National Apartment Size Rebounds as More 2- & 3-Bedroom Rentals Are Built

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  • The average U.S. apartment size increased by 27 square feet from the previous year, reaching 916 square feet.
  • More two- and three-bedroom apartments opened their doors, which drove up the nation’s average apartment size.  
  • Florida’s Jacksonville and Orlando were among the top cities with the largest sizes of new apartments, while Seattle led the locations with the smallest units.
  • Rentals in Manhattan, NY; San Francisco; Chicago; and Los Angeles are getting roomier. For example, the average apartment size in the Windy City gained 97 square feet in the last decade.

Larger living spaces are making a comeback. The average size of new apartments in the U.S. saw substantial growth in 2023, bouncing back to 916 square feet after a steep decline the previous year. This increase can be attributed to more spacious two- and three-bedroom apartments opening their doors last year as developers aimed to meet renters’ need for more space. Notably, the recent upward trend contrasts with the slump registered in 2022, when the average size of apartments fell sharply due to a historically high surge in smaller units being built.

So, to help renters make informed decisions as we near the peak rental season, RentCafe.com took a closer look at the size of apartments across the nation’s 100 largest cities. Specifically, the research team highlighted the cities with the most generous apartments and the places with the most compact rentals, but also locations where apartments got roomier in the last decade. Furthermore, the RentCafe.com report also researched cities that are building bigger and the size of build-to-rent houses.

In 2023, the share of two- and three-bedroom apartments increased compared to the 10-year average. However, looking at what was built last year, one-bedroom apartments still dominated construction, comprising the largest share of new apartments (48.3%). This was also one of the factors that pushed down the average size of apartments in the last 10 years — a trend that persists despite the recent uptick.

Speaking of extra floor space, renters who are contemplating homeownership, but who are not quite ready for the financial leap just yet, might appreciate the fact that the average size of a single-family home for rent increased to 1,437 square feet in 2023. That's 41 square feet more than the year before and second only to the numbers in 2020 (1,457 square feet).

Another interesting point is that three-bedroom apartments have been steadily getting roomier and remain close to single-family homes for rent in terms of floor space and rent costs: The size of a build-to-rent house increased to more than 1,400 square feet in 2023 for an average rent of $2,096, while the norm for a three-bedroom unit was close to 1,350 square feet and $2,160 in monthly rent. This is why, in some locations, renters might find it more convenient to rent a house as opposed to a three-bedroom unit.

Zooming in, Gainesville and Tallahassee in Florida topped the list of cities with the biggest apartments, while Seattle and Portland, OR, had the most crammed rentals among the 100 locations we analyzed.

At the same time, a surprising trend is emerging from the country's largest urban hubs: The average size of a rental in big cities like Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Boston; Los Angeles; Chicago; and even Manhattan, NY, is inching up. In this case, Chicago and San Francisco stood out with some of the largest gains in floor space — 97 and 73 square feet, respectively.

Interestingly, the U.S. cities that offered the roomiest apartments have been building even bigger throughout the last 10 years. For instance, Tucson, AZ, stood out among the top cities for apartment size as the average rental here gained a remarkable 246 square feet — enough to accommodate two extra guest bedrooms. Other cities that similarly reflected this trend included Gainesville, FL; Tallahassee, FL; Baton Rouge, LA; Knoxville, TN; and Lubbock, TX.

Apartments shrinking at one end, supersizing at other

In general, small rentals are getting smaller and large apartments are gaining square feet. More precisely, two- and three-bedroom apartments have been adding more floor space in the last decade, while studios and one-bedroom apartments (the dominating floorplan among new apartments) have been getting more and more compact.

Of course, studios and one-bedroom apartments have been builders’ favorites in recent years as a response to skyrocketing housing demand — so much so that small rentals now dominate the new apartments market with a share of 54.3%. However, if we look at units built before 2014, larger rentals with multiple bedrooms made up 52.2% of all apartment construction.

When it came to changes in size, studios took the biggest hit after shrinking by a whopping 54 square feet in the last decade: The average size of a studio in 2023 was 445 square feet compared to 499 square feet in 2014. Meanwhile, one-bedroom apartments shed a more modest seven square feet of floor space in the last 10 years.

On a brighter note, the two-bedroom apartment — the second-most popular floorplan of the last decade — gained seven square feet and reached 1,099 square feet last year. Similarly, the even larger three-bedroom apartments saw more variations but have been steadily getting roomier: At 1,347 square feet in 2023, this average is now 19 square feet larger than their size a decade ago.

10-Year Evolution by Unit Type

Graphs showing the evolution of the average apartments size by unit type in the last 10 years.

What's interesting is that the average size of a three-bedroom apartment was 90 square feet below the average size of a build-to-rent home, whereas the monthly rent for that same apartment was $64 more expensive than for a single-family rental. That makes houses for rent the more appealing option.

Gainesville, FL, apartments offer most floor space in nation after impressive growth

Sunbelt destinations cater best to renters looking for spacious living. That's because, here, they'll find the cities with the largest average apartment sizes in the nation. Additionally, rentals in these regions have continued to gain floor space throughout the last decade. In particular, Tucson, AZ, and Gainesville, FL, stood out with the most spectacular changes in the average square footage of apartments.

First, Florida took the lead when it came to spacious rentals. Namely, top college town Gainesville ranked first for apartment size among the 100 cities we analyzed with an average of 1,173 square feet for new units completed in the last decade. That was nearly 200 square feet more than the historical average for Gainesville apartments — enough for one extra bedroom and a more private office space. Home to the University of Florida and its museum-clad campus, this picturesque city attracts students who appreciate its vibe and roomy rentals.

Second on our list was Tallahassee, FL, where renters get to enjoy the 1,159 square feet that new apartments have to offer, which is 155 square feet more than the average for the units built here before 2014. Here, too, renters are drawn by affordability and access to education (Florida State University and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University are both in Tallahassee), as well as the extra floor space.

Next up was Baton Rouge, LA, one of the nation’s fastest growing economies. New apartments in this Louisiana historic spot span 1,068 square feet, which is 160 square feet more than the average for the city’s historic stock. It's worth noting here that Baton Rouge’s transformation is a magnet for students and young renters, who enjoy plenty of room to grow here. Then, fourth on our list was Knoxville, TN, while Atlanta suburb Marietta, GA, rounded out our top five.

Big Apple, tiny apartments? Rentals in Manhattan & San Francisco actually growing in size

It might not come as a surprise that the cities with the least-spacious apartments are major urban hubs. What is surprising, though, is that the average size of units in some of these cities is increasing. This was true for places like the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., as well as San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, but also crowded Manhattan, NY. In contrast, rentals in places like Seattle; Queens, NY; Brooklyn, NY; and Detroit are getting smaller.

In fact, Seattle was the city with the smallest apartment size. Here, new units for rent measured 661 square feet. Historically, things were not much different with typical Seattle rentals spanning 686 square feet.

Next on the list was Portland, OR, with its 685-square-foot rentals, which fell below the 700-square foot threshold in the last decade. For comparison, apartments built before 2014 averaged 739 square feet, allowing for an extra tiny home office, for example.

Coming up next were New York City boroughs Queens and Brooklyn, which landed third and fourth on our list, respectively. In both locations, the average size of new apartments shrank to around 700 square feet. But Queens saw a more significant decrease of 32 square feet compared to the historical average square footage of rentals. Then, Manhattan was sixth in the nation due to its 737-square-foot rentals. Even so, as opposed to the other locations on our list, apartments here are growing in size: New Manhattan units were 16 square feet roomier than those built decades ago.

Leaving the East Coast for the Midwest, new Detroit apartments averaged 726 square feet — a solid 44 square feet below the average size of units built in the city before 2014. Only Seattle and Silver Spring, MD, apartments lost more square feet in the last decade.

Not to be outdone, San Francisco ranked eighth on our list of cities with the smallest new rentals with an average of 756 square feet. Surprisingly, this was 73 square feet more than the historical average.

Lastly, coming in seventh on our list of cities with the most compact rentals, Washington, D.C., also deserves a mention. Here again, apartments are gaining floor space: New units averaged 744 square feet, which was a slight uptick compared to the average of 739 square feet for apartments built before 2014.

Tucson, AZ, builds bigger; Birmingham, AL, rentals shrink most

Renters looking for more leg room should start searching for apartments in Tucson, AZ. That's because new apartments here gained nearly 250 square feet compared to rentals built before 2014 — the most among all 100 cities we analyzed. Consequently, the average apartment size in the city is now 989 square feet.

Next on our list of significant increases in floor space was Gainesville, FL, which topped the ranking for cities with the largest apartment size. Notably, new rentals in this buzzing college town are 193 square feet roomier than typical apartments in the historic stock. Then, in third place was Corpus Christi, TX, where renters get to enjoy an extra 166 square feet in apartments that opened their doors in the last 10 years. The average size of units here surpassed the 1,000 square feet threshold.

Not far behind were Cleveland; Knoxville, TN; and Baton Rouge, LA. Each city gained about 160 square feet in apartment size, which would be enough for an extra-spacious bedroom and a tiny home office.

Conversely, there were also cities where this trend was reversed — places where apartments are actually shrinking. Birmingham, AL, led in this category as new apartments lost 141 square feet of floor space compared to units built before 2014. Next was Silver Spring, MD, where new apartments were 122 square feet smaller than older units.

Third was Midwestern city Omaha, NE. Rentals completed here in the last 10 years averaged 843 square feet, which was 65 square feet less than older units. Likewise, Atlanta; Nashville, TN; and Portland, OR, saw similar decreases in their apartment size for new rentals.

Future apartments in South Florida are roomiest, while Seattle & San Jose, CA, embrace tiny units

Renters who want more living space and are not in a hurry to move should bookmark the following Southeastern locations, where apartments under construction average more than 1,000 square feet: Port. St. Lucie and Fort Myers in South Florida are the top cities in the nation for the average size of apartments under construction — 1,283 square feet and 1,132 square feet, respectively.

In the same vein, Wake Forest, NC, came next with an average of 1,117 square feet for rentals now underway. Close behind were apartments under construction in Knoxville, TN, (1,112 square feet) and Clayton, NC (1,075 square feet). Generally, most cities that are now building spacious apartments (above the 1,000 square feet threshold) are in the Southeast.


In contrast, tiny rentals are still trending in San Jose, CA; Seattle; and Los Angeles — the top three cities with the smallest apartments under construction. To be precise, the average size of units underway in Seattle and San Jose is below 450 square feet, while Angelenos will soon have a fresh stock of small rentals averaging 553 square feet. Philadelphia and Portland, OR, were next on our list, building apartments that span around 600 square feet.

Newark, NJ; Salt Lake City; San Diego and Arlington, VA, were also among the top 10 cities with the smallest apartments underway. They all offered between 700 and 750 square feet.

North Florida cities lead in spacious build-to-rent houses

The national average size of a build-to-rent unit reached 1,437 square feet in 2023, which was 41 square feet more than in 2022 and 127 square feet extra compared to the average a decade ago. Only houses built in 2020 — the peak pandemic period — offered more floor space (1,457 square feet) than those completed last year.

In this scenario, North Florida and suburban Kansas City, MO, offered the most spacious single-family homes for rent — much more than the national average. To be exact, Pensacola, FL, led the way with an average size that was just below 2,000 square feet. Similarly, Shawnee, KS, followed with 1,890 square feet for the typical build-to-rent home. Notably, Kansas City is adding houses for rent at a rapid pace to stand out as one of the Midwest's top build-to-rent markets. Coming in third was Jacksonville, FL, where the average size of a single-family home for rent was 1,640 square feet.

At the bottom of the list were cities in Texas and Arizona, where build-to-rent construction is booming. Yet, while developers are pushing up the number of units, they’re not doing much for size. As such, the average size for a new build-to-rent unit in Grand Prairie, TX, was 910 square feet, which lags behind the national average by more than 500 square feet. Nearby, Fort Worth, TX, ranked a little higher with its compact 970-square-foot houses for rent. It was followed by Peoria, AZ, with 996 square feet. Staying in Arizona, the typical home for rent in Phoenix (one of the nation's hottest markets for build-to-rent construction) offered a bit more than 1,000 square feet of living space.

Methodology

This report 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.

The apartment size and rent data were provided by Yardi Matrix, a RentCafe sister company specializing in apartment market intelligence and providing up-to-date information on large-scale, multifamily properties of 50 units or more in more than 177 U.S. markets. Unit types were categorized by the number of bedrooms (zero, one, two or three) as defined by Yardi Matrix. 

Rankings were based on the top 100 U.S. cities with the largest stock of apartments (sometimes referred to as “largest cities for renters”) located in multifamily buildings of 50 units or more. To ensure a relevant sample size, we excluded cities where the number of units completed in one year was less than 500.

When looking at the changes in apartment size in each city, we considered "new apartments" as those units that were built between 2014 and 2023. This ensured a statistically relevant sample size and avoided yearly fluctuations that do not necessarily show a trend.

For the build-to-rent section, the data included only properties defined as single-family homes for rent that are located in build-to-rent, professionally managed communities in the markets covered by Yardi Matrix research. Data for some markets may not be available and data for the locations included in the analysis may be subject to change. This analysis does not include other types of single-family rentals that are not located in build-to-rent communities.

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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