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How Coronavirus Has Impacted Rent Prices In U.S. Cities

COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought strange changes to just about every aspect of our lives, and it’s safe to say that none of us expected it to last as long as it has. Never before has our generation had so much uncertainty around our finances, jobs and living situations as right now, and coronavirus affected the rental market in both expected and unexpected ways.

Because keeping a handle on the rental market is pretty much what we do, Roomi wanted to take a look into our own data to get a better understanding of the impact coronavirus has had on the price of rooms around the U.S.

Median rent for a room in the 10 most popular cities in the U.S.


Clearly, these messy colored lines don’t give a very clear trend at first glance – most cities appear to follow a trend of their own. So let’s look a little deeper and compare the above graph to the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the states by day.

To help, we’ve turned the graph into a numbered table showing the median rent price of all 10 combined cities

DateMedian cost
January 1st 2020$1200
February 1st 2020 $1200
March 1st 2020$1176
April 1st 2020$1150
May 1st 2020$1200
June 1st 2020$1200
July 1st 2020$1150
August 1st 2020$1176

The median cost of a room took a slight dip in April and July this year – two months that both saw a spike in new coronavirus cases in the U.S. Even still, the drops in rent prices were not dramatic enough for us to make any conclusive statements about how coronavirus has impacted the rental market across the states.

Instead, it makes sense to view a breakdown of cities.

What does it mean for big city living?

Let’s take a look at how Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco rent prices changed this year.

San Francisco

San Francisco took the most dramatic drop in the second quarter of 2020. As it’s often reported as the most expensive city in the U.S., this isn’t really surprising. COVID-19 forced people (especially renters) to rethink their living situation. With more people working from home, they’re prioritizing size and comfort over big city amenities. This demand has led to a shift away from costly cities, with people moving to more affordable locations or with family.

Los Angeles

While San Francisco had a noticeable uplift in price in July, Los Angeles remained more steady and looks to continue on a downhill slope. Unemployment rate in California almost tripled from mid-March to mid-April – a stark figure that could reflect the state’s reliance on the tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries. The high unemployment rate has undoubtedly caused a shift in the rental market, with many landlords offering reduced rent or tenants being forced to leave their neighbourhood.

New York City

According to Roomi’s data of median room prices, those in New York City took a very steady decline. Research states that vacancy rates in NYC in July 2020 were at 3.67%, compared to 1.61% in June 2019. With so much spare space, it’s no wonder New Yorkers have been able to negotiate lower rates with their landlords, even if it’s just on a temporary basis.

As the state of the market progresses and we learn more about this pandemic, we’ll do our best to keep you updated.