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SF, San Jose renters confident they’re getting bargain on rent, says survey

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For some reason

San Francisco Tops New Survey Of Highest U.S. Home Rental Prices Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

San Francisco-based rental site Zumper released its annual survey Thursday and came up with some head-scratching results: Renters in San Francisco and San Jose are convinced they have “a good deal” on their rent despite sky-high prices.

Zumper’s online survey polled 5,339 users across the U.S. about their housing and their attitudes about the homes market. A Zumper representative tells Curbed SF this sample included roughly 200 people from the Bay Area (SF, Oakland, and San Jose).

Compared to previous years, the 2018 survey revealed some intriguing insights. For example, one-third of those polled say they do not think of homeownership as part of “the American Dream,” compared to 29 percent two years ago. And ten percent of those polled live with their parents.

Photo by uri brumer

The most eyebrow-raising result comes when those polled were asked whether they believed they were getting a “good deal” on rent.

In San Francisco, 69 percent said yes. In San Jose, it was 71 percent, compared to 57 percent nationally. This despite these two cities being the highest and fourth highest median rents, respectively, on Zumper’s most recent monthly report.

How to explain this? A few possibilities:

  • As Zumper points out, the site’s sample is not necessarily the norm. “We acknowledge that our data and findings may be impacted by various biases due to the differences between our user base,” the rental site’s analysts note in the report. For example, Zumper users are more likely to be in the market for more expensive new construction homes.
  • It’s also important to consider that the median market rent is not the same thing as the city’s median rent. In 2016, the average San Francisco renter paid $1,632/month, according to the U.S. Census, less than half what sites like Zumper typically list as their median for the city. The discrepancy results from the fact that sites like Zumper rarely list rent-controlled units and older buildings and, by definition, never list old existing leases paying out at below market rates.
  • When it comes to polling, the question itself matters at least as much as the answer; since the survey does not define “a good deal,” many people paying an arm and a leg would still like to think they drove a hard bargain on their lease, if only because they expected the rent crush to be even worse than it actually is. After all, someone has to be paying these $3,000/month-plus prices on single-bed SF apartments—meaning someone presumably thinks that such a deal is worth it.