Forget “Flyover Country” – The Midwest Should Be Known As “Affordable Rent Country”

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When it comes to asking rents, not all regions are created equal. Jonas Bordo of Dwellsy breaks down which areas of the country are most—and least—expensive for single-family homes and apartments. (Surprise…America’s Heartland wins!) 

Los Altos, CA (August 2023) – As U.S. regions go, the Midwest is often overlooked and (just ask many residents) unfairly maligned. The truth is, you can explore its numerous vibrant cities, unplug in its national parks, paddle its waterways, get to know its friendly residents, and even sample each region’s signature BBQ recipes.

Add one more attraction to that list, says Dwellsy CEO and cofounder Jonas Bordo. In the Midwest, you can rent a truly affordable home or apartment.

“I say we stop referring to the Midwest as ‘Flyover Country’ and start calling it ‘Affordable Rent Country,’” says Bordo, coauthor along with Hannah Hildebolt of Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster (Matt Holt, August 2023, ISBN: 978-1-6377439-2-8, $21.95). “While the rental market across the nation is currently in a period of moderation, properties in the Midwest are notably less expensive than those in rival regions.”

Before diving into a comparison of regional rents, Bordo shares a few numbers to put the U.S. rental landscape into perspective. The following data reflects nationwide year-over-year and month-over-month rent price data for two popular rental types:

  • Three-bedroom single-family home rentals (SFRs)
    • Median asking rent: $1,890 per month
    • Up 5 percent ($90) since July 2022
    • Down 0.3 percent ($5), since June 2023
  • One-bedroom apartments
    • Median asking rent: $1,300 per month
    • Down 1.9 percent ($25) since July 2022
    • Flat since June 2023

Dwellsy, the largest home rental listing platform in the country, regularly mines its 14+ million residential rental listings for statistics and data. Because Dwellsy allows landlords to post listings free of charge, it has a pool of data that’s more diverse—and more representative of the true rental landscape—than that of pay-to-play listing services. Each month, Dwellsy breaks down this data regionally across the U.S. so renters and landlords can see up-to-date trends in rental housing and current affordability in over 250 markets.

“Especially with the rise of remote and hybrid work, more people than ever enjoy flexibility in where they live,” Bordo says. “This data can impact where—or whether—some renters choose to relocate. While living in a certain area or being near specific amenities is a deciding factor for some, others may choose to move to a lower-cost location that offers larger rentals for less money. For instance, $2,060 will get you a three-bedroom home in Nashville, Tennessee, but you’ll need $2,095 to get a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, California.”

When analyzing rental trends, Bordo and his fellow data-crunchers focus on one-bedroom apartments because they are similar to two-bedroom apartments in terms of inventory but are more price-accessible. Three-bedroom homes are also featured because they are by far the most common rental home type. For a more detailed look at Dwellsy’s rent price analysis methodology, see this article.

Now, let’s dive into the details of how rent varies across U.S. regions.

Cost of Three-Bedroom Single-Family Home Rentals by Region

Given the West’s reputation for high cost of living, it may not surprise you to learn that it is—by far—the most expensive region for three-bedroom SFRs. In states like California, Washington, and Oregon, renters pay a premium for this property type.

“The Southeast and Southwest are vying for second place, with the Southeast currently ahead by a narrow margin,” says Bordo. “Three-bedroom SFRs in the Midwest are easily the least expensive, with median asking rents several hundred dollars cheaper than those of the region’s closest competitor, the Northeast.

“Interestingly, the median asking rent for homes in the Western states is nearly a full $1,000 more expensive than those in the Midwest,” he adds. “Ouch!”

Midwest Rent

Cost of One-Bedroom Apartments by Region

Once again, the Western states are most expensive—but one-bedroom apartments in the Northeast appear to be slowly closing in.

“In many areas of the country, consumer housing preferences have shifted toward larger rental properties,” says Bordo. “But demand for one-bedroom units is perpetually high in apartment-dense cities like New York and Boston—and these metro markets have a significant impact on the regional numbers.”

The Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest are third, fourth, and fifth most expensive, respectively. The median asking rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Midwest is less than $1,000.

Midwest Rent

“It’s also interesting to look at whether rental costs are trending up or down in each region,” says Bordo. “After seeing rents rise for much of the past year, three-bedroom SFRs in the Northeast and Midwest have experienced a notable price drop in the past month. These two regions remain the least expensive areas of the country for that property type.”

Since July 2022, one-bedroom apartment costs in the Southwest and Northeast have trended up slightly, while all other regions of the country are flat to down.

Midwest Rent

Bottom Line

If you want to save money on rent—or get more bang for your rental buck—give the Midwest a chance,” concludes Bordo. “For more expensive regions, bear in mind that the prices shared here are median asking rents—meaning that you may be able to find plenty of less-expensive rentals. It all depends on availability, demand, and cost of living in your particular market.”

About Jonas Bordo:

Jonas Bordo is the coauthor, along with Hannah Hildebolt, of the book Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster. He is the CEO and cofounder of Dwellsy, the free residential rental marketplace that makes it easy to find hard-to-find rentals.

About the Book:

Everything You Need to Know About Renting But Didn’t Know to Ask: All the Insider Dirt to Help You Get the Best Deal and Avoid Disaster (Matt Holt, August 2023, ISBN: 978-1-6377439-2-8, $21.95) is available from major online booksellers.

About Dwellsy:

Dwellsy is the renter’s marketplace: a comprehensive residential home rentals marketplace based on the radical concept that true, organic search in a free ecosystem creates more value than the pay-to-play model embraced by all of the current rental listing services.