[city data = june 2024]

traditional  vs.  non-traditional  roommates

Across the US & Canada lately, most roommate groups are either traditional or non-traditional.

Who's best for you?   Who's paying more rent?

Here is a bird's-eye view of roommate dollars.

traditional non-traditional
2BR ÷ 2 roommates often > for both
more $ per roommate less $ per roommate
robot landlords possible robot landlords practically impossible
trendy urban blocks could be trendy,
or trendy-adjacent & commutable
rarely owner-occupied increasingly owner-occupied
smaller living spaces larger living spaces
more $ spots usually available less $ spots unpredictably available
(lower turnover)
slight majority male male and female equally
18-28 fully multigenerational
(older = more homeowners)
1st or 2nd time seeking roommates 3rd or > time
looking for roommates for a year hoping for longer if it works out
assumes work & play elsewhere enjoys hanging out at home
may prefer to socialize separately mingling without leaving the house
= making friends while saving money

(We'd categorize most roommate groups as either traditional or non-traditional.   All of one list above isn't required, just most.   However, across our usual wide variety of roommate groups, most have been much more one or the other, for a few years now.)

Until recently, our one-and-only index of average roommate rent and how much you could save compared to a 1BR was the average cost of a 2BR ÷ 2. Just like smartasset.com.

And until a few years ago, this traditional index would have been close to average for both categories, or almost everyone. We've always heard from non-traditional roommate groups as well. However, since they were previously in the minority but similarly priced, they didn't skew the numbers that much. Before.

But the roommate landscape shifted. Rising rents and an affordable housing shortage in most cities gradually multiplied the differences between the two. Then, pandemic.

Traditional roommate rents went up, but so did the number of homeowners renting rooms, along with working from home. The disparity between traditional and non-traditional roommate groups is now large enough that it no longer makes sense to average them, then declare that the whole story.

Real estate companies are able to monitor rentals of entire units, or the purchase of real estate, because those numbers are reported to the government and the census. If you're renting a room in an owner-occupied property, these same agencies can't "see" you or exactly how much you've paid in the same publicly-accessible way.

Hence, non-traditional roommate groups fly under most real estate radar.

affordable housing shortage

Now, the "depth of the housing shortage and the suddenness of Covid-19 and inflation have tipped smaller cities into an affordability crisis."

While spending >= 30% of income on rent means "rent-burdened" due to likely difficulty affording other life necessities, it's the "new normal" in many US metros.

"The US is now rent-burdened nationwide for the first time."

Economists say "the fundamental issue is that the country does not have enough homes where people want them. ... The shortage has driven up costs for buyers and renters alike—most spectacularly in megacities such as Los Angeles and New York, but pretty much everywhere at this point."

remote equity rentals

"Amid a national housing crisis, giant private equity firms have been buying up apartment buildings en masse to squeeze them for profit ... snapping up rentals by the thousands," along with "tens of thousands of single-family homes lost to foreclosure." This means more remote landlords in major American cities, according to ProPublica’s analysis.

This puts upward pressure on rent prices for everyone, pushing up the cost of renting and driving down affordable housing stock. Meanwhile, many so-called mom-and-pop landlords have been displaced by corporate players. All tenants pay more, while the only ones benefiting from soaring rents are out-of-town investors.

"What the real estate industry won't tell you" is that as the ratio of investor-owned houses to live-in buyers rises, the investors get more tax deductions but prices skyrocket for everyone else." Housing is getting less affordable for everyone at every level," says Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for Redfin.

"Such firms use economies of scale to more aggressively squeeze profits from their buildings" than live-in or even local landlords usually do, tenant advocates say. "The firms’ tactics can include sharply increasing rent or fees and neglecting upkeep."

"In contrast, so-called mom-and-pops usually look for steady streams of rental income over time while their buildings grow in value."

Meanwhile, living with roommates to whom you rent rooms can be reasonably profitable, but only reasonably. So if you own a property good enough for roommates, you can rent part of it out. That's reasonably profitable, and reasonable property owners and reasonable roommates could be happy together.

But investors demand high yields, not reasonable places to live. Investors always want to push past reasonable. Since investment property tends to change hands, each time with someone new taking another cut, ultimately it inflates well past property taxes alone.

robot landlords

And now it's not just remote! It's robot!

Robot landlords are essential.

Charging rent remotely wouldn't be comfortable without automation overlay for all the tasks local landlords previously handled. If robot repair requests are actually honored, they're outsourced to local contractors, who may take their time. Many tenants have been disappointed in their robots' lack of responsiveness. Every attempted complaint sent them down a rabbithole of absolutely no one willing to take responsibility for anything other than charging rent.

The robot landlords control you and their properties using apps developed to assist Wall Street investment firms and real estate developers. So that's a huge help to anyone looking to charge from afar without showing up.

But it's a lot less helpful to anyone looking for affordable housing. The apps allow real estate developers to charge all the fees, but now with next to none of the employees.

Housing advocates say long distance real estate run remotely from afar pushes "lower and middle-income Americans out of homeownership by buying up the kind of older, 1,000-square-foot-ish houses once affordable to first-time homeowners and inflating the market with investors."

Or once affordable for roommates. Because many of those might have been purchased by someone with enough for a down payment, but would prefer help with upcoming monthlies. That person could charge roommates less while still paying all their own bills.

But when multiple absentee landlords take their cut from a roommate situation, it becomes more difficult for most to live there.

owner-occupied roommate groups

Q: So, are roommates really that different than inflation in general? Or to the extent they are, won't the market still correct itself at some point, even if the inflation is driven by away investors?

A: Sure, roommate rents rise with general inflation. And roommate rents can fall when inflation does as well. But remote real estate speculators could extract a lot of value from you and your roommates before that happens.

If investors think they can extract more value from you in the future, they'll try again. Out-of-state investors are pushing for "rent hikes that outpace wages and inflation," say a tenants' rights movement pushing for rent control.

Q: So, is supporting a live-in landlord really that different than supporting several remote ones? Homeowners are extracting value from roommates too, right?

A: Sure, homeowners are extracting value. But they're usually putting a good bit of it back into where you collectively live, as conditions there affect them too.

For your larger roommate community, support of owner-occupied housing keeps a higher percentage of housing affordable for everyone. Assisting someone who owns their home or is working on a mortgage but still living locally is more clever for you both than donating money to away investors.

On the strictly selfish front, when landlords are live-in or even local to the roommates they charge, it puts the brakes on a lot of bad behavior.

Certainly not all.

But a lot.

northeast roommate rent
northeast US non-trad trad 1BR
Detroit 500 688 1240
Buffalo 450 769 1270
Indianapolis 400 724 1139
Cleveland 350 744 1311
Syracuse 500 837 1293
Columbus 550 783 1268
Cincinnati 350 744 1134
Hartford 800 854 1391
Bangor 350 786 1553
Grand Rapids 500 812 1396
Pittsburgh 550 847 1331
US national median 933 1504
Baltimore 650 935 1479
Manchester 550 956 1658
Philadelphia 700 1004 1648
Burlington 500 1152 2151
Worcester 650 1150 2091
Newark 800 1132 1696
Providence 600 1104 1726
New Haven or Bridgeport 800 1156 1950
Portland (ME) 550 1147 2117
NYC-The Bronx 900 1307 2230
NYC-Staten Island 850 1173 2037
New Brunswick 600 1414 2170
Washington D.C. 900 1531 2278
Boston 1000 1844 2961
NYC-Queens 1150 2059 3018
NYC-Brooklyn 1400 2339 3710
NYC-Manhattan 1500 2963 4679

southeast roommate rent
southeast US non-trad trad 1BR
Little Rock 300 554 895
Jackson 300 530 1089
Memphis 350 581 1038
Baton Rouge 400 611 1128
Louisville 350 648 1032
Columbia (SC) 500 672 1159
Tallahassee 400 680 1155
Gainesville 450 717 1195
Jacksonville 450 749 1206
Birmingham 350 713 1275
Athens 550 783 1259
Pensacola 450 769 1292
Norfolk 600 774 1373
Richmond 650 853 1371
Knoxville 450 870 1395
Raleigh or Durham or Chapel Hill 650 874 1254
US national median 933 1504
Orlando 650 994 1581
New Orleans 550 989 1558
Charlotte 650 960 1490
Tampa or St. Petersburg 400 1074 1637
Nashville 700 1056 1689
Atlanta 790 1136 1624
Charleston 550 1483 2227
Miami or Fort Lauderdale 700 1936 2791

midwest roommate rent
midwest US non-trad trad 1BR
Wichita 360 495 811
Fargo 350 547 928
Sioux Falls 360 654 1140
Des Moines 400 664 1049
Omaha 350 725 1072
Milwaukee 400 700 1181
Kansas City 550 749 1174
St. Louis 550 797 1264
US national median 933 1504
Madison 500 987 1531
Minneapolis or St. Paul 600 1147 1420
Chicago 740 1517 2376

northwest roommate rent
northwest US non-trad trad 1BR
Cheyenne 310 598 917
Spokane 400 697 1149
Salem or Eugene 450 745 1230
Boise 520 756 1324
Tacoma 650 918 1427
Salt Lake City 475 918 1440
US national median 933 1504
Portland (OR) 750 972 1565
Seattle 1200 1362 1982

southwest roommate rent
southwest US non-trad trad 1BR
Tulsa 400 625 1020
Oklahoma City 460 612 988
College Station 600 643 1086
Tucson 450 701 1078
Albuquerque 390 699 1112
San Antonio 600 759 1204
Colorado Springs 550 785 1484
Las Vegas 500 823 1286
Reno 625 842 1346
Phoenix or Tempe 600 925 1403
US national median 933 1504
Houston 700 974 1395
Sacramento 760 972 1560
Austin 850 1127 1705
Santa Fe 500 1188 1774
Dallas or Fort Worth 700 1190 1621
Denver 800 1293 1883
Boulder 725 1252 1904
Orange County 860 1518 2377
San Jose 1300 1582 2471
San Diego 1100 1738 2409
Los Angeles 790 1840 2443
San Francisco 1500 2022 2974

Canadian roommate rent
Canada non-trad trad 1BR
Edmonton 540 824 1361
Winnipeg 410 867 1387
Calgary 600 1159 1886
Canadian national median 1168 1892
Montreal 650 1182 1779
Ottawa 500 1242 1965
Halifax or Dartmouth 475 1487 2112
Toronto 875 1615 2405
Vancouver 800 2091 2625


1.   The non-traditional roommate rent average for this city we've experienced over the last 3 years. We can't predict future rental availability, because we're neither in control of any rental market nor psychic, sorry!

But in most cities most of the time, the recent and relatively recent past are the best predictors.

2.   This idea came from smartasset.com's ranking of what a roommate saves you in 50 cities. They ranked where roommates will save you the most money, based on the average cost of a 1BR as opposed to a 2BR ÷ 2. Unsurprisingly, the more expensive the city, the more you can save, but the savings are significant in all larger metros. So we got the data for the rest of our cities from Zumper too.

This is really the minimum you could save, as you could live with more than one roommate, split more services, share food or other supplies, etc. More sharing tends to lead to more savings too, as per our roommate roadmap.

As per the rest of the description at the top of this page, we're calling this "traditional" roommate rent.

3.   From zumper.com.

4.   Directly quoted from the Trust for Public Land's parkland rating system.

"The ParkScore index awards each city up to 100 points for acreage based on the average of two equally weighted measures: median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area. Factoring park acreage into each city’s ParkScore rating helps account for the importance of larger “destination parks” that serve many users who live farther than ten minutes’ walking distance."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual ParkScore, nature lovers might like to see all roommate cities ranked for parkland.

5.   Directly quoted from Walk Score's Cities and Neighborhoods Ranking. They've ranked "more than 2,800 cities and over 10,000 neighborhoods so you can find a walkable home or apartment."

While each city's rundown already includes their individual Walk Score, dedicated pedestrians might like to see all roommate cities ranked for walkability.

6.   From various lists here on our own best roommate cities.

7.   From hoodmaps.com: a collaborative map where residents use tags describing social situations you're likely to find. Other users can thumb up or down, so the largest tags have been thumbed up the most.