Rental Activity Report: Minneapolis Makes Swift Return to Top Spot, South Prevails in Top 30

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  • Minneapolis returns as the most in-demand city for renters — its fourth time taking the lead in 2024.
  • The South is renters’ preferred region this month with 11 cities in the top 30 most active rental markets at the start of the moving season.
  • Chicago ranked among the top 10 cities for the first time, joining other popular major hubs, like Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia.

The high season for renting is here, and we can feel the heat of the most intense apartment-hunting months. But, which cities are getting the most attention from renters?

May Rental Activity Report 2024The Midwest is the center of attention this month with Minneapolis reemerging as the leading city for rental activity on RentCafe.com. This comes after the city’s four-month streak as renters’ favorite was interrupted by an unexpected climb to the top by KansasOverland Park in April. Next is Atlanta, which currently occupies the second spot after managing to attract an impressive volume of online engagements from apartment seekers. Then, in third is Cleveland, finishing one spot higher than last month thanks to more views of its listings.

Of course, Overland Park didn’t stray too far from the top and landed in the fourth position, followed by the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., to round out our top five. These cities had the highest engagement rates on RentCafe.com due to soaring rates of rental properties saved as favorites, more saved personalized searches, scarce unit availability and overall increased listings traffic.

Top 10 cities for rental activity in May 2024.

As the high season for renting makes its debut, renters are increasingly drawn to cities in the South and less interested in Northeastern spots. Consequently, the South emerged as the most popular region this month with 11 entries in our top 30 ranking. Next was the West with nine cities on our list (the same as in our April report). And, although the Midwest counted eight entries in our ranking, five were among the top 10 locations for rental activity. This shows that renters are actively searching for rentals in the area, but mainly opting for major hubs, as opposed to suburban destinations. Cities in the Northeast completed the chart’s remaining two spots.

For a broader perspective on regional trends before peak rental season, skim our March and April rental activity reports.

Notably, a more in-depth view of regional data reveals that the Midwest is consistently dominating the top five with Minneapolis at the forefront, followed by Cleveland and Overland Park as third and fourth, respectively. Chicago also entered the top 10 for the first time this year at #8 after pulling off an impressive climb of 12 spots. Meanwhile, Southern cities were led by Atlanta (ranking second) and Washington, D.C., which was fifth on our list. Not far behind were renter favorites Orlando, FL, at #7 and Richmond, VA, at #10. Further north, Philadelphia is the Northeast’s most popular city this month, occupying the ninth spot. And, the West’s most in-demand city by renters is Denver, just missing the top 10, at #13.

Minneapolis returns as most sought-after city for renters in May

1. Minneapolis

Minneapolis made its way back to the top position after spending one month in the second spot behind fellow Midwestern destination Overland Park, KS. This month, renters’ heightened interest in Minneapolis apartments for rent on RentCafe.com resulted in a 20% uptick in listings views compared to the same time last year. Our data showed that those looking to move here were mostly from places like Chicago and nearby St. Paul, MN.

Minneapolis skyline with skyscrapers against a blue sky.

Increased demand in this Twin City also led to a 21% drop in available rentals as apartment seekers continued to browse and engage with Minneapolis listings. It’s also worth noting that this was the fifth month that Minneapolis earned the top spot this year.

2. Atlanta

Another renter favorite with a history of intense rental activity is Atlanta. The South’s highest-ranking city and RentCafe’s top city to watch in 2024 climbed one spot since last month and inched closer to the top to finish at #2. This dynamic tech city is a magnet for renters looking to relocate from Miami, New York City and Chicago.

Atlanta's skyline with skyscrapers and roads.

As such, renters’ search for the perfect apartment in the city is more intense, so it might take longer to find the perfect pad, which would explain the year-over-year decline in favorited properties and saved searches. However, overall, Atlanta listings boast strong engagement rates, which helped the city rank high among all of the 150 cities we analyzed.

3. Cleveland

Renter-friendly Cleveland hopped up to the third spot this month after ranking fourth in the last edition of our rental activity report. The climb was mainly driven by the 76% increase in the number of favorited apartments compared to last May, as well as a 23% rise in listings views.

Cleveland, Ohio, USA downtown skyline on the Cuyahoga River at dusk.

In this case, Cleveland’s popularity was also reflected in the 21% decline in available apartments for rent on RentCafe.com, which is a sign of acute rental demand. To be more precise, Ohio’s second-most-populous city is a desirable destination for apartment seekers from Ashburn, VA; New York City; and Chicago.

4. Overland Park, KS

Overland Park, KS, continues to shine as a renter favorite, ranking fourth this month. The Kansas City, MO, suburb led April’s top 30 most in-demand cities for renters and continues to see high listings traffic. As a matter of fact, the number of page views for Overland Park apartments rose by 56% compared to this time last year.

Aerial view of Overland Park, KS, buildings.

What's more, renters favorited 8% more properties in the city and saved 3% more personalized searches for apartments. This shows a stronger intent to lease in Overland Park, KS, especially from those living in Kansas City, but looking for a place outside of the city.

5. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is still high on renters’ preference lists, ranking fifth for rental activity this month. Here, renters’ intense search for an apartment resulted in a 5% drop in available listings on RentCafe.com, signaling strong demand.

Washington, D.C., National Mall, including Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial with mirror reflections on the water.

Granted, most people browsing Washington, D.C., listings are locals looking for a new apartment. Even so, the city is also a top choice for renters looking to relocate from Baltimore, New York City and Boston.

6. Cincinnati

Back in the Midwest, Cincinnati managed the most significant climb among the cities in the top 10 — surging 21 spots straight to #6. The city’s popularity among renters also led to a 14% decrease in available listings compared to last May.

Cincinnati skyline view in the evening.

Specifically, apartments for rent in the city generated high traffic and engagement rates on RentCafe.com in May to push the city even higher in the ranking. Most page views for Cincinnati properties were generated by renters from Columbus, OH, as well as Atlanta.

7. Orlando, FL

Florida’s Orlando remains one of the most appealing cities for renters, ranking seventh — one spot lower than in April. Still, the city continues to be a magnet for apartment seekers, which led to 12% fewer listings available on RentCafe.com than one year ago. In fact, Orlando apartments generate significant traffic, particularly from renters in Miami and Atlanta.

Downtown Orlando from Lake Eola Park on a beautiful sunny day.

Despite the intense competition, renters are searching longer to find a perfect place for them, taking more time to weigh their options. That also explains the year-over-year decline in favorited properties and saved searches.

8. Chicago

Chicago was among the cities to watch in 2024 for intense rental activity and, so far, it has not disappointed: It climbed 12 spots since our April report and landed in the eighth spot this month to represent the fifth Midwestern city in our top 10.

Chicago skyline aerial view with sunrise above downtown buildings and Lake Michigan.

Here, a higher volume of searches and favorited properties in the last month helped the city rank higher. Also, the 8% year-over-year decline in available listings — along with a 2% uptick in page views — further influenced Chicago’s position in our top 30. For context, most renters looking to move here come from other major cities. In particular, out-of-state apartment seekers looking for a rental in Chicago currently live in Dallas, New York City and even Los Angeles, according to our data.

9. Philadelphia

Another major urban hub in our top 10 this month is Philadelphia at #9. While this is not Philly’s first time at the top of the chart, the city did jump 15 spots since last month. Its evolution is mostly due to increased listings traffic as renters generated 27% more page views for Philadelphia apartments than one year ago. Soaring rental demand also led to an 18% dip in available listings on RentCafe.com compared to one year prior.

Philadelphia's skyline and its waterfront.

Overall, Philadelphia listings are seeing significant engagement from locals searching for a new rental, but also from New Yorkers looking to relocate.

10. Richmond, VA

Richmond, VA, rounded out our top 10 in May after months among the top 30 cities for rental activity. The city’s growing popularity is reflected in the 16% drop in available listings on RentCafe.com. This doesn’t come as a surprise given the fact that more graduates are applying for jobs in the city now versus one year ago.

Richmond, Virginia, downtown skyline at dawn.

Despite fewer favorited apartments than last May, renters added a substantial number of properties to their favorites lists last month to rank the city eighth among the 150 cities analyzed. Most renters looking to move to Richmond are from Ashburn, VA; Baltimore; New York City; and Philadelphia.

Southern cities dominate renters’ preferences, but Midwestern locations rank highest

The start of the high season for renting coincided with the rise of Southern locations on renters’ preference lists. Accordingly, the South claimed 11 entries in this month’s rental activity report, followed by the West with nine spots. At the same time, the Midwest maintained its appeal for apartment seekers, leading to eight cities in the region ranking in our top 30, including three among the top five spots. The Northeast completed the list with the remaining two cities as renters are doing less searching for apartments in the region.

Zooming in, Minneapolis leads the top 30, which also makes it the #1 most sought-after city in the Midwest. Next is Cleveland at #3, followed closely by last month’s most popular destination for renters — Overland Park, KS, at #4. Cincinnati and Chicago also ranked high this month at sixth and eighth, respectively. Back in Minnesota, Minneapolis’ urban twin, St. Paul, managed one of this month’s most remarkable climbs — up 28 spots to land just outside of the top 10. Indianapolis (#18) and Omaha, NE, (#23) were also part of our top 30 after seeing fewer available listings due to high rental demand.

Silver medalist Atlanta was this month’s highest ranking Southern city, while Washington, D.C., was second in the region and fifth nationally. One of the reasons why the nation’s capital is seeing increased demand for apartments is a higher number of college graduates looking for government jobs here.

Further south, Orlando, FL, was the third-most in-demand city in the region, followed by Richmond, VA (#10); Louisville, KY (#12); Knoxville, TN (#15); Tulsa, OK (#17); and Columbus, GA (#24). Tulsa stands out due to a 26% increase in online listings traffic and a spectacular 88% rise in saved personalized searches, showing renters’ strong intent to rent here. Similarly, Winston-Salem, NC (#25); Cape Coral, FL (#26); and Charlotte, NC (#29); are other Southern cities in our top 30. Located right between Tampa and Miami, Cape Coral in Florida is also seeing more apartment searches this peak season, which led to an impressive 54% drop in available listings.

Out West, Denver is the most in-demand city for renters in that region, ranking 13th nationally after climbing 13 spots since last month. Next is Portland, OR (#14), followed by Elk Grove, CA (just outside Sacramento), which jumped 22 spots to #19 in our top 30. Another popular option for renters this month was Tacoma, WA, which ranked fourth in the region and 20th nationwide, followed by Reno, NV — fifth in the region and 21st nationwide. Then, the sixth-most sought-after city in the West — North Las Vegas, NV — dipped 20 positions from the top 10 straight to #27, just squeaking into our ranking.

In the Northeast, Philadelphia earned the title of most sought-after city by renters, climbing straight to #9. Speaking of climbs, Rochester, NY, pulled off an impressive jump of 66 spots to land at #16. The 151% surge in listings traffic pushed the city higher up in the rankings.

Meet the newcomers: Renters expand their apartment search in Southern cities

In May, 12 cities made their debut or returned to our top 30 after at least one month outside of the ranking. More than half are in the South and three are in the Midwest, while the West and Northeast each claim one city.

The highest-ranking newcomer is St. Paul, MN. It ranked 11th, confirming the Twin Cities’ appeal to renters as the rental market heats up. Renters favorited 59% more St. Paul apartments and saved 39% more personalized searches on RentCafe.com than they did last May. Louisville, KY, is another debut at #12 with an 11% rise in listings page views compared to last May.

In California, Elk Grove and Bakersfield both slid into this month’s ranking after seeing more renter interest than one year ago. Impressively, Bakersfield climbed a spectacular 99 spots to #30 after its listings traffic nearly doubled.

On the opposite coast, Cape Coral, FL, claimed the most substantial ascent in this month’s report: up 119 places to #26. Salt Lake City and Charlotte, NC, are also on this month’s newcomers list, making their 2024 debut in our rankings.

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. and with a relevant listing inventory sample. The regions are defined according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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.

Beginning in August 2023, the city that obtained the highest total score was awarded 100 points and all total scores of the following cities were adjusted accordingly.

To calculate each city’s score, we ranked them according to four metrics and their averages as of the most current month in 2024 versus the same month in 2023.

1. Availability Rate (Maximum 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 (Maximum 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 (Maximum 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 (Maximum 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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