In an age where soaring housing prices and the urge to downsize are giving juice to the tiny-house movement, it isn’t surprising that rental units across the U.S. are getting even smaller. Maybe it’s a sign to finally purge those dusty shoes and record collections taking up valuable space?
The average size of a brand-new apartment is 8% smaller this year, at 934 square feet, than it was in 2006, according to a recent report from RentCafe.com.
The report from the rental website looked only at studios and one- and two-bedroom rentals in buildings with more than 50 units in the largest 100 cities.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of construction in large cities across the U.S., mostly because there is growing demand for urban living,” says Ama Otet, a real estate writer and editor at RentCafe. “[But] a lot of these new apartments are going up in these cities’ urban cores where there’s not a lot of space. They’re high-rises.”
Often, the developments, particularly in smaller cities, are part of broader efforts to revitalize their downtown, she says.
But as it turns out, squeezing into a smaller apartment has nothing to do with saving money. Rents are steadily going up, hitting a national average of $1,204 in May, according to the report.
One theory is that spaces are getting smaller as microapartments, often miniature, luxury units, are taking off in the most expensive cities.
The smallest spaces of all, studios, shrank even further, according to the report. They went down 18%, from an already tiny 614 square feet a decade ago to a claustrophobic 504 square feet this year.
One-bedrooms went down 5%, to 752 square feet, and two-bedrooms were squeezed 1%, to 1,126 square feet.
The largest rental units in buildings with 50 or more apartments, regardless of when they were built, are in Atlanta, according to the report. Studios in the Southern city were 570 square feet. One-bedrooms were a spacious 786 square feet. And two-bedrooms were a downright luxurious 1,125 square feet.
Atlanta real estate broker Dac Carver believes apartments may be bigger in the Big Peach because developers may want to convert them into condos down the line. And the larger size may make them more appealing to potential buyers.
“Rents have gotten so expensive,” says Carver, of Beacham & Co. Realtors. “Larger apartments allow more roommate situations and sharing of rent costs.”
Meanwhile, the teeniest apartments in large buildings were in Arizona, which nabbed three of the five top spots.
Notoriously small rentals in cities like New York and San Francisco may not have made the list, because it’s more cost-effective for builders (hampered by high labor, land, and governmental regulation costs) in expensive cities to erect larger developments for which they can charge more.
The smallest units overall are in Tucson, AZ, a city not far from the Mexican border. Studios are a mere 398 square feet, while one-bedrooms are a cramped 595 square feet and two-bedrooms are just 907 square feet.
Tucson was followed by El Paso, TX. Guess not everything is bigger in Texas.
Buffalo, NY, and Glendale and Mesa, AZ, rounded out the top five cities for the smallest new apartments.
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