BAM Key Details:

  • Realtor.com put together a report with the 10 best rental markets for new college graduates in 2024 based on factors including affordable and available rentals, an abundance of job opportunities, and a thriving social/cultural scene. 
  • Austin, TX, takes the number one spot, followed by Bloomington, MN, and Pittsburgh, PA. 

Recent college grads likely already know the going rate for rentals in their area. And it’s not enough just to find an affordable place to live when you’re setting out on your own. 

That said, affordability is the first box to check. According to the U.S. Department of Education, at the end of 2023, the average student loan debt was $37,090 per person—which adds up to about $1.6 trillion in debt for the 43.2 million total borrowers. 

That said, most of these deeply indebted graduates aren’t looking for a cheap apartment in the middle of nowhere. 

Like most people cruising the rental market, they want to be close to the action—ideally within walking distance of places they’d actually want to walk to:

  • Shops (coffee, books, clothing, gifts, etc.)
  • Farmers markets
  • Restaurants, cafes and bars
  • Cultural centers: Museums, theaters, cinemas, comedy clubs, etc.

A suburb might be attractive to a lot of folks looking to stick around for a decade or more, but for the more transient among us, rentals are where it’s at. 

There’s a reason rentals in walkable neighborhoods generally come with a spicier price tag. 

So, where are the top rental markets for college grads in 2024—markets with affordable rents as well as the perks new renters are looking for?

Realtor.com put together a report to answer that question. And based on their research, Austin, Texas takes the top spot. 

Read on to find out why. 

For recent college graduates burdened by student loan debt, understanding the importance of crafting a sensible housing budget is paramount. This involves meticulously calculating a realistic rental budget based on income, while factoring in essential monthly expenses such as student loan payments, utilities, groceries, transportation, and other necessities. The rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30% of gross income on housing expenses.

Jiayi Xu

Realtor.com economist

Key factors that identify the best rental markets for college grads

To identify the best rental markets for college graduates, Realtor.com researchers analyzed 313 cities and towns with populations over 75,000 located within the 50 most populous metro areas. 

They looked for features that made a city or town appealing for first-time renters: 

  • Affordable rents (based on rent-to-income ratios for renters 25-34 years of age)
  • Rental availability (vacancy rate)
  • Plenty of job opportunities for recent graduates 
  • Job stability (based on forecasted unemployment rate)
  • Relatively high population of recent college grads 
  • Average commute time to work (for those not working remotely)
  • Thriving social/cultural scene 

They then ranked each one of them based on those factors. Read on for the results. 

Top 10 rental markets for college grads in 2024

  1. Austin, TX
  2. Bloomington, MN
  3. Pittsburgh, PA
  4. Raleigh, NC
  5. Overland Park, KS
  6. Richmond, VA
  7. Scottsdale, AZ
  8. Beaverton, OR
  9. St. Louis, MO
  10. Atlanta, GA

#1: Austin, TX

  • Rent-to-income ratio: 21.4%
  • Share of college grad-friendly jobs: 29.6%
  • Average commute time: 26 minutes

Perks of living in Austin

  • The annual SXSW Festival (South by Southwest)
  • Thriving year-round music scene
  • Varied and abundant dining options
  • Plenty of beautiful areas for hiking, biking & kayaking 

#2: Bloomington, MN

  • Rent-to-income ratio: 19.9%
  • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 26.7%
  • Average commute time: 23 minutes

Perks of living in Bloomington

  • Ideal for those who love winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, ice skating)
  • Plenty of career opportunities (The Toro Company, Ceridian, HealthPartners, etc.)
  • Fun attractions nearby—including the Japanese Garden & the Mall of America

#3: Pittsburgh, PA

  • Rent-to-income ratio: 21.7%
  • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 24.9%
  • Average commute time: 25 minutes

Perks of living in Pittsburgh:

  • Plenty of job opportunities
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Thriving bar and arts scenes
  • Young vibe thanks to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon

    #4: Raleigh, NC

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 21.4%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 28.8%
    • Average commute time: 25 minutes

    Perks of living in Raleigh

    • Average temperature of 71 degrees
    • Thriving tech scene
    • Robust job market
    • 75-acre farmers market
    • Loads of free museums and live music to enjoy

    #5: Overland Park, KS

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 20.7%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly occupations: 24.5%
    • Average commute time: 22 minutes

    Perks of living in Overland Park

    • Plenty of job prospects
    • Varied and abundant dining options
    • Top-notch school system

    #6: Richmond, VA

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 24.6%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 25.8%
    • Average commute time: 24 minutes

    Perks of living in Richmond

    • East Coast location close to beaches and mountains
    • Plenty of job opportunities 
    • Walkable downtown with “history around every corner”
    • Award-winning restaurants and vibrant nightlife

    #7: Scottsdale, AZ

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 24.4%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 22.1%
    • Average commute time: 23 minutes

    Perks of living in Scottsdale

    • Warm climate with a nature-lover’s paradise
    • Plenty of job opportunities in hospitality, finance, health care, aviation, and technology
    • One of the best cities in the U.S. for golfers

    #8: Beaverton, OR

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 22.9%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 25.8%
    • Average commute time: 26 minutes

    Perks of living in Beaverton

    • Close to Portland but more livable (and affordable)
    • Strong job market with plenty of opportunities
    • Thriving cultural scene with highly-rated Indian and Japanese restaurants
    • Parks and trails to enjoy

    #9: St. Louis, MO

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 21.7%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 24.7%
    • Average commute time: 25 minutes

    Perks of living in St. Louis

    • Low cost of living
    • Strong job market 
    • Low median rent (just over $1,000 in many parts of the metro)
    • Abundance of outdoor, dining, and shopping opportunities

    #10: Atlanta, GA

    • Rent-to-income ratio: 26.7%
    • Share of recent college grad-friendly jobs: 24.8%
    • Average commute time: 28 minutes

    Perks of living in Atlanta

    • Low cost of living
    • Buzzing job market with a variety of industries (finance, tech, health services) 
    • Excellent transit infrastructure
    • High population of college grads
    • Live music venues and nightclubs

    Read the full report for more information.