best city to rent in, as it benefits from an urban-suburban feel, a strong local economy (#17 on our list), a solid apartment market and countless entertainment options, including world-class theme parks, golf courses, and a vibrant nightlife. What’s not to love about it?

Large Cities Across the South & Southeast Are the Best Ones for Renters

The best large cities, with a population over 600,000, are led by Jacksonville, FL, Charlotte, NC, Austin, TX, San Antonio, TX and Houston, TX.

Jacksonville, FL is the country’s best large city for renters, also making the overall ranking as the sixth-best place among cities of all sizes. Due to its attractive cost of living — the 8th-best among all the cities analyzed — as well as great weather and plenty of entertainment options, Jacksonville is a popular hotspot for renters who are looking for that perfect combination of lively social scenes and serene outdoor areas.

As the most populous city in North Carolina, Charlotte is the 7th-best city overall and also ranks highly among large cities in terms of local economy, coming in at 19th place. Known for its many beautiful lakes, the city is the corporate headquarters of Bank of America and other financial giants. In particular, Charlotte — which is home to many young professionals and families — was the second-best large city for renters. It boasts an urban-suburban feel, ensuring that its residents get the best of both worlds: business opportunities and big-city perks, but also a tranquil and safe environment.

Austin, TX is the third-best large city for renters — which is to be expected, given its reputation as a top tech hub and a magnet for population migration in recent years. Austin is known for its thriving local economy (the 7th-best among large cities), great weather, many parks, rivers and bike trails, as well as the apartment boom that has taken place in the past years. In fact, as many tech giants have relocated from California to Texas, Austin has registered impressive growth in apartment construction, now catering to renters better than ever before. The city also ranks 10th in the overall top of best cities for renters.

Mid-Sized Cities Like Raleigh, NC Offer Renters the Best of Both Worlds

The best mid-sized cities, with a population between 300,000 and 600,000, are led by Raleigh, NC, Atlanta, GA, Tampa, FL, Kansas City, MO and Lexington, KY.

Apart from being the second-best city for renters, Raleigh, NC is also the number one best mid-sized city in our top. Among mid-sized cities, the city comes in 9th place in terms of quality of life, making it a perfect location for renters who are looking to live a healthy, happy lifestyle and 12th in the local economy ranking.

The second-best mid-sized city for renters is Atlanta, Georgia’s most populous city and the one with the highest number of business applications, which goes to show its rising appeal as a business and economic hub. Atlanta is also known for its many urban parks and walking areas, which helped the city score the 17th position on our list with the best quality of life. Atlanta is also the 9th-best city for renters in the nation, all sizes considered.

As the economic center of Western Florida, Tampa sure is a good place to rent. Residents here enjoy great weather year-round, lots of flora and fauna, as well as an urban-suburban feel. The city also has a cost of living that is lower than the national average and scored 23rd in terms of quality of life. Tampa’s neighborhoods are generally good for families and given its third position in the top best mid-sized cities and 15th spot in the general ranking, it’s also a great place to be as a renter.

That Small City Charm Draws Renters to Gems in Texas, Florida & South Carolina

Small cities, with a population under 300,000, dominate the main ranking of the best cities for renters, claiming four spots out of the top five. Conroe, TX, Round Rock, TX, Greenville, SC, and Orlando, FL take the first four positions.

The fifth small city in the ranking is Charleston, SC. With one of the lowest unemployment rates (3.4%), a large number of highly educated residents, as well as a historic charm, beautiful beaches and world-renowned restaurants, it’s no wonder that Charleston is the fifth-best small city to for renters, as well as the 8th-best in general and local economy.

Leaders by Category

The city of Savannah, GA is the absolute best in the nation in terms of cost of living, while the local economy champion is Plano, TX. Residents of San Francisco, CA are the ones that benefit from the best quality of life, based on our analysis.

best&worst-cities-for-renters-by-category

Methodology

  • The Best Cities for Renters ranking was compiled by RentCafe.com, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.
  • We considered “suitable candidates for best cities for renters” only cities with an apartment stock of at least 10,000 apartment units. Cities with a lower apartment stock were excluded. A total of 115 cities were the final candidates for the ranking.
  • To determine the best cities for renters, the RentCafe analytics team used a composite index to compare cities across 3 main categories: Cost of Living & Housing, Local Economy and Quality of Life.
  • The three main categories were compiled from 17 relevant metrics. Each metric received a score based on rank position, the best value from each metric received maximum points, then the result was multiplied by the metric’s given weight.
  • To create the categories index, the process of ranking was repeated and then the results were multiplied by each category's overall weight.
  • Data from Yardi Matrix, a RentCafe sister division, covers apartment buildings of 50 units or more. All other sources used as cited below.

Ranking metrics and data sources:

Category 1: Housing & Cost of Living, Category weight: 50%

  1. Cost of living and housing: Weight: 50% Source: The Cost-of-Living Index
  2. Apartment average size: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
  3. Apartment occupancy: Weight: 15% Source: Yardi Matrix
  4. Share of new apartments: Weight: 10% Source: Yardi Matrix
  5. Share of high-end apartments: Weight: 5% Source: Yardi Matrix
  6. Share of renter-occupied households: Weight: 5% Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2020 - 5 - Year Estimates

Category 2: Local Economy, Category weight: 30%

  1. Unemployment rate: Weight: 25% Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2020 - 5 - Year Estimates
  2. Share of population with high-education degrees: Weight: 20% Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2020 - 5 - Year Estimates
  3. Renter median income: Weight: 25% Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2020 - 5 - Year Estimates
  4. Job growth: Weight: 15% Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. Number of business applications: Weight: 15% Source: Bureau of Census - Business Formation Statistics

Category 3: Quality of Life, Category weight: 20%

  1. Apartments in top locations: Weight: 25% Source: Yardi Matrix
  2. Average school rating: Weight: 15% Source: GreatSchools
  3. Annual delay per car commuter: Weight: 20% Source: Texas Transportation Institute
  4. Share of car users: Weight: 10% Source: Bureau of Census - American Community Survey 2020 - 5 - Year Estimates
  5. Natural Amenity Rank: Weight: 15% Source: Economic Research Service - Department of Agriculture
  6. Days with Good Air Quality: Weight: 15% Source: EPA Air Quality

Fair Use and Redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the research, graphics, and images presented in this article. When doing so, we ask that you credit our research 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.

Laura Pop-Badiu
Laura Pop-Badiu
Laura Pop-Badiu is a creative writer at RentCafe, with a background in content marketing in reputation management and the hospitality industry. Having graduated with a degree in Journalism, Laura has a genuine passion for the written word and is an avid reader of horror, thriller and literary fiction. She enjoys researching and writing about lifestyle trends and the real estate market. You can connect with Laura via email.

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