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San Francisco rent: $3,400 per month now normal

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Median rents are flat compared to four years ago, but expectations have changed

Coit tower rising on a hill behind some San Francisco apartments. Photo by Tupungato

The first of the month has come again and rents are due across the city. Although the price of living in San Francisco continues to rise, it appears that habitual meteoric price hikes have created a grim sense of what’s normal.

As usual, the largest online rental platforms have tabulated the median rent for a single-bedroom apartment on their platform over the past four weeks, revealing a mostly expected spate of variations.

Note: These figures consist in part or in some cases entirely, of listings on one particular platform rather than a scientific sampling of the entire city. These are also market rates for new leases, not necessarily what the average renter pays presently:

  • On ApartmentList, a single bedroom San Francisco home in October cost renters an average of $2,450/month, down a hair from last month and up $40 since June. ApartmentList’s figures are intentionally the lowest of the lot, as the site claims its competitors don’t properly contextualize the sample of high-end apartments on their sites with census data about older housing stock.
  • Apartment hunters on Zumper could expect to pay $3,420/month, a metric unchanged from the previous month, but down 3.6 percent since 2016. San Francisco remained the most expensive market on Zumper last month, as it has almost without interruption for the past several years.
  • On Abodo, San Francisco prices crept up month over month by just over one percent, coming out to $3,303/month.
  • Meanwhile, on RENTCafe—who uses data from an outside analysis firm rather than its own listings—similar homes run an average of $3,440/month, the highest of the lot. Note that since RENTCafe lags a few days behind the others those figures are actually from last month, with its latest update not quite ready yet.
  • Finally, by way of a control, a one-bedroom apartment on Craigslist this week averages $3,195/month.
Photo by Kapi Ng

The most noteworthy thing about this range of prices is how ordinary they seem by today’s standards. With the exception of ApartmentList’s adjusted average, most of these same figures on these same sites have hovered around the $3,100-$3,400/month range all year.

Back in December of 2013, NPR reported on prices “soaring” to $3,400/month levels. The San Francisco Chronicle called Zumper figures interchangeable with these “depressing” in March of 2015 and “shocking” one month later.

Now, effectively flat prices since then just seem usual. Rents have not actually been static or stable since 2013, of course, creeping above $4,000/month on some of these sites at one time or another.

But it does appear that little has changed since the crisis began. Problematic numbers from a few years ago remain, and progress in the meantime just means holding things to that, if indeed we’re even doing that much.

Of course, the year is not over; time will tell if new housing developments suggests a glimmer of hope for the new year or just more of the same.

Photo by Leslie Ann Salmo