Better have sharp elbows if you're hunting for an apartment in some of the most competitive rental markets in the U.S., large or small. In these markets, vacancies are low and as many as 22 contenders might be fighting to dump their boxes in the unit of their choice.

What makes the rental market in a particular area especially hard to break into? According to a study by RentCafe there are five factors: the number of days apartments remain vacant, the percentage that are occupied, how many renters are competing to rent, how many renew their leases, and the percentage of apartments completed in a year.

From this data a Rental Competitivity Index (RCI) is calculated. For the U.S. as a whole, the RCI was 59.5 in 2023. In the markets with the least availability of the 139 studied, the RCI was considerably higher.

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