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Posted on Tue, May 7, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

Ann Arbor rated No. 8 'cheapest city' for recent college graduates

By Ben Freed

Luxury high-rises are sprouting up like weeds in downtown Ann Arbor, so it may come as a surprise to some that the city is apparently one of the cheapest places in America to move after college. Appearing on yet another “top 10” list, Ann Arbor came in at No. 8 on Complex’s guide for thrifty recent college graduates which was headlined by No. 1 Spokane, Wash.


Rents are going up for University of Michigan students living in newly constructed high-rises, but one publication believes that rents for college graduates in Ann Arbor are entirely reasonable.

Melanie Maxwell I

According to the pop-culture website, typical monthly rent for one bedroom outside of the “city center” costs about $600. The costs for utilities, public transportation and “annual income needed for a living wage before taxes” (estimated at $19,738 for Ann Arbor) were also factored into the decision process. Midwestern hubs Dayton, Pittsburgh and St. Louis were Nos. 2, 3 and 4 respectively, with Austin, Texas and Memphis the only southern cities to make the list.

Ann Arbor’s rent was in the middle of the pack for the list, but the estimated $100.64 for utilities was the cheapest of the ten chosen cities. Complex also explicitly cites Ann Arbor’s frequent appearance on other top lists as one of its major draws, giving credence to the Kellie Woodhouse Snowball Theory of “Best Of” Lists expounded upon here.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

When did Pittsburgh move to the Mid-West?


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

These lists are ridiculous. I lived in Ann Arbor post-graduation and couldn't find a decent place for less than $750 - and that was a one-bedroom apartment nearly 10 years ago!


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

Ann Arbor is #1 on the list of cities who care way too much about landing on bogus lists. If this kind of stuff actually makes people move here, are they really the people that we'd *want* to move here?


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

As far as the list is concerned, St Louis and Memphis are very high crime cities, and no doubt they have some cheap rent areas, but I'm not sure who would want to rent in those areas.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 5:53 a.m.

Ann Arbor cheap sort high crime ares but in St Louis and Memphis where talking murder rate!!


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Show me the facts! I love A2, but these lists are bogus.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 5:52 a.m.

someone paid for this listing, sppp look at mayor ..why his face red ? lol if this was true then co-op waiting list would small .


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

$600 for a one bedroom outside the city center? I'm not sure anyone would want to live in any of those places, if they exist and are safe. Or they are 30-45 minutes outside of town.

Anthony Clark

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

I'm interested to know where these $600 a month one bedroom apartments are. I just conducted a fairly extensive search for a new apartment and didn't find anything under $700 (only a few under $800) in Ann Arbor, even "outside the city center". Had to go way outside the city center to find anything remotely close to $600.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

After actively searching for apartments in Ann Arbor (and surrounding areas) for well over a year, there is only one complex I found (which is a 15-20 minute drive from the city) that is in that price range. The rest are mostly $750+. McKinley just bought out my complex and is raising the rent on a one-bedroom from $800 to $950/month. It is absolutely disgusting and needless to say I'll be moving. Show me this cheap rent that they talk about in the article because I'm sure the one complex I did find will be filled to capacity with prices like these!


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 5:50 a.m.

I rent 4 bedrooms in Ann Arbor for only $ 550 depends on where you live.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:37 a.m.

$600 is not realistic for any 1 bedroom remotely close to AA that is safe and not rundown. Recent grads don't want to live out in some apartment complex 45 minutes from the center city. That's not why they would move here. Better to find a roommate and live in a better place.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

Not too worry after you buy your first car and insure it you'll be paying more than anyone in the country to drive it, so that being the case it's really a wash, bottom line no savings.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Seems like you are saying that a 20-something person insuring a car would cross them over a threshold to loose the economic benefit seen for living in Ann Arbor. Compared with insuring a car in Detroit, where the sports teams are?

Scott Reed

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:02 a.m.

High-rises "sprouting up like weeds" will increase the supply of apartments, and put downward pressure on rental prices. Having a greater supply of apartments should not lead one to expect higher prices. It is entirely reasonable to expect average prices to decrease.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:51 a.m.

"Every year the rent remains the same is a rent decrease - it is called inflation." Doesn't do much good if your paycheck doesn't go anywhere either.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

Every year the rent remains the same is a rent decrease - it is called inflation.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

I don't know. Time will tell and theoretically, that should happen. Somehow I don't see landlords around town lowering rents anytime soon, if ever. They will have other "excuses" for raising rents. I have good friends that have rented for 20 years in AA and they have never seen a rent decrease.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

$600 for one bedroom. And one room only.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:06 p.m.

"The costs for utilities, public transportation and "annual income needed for a living wage before taxes" (estimated at $19,738 for Ann Arbor) were also factored into the decision process." Well, there's the discrepancy. City Council's living wage law estimate is more than 23% higher than that and that's if the employer provides health insurance. Council's estimate for those without employer provided insurance is almost 38% higher.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

I guess that figure doesn't include auto ownership or insurance for said car. Rates for car insurance are among the highest in the country, higher than NY and NJ.

Doug Witney

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

It's a matter of a small sampling. Having lived near A2 for 8 years but also having visited over a hundred colleges in the last decade as part of work, I can tell you that A2 would be nowhere near 8th if the sampling was large enough. However, U of M passed a rubicon a few years ago when it became cheaper to live off-campus than use housing/meal plan the University offers.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

As someone who moved to Ann Arbor right out of college and has now lived here for ~10 years, I've always found the city to be severely lacking in entertainment options for this "age group". It's not exactly a nightlife hotbed, the sports teams (outside of UM) are 40+ minutes away, and most of the shops on Main Street cater to...I'm not even sure how to describe it. Yes, the restaurants are great and if you're a beer snob, this can be heaven, but beyond that it feels like the options start dwindling. Maybe it's just a "grass is always greener" mentality I'm dealing with, but outside of it being "cheap" it can be a bit on the boring side.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Ann Arbor is a small midwestern town. More to do than most, but still a small town. Do yourself a favor and move to Chicago. You can always move back later.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

cubicle Are you looking for Broadway plays, casinos, bowling, roller skating? You point out that Ann Arbor is lacking, But your explanation as to WHAT it is lacking is non-existent.

a2 Brute?

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

Your self-diagnosis is correct, you have a "grass is always greener" mentality. Can you offer some suggestions as to where that grass is greener, though?


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

Cubicle - You belong to which age group? What entertainment options do you miss? If you either like high cost and elite Broadway shows or, on the other end, prefer lap dancing and nude bars then I agree that Ann Arbor will not satisfy you. Between the University sponsored plays, dances, and varied musical offerings and private theaters and clubs most Ann Arbor residents will not be starved for entertainment. You may wish to check the back section of the Ann Arbor Observer each month as well. You may wish to check these websites as well: Seek and you shall find!


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

I could name a number of other cities in Michigan that have significantly lower rent costs, home ownership costs, and utility costs.

Jack Gladney

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

And how many of those cities have the words Ann and Arbor in them, huh?


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:09 a.m.

Topher, a lot of people work in the city (and even FOR the city) don't (and can't afford to) live in the city.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 9:12 p.m.

Now just try 1) finding a job in those cities, and 2) convince well-educated college kids that they should spend their post-college lives in those cities.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 9 p.m.

That would be a long list.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

I heard Ann Arbor was ranked Number 1 on the list cities that appear on lists.


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

ba-dum, [cymbal crash]


Tue, May 7, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

I would actually read that on a rainy of those days when you just feel kind of listless.

Kyle Mattson

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

It may be true a2c, we should make a list that lists the potential cities that could make that list! Related: Here's a story from Kellie Woodhouse addressing the number of lists A2 keeps landing on-