May Rental Activity Report: Kansas City Leads as Most In-Demand City, Midwest Claims Top Spots

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  • In May, Kansas City, MO, is the most in-demand city for U.S. renters, after climbing one place since last month.
  • Apartment listings in the Midwest drew the most attention this month, with Detroit coming in second and Cincinnati ranking fourth.
  • West Coast cities are also among renter favorites, with Seattle standing out among two other Washington state cities and California’s Sacramento. 
  • Manhattan was outranked by the Bronx and Queens, but it’s still one of May’s top 30 most in-demand places for renters.

Renting is now the new buying as high home prices and the spring season bring out more renters looking for apartments. But which cities are seeing the most listing activity and attracting the most attention from apartment hunters?

To find out, we analyzed millions of interactions on our own apartment search website, RentCafe.com, to find the most active locations for renting in the nation. Our monthly rental activity report keeps you updated on the latest movements and shifts in renting demand across the 150 largest cities in the U.S.

For our May rental activity report, we analyzed four indicators from rental listings on RentCafe.com to rank the cities with the most in-demand apartments:

  • availability of apartments
  • listing views
  • apartments saved as favorites
  • saved personalized searches

Additionally, we looked at how these indicators had changed from last year, to see the evolution of rental activity by city. RentCafe’s Rental Activity Report will be published monthly and can serve as a useful tool when discussing other industry reports for a complete market outlook.

Kansas City, MO, comes out on top as the most desired city by renters in May, followed by another Midwestern favorite, Detroit. Meanwhile, this month’s bronze medal goes to Albuquerque, NM, which maintained last month’s position. Apartment listings in these cities saw the most engagement this month, with high rates of rental properties saved to favorites, personalized searches, scarce unit availability, and overall high listing views.

may rental activity report

At the same time, Atlanta — the most sought-after city in April — dropped to fifth place in May, replacing Manhattan. What’s more, New York City’s most bustling borough was eclipsed by the Bronx and new entry Queens, but still remains among May’s most in-demand renter spots at #30 due to a high volume of searches on RentCafe.com.

Renters have also been drawn to West Coast cities in May. For the first time, Washington state cities Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver made it to the top of our list. Sacramento, CA, is another new entry in this month’s report after listings in the city caught apartment seekers’ attention, leading to significantly higher engagement rates.

KCMO is most in-demand city for renters in May

Below are this month’s top 10 cities for rental activity, as well as the biggest shifts of the last 30 days.

1. Kansas City, MO

Kansas City, MO, is May’s most sought-after city by renters looking for an apartment for rent on RentCafe.com. Last month, KCMO was runner-up to Atlanta.

So, what pushed this lively Midwestern town to the top? First, this month, Kansas City apartment listings attracted 80% more views compared to a year ago. Second, the number of saved personalized searches more than doubled within that timeframe as renters added four times as many apartments to their favorites list.

Browsing and saving more properties shows a higher interest in apartments and a clear determination to move.

2. Detroit

Detroit is gearing up for the upcoming rental season as renters amp up online engagement with apartment listings in the city. This month, Motor City got closer to the top by earning two extra points in its final score and climbing two places — from the fourth to the second spot.

Detroit rental listings on RentCafe.com attracted 66% more views compared to a year prior, while renters marked five times more apartments as favorites. Plus, apartment hunters saved three times as many personalized searches this month versus last May. This secured Detroit’s place as the nation’s second most desired city by renters.

3. Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque takes the third spot in our May rental activity report — the same as last month but with a higher score (65 points versus 63.46). Rental listings in New Mexico’s largest city continue to draw attention from apartment seekers on RentCafe.com, with views of apartment listings doubling year-over-year.

Yet, what’s more impressive is that renters favorited nine times as many apartments on RentCafe.com as they did a year ago, which shows a more intense browsing activity. It seems that apartment hunters are more deliberate when it comes to renting in Albuquerque, as they’re marking a higher number of properties that they consider a good fit for their lifestyle and budget.

4. Cincinnati

Cincinnati climbed eight spots and landed at #4 for the May rental activity report. The city gained four points in its overall score since last month, reflecting a significant increase in rental activity.

The number of apartment listings available in Cincinnati was almost the same as one year ago, but listing views rose by 25%. Additionally, although renters saved 16% more personalized searches for Cincy rentals year-over-year, the number of favorited apartments jumped four times compared to last May. This means that renters are showing increased interest in Cincinnati apartments, as well as a more evident determination to sign a lease.

5. Atlanta

Last month’s most in-demand city for renters dropped four places to the fifth spot, losing just as many points in its total score. Still, this Georgian city remains one of the most desirable places for renters. Despite seeing declines in apartment listing views and saved personalized searches compared to last year, the overall high traffic Atlanta listings generated this month helped the city keep its place among the top five most sought-after cities in May.

Plus, the number of apartments favorited by ATL renters doubled compared to one year ago, further boosting the city’s total desirability score this month.

6. Denver

Colorado’s largest city is the sixth most attractive city for renters in May (the same as last month). With its magnificent outdoor attractions nearby and appealing job market, Denver remains one of the country’s most popular renter hubs. Denver apartment listings views on RentCafe.com rose by 14% year-over-year, while the number of personalized searches saved by renters increased by 54%.

However, renters took their online apartment-hunting endeavor beyond the prospecting phase. As a result, the number of favorited listings in Denver quadrupled this month compared to last May.

7. Portland, OR

Portland jumped 10 spots to the seventh place among the nation’s most desired cities by renters. Apartment listings in this western charmer — famous for its sustainability practices and for "staying weird" — saw high engagement this month. Views of Portland listings rose by 20% compared to one year ago, while renters saved 44% more customized searches.

The number of Portland apartments favorited by renters more than tripled within the same timeframe. What helped boost the city’s overall rental activity score the most was the 13% decline in the amount of available apartments listed. This shows that Portland is a place where renters want to live, with apartments filling up fast.

8. Minneapolis

Another Midwestern hotspot on our top 10 list is Minneapolis, coming in at #8, up from the 11th place last month. This twin city's urban sophistication and affordable cost of living have led to an increase in appeal for renters at the debut of this year’s peak rental season.

Namely, this month, there were 17% fewer available apartment listings in Minneapolis compared to one year ago, a clear sign of the markets’ popularity among renters. Traffic on listings pages in the city rose by almost 30% year-over-year, while renters saved more than double the number of personalized searches seen last May. And, the number of favorited listings by renters also doubled, indicating a strong intention from apartment hunters to rent in the area.

9. Wichita, KS

Wichita is the ninth most popular city for renters in May. Its presence in the top 10 reinforces the Midwest’s title as the most sought-after region by renters this month. In total, half of our top 10 cities are from this region and roughly one-third of the top 30. Plus, Kansas’ largest city jumped 12 places from last month’s ranking — the biggest rank change in May’s top 10 most in-demand cities.

Notably, a few factors helped it make the climb: Views of Wichita listings surged 75% compared to last May, while renters saved 131% more personalized searches. The city also offers the most spacious apartments in the country for a monthly rent budget of $1,500, which makes it appealing for renters who are looking for a good deal.

10. Orlando, FL

One of Florida’s hottest renter hubs rounds out this month’s top 10. Orlando dropped one place from April’s report, but remains one of the nation’s most popular cities for renters, drawing in a high volume of listing interactions. Renters were more intentional with their plans to move here and favorited 180% more apartments this month compared to one year ago.

In addition, there was a 5% rise in listing views in that same timeframe, with the number of available apartments increasing by only 7%.

Cosmopolitan living is still popular: Seattle & Queens join Boston, Philly & Chicago in top 30

Apartments in Midwestern cities saw the most activity in May on RentCafe.com with nine cities in our top 30 ranking, followed by the South and West with eight each. As the Midwest claimed the top two spots, the West’s highest-ranking city is Albuquerque at #3 and the South is represented by Atlanta at #4.

New York City boroughs the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan lead in the Northeast, alongside major hubs Boston and Philadelphia. Specifically, Philly kept its 13th spot, while Boston dropped two spots and landed in the 21st position. At the same time, the Bronx, NYC’s most affordable borough, descended to the 17th spot in our May rental activity report.

Apartments in Queens jumped an impressive 40 spots to 23rd place. The number of available listings in NYC’s largest borough decreased by 22% compared to one year ago, indicating high rental demand. Clearly, the area is getting a lot of attention from renters as apartment listing views rose 47% from last May.

Manhattan slid to the 30th spot from last month’s top five. Still, the New York borough is buzzing with rental activity: There were 16% fewer listings available this month versus a year prior, as the number of apartments in Manhattan favorited by renters doubled.

Seattle (#27) joins the long string of major urban hubs on our list after climbing 20 places from last month’s ranking. Renters have 12% fewer available apartments in the city to choose from compared to last May. Plus, the number of properties favorited by apartment hunters tripled, which shows that they're one step closer to signing a new lease.

Meet the newcomers: Apartments in suburbs with an urban feel are catching on

For the May rental activity report, we have eight new entries in the ranking. Some are suburban cities located right outside major rental and job hubs. Of course, nowadays, these places are more in-demand with renters enjoying more flexibility (Hello, work from home!) and looking for more affordability.

First, Vancouver, WA, climbed 44 spots to #14, and is our highest-ranking newcomer. Located right next to Portland, OR, which is just across the Columbia River, Vancouver saw an impressive level of engagement from renters on RentCafe.com this month. Plus, apartment dwellers favorited five times as many listings in the city compared to one year ago.

Next, Chandler, AZ — a Phoenix metro suburb — is 20th on our list this month. With no change in the number of apartments available for rent on Rentcafe.com compared to last May, renters favorited six times as many apartments.

Tacoma, WA, also stands out this month not only because it’s a new entry in our rental activity ranking, but also because it pulled off the most significant climb among all cities: 62 places straight to #22. Renters saved nearly 80% more personalized searches on RentCafe.com compared to one year ago and favorited six times more apartments.

Tacoma apartments are getting lots of attention from renters and this is linked to another new entry’s rise in popularity: Seattle made our top 30 for the first time after jumping 20 spots and landing at #27. The number of available listings in the city dropped by 12% compared to last May, as renters favorited triple the number of listings.

Sacramento, CA, is also enjoying the benefits of a spillover effect, with more and more Silicon Valley renters interested in moving to this more affordable yet thriving city. Newcomer Sacramento ranks 25th this month after the listing views on RentCafe.com rose 30% compared to one year ago. Renters saved 39% more personalized searches and favorited three times as many apartments in their quest for the perfect place.

Columbus, OH; St. Paul, MN; and Queens, NY, are also new entries in our May rental activity report.

Here is the full list of cities analyzed and their scores:

Methodology

RentCafe.com is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the U.S.

To compile this report, the research team analyzed RentCafe.com’s rental listing data across the 150 largest cities by population, in the contiguous U.S., with a relevant listing inventory sample.

The cities were ranked based on a city-level rental activity score. Full points were awarded to the most desirable city for a particular metric, while the zero-point level was set slightly below the worst city’s value. Cities that lacked sufficient information regarding specific metrics were awarded zero points.

To calculate each city’s score, we ranked them according to four metrics and their averages as of the most current month in 2023 versus the same month in 2022.

1. Availability Rate (Max score: 40 points)

The availability rate score was calculated by dividing the total vacant units at the city level for the most recent month by the total units and a year-over-year comparison of the same. The lowest rate received maximum points.

2. Page Views (Max score: 30 points)

The page views score was calculated as the total number of monthly page views for the most recent month at the city level divided by the total renter population in the city and a year-over-year comparison of the same. Page views are defined as a unique user interaction on a specific page, in a 30-minute window.

3. Favorites (Max score: 15 points)

The favorites score was calculated as the total monthly rental listings added to favorites at the city level for the most current month divided by the total renter population in the city and a year-over-year comparison of the same. A favorite is defined as a rental listing saved to favorites by a website visitor.

4. Saved Searches (Max score: 15 points)

The saved searches score was calculated as the total number of monthly saved searches at the city level for the most current month divided by the total renter population in the city and a year-over-year comparison of the same. A saved search is defined as a filtered/personalized apartment search saved by a website visitor.

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.

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Alexandra Both is a senior creative writer with RentCafe. She has more than six years of real estate writing experience as a senior editor with Commercial Property Executive and Multi-Housing News. She is a seasoned journalist, who has previously worked in print, online and broadcast media. Alexandra has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Community Development.

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