Rent prices are up 30% since the start of the pandemic. In America’s most expensive cities, the sticker shock is especially bad. 

While the national median rent for a 1-bedroom is $1,487 per month, that figure skyrockets to $4,280 in New York and $2,300 in Los Angeles, according to a recent report by Zumper, a real estate data site. 

CNBC Make It asked locals in their 20s and 30s living in New York and LA about how much they pay in rent — and if they think it’s actually worth the money. Here’s what they said.

$3,000 on a 650 sq. ft apartment in NYC: ‘It’s definitely not worth it’

New Yorkers are generally willing to pay more for a bigger space or amenities like a private rooftop or gym. But even if their apartment checks off everything on their wish list, residents say they’re overpaying in rent.

Mia pays $3,500 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment in Manhattan that she shares with a roommate. 

“I pay way too much, but it is a beautiful apartment,” she tells CNBC Make It. “It has two bedrooms, and we have a gym in our building, but I definitely spend too much of my salary on rent. It’s just crazy how expensive it is here.” 

Outside of Manhattan, rent isn’t much more affordable. Shane pays $3,000 to rent a 1-bedroom, 650 sq. feet apartment in the Bronx. 

“I get a lounge, a rooftop and a gym in my building … but there’s a lot of car break-ins,” he says. “I have a car, so I’m always looking out [onto the street], anxious, trying to make sure my car is OK.” 

He says his rent is “definitely not worth it.” But he appreciates the amenities, his five-minute walk to the subway, and how convenient it is to get into Manhattan.

“If I lived in [Manhattan], I’d probably be spending $4,000 to $5,000 for what I have now,” Shane adds. “So, it’s the best thing I could get in New York City.”

A premium for walkability and living alone in LA: ‘I’m just happier’

LA attracts ambitious people hoping to make it big, and Angelenos are willing to pay a premium to be in on the action.

Khrystopher pays $1,700 for his apartment in a walkable neighborhood. It’s a good price for LA, he says, but “compared to where I just moved from in Nashville, I was definitely getting more bang for my buck [there].”

Still, paying to live in LA means making progress on his music career as a songwriter and producer: “There’s always gonna be trade-offs.”

For others, pricey rent is worth it for the peace of living alone. 

Hannah, who’s in her late 20s, says her $2,850 monthly rent is 100% worth it to live alone in a spacious one-bedroom. Her unit comes with a washer/dryer, permitted street parking, and easy access to Runyon Canyon for frequent hikes.

“It’s obviously really expensive to live by yourself,” she says, but being able to do so “changes your mental stability and emotional [state]. I’m just happier in my own safe environment.”

That doesn’t require a big space either. Maggie pays $2,087 for a studio apartment. “The bed is separate from the kitchen, which is all I need,” she says.

Many people are willing to pay even more. Bree, 24, lives with her boyfriend, who pays close to $8,000 for a four-bedroom unit with a washer-dryer, three patios and a manicured lawn.

“I think it’s worth it,” she says. “Technically, it shouldn’t be that much,” but “it’s LA. It’s expensive out here.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Use discount code NEWGRAD to get 50% off from 5/1/24 to 6/30/24.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

Living in a $1,600/month apartment in New York City

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