BAM Key Details:

  • The home industry experts at Home Stratosphere evaluated rental conditions across all 50 states to reveal the most—and least—affordable rental markets, giving each state a score between 0 and 100. 
  • West Virginia topped the list of most affordable rental markets, with a score of 85 out of 100, while Hawaii was the least affordable with a score of 40. 

A new analysis of all 50 states reveals the 10 most affordable states for renters, along with the 10 least affordable. 

Using rental market data—sourced primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics—the home industry experts at Home Stratosphere assessed the rental affordability of each state based on the key metrics (each one weighted for importance): 

  • Rental vacancy rate
  • Renter occupied percentage
  • Gross median house rent
  • Annual rent change percentage
  • Average monthly wage
  • Rent-to-income ratio
  • Cost of living index (compared to the national average, set at 100)

Based on the scores for these metrics, Home Stratosphere assigned a final score between 0 and 100 to each state and identified the 10 most affordable for renters, as well as the 10 with the least affordable rental markets. 

The 10 most affordable rental markets in 2023

West Virginia topped the list of the 10 most affordable states for renters, with a score of 85, followed by Wyoming (84) and North Dakota (82). 

Home-Stratosphere-table-1

#1—West Virginia (Total score: 85)
Here’s what West Virginia has going for it: 

  • Median rent: $795, with a 3.7% increase from 2021-2022
  • Average monthly wage: $4,425, with just 18% of that required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 89.3 (below the national average)

#2—Wyoming (84)

  • Median rent: $895, with a 0.7% increase from 2021-2022
  • Average monthly wage: $4,689, with 19.1% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 92.1 (below the national average)

#3—North Dakota (81.9)

  • Median rent: $863, with a 2.9% annual rent increase
  • Average monthly wage: $5,014, with 17.2% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 96 (slightly below the national average)

#4—Iowa (80.6)

  • Median rent: $891, with a 5.2% annual rent increase
  • Average monthly wage: $4,776, with 18.7% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 89.9 (just below the national average)

#5—Arkansas (80.2)

  • Median rent: $846, with a 3.2% annual rent increase
  • Average monthly wage: $4,499, with 18.8% needed for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 90.1

#6—South Dakota (79.5)

  • Median rent: $866, with a 4.3% annual increase
  • Average monthly wage: $4,503, with 19.2% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 93.4

#7—Alabama (78.2)

  • Median rent: $913, with a 6% annual increase
  • Average monthly wage: $4,772, with 19.1% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 88.2

#8—Kentucky (76.3)

  • Median rent: $891, with a 7.4% rent hike from 2021 to 2022
  • Average monthly wage: $4,646, with 19.2% spent on the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 94.5

#9—New Mexico (75.9)

  • Median rent: $955, with a 5.4% annual increase
  • Average monthly wage: $4,608, with 20.8% needed for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 94.1

#10—Mississippi (75.1)

  • Median rent: $873, with a 5.1% annual increase
  • Average monthly wage: $3,949, with 22.1% required for the median rent
  • Cost of living index: 86

The 10 Least affordable rental markets in 2023

Hawaii was judged the least affordable state for renters, with a total score of 40, followed by California (47), Nevada (49), Florida (49), and Arizona (50). 

Home-Stratosphere-table2

#1—Hawaii (Total score: 40)

  • Median rent: $1,813
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 35.40%
  • Cost of living index: 181.5 

#2—California (47)

  • Median rent: $1,870
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 27%
  • Cost of living index: 139.7

#3—Nevada (49)

  • Median rent: $1,461
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 28.30%
  • Cost of living index: 102

#4—Florida (49.1)

  • Median rent: $1,525
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 28.70%
  • Cost of living index: 102

#5—Arizona (50.2)

  • Median rent: $1,450
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 26.90%
  • Cost of living index: 107

#6—Colorado (52.8)

  • Median rent: $1,646
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 27%
  • Cost of living index: 104.8 

#7—Utah (54.8)

  • Median rent: $1,372
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 26.90%
  • Cost of living index: 103

#8—Washington (57)

  • Median rent: $1,630
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 23%
  • Cost of living index: 115.5

#9—Massachusetts (57.1)

  • Median rent: $1,634
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 22%
  • Cost of living index: 143.1

#10—Oregon (59.6)

  • Median rent: $1,370
  • Rent-to-income ratio: 25%
  • Cost of living index: 116

Takeaways for real estate agents

Back in May (2023), we covered a report by Home Bay in “The Top 18 Cities Where It’s Better to Buy vs Rent a Home (and Vice-Versa).” 

Based on that report, of the ten least affordable states for renters, only Florida has metros where it’s cheaper to buy a home than to rent: Miami and Tampa. 

Meanwhile, California, Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon have metros among the top 10 markets where the typical rent is still cheaper than the typical mortgage payment

Also, about a month ago (October 27), we wrote, “It Costs 52% More to Buy a Home Today than It Does to Rent,” based on data from commercial real estate firm CBRE. 

Keep current rent vs buy data handy when helping a renter decide whether buying a home is a good move for them right now, given local market conditions and their own unique situation. Help them make a decision they’ll be grateful for well beyond the next few years. 

If you’re not sure where to get the latest data visuals to share with your clients and prospects, BAMx members always have 24/7 access to the slides shared in the daily Hot Sheet—along with a growing library of value-packed online courses and livestreams and the most knowledgeable and supportive Facebook community for real estate agents. 

We look forward to welcoming you to the BAMx Facebook group!