You Wouldn’t Think This City Had the Tiniest Apartments in America

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Don’t let the sweeping green landscape surrounding Seattle fool you. With the tech boom continuing to bring in young, single workers, and the quest for big city living space at an all-time high, the Emerald City is now home to the tiniest apartments in America.

Seattle’s average apartment clocked in at 711 square feet, according to a new report by RENTCafe. That’s 20 square feet smaller than the average rental in Manhattan or Chicago, which were tied for second place, and 171 square feet less than the national average. In contrast, Tallahassee, FL, boasts the most amount of rental living space, at a roomy average of 1,038 square feet.

What accounts for Seattle taking the tiny-rental crown? Some of it is tradition. “In Seattle, one-bedroom units make up most of the rental stock, and developers here preferred not to upsize and kept most of the new developments around the 700-square-foot threshold,” says Nadia Balint, who authored the study for RENTCafe.

According to Marlow Harris, a real estate agent and owner of SeattleDreamHomes.com, this is due in part to the city’s rapid growth in tandem with tech giants Amazon and Microsoft. Google and Facebook have opened up local outposts as well.

“Many of these tech companies are opening offices in the downtown office core and South Lake Union, a very small geographic area located between two bodies of water,” Harris says. “The only way to build is up, so they’re cramming as many units as the zoning code will allow.”

“One of the reasons these small apartments were working in Seattle is a large number of relocating workers are single men, fresh out of college life and dorm living,” she adds. “The leap from a college dormitory to the micro-housing units being built was an easy one for many of these workers, and they spent so much time at the office, they didn’t mind the small living quarters.”

And those tiny apartments come at a relatively low price point, making this city attractive to young renters. A Seattle apartment in the 601- to 800-square-foot range costs $1,981 on average—nearly half the price of a similar-sized unit in Manhattan, which goes for $3,877, according to RENTCafe.

On the flip side, Balint attributed Tallahassee’s large apartments to “a healthy rental stock of large two-bedroom units.”

“Two-bedroom apartments here are more numerous than one-bedroom units, while studios are almost nonexistent,” she says. “Developers here didn’t spare space for new units. The average size of an apartment built here in 2018 is a lavish 1,200 square feet, unchanged from 10 years ago.”

According to the RENTCafe report, the average size of apartments nationwide is 882 square feet, regardless of the year built. California rentals underwent the biggest downsizing of the decade, with available living space decreasing by 12%. Units in Detroit are 27% smaller, making it the city with the most shrinkage this past year. The size of studio apartments, which represent 5% of the national market, decreased by 10% in the last 10 years. Rents across the board have increased by 28% in the same period, as their overall size decreased by 5%.

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Rick Roth