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Will you really have to pay $3,500/month for a studio in SF?

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Only for the wealthy or the unlucky, by and large

The SF waterfront from the air, without the bridges visible. Photo by MallmannPhoto/Shutterstock

On Sunday, SFGate published an artcile under the headline, “$3,500 to rent a studio? In San Francisco, yes,” with the lead paragraph informing renters that such prices are “not unusual.”

This left many rent watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether such a things could be true. As is almost always the case when discussing statistical medians, the answer is more complicated than a yes or no.

  • In the broadest possible sense the claim is true—some landlords consider this staggering amount a plausible asking price for certain studio apartments. For example, on Craigslist this week, the most expensive studio offered asks $4,565/month for 668 square feet in a “chic” South Beach condo building. As of today, the site features nine ads for studio apartments asking at least $3,500/month.
  • On rental site Zumper, out of 220 studio apartments advertised, 21 of them are priced at least $3,500/month. However, some of those are the result of landlords and rental agents accidentally listing larger apartments as studios, like this $11,000/month two-bedroom Pac Heights condo listed as a studio by mistake.
  • Competitor Abodo lists 22 studios asking at least $3,500/month, although, again, some of these are errors, like this three-bedroom listing in the Marina mistakenly marked a studio.
         By danielcgold
  • And on ApartmentList, three buildings—the very tony Jasper on Lansing Street, Alchemy on Buchanan, and Avalon Hayes Valley on Octavia—advertises available studios for well over the relevant price, with Jasper spaces starting at an incredible $4,120/month.
  • It seems only HotPads users have avoided the problem of studios that are not really studios, as the eight units listed on that site at this price point seem to be the real deal, the most expensive being a $5,000/month studio on New Montgomery.
  • Keep in mind that, with the possible exception of Craigslist, these sites attract mostly high-end and newer construction buildings and thus represent the extreme end of commercial renting in the city with inflated prices to match. The United State Census now estimates that median rent in San Francisco in 2016 was $1,632/month across all types and sizes of property, for example, about half of what many apartment sites listed as the median for a single bedroom.

Indeed, there are some instances of $3,500/month studios in the city. Such things do happen. But given that each of the aforementioned rental sites have only a handful of uber-expensive studios at that price point of higher, and the fact that these listings represent inflated asking prices at the best of times, it’s doesn’t seem plausible to call such units “not unusual.”

In fairness though, it is remarkable—and chilling—that any such offerings are on the market at all.