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San Francisco rents still dropping

This is one trend we can get behind

Since the month started on a weekend, monthly rent reports split up a bit. But now we’re finally seeing full numbers from everybody, and the news across the board is that local rents are mostly down compared to last month and the same time last year. Although there are still one or two mysteries to solve.

Competing apartment listing sites Zumper and ApartmentList disagree on precisely what the local median rent is, which is to be expected, but both concur that 2016 rents come in well below those from last year, with ApartmentList recording a 3.2 percent decline in their listings, next to Zumper’s more generous 5.5

That comes out to $3,500/month for a one bedroom, or $4,770/month for two. Trulia, which consistently records much lower figures than other sites, shows a huge drop of over $400 in the price of a one bedroom apartment in the city, down to $2,500 (from $3,300 a year ago).

RentJungle, which has been pretty stubborn about recording only inconsequential drops or even slight rises in rent all year, now finally shows a consistent drop, down to $3,367 for a single bedroom in the city (although they lag behind other sites a bit, and that’s only an August figure).

No real surprises, all told. Except one thing: ApartmentList continues to insist that New York is the country’s most expensive rental market, despite the fact that no one else agrees. This has been going on for months now, and it appear to just be part of the quirks of that one site’s methodology.

Still, it got us curious, so we decided to test it by going straight to the source: Craigslist.

Despite its problems (scam ads, for example), the site is one of the largest publicly accessible repositories of housing data on the planet. As UC Berkeley researchers point out, Craigslist listings cover all spectra of homes and landlords, and should theoretically yield a median figure that’s slightly lower than those of slicker sites like ApartmentList.

Our methods were admittedly highly unscientific: We took the 100 most recent listings posted just today and crunched out some quick and dirty averages for both San Francisco (the city and county only) and New York (all boroughs), doing our best to weed out obvious frauds and repeat ads.

The results: Craigslist San Francisco yields a median of $2,997/month for a single bedroom apartment today (mean average: $3,124), New York a median of $2,587 (mean average: $2,780). Score one for Empire City renters and San Francisco landlords.

Interestingly, New York has maintained an average of nearly one unit of housing per 2.5 people in recent years, while San Francisco beats that out with one per 2.1 persons, plus a shockingly low vacancy rate (almost too low to measure) to boot. But they’re paying less anyway, at least this month.