The 10 US Markets With the Biggest Rent Increases & Decreases in 2015

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In a study released today on rent affordability, RealtyTrac found that, assuming a 3 percent down payment, buying a home is more affordable than renting in 58 percent of US housing markets. Still, home price appreciation continued to outpace rent growth in 55 percent of the markets, and rent growth continued to outpace weekly wage growth in 57 percent of markets.

“Renters in 2016 will be caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place, with rents becoming less affordable as they rise faster than wages, but home prices rising even faster than rents,” commented RealtyTrac VP Daren Blomquist. “In markets where home prices are still relatively affordable, 2016 may be a good time for some renters to take the plunge into homeownership before rising prices and possibly rising interest rates make it increasingly tougher to afford to buy a home.”

Related: BiggerPockets Real Estate Investment Market Index: The Best (and Worst) Major Markets for Real Estate Investors, 2015

Markets With the Biggest Increases & Decreases in Rents

In the 504 counties studied, the following was discovered:

  • Three-bedroom property rents are likely to increase an average of 3.5 percent in 2016 compared to 2015 across all markets, according to HUD data
  • Weekly wages in Q2 of 2015 were up an average of 2.6 percent from a year ago
  • Median home prices were up an average of 5.0 percent in Q3 of 2015 compared to a year ago

Markets with the biggest increases in rents include:

  • Sumter, South Carolina
  • Burlington, North Carolina
  • Goldsboro, North Carolina
  • Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana
  • Missoula, Montana

The biggest increases among counties with populations of one million or more include:

  • Santa Clara County, California in the San Jose metro area (up 9.3 percent)
  • Travis County, Texas in the Austin metro area (up 8.0 percent)
  • San Diego County, California (up 7.5 percent)
  • Cook County, Illinois in the Chicago metro area (up 7.3 percent)
  • Bexar County, Texas in the San Antonio metro area (up 7.2 percent)

The markets that saw the biggest decrease in rents include:

  • Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Abilene, Texas
  • California-Lexington Park, Maryland
  • Ithaca, New York
  • Roseburg, Oregon

Counties with a population of one million or more with the biggest decreases are:

  • Suffolk and Nassau counties in Long Island, New York (both down 6.8 percent)
  • Clark County, Nevada in the Las Vegas metro area (down 1.4 percent)
  • Sacramento County, California (down 0.4 percent)
  • Contra Costa County, California in the San Francisco metro area (down 0.3 percent)

The Most & Least Affordable Markets for Renters

Across the US markets examined, the study found that wage earners on average will likely need to shell out 37 percent of their income on rents for a three-bedroom home in 2016. The price to buy a home — again, assuming a 3 percent down payment and including mortgage, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance — for a median priced property would require just more than that, at 38 percent of income. Overall, 213 of the 504 counties studied (42 percent) saw higher affordability of renting over buying, while in 291 counties (58 percent), it was more affordable to buy.

Related: House Flipping Up 18% Over Last Year: Here Are the Top-Performing Markets

The markets that are likely to require the highest percentage of income to be spent on rent (more than 60 percent of average wages) in 2016 include:

  • Honolulu
  • Washington, DC
  • New York City
  • Northern California metros of Salinas, Santa Cruz and San Francisco

Conversely, those markets that are projected to require the smallest percentage of income (less than 25 percent of average wages) are:

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Peoria, Illinois
  • Davenport, Iowa
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Most & Least Affordable Millennial Rental Markets for 2016

RealtyTrac’s study also took a look at “millennial magnet” markets, those where the millennial share of the population increased at least 10 percent from 2008 to 2013. The findings were as follows:

Via: RealtyTrac

Via: RealtyTrac

Via: RealtyTrac

Via: RealtyTrac

What Does This Mean for Investors?

As rents continue to rise, landlords should be able to find good returns in many markets; however, they’ll have to contend with unaffordable property prices that may continue to escalate in 2016. Whether the millennial population, which has been notoriously slow to jump on the homeownership band wagon, will take the plunge and begin to buy property this coming year or continue to rent is yet to be seen.

Wondering what the projected stats look like for your specific market? Be sure to check out this interactive map to see what 2016 has in store for the rental and buying markets in your area.

What have you seen as far as rent and home prices in 2015 in YOUR market? What do you think will happen in 2016?

Leave a comment!

About Author

Allison Leung

A career writer, editor and blogger, Allison serves as the Director of Content for In the past, she has channeled her passion and curiosity for all things real estate into her jobs by working in real estate law and heading a blog about real estate market trends. Don’t ask about her dog, Ace, unless you want to see approximately 500 photos of his (adorable) face.


  1. Brock Adams

    Good Read. My area of South Carolina seems to be more about job/wage opportunity and although most might agree that owning is better in some cases than renting, there is a growing number of tenants I come across who do not want to be tied down with home ownership or the repairs/maintenance that go with it. There is a big psychological aspect to the first time home buyers of today. Some would prefer to save their money for cars, leisure and travel. Some have cleaned up their credit over the last 3 years and are now trying to get a loans however underwriting loans is a different world and banks call the shots. Also, some of the inventory for starter homes has been sucked up by investors and the other inventory is from sellers who are not moving out or up in size of homes and are parked for the time being. Our local builders are opting to build the more expensive homes at prime locations.

  2. David Oldenburg

    It’s interesting to see that Sacramento rents actually went down slightly over the last year, because the rental market here is very strong with everyone complaining about rising rents! Interesting also is the number of markets that still cash-flow, with house payments the same or less than rent.

    • Deanna Opgenort

      Worth noting that different sectors of the rental market don’t all do the same thing. From what I can tell, at least in San Diego the lower rent areas have gone up even more (maybe 25% in 2 years).
      Some of it is “gentrification” – run-down places bought by investors, fixed (sometimes real improvements, sometimes just window-dressing) then rent raised. Great to live in a nicer place, but rent going from $900 to $1200 for a few new shrubs outside is a disaster for anyone on a fixed budget. $1200/mos is the going rate for a decent 2 bedroom apt in the sketchy, druggie parts of town. $2,500 for an older 2 bedroom house in a nicer part of town. $3500 for a 3-4 bedroom SFR in the nicer parts of town (Expensive areas are $5-7k for a 3-4 bed, but that’ll be a really nice house).

    • I thought the same; my rent increased and there are hardly any amenities here, severe parking issues, single pane windows, etc. It’s not a run down area, but the complex could definitely benefit from remodeling/restructuring. People are moving out in droves, to more economically built modern units, with more amenities. If you’re going to pay more, you expect more

  3. Mary B.

    @Brock Adams

    Wait, how could D.C. & NY,NY be both the most affordable rental markets in 2016 as well as be “The markets that are likely to require the highest percentage of income to be spent on rent (more than 60 percent of average wages) in 2016”?? If rent is eating up say 85% or more of your income then that’s not considered ‘most affordable’ in the least. Missing anything?


  4. Mary B.

    Oh, I’m sorry I meant to address the originator, thinking Brock was at the bottom of the blog. I somehow skipped over Allison. @Allison Leung the above question was geared to you, my mistake. If you don’t mind sharing the source of these findings, it would be most appreciated.

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