The average rent for a studio in San Francisco is now $2,312 a month, up 8.7 percent year over year according to the latest report from Cassidy Turley.

The average rent for a San Francisco apartment in general is $2,899 a month, up 3.4 percent from the first quarter of 2013 and 6 percent higher year-over-year, with one-bedrooms averaging $2,782 a month and two-bedrooms with two baths up to $3,791.

126 thoughts on “Average Rent For A Studio In San Francisco: Over $2,300 A Month”
  1. Interesting to see studios outperforming. I wonder if it’s due to people who were formerly forced to double up being better off and able to afford their own space, even if the space is small.

  2. ^^Bingo. There are plenty of people paying 4k for a 2bd/2ba rental and cramming people in closets, etc.. And rent controlled doing the same.

  3. Maybe this explains why the new mid-rise at 2001 Market, entitled as condos, is going to be rented. If rents are still going up — and especially if they’re going up faseter than ownership costs – it would make perfect sense.

  4. “Average Rent For A Studio In San Francisco” is misleading, given the realities of rent control. Should be “Average Asking Rent” or something like that.

  5. Another rental statistic came out earlier in the week and it was based on properties with more than 50 units and referred to “asking” rental price, not actual price with incentives and other stuff.
    As for buying now…if my partner and I couldn’t afford to buy last year we certainly can’t afford to buy this year. It’s not his teaching salary and my consulting salary kept pace with cost of living and median home price increases.
    I love the development going in on Brotherhood Way (touted as “walking distance” to the ocean, BTW). Claim is to bring families back into SF…with a starting price point over $1M. Right. Certainly not middle-class families.

  6. Alai,
    I would love to see some stats on actual rents. What we would need:
    – year lease was signed
    – Zip code of the place
    – current rent
    – size of the place
    – current income of the tenant
    All anonymous, of course
    Then this should be accessible online (just like civil servant incomes) and especially publicized in the East Bay where many are shut our of the SF market. Popular backlash against rent control would start in 4, 3, 2, 1…

  7. “I love the development going in on Brotherhood Way (touted as “walking distance” to the ocean, BTW). Claim is to bring families back into SF…with a starting price point over $1M. Right. Certainly not middle-class families.”
    Middle class for SF is different. Any family making under $150K is living in relative poverty. $250K -$350K is lower middle class. $350K to $500K is middle class. $500K to $750K is upper middle class

  8. “Middle class for SF is different. Any family making under $150K is living in relative poverty.”
    We live on about 110K. Our mortgage + taxes + insurance + repairs fund is $1400/ month. We bought about 18 years ago and owe ~80K on a house worth 1.25 million.
    So dude, you are WRONG.

  9. Middle class for SF is different. Any family making under $150K is living in relative poverty. $250K -$350K is lower middle class. $350K to $500K is middle class. $500K to $750K is upper middle class
    I’m not sure if that was intended as snark, but that’s how it actually feels to me. But the actual numbers don’t come close to bearing it out. I was shocked to see how few SF households make even $200k/year (which leaves me clueless as to how so many people seem to have sufficient downpayments for $1.5-3M homes — 20% minimum is still the requirement, right?). I can’t imagine living in this area on that little money if you didn’t move here 20 years ago.

  10. We bought about 18 years ago
    This is the key statement in your post, gotSome. You obviously couldn’t afford to buy a $1.25M home on 110k/year if you moved to SF today.

  11. @gotSome – great for you, you invested wisely and what you’ve been able to do is a really great thing. Your story makes me happy.
    Anyone buying into the current market however has got to be making way more than 110K a year.
    We’re in a similar position to gotSome, but when/if we sell we’ll be priced out of most of the bay area.

  12. Parents and family help a LOT of people with downpayments, if not flat out purchases. I’ve seen it a lot in places like NY and SF. That’s anecdotal – would be interesting to see actual data – but tough to find that data. Would probably have to do a survey, and even then, many might not want to respond truthfully to such a survey. (“Daddy is paying for my lifestyle”)

  13. It is a curious thing about this housing market that prices in SF have recovered (and then some) but back in 2007 people were buying these houses at high prices with funny money mortgages, so they really couldn’t afford them when non-bubble underwriting standards were applied. It was just bubble mortgage products.
    So what is happening now? Have incomes / stock gone up that much? I don’t think so. Is it overreach on the part of the market? Will prices go down after the backlog of demand is satisfied? Are there more funny mortgages being issued than is commonly known? Will there be a mini-crash if the Fed starts hiking interest rates (if it ever does)?

  14. @I eat Bicyclists, where are you getting those figures?
    They appear very high compared to published median household income stats!
    What is the impact of rent control on market prices for new renters? The NYTimes just wrote an interesting piece on this for New York. Basically the same conclusion nearly every economist puts forward – rent control simply rewards people who stay in the same unit for a long time at the expense of everyone else, whether they are new to the city or need to move due to a growing family, new job, etc.
    SF open market renters are subsidizing rent controlled units. It would be interesting to understand by how much.

  15. My wife and I have lost on 7 houses in SF, in a few cases all cash. Our price is a bit over 1 million.
    In Noe/GP/Bernal it seems to be tech people who I assume have stock options
    In the Inner Sunset and West Portal I see a lot of poorly dressed Chinese people sometimes taking a lot of photos.
    Just my anecdotes

  16. Also it must be said it is really regrettable what is happening in SF and on the Pennisula but I guess you can’t go back

  17. @gotSome
    So what is happening now? Have incomes / stock gone up that much?
    What I have seen in my surroundings is tech workers who came to town in the mid-late 90s (veteran dotcommies like me) while in their 20s. They have had 2-3 jobs, family incomes of 250K+ for 12-15 years, got some luck on some stock options, accumulated 500K++ in liquidity, sometimes 1M or more in liquidity. A few purchased before and are moving up. In general all are very liquid and late-30s-early-40s with a very decent purchasing power. And I am talking rank-and-file coders. With middle managers and managers numbers are much higher.
    In light of the very small supply, all it takes is a few 1000s of these over the whole BA to make this market what it is today.
    It’s hard to fathom this when you’re out of the loop, but the BA’s tech gold rush has been going on for long enough that it has reached a critical mass for the economy.

  18. Tech and China. It’s honestly that simple, for both SF and the Peninsula. This is where the vast majority of money is coming from.
    That being said, neither tech employees nor foreign ex-pats/absentee homeowners are the problem. They are the SYMPTOM. The problem is the chronic lack of housing that stretches from SF all the way down through Mountain View, and starts getting better in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara/San Jose where apartments and townhouses are much more prevalent. We need housing so so so so so desperately.
    People need a drastic shake up and realize that you can choose one: up the density and stop blocking development, or say goodbye to middle class, families, teachers, artists, etc. There are lawyers and doctors who cannot afford Palo Alto. It is getting so desperate out there. For every house, there are ten buyers. There was a property in San Mateo a couple months that had over NINETY offers.

  19. Amazing that some of the same names are still on that “number of households’ incomes doesn’t compute” meme. It’s so wrongheaded. Look instead at how many propertes actually trade, and where, and you’ll understand why a few thousand highly compensated individuals can roil the Bay Area’s RE markets for a few years or so. We aren’t discussing the general population, but that’s what the “average income” meme addresses.

  20. Right, but with the amendment that “highly compensated individuals” really refers mostly to people that have gotten a windfall chunk of change all at once from options, since there just aren’t that many people making the $500k plus a year it takes to comfortably afford a $1.5M+ home. The “tech” workers who get thrown around as the answer to this question here certainly don’t make nearly that much on an annual basis. Basically, what lol said sounds right to me.

  21. Zig,
    What are you looking for? In Noe you are writing offers on fixer flats and in West Portal on 3 bedrooms houses??? The neighborhoods you list have very different costs.

  22. One point of note is that I’m seeing a significant increase in condos and flats sub 900k hitting the market. I would guess that inventory and turnover in this segment is very high as people make the RvB tradeoff. It could be long term landlords are selling off units while the going is good. No hard facts, just observations.

  23. Right, but with the amendment that “highly compensated individuals” really refers mostly to people that have gotten a windfall chunk of change all at once from options, since there just aren’t that many people making the $500k plus a year it takes to comfortably afford a $1.5M+ home.
    Not really. SW developers can make 150K a year easily, get 2 of them together and you’re at 300-400K a year. Do that for a few years and save and you can have a good sized down payment.
    There are definitely people getting option money, but Silicon Valley pays well even without “striking it rich” with options.
    I’m not disputing that prices are high, but haven’t people been saying that about SF for decades?

  24. I’m only paying the bank $1750 for the 2bd/1ba with parking condo I’m effectively renting from them. Not a bad deal considering where rents are today.

  25. SF is slated to get tens of thousands of new units over the next.. what is it? Ten years? It’s substantial even in the 5 year term. There is actually a willingness to build here, in certain places, which is lacking in the penninsula. So how will this shake out over time? I honestly think with greater supply home prices may edge down.

  26. “What are you looking for? In Noe you are writing offers on fixer flats and in West Portal on 3 bedrooms houses??? The neighborhoods you list have very different costs.”
    Small houses is what we are looking for. We have bid on only one house in Noe that was on the edge and went for a little over 1 million all cash. I think it was 1050 sq ft and was a dump.
    Mostly we have been beaten in GP and West Portal
    I personally don’t care if I live in SF anymore but the Peninsula is bad as well. I honestly don’t want to live around the monoculture but our jobs and my family are situated in a way that makes this the best option for now
    7-8 years from now I wouldn’t mind moving to a job where I could work from home so I could live in the East Bay or Marin. My wife works downtown.

  27. And to the question of why were didn’t buy last year, we did start looking last year. We needed our bonuses in 2012. Borrowing money from relatives was out of the question and I am somewhat conservative by nature.
    I think we then diddled a bit and get pre-approved and an agent around Sept/Oct.
    In hindsight the first 3-4 places we saw were the best we have seen and were the best deals.
    I also recall when we were first looking the cheapest option was a conforming first and a second that was a small interest only equity line. Then at some point the broker basically told me I could borrow as much as I wanted based on my down payment as a jumbo with a really low rate. Basically the only limitation was our down payment and reserves (and there were all sorts of tricks with this). Good days were here again apparently.

  28. Not really. SW developers can make 150K a year easily, get 2 of them together and you’re at 300-400K a year. Do that for a few years and save and you can have a good sized down payment.
    I don’t know. I don’t consider $300-400/year a huge household income or anywhere near enough to support a $1.5-2M home. Maybe if you don’t have kids and really pinch pennies (like, among other things, by not paying the average rents at the top of this page).
    We make considerably more than that and I don’t feel remotely wealthy or able to buy any of the nice places featured on this site, but I’m also not at all frugal or budget-conscious, so I’m admittedly the likely outlier.

  29. I don’t know. I don’t consider $300-400/year a huge household income or anywhere near enough to support a $1.5-2M home.”
    400K income/1.5 million home?
    With 20% down that would be about 6K/mo (considering nothing about taxes and write-offs). You are bringing home what 18-19K/mo in this thought experiment. I agree this is debasing to live on 12K a month after you pay for your housing. The humanity!

  30. In 2009 my husband and I bought a $1.25M 2-unit building in the Inner Richmond. After our marriage, we lived on my salary alone for 3 years ($80k) while we saved my husband’s salary ($160k)for a $385k downpayment. During that time we lived in a small, rent-controlled apartment. Now, we have a nice place to live, rental income on the lower unit ($3k/month) and an affordable mortgage after a recent re-fi ($3500/month). We recently had a baby and our combined income, even paying for daycare ($1700/mo), is sufficient to live a nice life in San Francisco. We are each 34 and fairly conservative with our money. We do like to take one nice vacation per year, but also make saving a priority. I think we are very typical in our incomes/lifestyle for our group of friends. We both work downtown and we do not have any tech/google/fb/etc. workers in our group of friends. Just putting this out there in case it sheds light on who chooses to buy in SF.

  31. “I’m not sure if that was intended as snark, but that’s how it actually feels to me.”
    No, i was trying to be realistic. THis may not fit for people who bought a house years ago here and feel house rich. But if you are new to the area without a big nest egg and a home, I think the salary numbers i put forth for middle class are fair and it is the way i feel as well as those i socialize with.

  32. for my personal situation. My wife and I make about $340K together. We just bought a 2bdr CONDO for $925K with 20% down and feel like we have to really watch ourselves in terms of eating out and spending on any hobbies. The point is we make a lot of money and feel very restricted and we dont even have kids. I feel like we would need at least a 3 bdr SFH with 2 kids (maybe 5-7 yrs from now), and of course our expenses would be higher for home and kids. IN all seriousness, I think we will need at least $500K income to feel “middle class” in that scenario, (at least if we continue to live in SF). Most likely we will ahve to move somewhere cheaper if we cant get to that income level.
    I dont see how families making under $200K can even get by
    I honestly cant see ho

  33. “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
    ― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

  34. Wow, some crazy numbers out there.
    I’d argue that any City where one need to earn $350-$500k as a family to solidly feel a part of the middle class (as most here seem to be claiming) is no longer a good City or one worth the cost of living in, however good the views.

  35. ^Depends on what you consider a “city”. The city as a functional unit is the metro area, not a tiny little sliver of the metro area that happens to have different municipal-level government.

  36. This is an interesting discussion. I looked at the NYTimes link and our $110,000 income puts us in the top 36% income for San Francisco. So there are a lot of people making less than we do. We put our son through public school and 18 years ago day care cost $500/mo instead of $1700. Btw he ended up at a top private university so the public schools here were good enough for that.
    Of course the big big variable is cost of housing.

  37. ^Keep in mind that link is for SF metro, not SF city. Not sure how much that would change things, but I gather that SF city has higher percentage of very high AND very low earners compared to the other counties of the MSA.

  38. I think it’s all about perception. My wife and I make about $275K per year gross, and bought a small house a year and a half ago, worth about $900K today, but have very little savings. We eat out frequently, but can’t do it without thought for our monthly budget. We go on 1-2 vacations a year, but have to save throughout the year to afford them. 5 years ago we made less than $200K gross, but I don’t feel any more or less middle class than we did back then. We do the same things we did back then, bought at a somewhat higher frequency, or quality, but certainly no dramatic improvement. I would consider us upper middle class.
    I have a friend that makes about 1/3 – 1/2 what we do (although he lives in the east bay) and he feels just about the same as I, but I wouldn’t consider him upper middle class.
    My boss on the other hand is single, probably makes more than my wife and I combined, owns a few properties (with mortgages), but he deals with many of the same issues that we do. He’s definitely upper middle class, but definitely not wealthy.
    I basically define the middle class as anybody who doesn’t live on government assistance, but still has to worry about their next months income. I think in the bay area, you have to have at least $400K / year income, and at least $5 million net worth before I would consider somebody beyond middle class.
    I think it really depends on each individual’s desires and expectations. You can easily find a 3 bed in the Excelsior for well under $1 million, likely in the $600-700K range, although more and less expensive are available, which would cost about $3200-$3500, without any tax savings. $100K a year after taxes should be able to afford that. On the other hand, if you want to live in Noe Valley or Pac Heights, you are going to need to earn a lot more than that.

  39. Please keep in mind that when you are quoting percentages for the city as a WHOLE, this is an entirely misleading statistic about what it would cost to actually move here. Of course you can afford a mortgage if you make $100K…if you bought, say, 10-15 years ago. But no way you could buy in today’s market.
    Real estate pricing (both sales and rental) is about who can ENTER the market. Despite the fact that many people in the city make less than the salaries people are talking about in this thread, that in no way means they would be able to afford to move to the city NOW, or even afford to upgrade their space…which is why you see families fleeing in droves. For many SF residents, the second you need more space, you are priced out of your own city.

  40. I’d like to see numbers on what a healthy turnover is for a given market. I think LOL’s citation of number of wealthy sellers is true, and there are other NancyDrews out there, but also there are constraints on supply: CA’s Prop 13 (i suspect this is huge, properties stay in families), plus the gold rush mentality (“i will hold, not sell, because prices will keep spiking”), plus the overall lack of affordability in the state and vast distances acting as a disincentive for retirees to move away.
    There are a lot of unanswered questions – I love reading this site to get anecdotes, but I think only part of the picture is uncovered.

  41. our household income is in the top 5% nationally (or at least it was when i researched this during the heyday of the occupy movement while trying to learn who exactly were “the one percent”). i use nationally but we’re likely only top 7% or so in the bay area.
    we’ve never felt UPPER middle class. until 45 or so i felt we were only a tragedy or an illness away from losing it all. that was when i heard the acronym HENRY and learned how relatively wealthy we were (i thought we’d be top 15% at most).
    we live comfortably, eat out when we want (though mainly just on weekends) and don’t budget food, own real art and collectable furniture, but our cars are 11 and 22 years old, our clothing is bought on sale and infrequently, and our vacations are more frequently to friends and family then anything exotic or expensive. as renters we never paid more then $2400/month rent despite our income and never really lived anywhere long enough to benefit from a rent control windfall.
    like nancydrew above, we didn’t buy in SF until 2009, in our 40’s. before that we felt prices were insane and our money was better saved and invested elsewhere while maximizing retirement always.
    when we finally bought in 2009, also a 2 unit building, the rent to but calculation shifted heavily to buy for the first time in our lives together. we paid very little down and self financed a gut remodel.
    today we have 40+% of our pre-purchase savings (remodeling costs) back and a tenant paying 90+% of our 20 yr fixed mortgage.
    I feel we made a lot of good choices and got VERY LUCKY. The rent runup has unexpectedly helped us as we modeled renting our 3BDR unit for $3200 and are getting over $4000. we would never spend on rent what we get on rent and our renters are likely wealthier then we are.
    I don’t know how today’s middle class will afford SF but realize it took us almost 10 years to get to rational SF ownership. Most of our friends are stuck on the idea that ownership = SFH.

  42. Zig, thanks for your response.
    I bought a SFH 8 years ago in the Marina when I was 28. I saved 50-70% of my income for 6 years and swung for the fences in various stocks. The house has probably only appreciated by 20% or $300,000-$350,000, so it’s not a big win. But I’m thankful in the pleasant life I’ve experienced.
    Buy a property to enjoy as a home. Got to live somewhere. If it goes up, great. If not, who cares.

  43. I’m sorry, but I really believe many of you that have posted in this thread out severely out of touch with how wealthy you are.
    If you are making 150-300K, even in the Bay Area, you are firmly entrenched in the upper middle class if not just straight up rich.
    If you are struggling to get by and living month to month with that sort of income you might need to learn to live within your means and not buy every single new gadget, fancy cars, or eat at popular places several times a month.
    I have never made more than $110K a year combined with my wife, and she hasn’t been working for over a year now. We are well south of $100K. I feel wealthy compared to many people in my Mission neighborhood. Even accounting for my lower than normal rent I would be saving money every month. What are you people doing to spend so much money and get nothing back for it?

  44. Wife and I bought a SOMA condo a couple years ago when our combined income was around 225K. Decided to have kids a couple years later. We could get our combined income up to only 350K…which seems like a lot, but really isn’t. Instead of moving out of the city and dealing with traffic, we decided to move out of state. Best decision ever.

  45. I’ll third that, but then it has long been true that most Americans consider themselves middle-class and that includes those on both ends of the income spectrum.

  46. No way 300K gross annual income makes you rich. After taxes you are down to about 200K – Maybe 250K if you are really good with deductions. If you can save half of your net (not many people are willing to do this), you would have about $2 – $2.5 million saved.
    Not a small amount of money, but not rich in my book, as that would only net you $80-120K per year at 4% annual withdrawals, which is the amount generally considered safe. Throw in compounding and you are somewhat better off than 2 million, but 10 years doesn’t get you all that much in compounding.
    If you can do that for 20 years, you would probably be north of $5 mill net worth, which is pretty decent, but if you retired you would still be netting about $200K per year. Nice, but your not in the jet set with that kind of income, and that’s after 20 years of scrimping and saving at a rate that very few are willing to do.
    150K per year might be upper middle class in some areas, but definitely not SF. You are doing well, but solidly in the middle class.
    As far as I’m concerned, if you have to work, you are not rich. If you have the option of not working for the rest of your life, then you may be rich, but maybe not. Financial independence is required, but not sufficient, to be considered rich in my book.

  47. lyqwyd,
    Lots and lots of people would love to have those kind of money problems. Those are rich people problems whether you think it describes a rich person or not.

  48. Yes, anyone who is in the top 5% of income in the richest country in world calling themselves “not rich” just sounds ridiculously spoiled.

  49. “As far as I’m concerned, if you have to work, you are not rich. If you have the option of not working for the rest of your life, then you may be rich, but maybe not”
    Thats a tough criteria/ I’d consider, for example, a early 20s enterprenuer who sold a business venture for, say, $3m to be rich – but not according to this criteria, as some work would surely be necessary, at some point…

  50. The desire for EVERYONE to call themselves middle class is confounding. Some of the posters above who make multiples of six figures won’t even admit to being UPPER middle class. When you’re in the top 5, or 3, or 1% of American households, you are very definitely Upper Class, as hard as it might be to admit it to yourselves.
    Rich is truly in the eye of the beholder. Lyqwyd seems to think only the (potentially) idle rich count. In any case, rich is always someone who makes MUCH more than you do.
    But statistics don’t lie, so try having this conversation with someone who makes the median HH income of 72K (that’s SF County…nationwide is 50K). And don’t call yourselves middle class, you sound ridiculous.

  51. Thats a tough criteria
    Yes, but it’s not easy getting rich, unless you are born that way.
    $3 million in the bank is nowhere near enough for a 20 something to retire comfortably, much less be considered rich. He may live a lavish lifestyle for a while, but he will run out of funds well before he is even close retirement age, as he will be living beyond his means.
    It’s not hard to live the high life for a short amount of time, even some years, but it’s being able to do it in perpetuity that differentiates the rich from the other classes.

  52. A 20-something with $3 million in the bank can’t be considered rich? My goodness.
    Is “rich” now a synonym for the old royal families? If you have to work in any way you’re not rich? That just sounds absurd.
    I’m a mid-30s dude with a wife, $2 million in liquid assets and another million or so in home equity. Enough to retire? No. Rich? You better believe it.

  53. No curmudgeon, I consider the financially independent rich. It has nothing to do with idleness.
    As I’ve shown above, having even 300K per year takes a long time to get to financial independence.
    Nationwide the top 1% in income starts at about $380K, but the top 1% for net worth starts at over $8 million dollars.
    If you look at SF the numbers are much higher, with minimum income of $560K (SF & San Mateo Counties) to be in the top 1%.
    I don’t care if you think I’m ridiculous, and I don’t desire to call myself middle class, or not call myself middle class. I am middle class, always have been, although now I’m upper middle class. Maybe someday I’ll become rich, but I’m not going to pretend to be rich when I’m not.
    People who have wealth managers, access to insider financial deals, personal attorneys, and can vacation in top hotels for a month or more without concern, and send their kids to top private schools, and can choose whether they want to work are rich.
    Middle class is a big range of people, they share many commonalities, but to me this is the most important: they have to work, they have no choice. There’s lots of other similarities, but that’s the biggest one.

  54. I think $5M is easily enough to retire on. If you can’t make it on $200k/yr then you are doing something wrong. That finances a quite lavish lifestyle, even in The Bay Area.
    I see lots of six and seven hundred thousand dollar family home in The Sunset. That is where Middle Class people buy homes, not Noe and Pac Heights. If you think that you have to own a SFH in Pac Heights to consider yourself Middle Class, you seriously need a reality adjustment.
    With current super low interest rates, you can buy a home at more like 5X your income these days (and 20% down). The calculator here says you can afford a $660k home with $100k down and a $110k/yr income:
    Unfortunately you have to get “aggressive” to buy but. But most people in the Bay Area do. Most people don’t move up to the tonier neighborhoods until they are at the peak of their careers. And a few neighborhoods like Noe have significantly gentrified.
    The City as a whole needs to build more housing of all types. We really need to roll back the stupid laws like the historical preservation law, that hold back our ability to build up and out. I think that the surrounding areas don’t do their part either, for the most part. The whole region is infected with the NIMBY disease.

  55. It’s absolutely something you can retire on, I never said differently.
    But being able to retire in a nice lifestyle is the absolute minimum for qualifying as rich to me, which is what it was in reference to.
    That’s just my opinion.

  56. Related to lyqwyd’s point, and to the original point I made about lump-sum windfall’s being far more predictive of home-purchasing ability than annual salary, “rich” and “upper class” are measures of wealth, not of yearly salary. Our household income is in “the 1%” of both SF and the nation, and has been for the last 2-3 years, but we have under $1M in liquid assets and no home equity. We have the *potential* to be rich one day, provided we progress in our careers (basically meaning, one or both of us makes partner at our law firms — preferably both of us; the only other option is being asked to leave, which means a huge paycut); but we are not currently “rich.” I suspect we’re not even in the top 25% of SF households in terms of wealth, given home prices and corresponding equity.

  57. @shza
    Earnest question: What percentage of your salary do you think you and your significant other could save this year?
    On that NYT link I posted, the 1% hurdle for SF Metro is $558K. If you are indeed making that much, I wonder how long it would take to save enough for a down payment on a nice place to live.
    It’s always interesting to understand how different people think about money.

  58. Excluding IRAs, 401k, and annuities, we’ll probably save around $100k this year, out of maybe $650k pre-tax (which ends up being less than $400k take-home). So for a $2.5M place, it would take some time to save a down payment plus cushion, and would take more income and/or cut-backs in monthly expenses to make the payments comfortably affordable (meaning, still leave over plenty for savings).
    Simply answering the objective question – not interested in arguing about or defending my level of consumption.

  59. Good lord. If you make $650k a year and can only manage to save $100k including 401ks, etc, then you are living the lifestyle of a very rich person.
    It’s discussions like this that really make me want to leave the SF/Manhattan bubble of folks claiming not to be rich while making more than 99.9% of the planet. It’s just bizarre, and little too detached from reality for my taste.

  60. @anon
    He clearly said “excluding 401ks, IRAs and annuities” right in the first sentence.
    And my perspective on shza is exactly the same as he described, on the way to being rich, but not yet there. Which is also how I view your situation, at least as you described it.
    And the 0.1% makes a lot more than anything we’ve discussed so far (about $10 million annually according to tax filings), and are clearly well in the rich realm, not sure why you are talking about it as it has no relevance to this conversation. Oh you are suddenly comparing to the entire planet? Even less relevant.
    If a city full of successful people taking realistic perspective of their financial situation is bizarre and detached from reality, good luck find the alternative.

  61. “Excluding” is the opposite of “including,” anon.
    Post-taxes, health care, etc., our 650k is more like 350k.
    Call it $50k saved to dedicated retirement accounts plus $100k of plain vanilla savings. And then $200k of spending, all-in. Really, it’s probably more like $180 spent and an additional $20k saved. Still obviously more than most can do, but our lifestyle is much closer to a family making $300k/year than it is to a family making $2M a year.
    We take two nice-but-not-four-seasons-nice 1-week vacations a year, our kids are in public school, we own used cars that we paid less than $20k total for, and we rarely eat out. And we both work. A lot. Hardly the lifestyle of a “very rich” family.
    Anyway, this is starting to turn into what I said I didn’t wish to engage in. I’m plenty happy with what I have, and I will obviously be fine. It remains difficult for me to imagine swinging it as a newcomer to this area on $200k/year though.

  62. My mistake on the excluding vs including, apologies.
    lyqwyd- I said .1% of the planet, not the country. And yes, we are all three firmly entrenched in the 0.1% of the planet. “Suddenly” comparing the entire planet? I said that in my first post.
    To answer your previous question, I don’t associate “rich” with idle wealth, sorry. I associate it with not being particularly concerned about buying things like a $100k sports car, which any of the three of us could easily do.

  63. with all this talk of 500k to be middle class etc, if we’re not careful we’re going to get tagged with the title of America’s snobbiest City, or something…..

  64. shza has it exactly correct: wealth is not the same as income. It usually takes a lifetime of scrimping and saving to generate real wealth, though it also comes in the form of windfalls from selling a company or an inheritance. In my case, I would not have been able to afford to buy a house 10 years ago if it weren’t for the fact that my dot-com company had just went public. My wife was able to save her share of the downpayment though, on her salary as an IT worker for the UC, along with some extra savings from weekend work as a waitress.
    Everyone has their own priorities: some want to enjoy the fruits of their labor now and for some, having more numbers in their bank account is more important. I think that saving upwards of $100k/yr when you are still in your 30’s is nothing short of phenomenal. I was not able to save like that until I was in my 40’s. But I also make much less, “lower middle class” according to [I eat Bicyclists].

  65. There are billions of people on this planet who would think living in a trailer in the U.S. is rich, much less living anywhere in SF. You may have mentioned it, but nobody else is, it’s completely irrelevant.
    As I said above it has nothing to do with being idle, it is all about financial independence as a minimum.
    I could buy a $100K sports car if I wanted to, without being particularly concerned. It would be financially unwise, but if I wanted to appear rich I could do things like that. That’s just appearances, financial independence is a different level.

  66. Very interesting topic: financial independence. especially since this has been my dream since I was 26. I was working for a wealth management / retirement fund company at the time and understood quickly that retirement systems would eventually be gutted and retirement age pushed further and further. Better build your own to be on the safe side.
    Independently of net worth, what counts is having a reliable and adjustable revenue stream without touching the core of your assets. Which is why Real Estate can offer a good solution if you do it right. Not only the wealth building side of it, but the revenue potential as well. Eat your assets only if you have something catastrophic happening.
    Now there are risks. You need a medical coverage because illness can cut into your assets then revenue stream. Rent control and other local laws are also a big issue. I am sticking to corporate/seasonal rentals to make sure my revenue stream follows the market and inflation. You set an end of lease date by simply moving back into the place and the rent control boards can’t do anything about that.
    I don’t really care about net worth. Only the ones with a need to compensate will need to measure themselves… I care more about how much revenue I can get. My goal is to have the revenue I had when I was in my 30s, no more, which I am about to attain. Otherwise it’s a never ending quest that would eat up too many years of my life.

  67. This discussion is simply a very good illustration of the point that “middle class” has become a state of mind rather than an objective measure of anything. Sure, if one associates with partners in big law firms (my current position by the way, although my income is barely average in the firm), then saving “only” 100k a year (on top of high five figures for retirement) and making “only” 650k a year does indeed seem like a below average. existence. If one’s notion of “financial independence” means having so much wealth that one never needs to work again yet one still brings in a few hundred thousand a year to spend, then 99.8% of us are not “financially independent” and never will be. If one is set on owning and living in a big house in one of the three nicest neighborhoods in SF — one of the most expensive cities in the US and world — then 99% of SF residents will be disappointed in their living situation.
    There is nothing wrong or illegitimate about feeling so. But it is pretty easy to get a distorted view of the reality of the true median. My secretary is well paid as secretaries go, but she stresses over the BART strike because she already has a long commute since the only decent home she can afford to rent in a place with decent public schools is an hour outside of downtown and she does not want to make an already lengthy commute even longer. And you think she is able to save anything of note outside of her 401k which we match? I’ve found that it is much more satisfying and calming to be aware of the many truly middle class or working class (or just plain poor) all around us and thank my lucky stars. I’m not trying to preach. I certainly feel twangs of envy when I visit the homes of the hedge fund guys whose kids are classmates with my own. But I try to keep it all in perspective (for example, THEY crab about their high taxes and envy the hundreds of millions OTHER hedge fund guys make). I know that dumb luck played a huge part in what I’ve got – for example, I graduated law school during the dot-com runup when any new law school grad with a pulse got hired by the big firms rather than graduating now when it is about 50X more competitive. Dumb luck, for which I am extremely grateful. First world problems.

  68. IMO you can be ‘rich’ without being ‘wealthy’. Good example were my parents. In the 80’s my parents were making $250k+ a year. We were rich without being wealthy. We lived in a big house in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles that had its own school system with top notch public schools, we had nice vacations although not extravagent, had nice cars (BMW & Mercedes for my parents, used Honda for my sister and I when we turned 16), but very little got saved and the family never built up much wealth. Fortunately pensions existed back then so even though what did get saved and the equity in the house was lost in the 90’s after layoffs and trying to start a business, my parents still live a comfortable lifestyle in retirement.
    So for me personally, being rich and being wealthy aren’t the same thing, and the rich may not be wealthy, but the wealthy are likely to be rich.

  69. @anon
    Either your reading comprehension is really bad, or you are intentionally misrepresenting what people are saying. You are quite liberal with quotes for things people didn’t actually say.
    shza did not say he mekaes “only” 650, or saves “only” 100K.
    I did not say “financial independence” means having so much wealth that one never needs to work again yet one still brings in a few hundred thousand a year to spend. I said financial independence is a minimum requirement to be considered rich, in my opinion. You can be financially independent with $1 million net worth if you are happy with a budget of $40K a year, but you are not rich.
    Nor did I say everybody in SF “is set on owning and living in a big house in one of the three nicest neighborhoods in SF”, but if you are rich, you can probably afford to do so.
    Personally I don’t feel income comes into the equation until you are making a LOT more than 300K. Assets are what defines the word rich, not income.
    Websters defines “rich” as “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth”. It doesn’t even mention income.
    I’ve simply stated my minimum criteria for being considered rich, or at least above the middle class. For some reason that seems to offend you. Sorry if I’ve upset you, but please stop misrepresenting me and others.

  70. @lol
    “Independently of net worth, what counts is having a reliable and adjustable revenue stream without touching the core of your assets.”
    I definitely agree with that and think you have a great plan, and seem to be executing well. But I will point out that it’s tough to have reliable income of any significance without having sizable equity in ones assets, AKA pretty solid net worth. Otherwise debt service would eat up the majority of the revenue stream.
    I’m not suggesting one must be concerned with their net worth, only that they need to have a high net worth to be considered rich, at least in my book.
    The approach you are taking is how rich people live, they have their money working for them, rather than working for their money. In my opinion this is another defining characteristic of the difference between the middle class and wealthy.

  71. @Rillion
    Personally I think rich and wealthy are pretty much interchangeable, and income isn’t even much of a factor. You can have an income of $0 and still be rich or wealthy. Most rich people also have a high income, but it’s not necessary. In my opinion it’s all about what somebody owns that makes a person wealthy.
    You can live a lavish lifestyle with a high income, but without the assets that go with it, that person is not rich.

  72. lyqwyd,
    Well, you are correct that you need to have significant assets, measured on the current value basis.
    But if I looked at it from that prospective, I don’t think I would be able to keep a level head. I paid very little for my rentals and I prefer seeing them as $$$/month sources. I’ll let my heirs sort out the net value.
    It’s also easy to always want to double up and get more, always contracting more debt to get more assets. I have doubled-up a few times already somehow, and it’s time to call it a job well done.
    I just HATE debt unlike some who are serial refi-ers on this board, and am almost done with my last mortgage (pre-paid off in 4 years and change). Everything I save goes 1/2 in debt reduction and 1/2 reloading cash. Time to get a life.

  73. I think you have a great approach lol, which has clearly been successful. I hope I didn’t sound as if I recommend you should change it.

  74. @lol
    Thanks for sharing. More serious questions:
    1. Is “corporate/seasonal rentals” a polite euphemism for airbnb? If not, how are you sourcing your corporate rental customers?
    2. What capitalization rate are you earning on your rentals, based on their current market value?

  75. soccermom,
    1 – airbnb in the US, corporate rental sites in Europe (Paris attitude, Lodgis)
    2 – I was at 10 to 15% when I bought depending on the place. Appreciation brought it much lower, and with higher rent it’s still at 5-8%.

  76. I can agree that you can be rich without a high income, but it seems odd to say that you can have a high income without being rich.
    If someone, say a professional baseball player, has income of $10 million a year but manages to blow it all on parties and cars and saves none of it, that person is somehow not rich? While the person with no income but $7 million in the bank (at age 65, let’s say, meaning that he/she can draw out enough each year for a pretty lavish lifestyle without having to worry about working again) would be considered rich?
    That’s just a bizarre line of thinking.

  77. I think i started this middle class discussion with my “realistic” definitions.
    There are some adjustments i would make becuase, as most people say, income is only one part of the equation. Net worth is certainly more important than income. When i gave the incomes, i was assumming little to no net worth. Meaning for instance someone who makes $350K with no savings besides a 401K is clearly not rich. In fact, they are one bad day away from actually being poor (anyone can lsoe their job).
    so here’s my original definition..
    “Any family making under $150K is living in relative poverty. $250K -$350K is lower middle class. $350K to $500K is middle class. $500K to $750K is upper middle class”
    and my better more refined definition.
    1st of all, any family with >than $5M in liquid net worth (excluding home and 401K) is rich, regardless of income.
    Also, anyone making over $750K per year with at least $1M in savings is rich
    family making under $150K is living in relative poverty, with no savings = below the middle class
    family making under $150K with $100-$500K savings = middle class
    family making under $150K with $600K-$5M savings = upper middle class
    family making $250K-350k is living in relative poverty, with no savings = lower middle class
    family making $250K -350K with $100-$500K savings = middle class
    family making $250K-350K with $600K-$5M savings = upper middle class
    family making under $300-500K with $50K-$500K savings = middle class
    family making under $300-500K with $600K-$5M savings = upper middle class
    family making $501K to $750K with at least $150K in savings upper middle class

  78. Given that the definitions of “rich” or “wealthy” are all about ones assets, and say nothing about income, then I can say yes, the guy with a $10 million dollar income and no assets is not rich, while the one with $7 mill and no income is. The baseball player could become rich quite quickly and easily if he started saving a few million of that income, but until he does, he’s not rich. Spending piles of money on booze and hookers isn’t the same as being wealthy.
    Being rich isn’t about appearances. You can be living a luxury lifestyle, but that doesn’t make you rich.
    Here’s the definition of rich:
    “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth”.
    It doesn’t even mention income.
    It’s pretty simple, if you don’t have any assets or positive net worth, you aren’t rich.

  79. The guy with $10 million in income has $10 million in assets given to him each year that he decides to consume. Holding onto a couple paychecks doesn’t make his life materially different, and thus doesn’t make him “rich” from where he was previously, IMO.
    Google this: “definition of the word rich”
    This is what you get: “Having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy.”
    A dude with $10 million in income will always have a “great deal of money” at any given time, unless h gets paid once a year and blows through it in a day. Assuming he gets monthly or bi-weekly paychecks, he’s going to pretty much always have several hundred thousand on hand ready to blow on hookers and cars. That makes him rich.

  80. family making under $150K is living in relative poverty, with no savings = below the middle class
    Sad to see that the vast majority of Bay area folks and nearly every American is living in poverty.
    Folks in countries with lower incomes like France and Germany must be living hand-to-mouth each and every day. I pity them.

  81. @lol:
    Thanks for sharing. For your SF rental, how many nights do you have to rent it on airbnb to achieve rent revenue equal to what you would receive in a traditional long-term lease?
    I sold a washing machine and dryer to a young Russian kid last month who said his family had recently purchased a 4bed/1.5 bath SFH in the Haight. I guessed that it might rent for $5K(?) I don’t know that market very well.
    He explained they had it on airbnb for about $400 per night, so the breakeven there was well under half the month.
    It seems like one takes on some risk of getting hit with the hotel tax and some extra mental overhead of scheduling, but the flip side would be another 1-3% in rental cap rate…

  82. @checker
    No, he has income, he doesn’t get paid $10 million in one lump sum. I don’t really care if he’s rich one month and then not rich 11 months, or one day, and not 30 days. How do you know he didn’t already spend it via credit cards and he just uses the income to make payments?
    And having several hundred thousand on hand most definitely does not make you rich. The player gets injured and he loses his income and is quickly bankrupt. That’s not rich.
    You are just arguing semantics, and ignoring the point of the discussion:
    I don’t care how many hypothetical loopholes or technicalities you try to come up with. If you don’t have assets you aren’t rich. When the player does something other than spend that money, then he can become rich. Until then, nope.

  83. soccermon,
    In Europe I do 6 to 12 months only. I get international types relocating or on a 1-year exchange contract.
    In the US, it depends on the duration of my stay in Europe but always more than 2 months. I ask for 25% over the market rate of a similar empty unit. I am not greedy. It is always rented in less than a week because I can afford to undercut the competition.
    My model (To be perfected) is 4 places rotating yearly (9 months to a year rental) with as much visibility as possible on at least 2 places to always have a fallback option. The 3 places I do not live in collect rent. About 1/2 of the rent goes into maintenance and taxes and the time they’re empty. The other 1/2 sit are for when I live in the place. I try to keep everything separate, which forces me to rationalize each place.
    I am still a working stiff and am in the process of working out place #4. But I hope to have ironed out the kinks in a year or 2. I could do more short-term rentals to collect more, but it’s more work and more travelling. emphasis on “work” 😉

  84. “family making under $150K with no savings = below the middle class
    I agree with this sentiment. most of these people are only one lost job and a couple of paychecks from homelessness, although they dont quite understand that.
    income of $140K in san francisco with family of 4 is definitely living paycheck to paycheck, and thats clear if they have ZERO savings

  85. And the median family income is around 80K. This shows a huge disconnect between the people who live here now and what they could afford were they in the market for place today. No wonder fighting rent control is such an uphill battle.

  86. I am so glad that I eat bicycles has graciously promoted me from lower middle class to upper middle class. I don’t know what I would do without his validation.

  87. The player gets injured and he loses his income and is quickly bankrupt.
    Um, they have these things called “contracts”.

  88. indeed, more like an evil twin. And one would not be possible without the other. Prop 13 allows stuck landlords to still accept rent control. Otherwise they’d all Ellis out the tenants and sell.

  89. And the median family income is around 80K. This shows a huge disconnect between the people who live here now and what they could afford were they in the market for place today. No wonder fighting rent control is such an uphill battle.
    I think it also goes to show how much of a swing in the market we could potentially have if prop 13 and rent control were ever repealed. Tough to say exactly what would happen, but I imagine that at least the 600k-1.5m properties could see a pretty significant softening in value if we made those changes and allowed 7-8% turnover per year rather than the current ~4%. Or not. Who knows.

  90. @anonymouse
    The player gets busted for steroids, or the like.
    You, like checker, are missing the big picture. Anybody can loose their income. If you have no assets you can go from the high life to the poor house quite quickly. That’s not rich.

  91. ^If we’re talking something like getting busted for steroids, then we can certainly talk about folks committing fraud and losing their assets (Madoff), so really confused at what your point is. Assets can be lost just as income can if you’re stupid or break the law.

  92. of course you know income can be gone faster than assets. the sterois and madff examples are extreme.
    A real life scenario is someone who makes 250K with no savings, losing their job. they good from a middle class life to something much less very quickly if they cant find another job. There was quite a lot of this in the past 5 yrs. If they would’ve had 5 yrs worth of salary in assets, say $1.25M and no income, they could survive for another 5 yrs + of middle class living

  93. ^Someone with 250k in income and no assets is not rich, I can certainly agree with that. lyqwyd was making absolutely absurd claims like someone with $10 million in annual income isn’t rich, but someone with half that in assets is. He lives in some kind of fantasy world so that he can feel secure that he himself is not rich – no idea why he wants to do that (guilt? dunno, it’s bizarre), but that’s been the theme of this thread.

  94. I recently read about a family of 3 new to san Francisco income around $100,000 renting a 1 bedroom and not able to afford a car.
    the father said he was middle to uppermiddleclass.
    I don’t think so.
    the upper middle class lifestyle is pretty simple to define:
    being able to afford a 3+ bedroom sfh in a desirable neighborhood,luxury cars,yearly international vacations,private schools for kids.
    if you don’t want these things,fine, but you still have to be able to afford them.
    this lifestyle is going to cost $450,000+ a year in san Francisco.
    comparing your income to what people make nationally is delusional. you don’t live in Memphis or Fargo you live in SF and $100,000 does not give you an upper middle class LIFESTYLE in SF

  95. Unless you have considerable assets or bought a long time ago, missneet, you need far more than $450k/year to afford that lifestyle. I’d say $800k to $1M.

  96. @anonymouse
    You are still missing the big picture.
    Don’t like steroids? The players performance falls over a season at the end of their contract and they are dropped. Or they get older and they are dropped. The point stands: anybody can lose their income quickly. If you have no assets, you are quickly broke.
    Committing criminal acts or fraud does not guarantee the loss of assets. There are many ways to protect assets from creditors, or even confiscation for criminal activity. OJ Simpson was able to keep many of his assets even though he had massive judgments against him.
    Even if the assets are lost through legal action, it takes years, and it generally requires the asset holder to make many serious and big errors.
    Almost anybody can lose their job overnight, without warning, regardless of how much they make, at no fault of their own. It’s very unlikely one will lose their assets unless they’ve made some really bad choices (yes there are a tiny fraction of people who lose their assets through no fault of their own, it doesn’t matter).
    Income is not wealth, it can be converted to wealth if it is saved or invested. Assets are wealth.
    Attacking your opponent personally is not a valid debate technique and is a sign of a failed argument with nothing to support it.

  97. ^I see you’ve switched to “wealth” now rather than “rich”.
    I’ve got zero issues with your use of wealth in that manner. We were talking about what makes you “rich”. You changed your tune as soon as a definition was shown that proved your delusional rants wrong.

  98. I’ve stated above that I consider “wealthy” and “rich” to be the same. I do not believe one can be “wealthy” (AKA “rich”) without having wealth.
    You agree that income is not wealth, yet apparently you believe one can be rich without having any wealth.

  99. ^Yes, exactly. A rich person may just have income and a boatload of money in their pocket. A wealthy person has assets.
    A newly drafted sports star is immediately rich, but not necessarily wealthy.

  100. interesting takes on wealth and the “upper middle class”.
    by income we qualify and we might even qualify by household net worth – though dollar amounts and percentiles for that are harder to find and seem even less rigorously gathered. the fact is that much of our assets are tied to retirement accounts and real estate which can be accessed with penalties and downsizing, but are to us untouchable. our home is not an ATM but it is likely our greatest retirement vehicle. rental income goes to mortgages and allows more individual savings and to live here cheaply.
    dividends and interest income?… relatively little; those seem to define true wealth to us. we had 2+ years of post tax income saved at one point and it paid for our remodel. so we continue to get up and go to our jobs. if we live to 65 we will be wealthy- houses paid off and alot of rental income, IRAs and pensions, and possibly social security. but for now we still need to work if we want to keep living here.
    we could possibly retire overseas (chile, ecquador, thialand, vietnam, morocco and most of africa, some of eastern europe) but even mississippi or montana would be a stretch with our life expectancies. an one illness or tragedy would still likely wipe us out until the government safety net kicked in or we went back to work/started over.
    (private schools, expensive foreign trips, luxury cars, and even a SFH in noe valley are just out of the question) though we’re happy in our noe duplex.
    we’d like to think that in 5 more years we’d be able to slow down a bit and just keep what we have. to some even the idea of being able to do that defines us as rich. certainly not “hand to mouth” but hardly in line with people’s stereotypes on rich living.

  101. You folks have it all wrong. “Rich” is simply anyone who was born Richard.
    (sorry for being a Dick)

  102. First thing, a combined income of $240k per year makes it much easier to save. My wife and have a $110k per year salary combined (with CA taxes it comes out to about $78k take home) and without rich parents there is not way for us to even come close to a 20% down payment. We have been in our rent controlled place for 7 years. It is a 1 br. We want to stay in the city but can’t afford a 2 br anymore. In 2011 we could. Rents have become totally out of reach for regular people and I do blame the tech workers getting paid so much. They also have pretentious attitudes most of the time – there are exceptions of course. I agree with the person above. MOST of these people buying have parents contributing between $20-30k which makes it a whole lot more doable. Cheers. Will probably leave CA unfortunately.

  103. I should add we want a 2 br because we would like to have a baby. SF basically has a city government that says raising kids here is not as important as tax breaks for twitter.

  104. You can’t save any money on a combined after tax income of $78k/yr? You should be able to save something. It took me about 10 years to save up my down payment. You might not want to wait that long though.
    Another option that is available to people is to server a tour of duty in the military. The VA loan limit in San Francisco was recently raised to $987,500.

  105. with $110K combined income, you can get into some BMR housing. There is specific housing that you can qualify for with that income. $110K is tough to live on in SF for 2 people, and next to impossible with a kid. It is definitely strange, but thats where it is.

  106. Moto – care to link that? All the BMR housing I’ve come across caps out at about $75K – $80K for a couple’s income to qualify.

  107. It’s rather disturbing how grossly distorted the views of wealth on this thread are. If you haven’t referenced something like the US Census Bureau, you likely have no idea what “middle-class” actually means.
    Most definitions of middle class include approximately 50% of the population (the 25% of the population above and below median income). A fairer definition might be the 16.5% of the population immediately above and below median income for an even divide of 1/3 per category (lower, middle and upper classes).
    So what’s the median household income in the United States? For 2007-2009, according to the US Census Bureau quick-facts sheet, this was only $52,762. This means fully _HALF_ of middle class families make _LESS_ than $52,762 while only half make above this much.
    Those citing numbers like $100k or $650k are totally deluded and seem to have absolutely no understanding of statistics or income distribution and need to stop perpetuating these myths. You throw fuel on a fire that devastates lower income earners politically (“tax cuts for the middle class” that only effect 1%?).
    If you are making more than $340k, you are not only upper class, you are within the top 1% of US earners and the top 0.01% of world earners. This $640k number that keeps getting dropped is so absurdly huge it feels like satire.

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