West Coast mid-size cities took the lead in Q1 rental markets, according to an analysis by RENTCafe.com. 

The survey pointed to the hottest six of the nation’s 125 rental markets as being in or near the West Coast: Northern California’s Central Valley; Spokane, WA; Boise, ID; Sacramento, CA; Southern California’s Inland Empire; and Eugene, OR.

“The story behind Central Valley’s meteoric rise is becoming an archetype among the nation’s mid-sized cities. In a chicken-and-egg scenario, these markets are attracting an increasing number of residents looking for cheaper alternatives to expensive markets and shifting from traditional industries (in this case, agriculture, and energy) to more diversified job markets,” the authors noted.

Fellow mid-sized California markets Sacramento and the Inland Empire also made it to the ranking, as more people are relocating from L.A. and the Bay Area, according to RedFin.

Elsewhere in the west, Spokane’s mix of small companies and well-paying government, medicine and higher-education jobs has attracted residents from the Puget Sound for years now, especially from the pricier Seattle area, according to the researchers.

Meanwhile, third-ranked Boise, ID, has become known as a prime relocation hub for Californians, since the area offers a balance between slow (and cheaper) living, short commutes, and big-city amenities, RENTCafe noted.

Another western city, Phoenix, AZ, made the list at number 22 as the desert locale job hub’s rapid growth has attracted an increasing number of renters from surrounding states over the past few years.

“Most recently, the market’s rising tech sector has prompted a new nickname for the area, the Silicon desert, while the local economy weathered the pandemic better than in other large markets,” the report said.

Rental activity in the largest markets and surrounding exurbs shows prospective tenants are distinctly looking to get more square footage or more amenities for the same price as larger markets and surrounding exurbs, said Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix.

The hottest rental markets were chosen by RENTCafe by evaluating a combination of what percentage of apartments were occupied; how many days rentals were vacant; how many prospective renters competed for apartments; and the rent price trend.

Nationally, apartments were vacant for an average of 39 days during the first quarter of 2021 with 94% of rentals occupied during the time period. An average of 11 renters competed for each apartment.