These Cities Had Greatest Pandemic Rent Price Drops

A woman wearing a face mask walks the city streets in New York.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the cost of housing in these U.S. cities.

In a year where staying at home has never been more of a priority, real estate markets across the United States have seen major fluctuations in demand, with the pandemic only furthering the divide between homeowners and renters in the United States. Cities across the country are displaying diverse responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic shutdown that followed. While some large cities are doing relatively well at keeping case numbers flat and investing in the revitalization of local businesses, it’s undeniable that city living is markedly different from what it used to be. 

As attractive city features like bars and entertainment venues remain operating at limited capacity or are closed altogether, many city residents across the U.S. have decided to call it quits on urban dwelling. Residents with the financial means to buy houses have been leaving cities in droves; ratcheting up home sales in suburban and rural areas. These large-scale urban exoduses have in turn changed city rental landscapes. In some cities where finding and securing an affordable rental was not for the faint of heart, the tables have turned — rentals are in need of residents, and with comparatively low demand, their prices are dropping.

The meaning of home has never been more clear than in the wake of a global pandemic. The coronavirus has not only affected the housing and rental landscapes in 2020, but the rollout of these ramifications will likely be seen for years to come. To understand where the U.S. has seen some of the most drastic effects of COVID-19 in their real estate markets, the research team at Insurify looked at nationwide rent data to identify the cities with the most significant decreases in rent costs over the pandemic.

Icon map showing the cities whose rent prices decreased the most during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Insights

  • National averages. Across all U.S. cities, the average percent change in rent between March and September 2020 is 0.067%, suggesting that prices overall remained relatively level. The mean cost of a 2-bedroom rented unit in September 2020 was $1,106. The average year-over-year price change in rent is -1.4%.
  • Lower rent, but at what cost? With the exception of the top three in the rankings, the cities that experienced the largest dips in rent prices over the course of the pandemic have a higher-than-average cost of overall living. Despite the relative decreases in rent costs these regions saw throughout 2020, renting a 2-bedroom apartment in 17 out of 20 of these cities costs at least 35 percent more than the national average (and, at most, 71 percent more).
  • California dreaming, for less. Half of the cities with the greatest drops in rent costs during the pandemic are in California, and nine of those ten cities are clustered by the Bay Area region of Northern California. The income distribution in these cities likely contributed to the high proportion of these NorCal metropolises represented on the list. San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties — where these cities are located — are all relatively high-income regions, where the median household income is at least 40 percent higher than the national average. Affluent residents of these cities likely followed the early waves of suburban flight, looking for a more spacious place to shelter in place and work from home. The increased supply of available housing was not met with equal demand, which contributed to driving down rent costs.

 

Methodology

The data science team at Insurify, a home insurance comparison site, studied Apartment List price estimates to identify the cities with the greatest pandemic rent declines. Apartment List is an online rental platform that releases monthly pricing data for rented units on both the state and city levels across the United States. 

To calculate the relative change in average rent prices for U.S. cities during the pandemic, Insurify’s data scientists took the relative percent change between the price of rent in March 2020 —  when the first coronavirus shutdown occurred — and September 2020. Rent estimates for each city include studio and 1-4 bedroom units, so analysts took the average of the combined units’ relative percent changes to determine each city’s overall change over time. The average cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in the U.S. as of September 2020 and the change in year-over-over prices were provided by Apartment List.

Cities with Greatest Pandemic Rent Drops

20. Boston, MA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -8.92%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $1,928
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020): -12.0%

19. Berkeley, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -9.14%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,181
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -9.8%

18. San Jose, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -9.47%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,178
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -9.8%

17. Bellevue, WA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -9.69%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,115
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -7.9%

16. Seattle, WA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -9.88%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $1,940
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -8.8%

15. Santa Monica, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -10.30%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,432
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -11.1%

14. Tysons Corner, VA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -10.71%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,043
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -12.5%

13. Cambridge, MA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -11.00%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,477
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -12.8%

12. Foster City, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -11.42%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $3,757
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -11.3%

11. San Mateo, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -11.53%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $3,007
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -11.9%

10. New York, NY

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -11.57%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $1,790
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -13.1%

9. Santa Clara, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -13.02%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,591
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -11.4%

8. Union City, NJ

  • Average percent decrease in rent: –14.00%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $1,691
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -9.5%

7. Redwood City, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -14.82%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,703
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -15.5%

6. Sunnyvale, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -16.37%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,383
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -16.5%

5. Mountain View, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -16.68%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,655
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -18.9%

4. San Francisco, CA

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -17.81%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $2,592
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -20.4%

3. Midland, TX

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -20.67%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $912
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -29.5%

2. Williston, ND

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -24.45%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $840
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -25.1%

1. Odessa, TX

  • Average percent decrease in rent: -26.40%
  • Average rent for a 2-Bedroom apartment (9/2020): $728
  • Change in rent year-over-year (2019-2020):  -34.1%

If you have questions or comments about this article, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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