Despite some recent misreports in the media, apartment rents in San Francisco haven’t started to rebound, at least not yet.

In fact, the weighted average asking rent for an apartment in the city is still holding at around $3,100 month, which is down 22 percent on a year-over-year basis and 30 percent below a 2015-era peak, with the average asking rent for a studio, which is down nearly 35 percent from peak, still under $1,900 a month and the average asking rent for a one-bedroom closing in on $2,600 a month and currently down over 28 percent from peak.

And while the average vacancy rate for larger, institutional buildings has dropped, driven by aggressive discounting and incentives to sign a new lease, the overall number of units listed for rent in San Francisco, including units in larger buildings as well as one-off rentals, is still twice as high on a year-over-year basis and has actually inched up over the past two weeks in the absolute.

Our latest analysis is based on a subset of over 100,000 listings, going back going back to 2004, that we maintain, normalize, and index on a monthly basis. We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

37 thoughts on “Rents in San Francisco Are Not on the Rise, at Least Not Yet”
  1. March 1st represented the last date where one year leases signed before the pandemic expired (from the poor souls who signed a lease on March 1 2020.) Now, truly any renter who wanted to leave, has.

    Regardless, it seems clear we’ve been at the relative bottom for about two months. Barring a very unlikely mass eviction event later this year, I expect prices to steadily rise all spring and summer as life gets back to normal.

    1. The parade of moving vans did slow down over the winter months, but the pace has noticeably picked up over the last two weeks. Last weekend I counted seven vans on a short walk, all but one moving out. Sure, those six might have just been exchanging places, but I doubt it. There are more “For Rent” signs on buildings than ever, many of them showing many months of wear that reflect the owner’s refusal to obey the “law” of the theory of supply & demand.

      Meanwhile, looking at Zillow properties’ days listed (many in popular neighborhoods numbering in the hundreds of days), contacts & applications (few contacts and fewer or no applications submitted after weeks or even months), and price history (down, down, down, nothing going up), cumulatively show the current market is moribund and that the reports of rental increases are probably best considered wishful thinking and PR spin.YMMV

      1. Your observations about moving trucks don’t add up to the number of datapoints/articles that most of these moving vans are intra-city. People are moving to get that 20-30% discount and upgrading from studios to 1-BRs, from 1 to 2 BRs etc…

        The law of supply and demand is in full effect, which is why rents are down 22% YoY, per SS.

        Rental activity has seasonality. The hot season starts right about now in terms of viewings/searches, followed by signings in the summer. That’s in conjunction with this one-time event of a massive increase in vaccinations, warmer weather, a massive drop in COVID cases, re-openings of businesses and rumblings of offices re-opening.

        Black swan notwithstanding, it’s a very strong bet that prices will be higher in six months.

        1. Anecdotally there were 6 vacancies on my sort of half block, stones throw away neighbor locations this year, and they have been filled. I’ve spoken to four groups and they are all San Franciscans who got better deals.

        2. As noted above, listed inventory levels (supply) are still higher than they were through September of last year and net absorption was actually negative over the past two weeks (i.e., listed inventory levels rose).

        3. “[…]most of these moving vans are intra-city.”

          Then there should be an equal, or nearly equal, number of move-outs and move-ins, and this is empirically not the case.

          Regarding the behavioral theory of supply & demand, that well-known communist publication Wall St Journal recently reported that large NYC rental companies are “warehousing” apartments, i.e. withholding units to constrain supply. I’m sure that no SF rental outfits (some of which are owned by the same NYC private equity warehousing pirates) are doing the same thing. Those thousands of empty units in the eastern neighborhoods are a mirage, I tell you. The market is hot! hot! hot!

          1. What is it that you attempt to do on here, two beers? The rental market went down. Lots of people in expensive rentals left. That’s it, that’s what everyone on here knows by and large. But you feel some need to go beyond that and to try to what, exactly? Try to make a case that SF is going to seed entirely? Why?

          2. OC,

            You seem to be saying SF has gone to seed over the last year because a lot of well-off people voluntarily left expensive rentals.

            The implication is that SF was not going to seed for the previous twenty-five years when tens of thousands less well-off people left involuntarily. They made the fatal mistake of providing goods and services instead of coding style sheets or hustling highly-illiquid, non-fungible assets. They were evicted, couldn’t afford the skyrocketing rents, or lost their jobs because their places of employment were turned into “creative” office spaces or black glass-clad luxury condos for foreign money launderers. But that’s not going to seed, that’s “improving” and “updating.”

            IOW, working class bad, “creative” class good. (ironic, because the working classes are the actual creative class; the so-called “creative” class lives off parasitical wealth-extraction from the lower classes).

            What I am “attempting to do here” is argue that real estate is ground zero of the highly successful, all-out, unilateral top-down class warfare waged in several US urban centers over the last twenty-five years, SF foremost. The class war is on temporary hiatus here, at least concerning skyrocketing rents.

            My class “needs” are simply to address the top-down class war. Your class “needs” are to get back to the status quo ante asap. Upton Sinclair, yada yada.

          3. No, that’s nothing to do with my needs or wants or ways of doing things. Middle class and working class folks can buy and sell real estate too. I’d be perfectly happy with that clientele base. And on a personal level my friends are artists, educators, social workers, health industry workers. So, needless to say you know you’re being rote with your Sinclair allusion but you’re also off-base. And let’s not forget that many of the problems SF has with regard to housing have to do with progressive leadership in the first place. The whole “must cater to renters who took residence in the 80s and 90s” has led to so very many problems in this town.

          4. That is, middle class and working class people can buy and sell real estate too, and do so in many markets …. the point is, the very techniques you seem to cling to are what cause major market distortions. I could point to Rafael Mandelman now. Instead of making building smaller easier, what is he doing? He’s making building bigger, harder. That’s going to backfire. It’s going to to make larger properties even more expensive. Just watch.

          5. The higher a place sells or rents for, the higher the realtor’s commission. The factors that have led to unprecedented wealth concentration and inequality are the same factors that led to a historic twenty-five year asset bubble. Soaring prices benefits everyone involved in selling or renting property. This is absolute war.

            “Some of your best friends”…Somewhat vague, there. K-12 public school teachers are not fungible with Stanford marketing professors, nor SFGH nurses with CPMC brain surgeons. Sarcasm aside, skyrocketing prices is in the best interests of your trade, and so your best interests are contrary to those of your friends who didn’t get in early on the taxpayer-subsidized greatest asset bubble in history, let alone flippers, bankers, etc. Sinclair is apt as always.

            Blaming rent control for the greatest asset bubble in history is a huge red herring. If it weren’t for RC, the city would nearly half empty by now, instead of only ~10%. The people who have stayed are those who always intended to stay, who have made their lives here. The speculators, carpetbaggers, and stylesheet-coding surfers of lime green couches never intended to stay and have, and continue, fleeing.

            Rent control has saved the landlords’ and the bankers’ bacon. Who knew that policies that ameliorate massive wealth inequality are good for everyone!


          6. “This is absolute war.”

            Have you seen actual war? In person, I mean. Not on TV or in news reports. War is a terrible thing. This is not war.

          7. Tell that to the families thrown out of longtime work and home in the eastern neighborhoods.

            True, this war lacks the bloodshed of, say, a US dronebomb attack on a wedding party in Yemen or Afghanistan.

            Does “prolonged hostile attack waged for profit-seeking ends by organized and powerful aggressors against disadvantaged people minding their own business” make you feel better?

          8. I’m ok with most any description that does not describe whatever happens in San Francisco real estate with actual war. Having seen first hand the sorts of attacks you reference, I promise you that what is happening in San Francisco is not actual war.

          9. Yeah, higher prices, higher commission. But steady activity with steady prices across income levels would steady commissions. You think you’re making arguments here but it’s all only rote paraphrasing and sloganeering.

          10. “The higher a place sells or rents for, the higher the realtor’s commission. “

            Perhaps but that’s not the main driver of RE broker profits. Volume is. High turnover is more profitable than high prices (which negatively impact turnover). All other factors equal, it is better to sell two homes at $1.0M than one home at $1.2M

          11. But who wants to buy into a declining market? If Realtors came out and said they expected prices to drop 10% this year, what would happen to Volume?

            The con isn’t propping up prices for a slightly higher commissions. The con is pitching a growth story to whip up volumes.

          12. I think the con is the cw, which many unfortunately ascribe to across many financial and commodity markets, that only growth or loss matter. If realtors could say that they expect stability for the foreseeable future then that could be viewed as encouraging or safe across multiple demographics. The thing is everybody wants to talk about appreciation all the time and in financial markets it’s always growth all the time. What’s wrong with a house keeping relative value for a period of years? What’s wrong with a company staying in its lane for a while? I feel like this sort of thinking is a plague on Western commerce.

    2. The sharp drop in local rents didn’t occur until June, at which point there was 60 percent less listed inventory than there is today, and net absorption was actually negative over the past two weeks.

    3. Many of us are on MTM lease extension terms, and have spent this time figuring out where we want to go. My closing (outside CA) is set for May and I’ll move thereafter.

  2. I think it’s safe to say we have definitely hit the bottom of the rent prices and they will slowly creep back up from here on out. I’ve heard things are starting to become more alive in the city and this will continue to do so with the weather warming up. With the increased vaccinations, Summer 2021 is going to be wild.

    1. The issue is not that the disease will continue to force a shutdown of the city, but that many tech companies have shifted to accepting permanent work from home arrangements, which means people can keep their SF job but live elsewhere where housing is much cheaper (and there are fewer quality of life issues like poor schools, lots of homeless and needles in parks, etc)

      So that fraction of the city’s population that was living here for work rather than for city enjoyment now has a permanently changed situation, regardless of what happens with stores opening up.

      This should be good news for SF, in terms of being populated by people who want to live here rather than who have to live here for their career. I think this is healthy. But it’s not necessarily good news for things like rents.

      1. The world inadvertently threw a wrench into one aspect of the class war which must not be mentioned, and the foot soldiers of the .01% are freaking out (the .01% don’t care, because they know a guy at the Fed..).

    2. Faucci made it crystal clear yesterday that the vaccines are not effective against many emerging variants beyond “some spillover protection”, so mask wearing and shut bars and music venues will continue. He said that if you have had Covid, you’ll have 6-8 months of immunity from only that strain and for other strains having had covid made no difference whatsoever.

      I don’t see summer 2021 looking much different from summer 2020. Restaurants that are still stuck in their leases will be able to slightly mitigate their losses by having outdoor dining and shopping and gyms will likely be allowed at reduced capacity. Pretty much like last summer. Israel is more than 50% vaccinated and there are more cases there than through most of their summer 2020 (see name link)

        1. What was incorrect about that?

          From your link, a direct quote from Fauci:
          “When you have a variant, you have an immunity that you get … against a wild type, you get a certain level of antibody that’s specific for a particular viral strain. If there’s a circulating variant, you don’t necessarily have it. You have some spillover immunity, to be sure, but you diminish by anywhere from two- to eightfold, the protection. So the point I’m saying is that there are variants now circulating.”

          He says that the spillover immunity is from 2x-8x less then that for the specific strain you were vaccinated against.

          The whole gist of the article was Ron Paul saying that we should unmask and go back to normal and Facui saying no we can’t because of the variants.

          1. What do you mean? It’s not difficult to compare language. This was said, “Faucci made it crystal clear yesterday that the vaccines are not effective against many emerging variants.”

            What you quote “You don’t necessarily have it,” and “spillover immunity” data versus what was said, which was “crystal clear the vaccines are not effective.”


            So knock it off. Sheesh. Again, this type of kook parsing out of meaning ridiculousness should be deleted too.

          2. while antibody titers may not be as high against the variants, the T cell and memory B cell responses should be similar. Ab titers are the data easily available but T and B cells are a stronger part of immune system. we are clearly seeing in real world practice the UK and Israel that the vaccines fare very well against B117 variant. and the Novax and JnJ vaccines prevented severe COVID in south africa variant. going maskless now is stupid until enough people are vaccinated. it will lead to unvaccinated dropping mask as well

        2. And the Israeli site doesn’t support his claim particularly well either: there’s a peak around New Year’s and then a steady decline afterward, which would seem to correspond to the beginning of the vaccination program (and its progression).

          That having been said, I think ‘tipster’s basic argument that we’re a long way from 100% is correct: we know that all kinds of events have been closed or cancelled this summer, and they’re not going to be magically rescheduled….2022 may be like 2019, but 2021 won’t be. Or maybe we’ll never be 2019 again…it was a long time ago.

          1. Israel just moved to using electronic monitoring for incoming travelers and requires serological testing for those wishing to claim immunity. They are trying to keep out any new variants:

            “All Israelis returning from abroad can be required to wear an electronic bracelet to ensure that they isolate at home, or be quarantined in a hotel, according to a bill approved by the Knesset on Wednesday.

            The legislation gave the government authorization to force those who enter the country from abroad or from specific countries to choose between the two options, except for children under 14 and other special humanitarian cases.”

            “Those who were inoculated or who recovered abroad can be released from the quarantine if they undergo a serological test to prove their level of antibodies.”

            So Israel isn’t really a back to normal data point.

  3. From the SF Examiner a few days ago, ‘Preston calls vacancies ‘the single biggest source of potential housing in San Francisco’, with the subhead, “Supervisor calls for hearing on ways to assess and tap into unoccupied residential units”

    Getting tens thousands of vacant, <i<already-built units on the market immediately would dwarf additional supply from new construction. Arguments against this approach betray the build!build!build! mobsters’ self-dealing hypocrisy.

    Key quote: “Among the questions Preston wants to answer is if the higher vacancy rate is due to landlords being unable to find tenants because people are leaving or if they are “unwilling to lower the rents to new market levels.”

    Also, if the editor thinks it relevant, this links to a related recent Wall St Journal article on Manhattan landlords “warehousing” apartments: Manhattan Landlords Take Apartments Off Market During Rental Slump (paywalled, but the top of the article is accessible).

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