Roommate (Not) Wanted: You Can Probably Afford to Rent Solo in These Places
Want to have a one-bedroom apartment all to yourself? Living alone invariably costs more than splitting the rent and utilities. But the price of escaping a roommate’s obnoxious habits or stray toenail clippings is a lot lower in some places than others — like Bloomington, Ind., for example.
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Most single Americans prefer to live alone, if they can afford to. (I know this because I recently celebrated the social and money-saving virtues of roommates, and received a virtual earful from people who apparently didn’t enjoy the hijinks of Three’s Company, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The New Girl as much as I did.) But affording it remains a big “if” for most people.
Renters save 13% of their income on average by sharing a two-bedroom apartment instead of renting a one-bedroom alone, according to a 2017 analysis by Trulia. For someone earning $50,000 a year, that’s an extra $542 every month.
But while some cities, such as Miami, San Francisco, and Boston, reward the roommate relationship with dramatic savings of more than $1,000 a month, the added cost of living alone — the “solo surcharge,” we’ll call it — is a lot easier to absorb in other locations.
The website CreditLoan.com examined Zillow rental data for one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, and calculated the percentage cost difference between living alone and splitting a larger place with roommates.
In Georgia, they found that the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,138 per month, but splitting a three-bedroom unit three ways would cost just $397 a month — meaning solo living comes at a 136.2% premium.
But in West Virginia, where sharing a three-bedroom will cost you a similar $380 a month, you can rent an average one-bedroom for just $174 more, making the price jump associated with living alone only 51%. It may be the very worst state for getting a job — and for business, and just living in general — but West Virginia leads the nation when it comes to making it easier to get your own place.
The next four states with the lowest solo surcharge were Montana, Alaska, Idaho, and New Hampshire (all of which, lovely as they are, have enough bears roaming around that I might be willing to pay extra for the reassuring company of a roommate… but that’s just me).
At a city level, the price jump of going solo was lowest in Bloomington, Ind., where peace and privacy costs only 40.7% more than sharing a fridge and furniture with other Hoosiers. Not far behind were Aventura, Fla. (41.1%), Torrance, Calif. (46%), Lubbock, Texas (46.6%), and Fresno, Calif. (48%).
Cities with the biggest solo surcharges were Nashville, Tenn. (130.5%), Philadelphia (124.6%), Jersey City, N.J. (116%), Kansas City, Mo. (115.9%), and Charlotte, N.C. (115.6%). You’d have to devote more than double your roommate-adjusted rent to fly solo in these places.
And if you’re wondering where it’s straight-up cheapest to rent a one-bedroom apartment, regardless of how much less it might cost to live with roommates, that would be Dayton, Ohio, where the average one-bedroom rents for just $457 a month. (It’s hard to even find a parking spot that cheap in New York City.) You can also rent a one-bedroom for under $500 a month in Killeen, Texas, and Springfield, Mo.
The most expensive was, unsurprisingly, San Francisco, where one-bedroom listings averaged $3,296 a month. Even if you could cram five more roommates into that little apartment with you (which, for the record, is probably not legal nor advised), you’d still be paying more per month in rent than someone living alone in Dayton, watching whatever the hell they wanted on TV.