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Predictions about stagnating SF rents came true this year

At least one hopeful prediction that came true in 2016

The San Francisco skyline at sunset. Icarus66

Popular apartment and rental sites all report notably similar figures for median San Francisco rents at the end of the year.

RENTCafe’s just-released November figures show a median market rent of $3,343. That’s within $100 of three competitor sites.

Since platforms like RENTCafe usually only measure what the median rent is on RENTCafe, it’s nice when they can all occasionally agree.

[Update: A RENTCafe spokesperson tells us that their report actually reflects data from an independent research group.]

Previously, this was the only site recording a year-over-year increase in city rents, even if it was just a not terribly significant 0.8 percent. But now it’s finishing out the year down 1.2 percent.

RENTCafe is playing to it’s own prediction from last year, when its analysts declared rents “stagnant” and predicted “growth to slow” in the new year.

Casual observers might be reluctant to give too much credit to 2015’s prognosticators. After all, things can only go up or down, seeing to give anybody a 50-50 shot at getting it right.


But predicting markets can be a little more nuanced. For example, Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron anticipated in January that we’d see a general downturn in housing price growth but that rents wouldn’t “drop significantly.”

By and large, Shaw was right (although you could quibble about the definition of “significant”).

Rental site Zillow guessed that rental growth would slow drastically this year, and they too were right—but they still predicted a six percent rise in San Francisco, whereas their own data now shows prices completely flat over the year.

Palo Alto-based brokerage Marcus & Millichap anticipated that rents would rise as much as seven percent in 2016, and they were wrong, except when it comes to places like Oakland, which did indeed see just that degree of activity.

Incidentally, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted a downturn back in March that turned out to be (literally) right on the money, and they also guessed that this year would be just the start of a decline.

Nobody’s right all of the time, of course. But it doesn’t cost anything to hope.