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Rents Are Down, But Still So High You Probably Didn't Notice

Last year's record-breaking peaks are behind us, but that's the end of the good news

Today in ambivalent housing news: Rents in San Francisco, still the highest in the country, may finally be dropping — in the long run, hedged with phrases like "less than nationwide growth," according to one particular rental site. Good news can become quite thin in transition these days.

Apartment List’s national rent report for April 2016 shows that rents in San Francisco rose a bit last month, up a statistically unimportant 0.3 percent since March, and up a much more significant 1.4 percent since the same time last year.

But that’s still a big decline from last summer’s record-breaking highs, which left everyone still a bit shell shocked even nine to eleven months later. Compared to those sun-scorched, market-pummeled months, rents are down 2.5 percent, and if they continue to stay more or less flat until fall we’ll see a significant year-over-year drop through the upcoming season.

Apartment List also points out that the overall 1.4 percent increase over the last 12 months is half the average growth nationwide, another indicator that local prices might have finally leveled off. In LA, by contrast, rents are down 0.9 percent for the month, but up over four percent for the year.

Note that Apartment List analyses cover only those listings on the site itself, although the report does mostly correspond to trends observed by other rental sites this year.

Of course, we don’t need to tell you that even after this (more or less) good news, we’ve still got record-setting, bank-busting local prices: $4,690 for two bedrooms on Apartment List, and $3,510 for one. This next to to $2,750 and $1,900 comparatively in Oakland, and $1,700 and $2,050 for the state of California as a whole.

To review: Rents are slightly up right now but in a big picture sense they’re slightly down or at least flat, although if they have flattened out they’re doing it at nearly lethal levels, And it’s hard to say when they’ll drop to the point that the average renter starts reaping significant benefits.

Overall, that adds up to an encouraging net trend, although we’ll forgive you if you don’t break out the champagne and let the good times roll just yet. If worse comes to worse, you can always move to Huntsville, Alabama, Apartment List’s cheapest city, where a one-bedroom goes for $470 a month and prices are down 0.8 percent for the year.