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The Most Affordable Cities to Size Up for a Home Office

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

By David Heacock

One of the COVID-19 pandemic’s biggest impacts on the labor market has been the remarkable shift to working from home. While working from home is not new, the U.S. has never seen remote work at the current scale. A recent Gallup poll from the fall shows that a whopping 58 percent of U.S. workers were working remotely at least part of the time, yet many lacked sufficient space at home to do so effectively.

Having a dedicated home office can help remote workers be more productive, and sizing up to an apartment with space for a home office may be worthwhile for workers who plan to continue working remotely. However, depending on rent prices and income, renting a larger space is more affordable in some cities than others. According to income data on renters from the U.S. Census Bureau and rent prices from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), sizing up to an apartment with an additional bedroom costs about 9 percent of monthly income, on average.

An obvious advantage of working from home is not commuting, which saves valuable time and money. Data from HUD shows that commuters who drive the entire way to work spend a median of $242 each month on commuting costs. Carpoolers and those who take public transportation spend less—$132 monthly at the median—while those who drive part of the way (while also using another mode of transportation such as public transportation, walking, or cycling) spend the least at $110 per month. According to fair market rent data from HUD, the median monthly cost of an additional bedroom in the U.S. is $317, meaning upgrading to a larger apartment could be close to cost-neutral for workers in more affordable areas with long and expensive commutes.

Due to geographic differences in rent and median earnings, it is more feasible to rent an additional bedroom in some places than in others. Sizing up is most affordable in the Midwest. In Wisconsin and Nebraska, an additional bedroom costs $215–$220 per month, or just 6.6 percent of monthly income for renters. Sizing up is least affordable in California and Hawaii where adding a bedroom costs an additional $531–$672 per month, or 11.2 and 13.3 percent of income, respectively.

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To find the most affordable locations to size up for a home office, researchers at Filterbuy analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost of an additional bedroom as a percentage of renter income. Researchers also calculated median monthly rent for a 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom, and 4-bedroom apartment.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

Here are the metros where renting a home office is most affordable.

The Most Affordable Large Metros to Size Up for a Home Office

  1. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Salt Lake City, UT

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.6%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $321
    • Median monthly income for renters: $4,226
    • Median monthly rent: $1,024 (1-br), $1,249 (2-br), $1,752 (3-br), $1,986 (4-br)
  2. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.5%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $266
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,545
    • Median monthly rent: $1,091 (1-br), $1,321 (2-br), $1,646 (3-br), $1,890 (4-br)
  3. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Birmingham-Hoover, AL

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.5%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $205
    • Median monthly income for renters: $2,715
    • Median monthly rent: $937 (1-br), $1,073 (2-br), $1,404 (3-br), $1,551 (4-br)
  4. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.3%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $245
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,359
    • Median monthly rent: $838 (1-br), $1,022 (2-br), $1,377 (3-br), $1,574 (4-br)
  5. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.3%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $235
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,207
    • Median monthly rent: $829 (1-br), $1,008 (2-br), $1,339 (3-br), $1,534 (4-br)
  6. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.3%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $219
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,013
    • Median monthly rent: $760 (1-br), $929 (2-br), $1,251 (3-br), $1,418 (4-br)
  7. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.2%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $285
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,944
    • Median monthly rent: $1,096 (1-br), $1,248 (2-br), $1,592 (3-br), $1,951 (4-br)
  8. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 7.2%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $219
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,055
    • Median monthly rent: $822 (1-br), $1,051 (2-br), $1,361 (3-br), $1,480 (4-br)
  9. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Kansas City, MO-KS

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.8%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $242
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,568
    • Median monthly rent: $872 (1-br), $1,049 (2-br), $1,409 (3-br), $1,598 (4-br)
  10. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Rochester, NY

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.8%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $192
    • Median monthly income for renters: $2,809
    • Median monthly rent: $824 (1-br), $1,033 (2-br), $1,287 (3-br), $1,399 (4-br)
  11. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Columbus, OH

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.5%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $234
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,599
    • Median monthly rent: $851 (1-br), $1,063 (2-br), $1,352 (3-br), $1,553 (4-br)
  12. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.3%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $172
    • Median monthly income for renters: $2,715
    • Median monthly rent: $743 (1-br), $891 (2-br), $1,110 (3-br), $1,258 (4-br)
  13. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Cleveland-Elyria, OH

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.2%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $173
    • Median monthly income for renters: $2,797
    • Median monthly rent: $740 (1-br), $910 (2-br), $1,200 (3-br), $1,258 (4-br)
  14. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Pittsburgh, PA

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 6.1%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $188
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,066
    • Median monthly rent: $787 (1-br), $964 (2-br), $1,232 (3-br), $1,352 (4-br)
  15. Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI

    • Additional bedroom cost as a percentage of income: 5.9%
    • Median monthly cost for an additional bedroom: $191
    • Median monthly income for renters: $3,256
    • Median monthly rent: $805 (1-br), $975 (2-br), $1,245 (3-br), $1,377 (4-br)

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The Midwest dominates in rental affordability—over half of the most affordable large metros for adding a home office are located in Midwestern states. On average, sizing up in these metros costs an additional $226 per month or 6.9 percent of monthly income. In comparison, the national average cost for sizing up is an extra $317 per month, or 9 percent of monthly income.

The majority of the most affordable small and midsize metros for renting an additional bedroom are in the Midwest or on the East Coast. Sizing up is highly affordable in some of these locales, costing less than 5 percent of monthly income in several small metros. Rents in these areas are lower than average, but they have proportionally higher incomes, making sizing up to a home office an attractive and attainable option for remote workers.

To find the most affordable locations to size up for a home office, researchers analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost of an additional bedroom as a percentage of income. Additional cost was measured as the average cost difference between a 1- and 2-bedroom apartment, a 2- and 3-bedroom apartment, and a 3- and 4-bedroom apartment. In the event of a tie, the metro with the lower cost of an additional bedroom was ranked higher.