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The San Francisco Area's Actual Rent Might Be Closer to $2,316

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Coming up with an accurate representation of what San Franciscans are paying in rent is a tough task, as we've noted throughout our rather obsessive tracking of rent in the city. There is a big difference between current asking rent prices and the prices that residents who have been in their buildings for a while are paying, and most rent estimates only take into account listings of apartments currently for rent. A new figure from real estate data company REIS takes a different approach. To get their data, they actually survey the owners and managers of market-rate properties with 20 or more units, although they exclude buildings that are rent controlled. Taking into account apartments of all sizes, REIS estimates that the average rent currently paid by residents of the San Francisco metro area—which in their research stretches from western Marin down through most of San Mateo County—is currently $2,316.

That figure, which REIS calls the SF metro area's "effective rent," is significantly lower than the $3,162 metro-wide median rent projected in April by Zillow's rent index, which estimates the current market value of the city's entire housing stock and finds a median (regardless of what is for rent at any given time, and regardless of what real renters pay). Zillow's number also covers a larger area than REIS's, and spans San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and San Mateo counties.*

Given San Francisco's large stock of rent-controlled housing and the large number of buildings with fewer than 20 units, the estimate from REIS is still not totally representative of what all renters are really paying. But it does provide a slightly different view of this oft-debated figure. And, unlike most other rent estimates, it shows the San Francisco metro area's rents as significantly cheaper than those in the New York metro area, where the average effective rent is $3,294. However, the survey still shows the San Francisco area's rents rising faster than almost anywhere else, with a 6.8 percent increase in effective rent over the past year. The only metro area that had a higher growth rate was San Jose, with a 7.2 percent jump. The San Jose metro area's average effective rent in the second quarter of 2015 was $1,951. The Oakland metro area's average effective rent for the same period came in at $1,589.

The research also shows rents in the San Francisco area continuing to rise this year, with a 1.6 percent jump for the second quarter of the year. That put San Francisco behind San Jose, which saw a 1.9 percent rise, and New York, which experienced a 1.7 percent increase. No matter what the exact figures are, San Francisco is still near the front of the pack for the highest rents in the country, and that situation doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.

* We should also note that REIS's report calculates an average, not a median. That makes REIS's calculation more vulnerable to skewing by a few numbers at either end of the spectrum, but since they're only looking at market-rate rents and leaving out rent-controlled units, that may not be such a problem. For more about how Zillow's number is calculated, read this handy explainer.

· REIS [Official Site]
· Is San Francisco's Median Rent of $4,225 For Real? Yes and No [Curbed SF]
· Rents Gallop Past Home Values in April [Zillow]
· SF's Median Asking Rent for a One-Bedroom Tops Manhattan's [Curbed SF]