U.S. renters were on the move during the first three months of 2023. The most recent Rent. Migration Report reveals that migration patterns shaped by financial pressures (including rents that increased nearly 20 percent over the last two years) continued into the first quarter of the new year.
More affordable rent prices, the continuation of remote work and consumer demand for extra space and amenities have encouraged renters to look for more spacious and affordable homes. If they can’t find them in their own city, renters are willing to cross state lines — or even relocate to a new geographic region.
The regions that renters were most interested in moving to (and moving away from) mostly continued a pattern established during the final quarter of last year. In addition, the majority of the most popular states and metropolitan areas for both inbound and inbound migration also appeared (often repeatedly) in quarterly migration reports throughout 2022.
How the Rent. Migration Report works
Rent. researchers mine the site’s user data to gauge interest in the site’s listings by geographic location every quarter. They aggregate the numbers to learn where renters were interested in moving to and away from.
This first quarter (Q1) report includes data from January, February and March 2023. It combines the migration numbers into a single measure called the “lead delta,” which measures the difference between the number of inbound and outbound leads as a proportion of all leads within a particular geographic area. (A “lead” is a rental industry term that indicates a renter is interested in a rental property.)
Geographies with more inbound than outbound leads have a positive lead delta. The larger the lead delta number, the stronger the migration interest. A negative lead delta indicates a state or metro that saw more outbound searches than inbound searches and is decreasing in popularity. A large negative lead delta indicates low migration interest.
The results of the Q1 2023 Rent. Migration Report reflect regional migration patterns established in the last three months of 2022 when the Northeast went from the least popular destination in the country to the most. And the South did exactly the opposite.
The biggest surprise this quarter came from the West, where migration interest was positive for the first time in five quarters. Renter interest in the Midwest fell slightly, reaching its lowest number in the survey period.
Renter interest in the South declines
The South’s lead delta fell to -2.07 percent in Q1 2023. That’s not only the worst result of any geographic region—it’s also the only negative regional lead delta recorded in this survey period.
The South’s Q1 lead delta continues a downward trend that began in Q4 2022, when the region recorded a -1.77 percent lead delta, the lowest level of migration interest in the Q4 Migration Report. This came as a surprise as the South had shown positive migration interest throughout the first nine months of 2022. The region even held the nation’s highest migration lead deltas in both the Q3 and Q2 Migration Reports last year.
There are signs that this six-month outmigration will continue. The region saw the largest two-year rent increase in the country (24.35 percent) between December 2020 and December 2022. And 70 percent of the cities where rent increased by the largest margin during that time period are located in the South.
Renters showed strong interest in migrating to the Northeast for the second quarter in a row. This quarter’s lead delta of 3.62 percent is the highest of any region.
It also improves on the 3.36 percent lead delta recorded during the last quarter of 2022. This sustained turnaround is welcome news for a region that saw negative migration interest during the first three quarters of 2022.
A lead delta of 0.90 percent indicates positive renter interest in the Midwest in Q1 2023. That’s down from last quarter’s 1.73 percent lead delta. It also represents the Midwest’s lowest level of migration interest in five quarters.
While the Midwest recorded its lowest lead delta in recent months, its 0.08 percent lead delta pushed the West into positive territory for the first time in five quarters. That’s up from -1.31 percent at the close of last year, and an improvement over its 2022 low of -2.70 percent in Q3 2022.
States with the most inbound migration leads
Four out of the five states with the highest number of Q1 migration leads also made this list in Q4 2022. And all five states also appeared on the list at least once in 2022. Most appeared several times, indicating consistent, long-term renter migration interest.
The most popular state for inbound migration in Q1 was New Jersey, with a lead delta of 38.51 percent. That’s way up from its second-place finishes of 26.33 percent in Q4 2022 and 26.35 percent in Q3 2022. New Jersey drew renter interest from nearby New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Southern states like Florida and Georgia.
Delaware scored 34.82 percent in Q1. This is the Southern state’s fourth time in the top five since January 2022. It was the top migration destination in the nation in Q2 2022.
Delaware’s leads primarily came from the Northeastern states of Pennsylvania and New York, Virginia and Maryland in the South, and Ohio in the Midwest. The large Philadelphia metropolitan area spans multiple states, including Pennsylvania and Maryland.
North Dakota is next on the list with a lead delta of 32.67 percent. It’s been among the five most popular states for inbound migration five quarters in a row, including two first-place finishes in 2022. This Midwestern state continues to draw migration interest from well beyond its borders, including Illinois, Texas, New York and California.
In contrast, Louisiana (with its 24.48 percent lead delta) continues to pull leads primarily from Southern states. This regional migration trend also occurred when Louisiana made the list of the top five states for inbound migration twice in 2022.
Rhode Island makes its first appearance on the list in Q1, with a lead delta of 24.30 percent. Most of the renters interested in moving here hailed from Northeastern states like Massachusetts and New York (which contain the most expensive metros in the U.S.) as well as Southern states like Florida and Virginia.
States with the most outbound migration leads
Most of the top outmigration states also appeared in previous surveys, including Illinois, which has appeared in five consecutive surveys.
A -57.65 percent lead delta puts Maine at the top of the outmigration list in Q1. (It also made the list in Q3 2022, with a lead delta of -17.91 percent.) Renters in Maine were willing to move longer distances, including New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Renters in Vermont, which scored a lead delta of -53.58 percent in Q1, considered major moves too. They were mostly interested in migrating to Florida, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Many renters in West Virginia (lead delta -36.57 percent) preferred to stay in adjacent states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. But Florida and New Jersey were also popular. West Virginia was also the second least popular state for migration in Q4 2022.
Illinois scored a lead delta of -29.68 percent this quarter. It was the nation’s top source of outbound leads for the second half of 2022 and has remained on this list for five straight quarters. Most Illinois renters preferred to stay in the Midwest. But Tennessee, Alabama and Minnesota were also popular migration destinations.
Newcomer Montana recorded a lead delta of -26.20 percent in Q1 2023. That’s quite a reversal from this time last year when it was one of the top states for inbound migration.
Interestingly, Montana is the only state on this list where the largest group of renters (21.05 percent) wanted to leave the state. Renters there chose Arizona as their top migration destination, followed by Montana, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Texas.
The top metros for inbound migration
Many of the most popular metros for inbound migration also appeared on this list in 2022. Despite the fact that the South is the only region with a negative lead delta this quarter, three out of the five top inbound migration metros are located in this part of the country.
Augusta, Georgia, was the most desired migration destination in Q1, scoring a lead delta of 38.46 percent. Unlike the other communities on this list, the largest group of Augusta leads came from outside the metro, not within. Most leads (26.29 percent) came from Atlanta, which also happens to be one of the metros that U.S. renters most wanted to leave this quarter.
The Pennsylvania community of Harrisburg–Lancaster–Lebanon–York came in at No. 2 with a lead delta of 37.63 percent. That’s down from 40.01 percent at the end of 2022 when it was the top migration destination in the nation. It continues to pull renters from some of the country’s most populous metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore and New York.
Madison, Wisconsin, returns to the top five for the third time since early 2022. It logged a 37.54 percent lead delta in Q1, attracting renters from many of the metros that renters most wanted to leave behind, including Chicago, Charlotte, Denver and Atlanta.
Waco–Temple–Bryan comes in at No. 4 with a lead delta of 31.88 percent in Q1. This Texas metro also made the top five during the Q3 2022 survey. Unlike many of the other metros in this survey, the majority of its leads came from within its own geographic region.
Another Southern city, Knoxville, rounds out the top five with a lead delta of 29.98 percent. Its top sources of leads include Chicago and several Southern communities.
Top metros for outbound migration
The five metropolitan areas that renters most wanted to leave are the same in Q1 2023 as they were at the end of last year. Only the order has changed.
On top of that, every single one of these metros has been a top source for outbound migration in at least three out of the last five quarters. Two communities in the South —Atlanta and Charlotte—each made the list five times in a row.
|St. Louis MO||-30.05%|
St. Louis leads the pack in Q1 with a -30.05 percent lead delta. That’s up from a -27.98 percent lead delta in Q4 2022. (It made the list twice more in 2022.) Renters here considered remaining in Missouri and relocating to metros like Minneapolis–St. Paul, Indianapolis and Dallas-Ft. Worth.
In contrast, Atlanta renters preferred to stay in Georgia in communities like Augusta, Savannah and Macon, or other destinations in the South. The metro’s -27.53 percent Q1 lead delta marks the fifth time that Georgia’s largest metro was a top source of outmigration in as many quarters.
Chicago clocked in at No. 3 with a Q1 lead delta of -26.39 percent. That’s a decrease from -32.22 percent at the end of 2022. (The city was a top five source of outmigration twice more in 2022). This quarter, Chicago renters wanted to stay in Midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul or head south to Nashville, Memphis or Birmingham.
Denver recorded a 25.55 percent lead delta in Q1, down slightly from its Q4 and Q1 showings last year. Renters here considered relocating to other Western metros like Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs–Pueblo and Albuquerque–Santa Fe and Midwestern communities including Kansas City and Detroit.
Charlotte completes the list of the top metros for outmigration leads with a -24.04 percent lead delta in Q1. This is its fifth appearance in as many quarters. Charlotte was also the largest source of outmigration in the country for the first half of 2022. As in previous surveys, renters here want to remain in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The West showed positive migration interest for the first time in five quarters, while the Midwest showed its lowest levels of interest during the same survey period. Migration interest continued to climb in the Northeast and decline in the South during the first three months of 2023, deepening patterns revealed in the final months of 2022.
|31||District of Columbia||-1.12%|
Information on migration patterns and preferences was pulled from anonymized user data collected by Rent.’s internet listings services. For each lead submitted by a user, a record is created establishing the location of the user based on their IP address and user-selected security settings. These records are combined with information, including geographical information, about the listing of interest creating an origin-destination pair.
Outbound migration consists of a renter-to-listing pair. Inbound migration consists of a listing-to-renter pair. Where geographic information for either the renter or the listing was missing, the record was removed from this study. Aggregations were made based on renter location for outbound migration and on listing location for inbound location. Differences were calculated based on these aggregations. Only metros with at least 5,000 inbound leads were considered in this analysis.
Regional designations are based on U.S. Census regional designations which divides the nation into four geographic regions: Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont); Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin); South (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, District of Columbia and West Virginia) and West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, Washington and Wyoming)
Information included in this article is for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee.