California Leads Nation in Rent Costs

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More Americans are renting their homes than ever before. And it's no secret that rent in some places is much higher than in others.

Apartment rent costs in California are the highest in the U.S. at a median monthly rate of $2,542, according to recent data from Zillow. At the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia had the lowest median rent at $866—nearly one-third the cost of the average rent in California.

As part of our ongoing look at the U.S. housing market, Experian analyzed data from online real estate marketplace Zillow to find out more about rental costs in each state and how those costs compare with FICO® Scores and average estimated incomes. Read on for our insights and analysis.

Median Rent Across the U.S.
StateMedian Rental RatesEstimated Average IncomeAverage FICO® Score
District of Columbia$2,358$94,951703
New York$2,221$83,366712
New Jersey$1,837$95,025714
New Hampshire$1,591$86,688724
Rhode Island$1,443$78,073713
South Carolina$1,245$65,595681
North Carolina$1,211$68,840694
New Mexico$1,169$63,952686
North Dakota$1,006$75,424727
South Dakota$968$68,998727
West Virginia$866$59,999687

*Source: Housing data from Zillow as of September 2019. FICO® Scores and estimated income data from Experian as of the second quarter of 2019.

Rent is Higher in States with Higher Incomes

The average estimated income in the U.S. was $79,834 in the second quarter (Q2) of 2019, according to Experian data. In the five states with the highest median rent, incomes were significantly above the national average.

In California, the state with the highest median rent, the average estimated income in Q2 2019 was $85,750. In Washington, D.C., which had the next-highest median rents, the estimated income was even higher at $94,951. Meanwhile, West Virginia, the state with the lowest median rent, had an average income of $59,999, nearly $20,000 below the national average.

Cities and states with high costs of living typically are areas with substantial job opportunities and developed industry. When looking at the states with top rental rates, all are home to several major cities that are hubs for technology, medicine and other top industries. The one exception to this is Hawaii, which has seen home values and general cost of living soar over time as it has to import much of its consumer goods.

States With Higher Rent Also Home to Majority of Top Credit Scores

Having a good credit score is important for many things—including getting approved for an apartment rental. Our data shows states with higher median rent also are home to many of the top credit scores in the U.S.

Across the country, the 17 states with the highest median rent were also home to five of the top 10 cities with the highest average FICO® Scores.

Minnesota holds the highest average FICO® Score among states at 733, according to Experian Q2 2019 data. Its median rent was $1,409, however, which put it 21st among states. This combined with an average income above the national average makes it one of the more affordable markets in the country to rent an apartment.

Mississippi had the lowest average FICO® Score of any state at 667, and also had a below-average median rent of $966. Mississippi's average estimated income of $60,776 was also well below the national average.

A Good Credit Score Can Be Instrumental to Getting an Apartment

Beyond just being able to afford the cost of rent, many apartments now require that applicants have good credit to be approved for an apartment. This is especially true in metropolitan areas like New York City; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C., and others.

If you're thinking about getting an apartment and don't know whether you'll get approved, consider getting a free copy of your Experian credit report and scores so you can see what landlords will see when reviewing your credit history.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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