By Kelsey E. Thomas.
Although nearly half of Americans polled in a recent Harvard survey said they either personally struggled to pay their rent in the past 12 months, or know someone who has been in that situation, there is little data on rental market activity.
To better trace a numbers trail, the UC Berkeley Urban Analytics Lab analyzed 11 million Craigslist rental listings from summer 2014 for patterns across metropolitan housing markets in the U.S. The listings show how rents are changing neighborhood by neighborhood in a given month and city.
While Craigslist posts only show advertised rents, not negotiated rents, and scams are possible, the Berkeley findings back up some common assumptions about rent prices. Large coastal cities have high rents, particularly the Eastern Seaboard, Seattle, Southern California and Hawaii. With a few exceptions, namely Chicago and Denver, Middle America has mostly less-expensive listings punctuated by mid-priced clusters.
Of the 15 most populous metro areas, much of the Sun Belt has cheaper rent per square foot than other big cities. Nationwide, the median rent is $1,145, the median square foot is 982, the median rent per square foot is $1.11, and the average number of bedrooms is two.