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Berkeley has Bay Area’s lowest rents, says reports

A Leap Forward for the People’s Republic?

San Francisco bay as seen from a tower on UC Berkeley campus. Photo by Chao Kusollerschariya/Shutterstock

Spring has sprung and rents are climbing across the Bay Area according to estimates reported by prominent rental sites analyzing how prices changed on their platform in the month of April.

Anyone who feels bereft of good news on the rental scene can turn east toward Berkeley—or at least toward SF-based site ApartmentList, where the latest monthly rent report finds that prices are way down in Berkeley:

Throughout the past year, rent increases have been occurring not just in the city of San Francisco but across the entire metro. Of the largest ten cities that we have data for in the San Francisco metro, eight of them have seen prices rise.

Berkeley has seen rents fall by 3.4 percent over the past year, the biggest drop in the metro. It also has the least expensive rents in the San Francisco metro, with a two-bedroom median of $2,580.

Who knew?

Note that, while most of these monthly reports from rental sites claim only to assess the listing stock on that site, ApartmentList’s resident economists say that they also factor in figures from the U.S. Census to produce median price estimates that better represent what real renters are paying.

It’s hard to compare ApartmentList’s Berkeley claims to those of its competitor sites, since many don’t bother to separate Berkeley figures from those of the larger Bay Area, and others draw from much smaller sample sizes for the East Bay city, making the figures squishy at best.

The news for San Francisco, on the other hand, is abundant—and glum:

Photo by Sundry Photography
  • ApartmentList still records the lowest (and, they claim, most accurate) citywide SF median with $2,440/month for one-bedroom apartment (up 1.3 percent since 2017), and also the smallest gap between San Francisco and second place New York City at just $370. “San Francisco’s year-over-year rent growth lags the state average [...] as well as the national average,” according to ApartmentList.
  • Zumper has been in something of a Zump slump for the past few months, with the median price of a one-bedroom San Francisco apartment flat on the site for several months in a row. This month the trend finally broke, but unfortunately the break went against renters, as the median rent ticked up $40 to $3,440/month, up 2.1 percent from last year.
  • Those looking for good news for SF can turn to Abodo, although that good news comes only by a slender margin as the site records a median rent of $3,352/month. That’s down 1.67 percent from Abodo’s one-bedroom median a week ago; the site doesn’t list a year over year change, but referencing 2017’s reports we find it’s also down year over year—by exactly $1. Don’t spend it all in one place.
  • Finally, RENTCafe gets the dubious honor of marking the absolute highest single-bedroom median in the city, in this case $3,443/month, up 2.4 percent since last year, although this figure is a few weeks out of date now as RENTCafe’s report lingers behind its competitors and more recent figures will probably post in a few days time.
  • For comparison, the median price for a single bedroom this week on Craigslist is $3,110 from 1,674 ads, with a high of $34,445/month (yes) and a low of $650/month. In Berkeley it’s $2,300, based on just 282 ads.