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SF rent declines will save the average new renter an estimated $960 this year

Don’t spend it all in once place

An above shot of buildings of descending height on a San Francisco hill Irina Mos

As the final December reports come in, it remains clear that rents went down in San Francisco in 2016. But how much good is that doing most people?

The site RENTCafe found that average prices dropped barely less than 1 percent in the city last year, relative to 9 and 13 percent increases the previous years.

Competitor Abodo records some more robust declines, telling Curbed SF that on average, every month in 2016 the price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco went down 0.82 percent.

A one-bedroom apartment now averages between $3,300 and $3,500/month in the city, depending on who you ask.

But it can be hard to pin down what good figures like this do for actual San Francisco renters, many of whom feel as strapped now as ever.

For the majority of people, of course, the terms of the present lease determine the rent. Average market rent is only relevant to people moving or renegotiating terms.

(This is why the city’s actual median rent is much, much cheaper than the averages displayed on cites like RENTCafe.)

But for a renter diving into the market today, how much money would market trends over the past 12 months end up saving?

Comparing RENTCafe and Abodo figures to those on popular competitor sites like Zumper, Apartment List, and RentJungle from the beginning of 2016 through the end, year-over-year declines in dollar terms come to anywhere between $28 and $160 monthly for a one-bedroom San Francisco home.

(Trulia records a price drop of nearly $700, but that’s such a pronounced outlier it’s best not to factor it in.)

That’s a savings of between $336 and $1,920 on a 12-month lease, or about $960/year on average.

Well, every little bit helps. But it can be hard to really feel even the modest savings paid by this 12-month positive trend, because they’re mostly hypothetical: It’s only money saved versus what any renter probably would have been paying if he or she had rented the same place a year prior.

So, if it seems like the savings aren’t manifesting in real terms, that’s because for most people they’re not. San Francisco remains the most expensive renters market outside of Manhattan, even if last year’s rises and falls “look downright reasonable” relative to the craziness of previous years, as RENTCafe analyst Amalia Otet puts it.

But at least it could be worse. In fact, 12 months ago, it was.

Radoslaw Lecyk