College seniors who visited Phoenix for last month’s NCAA basketball championship might consider staying and putting down roots. Phoenix is the best market for this year’s college grads, boasting the best combination of rental affordability and concessions, job prospects, and neighbors in their 20s for the class of 2024 to start life’s next chapter on a high note.

Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, San Antonio, and Portland, Oregon, round out Zillow’s top five markets for new college grads, according to a news release.

First College Move

“The first move after college is an exciting milestone. Zillow’s best markets for new grads are great places to kickstart a career and take the first steps of adulthood,” said Anushna Prakash, economic research data scientist at Zillow. “Rents won’t take up too much of a new grad’s paycheck, leaving money to explore a new city or start saving up for a down payment. For renters who don’t mind a housemate or two, renting a room can help save some extra cash and might even introduce lifelong friends.”

Best Markets

Zillow’s best markets for new college grads offer promising career opportunities as well as relatively affordable rentals. The analysis looks at rent affordability,1 the share of rental listings on Zillow offering a concession, job growth, and the share of the population ages 21–29.

Phoenix rose to the top largely on the strength of its job market, which is the second-strongest among the markets Zillow analyzed. Phoenix also ranked within the top 10 for the share of rental listings on Zillow offering a concession, such as a free month of rent or free parking (50.5%), helping to overcome relatively expensive rents. A college grad making Phoenix’s median entry-level income would spend 34.5% of that on the typical Phoenix rental.

Affordable Rent

For new grads who consider affordable rent their top priority, Des Moines, Iowa, is the place to be. Des Moines placed No. 11 overall in Zillow’s ranking and took the top spot for rent affordability. A typical college grad can expect to spend less than a quarter of their income on the typical rental there.

New grads looking to score a deal on a rental can focus their search on Charlotte, which comes in at No. 14 overall. Fifty-seven percent of Charlotte rental listings on Zillow are offering a concession, more than any other market Zillow analyzed.

Zillow Rentals provides new grads with a wide range of rental options to suit every lifestyle and budget, from apartment buildings with a doorman to single-family rentals with private backyards. Additionally, Zillow recently introduced the option to search for individual rooms for rent, perfect for those looking to split costs with roommates and ease the financial burden as they enter the rental market.

Zillow’s Top 10 Markets for New College Grads

Metro Area

Overall Rank

Rent Affordability*

Rent Affordability Ranking

Share of Pop. Ages 21– 29

Share of Pop. Ages 21–29 Ranking

Share of Rental Listings Offering a Concession (April 2024)

Concessions Ranking

Job Market Ranking

Phoenix, AZ

1

34.5 %

61

13.0 %

18

50.5 %

7

2

Albuquerque, NM

2

28.9 %

25

12.2 %

41

25.4 %

54

4

Colorado Springs, CO

3

32.9 %

55

13.9 %

6

36.5 %

29

12

San Antonio, TX

4

28.8 %

22

12.9 %

21

48.0 %

11

30

Portland, OR

5

29.0 %

26

12.0 %

46

39.3 %

23

80

Dallas, TX

6

31.6 %

42

12.9 %

20

48.7 %

9

54

Raleigh, NC

7

30.9 %

38

12.1 %

44

53.1 %

4

72

Denver, CO

8

34.0 %

60

13.5 %

8

46.9 %

13

71

Spokane, WA

9

28.2 %

16

11.8 %

57

30.4 %

39

18

Austin, TX

10

32.0 %

47

13.9 %

5

54.4 %

3

64

*Share of median entry-level income spent on typical rent

Methodology

1To determine rent affordability estimates, Zillow used each metro area’s typical rent according to the Zillow Observed Rent Index and an estimate of recent college graduate wages using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics dataset. Zillow analyzed jobs that require a bachelor’s degree but no prior experience and took the 25th percentile of wages weighted by the employment of those jobs in the geographic area.

2Job growth data is provided by the Indeed Hiring Lab. It gives the percentage change in seasonally adjusted postings since February 1, 2020, for total job postings in U.S. metropolitan areas with a population of at least 500,000 people.

Source: Zillow