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SF rents broke record highs all year

In a competition nobody wants to win, SF’s market rents came in first for all of 2019

Exterior view of multifamily residential building, with old metal fire escapes and bay windows. Via Shutterstock

San Francisco renters who made it to the end of 2019 with their leases intact and their checks cleared can heave a sigh of relief.

Of all the tough years to rent in the city—and they’re all tough years to rent in the city—this was one of the hardest, with commercial rental sites posting record increases in average prices almost every month, breaking all-time high records not just once but several times.

Since the December rent reports released by market rent platforms today reflect November numbers, the full spectrum of the year’s activity isn’t yet apparent. But comparing how the needle moved—or jabbed—in the past 11 months reveals a downright nasty trend of nearly constant appreciation on the price of a new rental citywide.


“Since it is well into slow moving season, all of the top ten cities experienced either a flat or downward monthly trend,” Zumper analyst Crystal Chen notes in the company’s national rent report covering prices in November.

That includes SF where the median price of a single-bedroom apartment on the site dropped 1.1 percent from the previous month and two percent year over year to land at $3,490.

The year overall, from December 2018 through November 2019, was something of a meat grinder for Zumper renters in SF: The yearly high of $3,720 in June was also the highest price ever recorded on the site for any city, breaking the previous $3,700 record set just in April and tied in May.

The somewhat good news is that the current $3,490 figure is the first time this year that the Zumper median for SF dipped below the $3,500-per-month mark it saw in January.

The last time the figure hit below $3,500 was in June 2018.

Apartment List

On SF-based Apartment List, which uses a radically different set of methods for calculating averages, says that for November and the beginning of December a one-bedroom apartment in SF ran $2,470. That’s up compared to the same time last year, which stood at $2,414.

The highest average for the year was in September at $2,492 while the lowest was in January at $2,459. This leaves the spectrum almost static for 2019 compared to the shifts of hundreds of dollars over the months on other sites.

In fact, these numbers mean that the price of an average home on Apartment List has budged only a little more than $100 in the entire time since November 2014, just a few months after the company started disclosing monthly averages. (Back in 2014, a one-bedroom was $2,381.)

Rent Cafe

Rent Cafe lags behind the previous two sites and won’t disclose figures for November for another couple of weeks. The recently furnished October numbers put the SF median price at $3,733.

Not only is that the highest all year, it’s the site’s highest of all time, another in a series of Rent Cafe records broken after previous all-time highs almost every month in 2019.

Comparing to data from year’s past, Rent Cafe is the most consistent of all the rental platforms in that it consistently climbs higher.

The site saw only two month-over-month price declines for San Francisco in all of 2019, and that was by just two dollars in February and three dollars in September. The entirety of 2018 saw two declines as well, the largest being $20 in February.


Renting in November, according to Adobo, meant paying $3,904 on average for a single-bedroom SF apartment, as usual the highest figure furnished on any site.

That’s the first month-over-month price dip since March, when the same figure dipped to $3,777 and then proceeded to bounce as high as it could go, breaking the site’s own previous all-time high records.

To give you some idea of how hot Adobo ended up this year, this time in 2018 the same apartment stock averaged $3,535, just barely more than the $3,500 average from when Abodo first started issuing reports in January 2017. Alas, we’re a long way from that number now.