S.F. Rents Stay Flat as Other Cities Rebound

As the city opens back up, will rent prices rise in turn?

After three months of relatively little fluctuation, San Francisco rents remain stable at about 25 percent below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, rents in other big cities appear to be climbing again.

That’s the latest word from the real estate analytics site Zumper in their March rent report. After a slight increase in January, the first since the pandemic began, one-bedroom rents in San Francisco fell once again in February, by about 1 percent, to an average of $2,650. Two-bedroom rents stayed flat at $3,500. If anyone’s keeping score, San Francisco remains the most expensive city in the nation for renters, edging out New York City’s one bedroom rents by less than $200. 

The report highlights the diverging fortunes of expensive big cities and their cheaper, less glamorous neighbors over the past year. The latter in many cases saw double digit rent declines, while the former saw significant increases. As remote work became the norm for white collar workers, many fled to cheaper locales. Rather than relocating to Austin or Miami, as a handful of venture capitalists gleefully announced on Twitter, many San Francisco and Silicon Valley residents moved to places like Sacramento, Vallejo and Livermore. 

The report also indicates that big city rent declines may have finally bottomed out. February was the first month since the beginning of the pandemic that the aggregate rent of the eight most expensive U.S. cities actually increased slightly. New York City, Boston, San Jose, San Diego, and Washington D.C. all saw rent increases of 1 percent or greater in the one- or two-bedroom categories. (However, it’s also important to note that rents tend to be at their lowest in the dead of winter.) 

In the Bay Area, cheaper, outlying cities continued to see rent increases, while more expensive areas were generally flat, or saw modest declines. One bedroom rents in East Palo Alto and Union City increased by about 5 percent. In San Leandro and Hayward, they were up about 2 percent. Median one-bedroom rents in Oakland were flat at $2,000, while two-bedrooms fell about 1 percent to $2,500. In San Jose, one-bedroom rents increased 2 percent to $2,180, and two bedrooms were up about 1 percent to $2,680.

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