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2022 Year-End Report: Miami Was America’s Most Competitive Rental Market This Year, Two-Thirds of Renters Renewed Leases

  • In 2022, an average of 14 renters competed for each vacant apartment and the overall national competitivity score was 59.9 out of 130.
  • Miami was 2022’s hottest market. Grand Rapids, Orlando, Harrisburg and North Jersey rounded out the top five most competitive rental markets of the year.
  • Michigan’s undersupplied Lansing – Ann Arbor area entered the top 20 list of the hottest rental markets in 2022, claiming the last spot.

With around 44 million American households living in rental homes, renting is at its highest level in half a century. But, for some renters, finding a new place to call home was no easy task in 2022 — especially in the highly coveted South Florida area, which has long been a favorite relocation spot for people from all around the country.

Moreover, in the last two years, looser regulations and the widespread adoption of remote working attracted even more people to settle in the Sunshine State. As a result, newcomers found themselves competing with those who were already hunting for apartments in the area, making Miami-Dade the hottest area for renting in the U.S.

So, what were the hottest rental markets in 2022? To find out, RentCafe.com analyzed the 135 largest markets in the U.S. where data was available. Specifically, we looked at five important metrics that affect a location’s competitivity:

  • the number of days apartments were vacant
  • what percentage of rentals were occupied
  • the number of prospective renters competing for an apartment
  • what percentage of renters renewed their leases
  • the share of apartments completed this year

Then based on these metrics, we calculated a Rental Competitivity Index (RCI), which shows how competitive the rental market was this year. The national RCI score was 59.9 in 2022.

Two-thirds of renters renewed leases this year

At the national level, vacant apartments were occupied within 32 days, on average and as many as 14 prospective renters competed to secure a lease for a rental apartment.

To further complicate matters (and with homeownership out of reach for many aspiring homebuyers, on top of rapid inflation), renters are increasingly choosing to renew their leases. More precisely, almost two-thirds of renters nationwide chose to renew their leases this year instead of moving into a new place or taking the leap to homeownership in a market that’s still hindered by record home prices and surging interest rates.

Plus, with 95.3% of apartments already occupied, finding a new rental was no easy feat this year — especially because newly built units only represented 1.5% of the nation’s total housing supply.

Notably, new apartments opened faster in Florida’s largest metros than anywhere else in the U.S. this year. Even so, this was still not enough to keep up with soaring demand in an already popular area.

On the other hand, renters were facing surging competition in underserved markets where almost no new apartments were built this year, including Harrisburg, PA, or Central Jersey, NJ.

The most competitive rental markets in 2022 scored over 100 out of 130

Boasting an RCI of 118, Miami was by far the hottest rental market in the U.S., due to record-high occupancy and high lease renewal rates. Here, a combination of factors — including the lack of state income tax, business-friendly climate and booming tech scene — attracted droves of Millennials and even Gen Zers looking to work and live in the Sunshine State.

With almost all apartments in Miami occupied, those looking for a rental here found themselves in a very tight spot, especially as 75% of apartment dwellers chose to stay put this year. As a result, on average, a record 32 renters competed for a vacant apartment in Miami, and rental units were filled in 25 days. And, although the number of apartments in the metro increased by a staggering 2.8% in the first part of the year (a record growth among the top 20 cities in our ranking), that’s still far from meeting the high demand for rentals.

The second most competitive rental market this year was Grand Rapids, MI, with an RCI of 112.6. This thriving yet laid-back location in western Michigan continued to attract lots of young professionals and families from more expensive cities from throughout the country, including Detroit, Chicago and Phoenix.

Due to a surge in popularity in the last few years, finding an apartment for rent in Grand Rapids was no picnic in 2022, especially as hardly any new units were opened in the first part of 2022, which pushed the city’s occupancy rate to a high 96.9%. At the same time, nearly 70% of renters here chose to renew their leases this year. Simply put, there was not enough housing to go around, which only increased demand in Grand Rapids in 2022. As a consequence, no less than 18 prospective renters, on average, competed for each apartment here and vacant units were filled in about 28 days.

Meanwhile, in Orlandothe third most competitive rental market in the nation, with an RCI score of 109.3, as well as the second hottest renting spot in Florida — renters had very few options to choose from, even though the apartment supply grew by 2.2% this year. Here again, 72.5% of apartment dwellers chose to stay put in 2022, so 96.8% of apartments for rent in Orlando were occupied. And, with 21 prospective renters competing for an apartment, the average vacant rental in Orlando was filled in 28 days.

Notably, this demand could be due to the city's welcoming business climate that attracts corporate relocations and expansions. Orlando is also part of the Florida High Tech Corridor, which is a magnet for entrepreneurs, young professionals and students alike.

Despite adding 34,000+ apartments this year, Florida still can't keep up with the influx of newcomers

Five of the country's hottest locations for renters this year were in Florida. This was because the number of people moving to the Sunshine State grew tremendously in the last two years.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida welcomed the most new residents between 2020 and 2021 (220,890 people looking to escape high taxes and frigid winters in the North). It was followed at a great distance by Texas (170,307) and Arizona (93,026). And while developers are busy building apartments all across Florida, the newly built rentals are simply not enough to accommodate the surging demand for housing.

After a few slow years, in 2022 developers in Southwest Florida — including cities like Sarasota, Fort Myers, Bradenton, Naples, Port Charlotte, Venice and Cape Coral — were building new apartments almost as fast as those in Miami. Still, that was not fast enough to accommodate demand in the region. What's more, about 73% of renters renewed their leases in Southwest Florida this year. On average, it took 31 days to fill a vacant unit in Southwest Florida, with 16 prospective renters competing to secure each apartment. Therefore, this corner of Florida has an RCI score of 93.4.

Another hot South Florida rental market in 2022 was Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Hollywood. Just like Miami and Southwest Florida, Broward County (with an RCI score of 82.2) is far from providing enough rental housing to incoming residents, despite a 2.7% increase in new apartments in 2022. With limited options to choose from, more than two-thirds of Broward County renters decided to renew their leases for their current apartments. On average, vacant units here were filled in 34 days, with 17 people competing for an apartment.

Apartments for rent in Tampa were also in high demand throughout the year due to high occupancy (95.5%), a severe shortage of apartments despite a 2.2% increase in supply this year and lease renewal rates approaching 70%. At the same time, home prices continued to climb, which kept people in rentals longer. Clearly, demand for rentals was surging in Tampa, which had an RCI score of 80.5.

Northeastern markets lure remote workers seeking extra space within their budget

This year’s top 20 hottest rental markets in the U.S. included seven metros in the Northeast, which gained traction as more affordable alternatives to pricier East Coast cities, like New York, Philadelphia or Boston.

Specifically, Harrisburg, PA, was the nation’s fourth most competitive rental market this year. This was primarily due to its lower cost of living compared to many of the larger metro areas in the Northeast, as well as its family-friendly community and proximity to the great outdoors. Another advantage to living in Harrisburg is its relative proximity to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

With no new apartments opened this year (at least through August), three-quarters of those renting in Harrisburg chose to renew their leases. This then pushed the occupancy rate to a high 96.5%. Accordingly, a vacant rental here was filled after 33 days, on average, with 18 prospective renters competing for one apartment.

Hot on the heels of Harrisburg was North Jersey, where many working-from-home renters who fled crowded Manhattan found solace in larger, more affordable apartments during the pandemic. Then, as remote work gained momentum, many of them decided to make this part of New Jersey their permanent home. Some of the best examples are Jersey City (with the added perk that the Lower Manhattan skyline looks even more stunning from this vantage point) and Newark, both of which are located within 45 minutes of the Big Apple by train. As a result, Central Jersey and North Jersey were almost twice as competitive as Manhattan in 2022, boasting RCI scores of 96.8 and 107.5, respectively.

Thanks to its rising popularity, North Jersey’s apartments' very high occupancy of 97.2% was only surpassed by apartments in Miami, despite an increase in new apartments of 2.1% this year. So, on average, a vacant apartment here was filled in 32 days, with as many as 21 prospective renters competing for one. And, once again, almost three-quarters of the renters in this area renewed their leases instead of moving into a new place, making the rental market even more competitive.

Not to be outdone, Central Jersey boasted the highest renewal rate of all the markets analyzed, with a whopping 85.3%. However, very few apartments were built in Central Jersey this year, so finding a place to rent was challenging. Consequently, the average vacant rental was occupied in 41 days, with 15 prospective renters competing for an apartment.

Go (Mid)West! Apartment hunting intensifies in America's heartland

Without enough apartments to go around and rapidly rising housing costs, seasoned renters and newcomers seeking a higher quality of life at a lower cost in the Midwest also faced fierce competition. To that extent, the rental market competition in the Midwest was concentrated in Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, both of which boeasted RCI scores above 100.

In sixth place, Milwaukee, WI — which is home to five Fortune 500 companies — attracted lots of renters who relocated here from pricier Chicago and Indianapolis in search of job opportunities and a lower cost of living. But, due to an insufficient number of apartments and nearly 70% of renters choosing to stay put to avoid paying more for a new place, apartment seekers in Milwaukee had to put in some effort to secure a lease. This year, it took 29 days for the average vacant apartment in Milwaukee to be filled, with 18 prospective renters competing for one.

Likewise, it’s also getting increasingly difficult for renters to find apartments in Omaha, NE. Also known as Silicon Prairie due to the growing number of tech startups located here, Omaha is attractive not only for its cost of living, but also for its abundance of opportunities for remote workers looking to get more bang for their buck. Unfortunately, the local housing market is not quite ready for more newcomers. With very few new units added in 2022, vacant apartments here were occupied in an average of 25 days, much faster than the national average of 32 days. And, for every vacant unit in Omaha, there were 18 prospective renters competing for it, on average.

With an RCI score of 77.3, Lansing – Ann Arbor, MI, entered the top 20 list of the hottest rental markets in 2022, landing in the last spot. In fact, a CommercialCafe report pegged Lansing as the fastest-growing location in the Midwest in 2021, largely due to remote workers moving here from Detroit, as well as students enrolling at one of the universities in the area. Meanwhile, nearby Ann Arbor (which is home to the University of Michigan) saw its population increase thanks to out-of-state relocations, mostly from New York City and Chicago.

That said, with virtually zero new units added to the market this year and lease renewal rates as high as 65.4%, apartment seekers in the Lansing – Ann Arbor metro were also in tight competition. On average, a vacant apartment in the area was filled in 31 days, and 13 prospective renters competed for one unit.

Low-supply Orange County is the hottest renting spot in SoCal

It’s no secret that the ever-increasing cost of living in Los Angeles and rising housing prices are pushing many renters to seek new homes in less expensive locations in Southern California — with a preference for apartments in Orange County. And, with a strong economy and diverse job pool fueled by the booming e-commerce sector, the OC is overheated due to low supply.

Another competitive location in SoCal was San Diego. Yet, despite consistently being ranked as one of the most expensive places in the country, it’s still not as expensive as Los Angeles or San Francisco. Notably, the median age in America’s Finest City is around 35 (hey there, Millennials!) and high-level job opportunities abound in high tech, education, research, military, defense and health care.

The Inland Empire landed at 21 in our ranking, dropping seven positions since last year. Still, this predominantly industrial area had an RCI score of 76 and remained competitive due to its location between Los Angeles and San Diego. Speaking of the Los Angeles area, apartments in Eastern Los Angeles were snatched up in 34 days, on average, this year, with 25 renters competing for a vacant unit. And, although it didn't make it into our top 20, this rental market was nevertheless competitive, with an RCI score of 69.1, whereas Western Los Angeles was less competitive (with an RCI score of 38.7)

Our top 20 most competitive rental markets in the U.S. also included: Suburban Philadelphia, Richmond-Tidewater, Pittsburgh, Suburban Chicago and Bridgeport – New Haven, CT.. Additionally, the Inland Empire, Baltimore, Palm Beach County, Cincinnati and Detroit nearly made it to our list this year, claiming the next five spots in the ranking.

Fayetteville is the hottest small-sized rental market in the U.S.

Although large metros tend to offer more jobs and higher salaries, that doesn’t mean that smaller areas can’t be just as competitive in their own right— and Fayetteville, AR, is the perfect example. With a record-high occupancy of 98.3% and more than three-quarters of apartment dwellers opting to stay put this year, renters here had an extremely tough time finding an apartment for rent in Fayetteville. On average, it took just under two weeks for a vacant unit in Fayetteville to become occupied this year, with an astounding 28 prospective renters competing for one apartment.

Here, large employers like the University of Arkansas and Walmart, which is headquartered in nearby Bentonville, provide plenty of opportunities for both locals and newcomers. On top of that, the city is nestled in the Ozark Mountains, thereby making it a great place to live for nature lovers.

The second most competitive small market was Lehigh Valley, PA, where lots of remote workers fleeing tighter restrictions in Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey during the pandemic found larger apartments that better fit their budgets. At the same time, surging home prices forced many prospective buyers to keep renting until they could resume their house-hunting. Consequently, more than 80% of the people living in rental apartments in Lehigh Valley chose to stay in place this year.

Similarly, the expanding work-from-home trend led thousands of Boston, Manhattan and Washington, D.C, residents to reconsider their housing options in the last two years. Many of them chose to relocate to peaceful Portland, ME, in search of a slower pace of life within reach of breathtaking scenery. This then caused the average rental in Portland to be filled after 26 days, with a record 68 prospective renters competing for every vacant apartment this year. Of course, in all honesty, Bostonians have always had a soft spot for this charming corner of New England.

Other small markets that were highly competitive in 2022 included Lafayette, IN; Asheville, NC; Madison, WI; Tulsa, OK; Providence, RI; Knoxville, TN; North Central Florida; Little Rock, AR; Columbus, GA; Fort Wayne, IN; Chattanooga, TN; Wichita, KS; Albany, NY; South Bend, IN; Fayetteville, NC; and Albuquerque, NM.

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, RentCafe.com’s research team analyzed Yardi Systems apartment data across 135 rental markets in the U.S. The data comes directly from market-rate large-scale multifamily properties of at least 50 units. Fully affordable multifamily properties were excluded.

The markets were ranked based on a market competitive score. To calculate each market’s score, we ranked them according to five metrics and their averages for January through August 2022: apartment occupancy rate; average total days vacant; prospective renters per vacant unit; renewal lease rate and share of new apartments completed during the same timeframe compared to the overall supply at the end of December 2021.

We then compiled an average ranking by assigning a percentage weight for each metric: 30% for apartment occupancy rate; 15% for average vacant days; 15% for prospective renters per vacant unit; 30% for renewal lease rate; and 10% for the share of new apartments.

In this study, the terms “market,”, “area”, “metro” and “location” are used interchangeably and are defined as Yardi Matrix markets.

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.

Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu is a senior creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With more than 10 years of experience in the real estate industry, she covers a variety of topics in residential and commercial real estate, including trends and industry news. Previously, she was involved in producing content for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and Yardi Matrix. Veronica’s academic background includes a B.A. in Applied Modern Languages and an M.A. in Advertising and PR.

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