June 14, 2017

SF rents down again year-over-year. Here’s what your money buys now

SF made news recently, refreshingly, for rents going down year-over-year, as rare a sentence to type as it is to read. According to Zumper, that year-over-year decrease has happened again.

Different data say different things

To examine these findings, we have to look closely at data. First, note the information refers to year-over-year, not month-over-month. According to Zumper’s Rent Index, the one-bedroom and two-bedroom median rents in San Francisco stayed flat “at $3,370 and $4,500, respectively.” Here’s where Zumper’s data gets interesting though: “both bedroom types are down over six percent since this time last year.”

Six percent?

Zumper’s rent data is their very own, so their numbers are too. When asked how they came to these numbers, Zumper told On the Block that “Our professional tool, Zumper Pro, is used by landlords and brokers to post directly to our platform. These listings are then syndicated to our network that includes listings from websites like, among others. In major cities, hundreds of agents and brokers post to us directly, meaning a large percentage of the total market originates through our platform before anyone else. We report median prices of active listings for the previous month.”

Other data

Another real estate site, Trulia, also tracks rents, and since it is a home selling platform, compares rent to mortgages. They recently reported that it is actually cheaper to buy than rent in San Francisco (once that pesky down payment is out of the way) but that because of flattening and decreasing rents on one end combined with mortgage rate inflation on the other, Bay Area rent vs. buy stats are changing: “It soon could be cheaper to rent in San Jose (if interest rates rise to 4.7 percent), San Francisco (5.1 percent), and Honolulu (5.3 percent).

Trulia’s methodology is to use a “quality-adjusted measure of home prices and rents, which allows an apples-to-apples comparison between rental and owner-occupied housing units. We looked at median home value and rent in April 2017 in each of the largest 100 metros.”

Back on the rental focus, Rent Jungle too follows city rents, looking at averages rather than medians. Their data say that as of April 2017,  the average apartment rent within the city of of San Francisco was $3,703.  One-bedroom apartments in San Francisco rented for $3,363 a month on average, and a two bedroom apartment rented at an average of $4,539. Their April calculations tell us that “The average apartment rent over the prior six months in San Francisco has decreased by $13 (-0.3 percent). One bedroom units have increased by $27 (0.8 percent) and two bedroom apartments have increased by $70 (1.6 percent).

For a look at year-over-year performance, they offer this table, which shows average rents from 2015 through April of this year.

Month 1BR 2BR 3BR
1/2015 3,582 3,285 4,567
2/2015 3,464 3,246 4,504
3/2015 3,691 3,343 4,537
4/2015 3,652 3,348 4,377
5/2015 3,697 3,370 4,419
6/2015 3,847 3,411 4,566
7/2015 3,829 3,448 4,687
8/2015 3,815 3,491 4,720
9/2015 3,769 3,483 4,663
10/2015 3,852 3,449 4,650
11/2015 3,798 3,425 4,568
12/2015 3,754 3,410 4,544
1/2016 3,772 3,451 4,556
2/2016 3,814 3,448 4,610
3/2016 3,842 3,434 4,646
4/2016 4,040 3,544 4,840
5/2016 4,003 3,540 4,790
6/2016 3,907 3,490 4,754
7/2016 3,907 3,448 4,756
8/2016 3,866 3,367 4,683
9/2016 3,825 3,382 4,621
10/2016 3,799 3,373 4,576
11/2016 3,716 3,336 4,469
12/2016 3,768 3,357 4,487
1/2017 3,871 3,407 4,631
2/2017 3,809 3,368 4,597
3/2017 3,728 3,364 4,535
4/2017 3,703 3,363 4,539

Rent Jungle says their data business, Rainmaker Insights “collects rental data for approximately 80 percent of all listings in the United States with “roughly 1 million unique, active listings at any given time.” The company has “over 4 years of comprehensive, historical data.”

The news is still the news

Again, though we figure the actual year-over-year rent decrease is somewhere in between all of these projections, anytime rents go down rather than up in this city, we pay attention. And this is the second time that news has grabbed our attention this year.


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