SF falls behind New York and Boston in rent price study

San Francisco rents are up 8% year-over-year, while Boston rents jumped 20%, according to Zumper

Zumper's Anthemos Georgiades (Linkedin, Getty)
Zumper's Anthemos Georgiades (Linkedin, Getty)

Boston has “leapfrogged” over San Francisco to take the title of second-most-expensive rental market in the country, according to a newly released Zumper report.

San Francisco had held the title of most expensive rental market since Zumper began tracking median rental data in 2014. Due to an exodus during the pandemic that brought rents down by a quarter or more at its lowest point in 2021, the city lost its most-expensive mantle to New York City last summer. It now falls behind Boston as well, according to the apartment listing site.

Boston has been on San Francisco’s tail since at least January, when Zumper first reported that quickly rising rents in Beantown might soon catch up with San Francisco’s “stagnation.” But it took until this month, when median one-bedroom rents in SF fell by 2.6 percent between September and October while Boston’s rents were up nearly 6 percent in the same time period, for Boston to take the second-place spot.

Median rents for one-bedrooms in Boston are now $3,060 per month, versus $3,020 in San Francisco. New York City remains by far the most expensive apartment market in the nation with median one-bedroom rents of $3,860, or $800 higher than Boston’s.

Zumper cautions that Boston might not hold its $40 per month lead over SF for long, since the September-October rents were likely pushed up by the college city’s many student move-ins.

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“We can expect prices to soften a bit now that students have settled into their new homes and we enter what is traditionally the low season for renting across the country,” according to the report.

Nationally, both one- and two-bedroom median prices are down — the first time since the pandemic that both unit sizes have declined at the same time. More than half the cities on the top 100 list posted month-over-month declines, with San Jose holding its fourth-most-expensive rental market even with one of the biggest monthly drops in the country at more than 6 percent. Oakland was one of 19 markets where rents were flat this month, leaving only 20 percent of the top 100 markets with monthly rent increases.

Year-over-year rental figures are still up, but they have fallen to just over 9 percent after 12 straight months of double-digit increases. San Francisco one-bedroom rents are up 8 percent year-over-year, while Boston rents are up 20 percent. New York one-bedroom medians are up nearly a quarter, though they are down more than 2 percent for the most recent month, according to Zumper.

“In many metro areas, declining prices are actually a correction to prices that had become overly inflated,” Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades said in the report. “We saw historic levels of migration throughout the pandemic, as people switched to working from home and re-imagined their living situations. Now — with a turbulent, unpredictable economy causing fear of recession — migrations are slowing, occupancy rates are falling and rent prices are following suit.”

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