National Average Apartment Size Shrinking as Studios & 1-Bedroom Apartments Gain in Share

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  • The average apartment size for new rentals in 2022 was 887 square feet — a 54 square-foot drop since 10 years ago. It was also the largest year-over-year decrease, down 30 square feet.  
  • Among other factors, the drop in size can be attributed to more studios and one-bedroom apartments entering the market in 2022, reaching a historic share of 57%.
  • Tallahassee, FL, led the nation with the largest apartments, while Seattle offered the smallest apartments.
  • Apartments in Tucson, AZ, saw the largest increase in apartment size.
  • Silver Spring, MD, apartments saw the largest decrease in the last 10 years. 

The post-pandemic apartment market has seen significant fluctuations from one year to another, including oscillations in the size of new apartments. From the need for more space in 2020 to the need for more homes in 2022, the rising demand for rentals is affecting the size of newly built apartments. In fact, in 2022, the average apartment size was 887 square feet. That’s 54 square feet less than 10 years ago, when rentals measured 941 square feet, on average. But, the sharpest drop in one year was in 2022, when the average size went from 917 to 887 — a difference of 30 square feet.

With this in mind, we looked at the most significant changes in apartment size in the 100 largest U.S. cities, using data from Yardi Matrix.

Notably, last year's decrease comes after the two pandemic years, 2020 and 2021, when the average size of new apartments actually increased. Once again, this confirmed the developers' quick response to the need for more space during the pandemic, as they adjusted floorplans in order to accommodate large enough configurations to fit a home office. Yet, 2022 presented a different story: With one of the highest levels of construction in half a century, the year was marked by the need for more housing all across the country. As such, more studios and one-bedroom apartments were finished in 2022 than ever before. In fact, the share of smaller units reached a historic high of 57% in 2022 — a significant change compared to 10 years ago, when they represented exactly half of apartments built.

However, the 30-square-foot decline in the size of new apartments doesn't mean that all types of units shrank when compared to 2021. Rather, larger apartments with three bedrooms actually grew by 15 square feet.

Apartments in the South are the largest, while the Pacific Northwest claims the smallest

Everything is bigger in the South, and that clearly includes apartment space: In 2022, the average size of an apartment here was 993 square feet. That means that renters in the South enjoyed an extra 106 square feet compared to the national average. On the other hand, renters in the Pacific Northwest had the least amount of space with only 776 square feet — 111 less than the national average apartment size.

According to data from our 2018 report, a shift seems to have taken place: The Pacific Northwest has overtaken California as the region with the least amount of apartment space. Now, renters in California can make use of an average of 876 square feet.

Tallahassee apartments boast the most space in the nation — & they're getting bigger

Although renters in Texas usually have the privilege of living in the largest apartments, Tallahassee, FL, was the #1 city out of 100 analyzed in terms of apartment living space. At 1,182 square feet, Tallahassee apartments offered renters 295 extra square feet compared to the national average — that's the size of almost three small home offices. Moreover, compared to 10 years ago, the apartment size here has increased by 16.2% or 191 square feet, which is approximately the size of two small home offices.

And, according to our 2022 local competitivity report, apartments in Tallahassee were in high demand. This makes sense given that residents here (27% of whom would fall into the category of young professionals in need of a home office) enjoyed the most apartment space of the 100 cities on our list.

Staying in the Sunshine state, apartments in Gainesville, FL, were next on the list with 1,105 square feet in size, or about 218 square feet of extra space more than the national average. That's enough for two small home offices, which young professionals — enticed by the city's business-friendly climate — would certainly appreciate. In the last 10 years, this number increased by 11.4% or 126 square feet.

Leaving Florida, we moved to Mobile, AL, where the average size of an apartment was 1,080 square feet. This means that, in 2022, renters living in the Azalea City enjoyed 193 square feet of extra space after having expanded in size by 188 square feet or 17.4%.

Next up, apartments in Knoxville, TN, completed in 2022 had an average size of 1,075 square feet. When compared to the national average, this revealed that renters in one of Tennessee's best college towns benefited from an extra 188 of space. Compared to 10 years ago, that's an expansion of 16.5% or 177 square feet.

Rounding out the top five, were Marietta, GA, apartments with an average of 1,060 square feet of space. This offered renters an extra 173 square feet — the equivalent of 1.5 small home offices. Of course, compared to other cities, Marietta's increase in size was more modest at 35 square feet or 3.3%.

Seattle apartments are getting smaller, while Manhattan sees an increase in sizes

Seattle apartments maintained their position at the bottom of the list as the smallest apartments in the country — only 659 square feet in size in 2022. In fact, it seems that apartments in Washington's tech hub, have continued to shrink throughout the last decade, registering a decrease of 5%, or 30 square feet when compared to 10 years ago.

Next up was the borough of Queens, NY, with apartments measuring 681 square feet in 2022 to come in 46 square feet (or 7%) less than 10 years ago. It was accompanied by fellow NYC boroughs Brooklyn and Manhattan in the third and fifth spots, respectively, all of which offered renters the possibility of living in the city, while also staying within budget.

Specifically, rental apartments in Brooklyn measured 692 square feet, which was 45 square feet (or 7%) less than a decade ago. Conversely, Manhattan has started to shed its reputation of historically small rentals: It experienced a surprising increase of 19 square feet (3%) in apartment size compared to 10 years ago. In 2022, rentals in this borough measured 740 square feet, thereby giving renters (primarily single young professionals) the opportunity to look for employment in a recovering job market without breaking the bank.

But, Manhattan wasn't the only surprise on the list: Apartments in other large cities like — San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles —  that tend to be smaller in size, have also upsized. More precisely, apartments in the Windy City underwent the biggest change of the three. Going from 704 to 797 square feet, renters here gained an extra 93 square feet (or 12%) as compared to 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, renters gained an extra 52 square feet (or 7%), as the average apartment size here went from 689 to 741 square feet. Similarly, Los Angeles apartments experienced a 45-square-foot increase (6%). This bumped the average size of apartments in the City of Angels, from 754 to 799 square feet.

Average apartment size in Tucson increased the most, by 300 square feet

With the average size of apartments in Tucson, AZ, increasing by 300 square feet (29%), renters here enjoyed the biggest gain in terms of space out of all 100 cities on our list. Moreover, the average size of new apartments during the last 10 years here was 1,037 square feet. This makes Tucson one of the best cities for renters who need the extra space.

Likewise, Cleveland apartments saw the second-largest increase in size, growing by 171 square feet, on average. They were followed by Newark, NJ, apartments, which upsized by 169 square feet (or 19% in both cases).

To the south, Mobile, AL, apartments had the fourth-largest 10-year increase in size, offering renters an extra 188 square feet (17%), along with Wichita, KS, where renters gained 162 square feet more apartment space (also 17%).

Average apartment size decreased the most in these cities in the last 10 years

On the other hand, Silver Spring, MD apartments, saw the biggest decrease in size. Renters here lost 114 square feet (15%) of apartment space. Plus, with the average size of an apartment being 780 square feet, Silver Spring also placed high on the list of cities with the least amount of apartment space.

Other significant size decreases during the last 10 years were noted in new apartments in Decatur, GA, where renters lost 100 square feet (or 11%), and in Birmingham, AL, where the average size of a rental shrunk by 96 square feet (11%).

Portland, OR, apartments were also among those with the biggest losses in size since 10 years ago, dropping by 61 square feet (19%). Coupled with its title as the city with the second-smallest apartments in the U.S. (along with Queens, NY), space in the Rose City is becoming a rare commodity.

Atlanta wrapped up the list with apartments here losing 69 square feet (8%) during the last 10 years to measure at 900 square feet, on average.

Tallahassee is building more & bigger, while San Francisco sees a decrease in the size of apartments under construction

Notably, apartments under construction can give us a glimpse of what’s to come such as how big or how small the future apartment will be. And, although the data for unfinished buildings may change and these numbers are not final, we can see some interesting trends taking place in certain locations.

Continuing its upward streak, Tallahassee is planning on increasing the average size of its apartments in the future. Thus, the size of apartments under construction is estimated to reach 1,408 square feet. In other words, that would be 226 square feet of extra space for renters compared to the current numbers.

Not to be outdone, Ocala, FL is also planning to expand the size of its new apartments to an estimated 1,407 square feet. Ranked among the best cities to live in Florida, the Horse Capital of the World is following up on an employment boost much like the rest of the state.

Further north, Louisville, KY, is also aiming to expand the size of its apartments from 1,011 square feet to 1,165 square feet in the future after already seeing a 13% (129 square feet) increase in size since 10 years ago. Other cities to watch out for are newcomers Lake Worth, FL, and Clarksville, TN, which are building apartments estimated to measure 1,130 square feet and 1,118 square feet, respectively.

At the other end of the list are Spokane, WA, apartments, which are predicted to reach an average of 494 square feet — the lowest on the list and possibly continuing the trend of the Pacific Northwest building smaller in terms of apartment size.

Along the same lines, apartments under construction in San Francisco are expected to measure 591 square feet, on average. Granted, this would be a sharp drop from the 741 square feet it managed to reach during the last 10 years. Likewise, fellow California city Los Angeles is following close behind with an estimated 629 square feet for future apartments, demonstrating that the region is following a trend of building small.

Minneapolis and St. Louis rounded out the list with apartments in these Midwestern cities predicted to measure 632 and 648 square feet, on average.

Notably, two interesting cases were Portland, OR, and Gainesville, FL, which stood at opposite ends of our ranking in terms of apartment size, but seem to have inverted progression paths for the future. Namely, Portland, OR — which ranked second out of 15 big cities when it came to the least amount of space — is planning to upsize from 681 square feet to 724 square feet. This means that renters here stand to gain an extra 43 square feet. Meanwhile, Gainesville is downsizing, going from 1,105 square feet to 1,078 square feet and losing 27 square feet in the process.

But, Gainesville isn't the only one: New apartments in Tucson are also estimated to lose 132 square feet of space in the future, going from 1,037 square feet to 905 square feet. That's almost half of what it gained during the last 10 years.

Chicago is also in a similar situation: Apartments under construction here are expected to lose as much as 129 square feet for an estimated total of 668 square feet — a sharp drop when compared to the average size of new apartments during the last 10 years (797 square feet).

Of course, it’s important to note that this is preliminary information we're seeing in the data available for apartments currently under construction. As such, these numbers are subject to change as more apartments are completed and more data becomes available.

Check out the table below to see the average apartment size in 100 of the largest cities of the U.S.:

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 130 U.S. markets.

Unit types were categorized by the number of bedrooms (zero, one or two) as defined by Yardi Matrix. The regions included in this report coincided with Yardi Matrix’s market boundaries and may be different from regional boundaries as defined by other sources.

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 multi-family 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 300.

When looking at the changes in apartment size in each city, we considered "new apartments" those units that were built between 2013 and 2022. This ensures a statistically relevant sample size and avoids yearly fluctuations that do not necessarily show a trend.

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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Adina Dragos is a creative writer at RentCafe, with a passion for reading, research and cats. As a fellow renter, Adina's articles cover various topics such as the state of the real estate market or how creative interior design choices improve the experience of living in a rental. She also enjoys exploring subjects like urbanization, green living and historical buildings. Adina has a BA in English and Norwegian Language and Literature.

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