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Did SF rents just hit an all-time high? Probably not.

Zumper reported its highest SF apartment rent median of all time, but other sources disagree

SF apartments seen from Telegraph Hill. Photo by Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

San Francisco-based rental platform Zumper recorded its all-time highest ever median price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city in February.

On Zumper, a modest SF apartment averaged $3,690 per month, up 3.1 percent since January and 8.5 percent year-over-year. This is the highest figure ever recorded on the site since Zumper began issuing monthly rent reports in 2015.

“Seeing San Francisco prices reach a peak now shows that there is strong upward pressure on rent prices here and the looming tech IPOs may be a big factor as to why,” notes Zumper writer Crystal Chen.

The dire figure led outlets like CNET and the San Francisco Chronicle to report a “new peak” in the city’s rental market.

Is that true? The answer boils down to “Maybe, but probably not”—or even better, “It depends on who you ask.”

For example, Apartment List, a competitor to Zumper, says that a similar unit on its site averaged $2,460 per month over the same period.

Apartment List usually reports a lower median rent than Zumper, because, in part, it uses a different methodology to calculate its median, which the company claims is more accurate.

Company spokesperson Chris Salviati tells Curbed SF that not only are SF prices not peaking on the site, they’re actually down a bit.

“We estimated modest declines in the median rent in San Francisco through much of 2016 and 2017, with a consistent upward trend returning in 2018” which has then tapered off a since last fall, says Salviati.

He adds, “Note that these estimates are not inflation-adjusted [...] adjusting for inflation would create a slightly wider gap between our current estimate and the observed peak in 2015.”

Abodo, another rental site, lists an even higher median price for SF, averaging $3,799 per month for a one-bedroom apartment on the platform. Again, this is not unexpected, since Abodo usually reports the highest median price of the three sites.

Despite this, Abodo’s February figures are not an all-time high for the site; in fact, its number for the SF median is down month-over-month, albeit by less than 0.4 percent.

Keep in mind that each of these medians represents the current market rent. This is distinct from the citywide actual rent median, which is typically considerably lower and sometimes not even the most expensive in the Bay Area.

The most significant thing about Zumper’s new peak is what it represents not about the city as a whole but about the homes most likely to end up on Zumper: mostly newer construction listings trending towards luxury units.

“With the brimming excitement of all the tech IPO’s in the Bay Area, it seems the luxury end of the rental market is being hit first,” Chen writes on Zumper, who points out that winter months are still the “slow-moving season” and that the rest of 2019 may well see demand come to a boil.