Does San Francisco have the highest rent prices in the Bay Area? In the state? In the world?
The answer is very likely no, as several other Bay Area cities most likely still have it tougher. But there’s still some disagreement on this point, and as always with the tricky questions it can depend on who you ask.
Here’s what average rents across SF and the rest of the region boiled down to during the hot July weeks:
“San Francisco renters can breathe some relief as one bedroom rent dropped back down to $3,600,” Zumper writer Crystal Chen writes in the SF-based rental platform Zumper’s most recent national rent report, which reflects median rents on the site in July.
Just to be clear, absolutely nobody is going to feel relieved about the prospect of paying $3,600 per month for a single bedroom apartment at any point, although a lot of sighing may be involved nevertheless.
That figure is up more than 2.85 percent compared to July of 2018. Back then Zumper averaged $3,500 per month for just one bedroom in the city; in July of 2017 it was $3,420, in 2016 $3,460, and in 2015 $3,500.
That’s as far back as the record goes, as Zumper didn’t begin tabulating monthly rents until August of 2014. In all of those cases, Zumper stood by its position that San Francisco has the most expensive market rents in the country.
But SF-based competitor Apartment List has other ideas. By their tally, the highest median price for a single bedroom apartment in July of this year was in Edgewater, New Jersey of all places.
The biggest money city in California was Marina Del Rey, and the most expensive Bay Area rents, coming in at $3,569 that month, was San Mateo.
SF also fell behind San Ramon ($3,075), Pacifica ($3,046), Fremont ($3,038), Pleasanton ($2,999), ($2,844) and Redwood City ($2,829), South San Francisco ($2,471), Novato ($2,650), Pittsburg ($2,598), Antioch ($2,552), and Palo Alto ($2,493).
On Apartment List, SF landed in 18th place out of 853 major cities ranked, with a median single bedroom rent price of $2,471 per month, an identical figure from the month before and up from $2,548 a year ago. The 2017 figure was $2,430, and in 2016 $2,433.
It’s not surprising that this site reaches radically different conclusions from one like Zumper, being that Zumper tends to emphasize high-end and new construction homes and that both sites employ markedly different methodology.
Which is more reliable? Well, that’s hard to say in empirical terms, but for the record the US Census in 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available) furnished figures much closer to those of Apartment List, finding 26 Bay Area cities with median rents (across all types of housing, not just one bedroom apartments) higher than San Francisco that year, many being the same ones Apartment List picks out now.
And competitor Rent Cafe agrees with Apartment List on this point. In fact, it was Rent Cafe’s 2019 midway point report in July that broached the topic so directly in the first place, although that site found only two cities—Menlo Park and Palo Alto—pricier than SF, which averaged an anxiety-inducing $3,697 per month on that platform.
For the curious, that’s up from $3,577 in 2018 and $3,439 in 2017, with earlier figures not available for the site. That report actually singled out Oakland as a more interesting case study, because although the $2,800 per month median in the town is lower it had also accelerated much faster than SF in recent years.
Rent Cafe also adopted a term for this: “The San Francisco effect.” Great.
Abodo, on the other hand, still places SF in the unenviable number one position, averaging a shocking $3,959 per month for a modest apartment on that site in July. However, Abodo also does not provide medians for cities like Palo Alto and San Mateo, sticking with a much shorter list of cities that effectively bows out of the larger question.
The $3,959 per month price is the highest that Abodo has ever recorded since the site began tabulating these figures in January of 2017. However, it does not quite count as a broken record, as this is the same number from the previous month—which broke the site record on its own, of course.