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80% of renters love San Francisco despite cost, says survey

Almost half of those polled give city top marks

San Francisco Skyline Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This week the rental site Zumper released the results of a survey of 14,284 renters in 36 U.S. cities. Among the findings: In spite of the withering cost of living and renting in the city, the roughly 600 San Francisco respondents were among the most satisfied with their community.

Some of the highlights:

  • Asked to rank their satisfaction with the city on a scale of one to five, 49 percent of San Francisco survey takers gave the city a five. An additional 31 percent marked SF a four out of five score.
  • Conversely, only six percent of people scored the city a one or a two. Of the three dozen communities included in the poll, only six garnered a better average rating among residents than SF.
  • Sixty-three percent of San Franciscans say they moved to the city for work. The highest response in that category among all metros.
  • On the other hand, only four percent say the cost of living attracted them. That’s lower than every city polled except for Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • When apartment hunting in San Francisco, 74 percent of people said that they prioritized the price of their new home. That’s actually a low response in this category, less than the number of respondents who said the same thing in all but three other cities.
  • On the other hand, 80 percent of San Francisco renters say the commute time was their number one priority when selecting a home. That’s a higher response than any other city except for Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Danienarin/Shutterstock

At face value, the numbers seem to present San Francisco renters as relatively well-heeled (or at least not particularly concerned with the cost of living relative to how stacked expenses are in the city), primarily motivated by the local economy, and generally upbeat about the city in spite of hassles

However, the data also gives away that the average Zumper poll respondent is not necessarily interchangeable with the average San Franciscan.

For example, a mere one percent of those surveyed indicated that they grew up in San Francisco. In fact, no city in the survey managed more than a five percent rating in the same category. In both Oakland and San Jose, the figure was zero percent.

(By contrast, Pew Research found in 2008 that 37 percent of Americans overall still lived in their hometown.)

Zumper writers highlight these biases, writing in the report: “We acknowledge that our data and findings may be impacted by various biases due to the differences between our user base, usually younger with a higher concentration in cities.”

Spokesperson Crystal Chen told Curbed SF, “As a San Francisco native, that number definitely seems low. But it's mainly due to the fact that we sent this survey out to our users who are mainly renters moving.”

In May, the annual San Francisco city survey, conducted with 2,166 San Franciscans, found city residents somewhat more disgruntled.

Photo by Shay Bakstad