Colorado Springs, Colo. has been named Zillow’s top market for college grads in 2023, highlighting how, this year, markets with a smaller population, relatively affordable rents, and lots of career prospects contribute to a high quality of life for individuals beginning a new phase in their lives.

Trailing behind Colorado Springs are Spokane, Wash., and Des Moines, Iowa — two relatively small markets with plenty of job opportunities and lower rents than the national median, according to a news release.


To determine the ranking, Zillow created an index combining1 each metropolitan area’s rent-to-income ratio, the average salary for recent college graduates, job openings, and the share of the population in their 20s. The analysis identifies cities that not only provide promising career prospects but also ensure a manageable rent burden for fresh graduates embarking on their next exciting chapter.

“Graduating from college and moving to a new city to start your career is a major milestone. For many, it’s a reality check when they realize how much of their hard-earned paycheck goes straight to rent,” said Anushna Prakash, an economic data analyst at Zillow in the release. “Zillow’s top markets for college grads are buzzing with abundant job opportunities, a chance to connect with fellow 20-somethings, and rent prices that allow more freedom to spend on nights out or even start saving for a down payment. They’re great places to kick-start life’s exciting next chapter.”


Typical Rent (Zillow
Observed Rent Index –

Average Salary for
Recent College Grads

Rent-to-Income Ratio

Colorado Springs, CO

$         1,824

$                             63,190

35 %

Spokane, WA

$         1,563

$                             61,162

31 %

Des Moines, IA

$         1,202

$                             59,697

24 %

Phoenix, AZ

$         1,918

$                             62,324

37 %

Buffalo, NY

$         1,257

$                             59,929

25 %

Albuquerque, NM

$         1,531

$                             59,163

31 %

Bakersfield, CA

$         1,767

$                             66,195

32 %

Albany, NY

$         1,524

$                             63,513

29 %

Portland, OR

$         1,856

$                             71,618

31 %

Little Rock, AR

$         1,199

$                             51,294

28 %

Second-largest Markets Offer College Grads Quality Life

Both Colorado Springs and Spokane hold the distinction of being the second-largest markets by population in their respective states. These vibrant regions offer abundant job opportunities along with rents that are more affordable than their larger metro counterparts Denver and Seattle. In Colorado Springs, the typical rent is $1,824, compared to $2,031 in Denver. In Spokane, the typical rent is $1,563, compared to $2,223 in Seattle. College graduates flock to these areas, seeking an excellent quality of life, outdoor recreation, and economic prospects at a reasonable cost. The two are also college towns, anchored by UC-Colorado Springs and Gonzaga University, respectively, giving them a head start at attracting 20-somethings when many recent graduates stick around to start their careers.

Phoenix and Portland: Largest Markets

Among the top metros, Phoenix and Portland stand out as the largest markets by population size. While their typical rents rank highest the top-10 list, Portland’s generous average salary for recent college grads offsets the higher living costs, ensuring a relatively manageable rent-to-income ratio. Phoenix, on the other hand, takes the crown for its abundance of job opportunities, surpassing all other analyzed metro areas. When combined with factors such as the vibrant population of 20-somethings and favorable rent-to-income ratios, Phoenix and Portland emerge as exceptional choices for recent graduates seeking a flourishing start to their professional journeys.

Peak rental season is in full swing, and new college grads looking to sign a lease only add to the competition for rentals. The rental market can be expensive and competitive, but there are steps first-time renters can take to make the process easier:

  • Search smarter, not harder
    • To save time on in-person tours, renters can take advantage of virtual 3D Home tours and interactive property maps on many apartment listings from the comfort of their couch and avoid wasting time touring rentals that are not a good fit.
    • Once they decide they want to see something in person, renters can automatically schedule tours in the same way they book restaurant reservations — no need to wait for a response from the property manager.
  • Create a budget and explore options 
    • Once they land a job and know their salary, college grads should also research their market to better understand what they can expect to pay and if they should negotiate.
    • Zillow has a rental market trends tool showing typical rents, the number of available units, and market temperature down to the ZIP code.
  • Know a renter’s rights
    • Zillow’s local legal protections tool provides information about local laws that protect LBGTQ renters from housing discrimination. It also includes information on local laws that prevent housing discrimination based on the source of income used to pay the rent, such as housing vouchers.


1 In this analysis, Zillow used data from the Zillow Observed Rent Index, the share of a population ages 21–29 from the Census, the average salary for occupations that require a Bachelor’s degree but no prior experience from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and job openings data from the Indeed Hiring Lab.

Source: Zillow