NYC passes SF for highest rents in nation

San Francisco is no longer the most expensive city in the nation for renters seeking one-bedroom apartments, according to data...

San Francisco is no longer the most expensive city in the nation for renters seeking one-bedroom apartments, according to data from the real estate company Zumper.

For the first time since Zumper began tracking rental data in 2014, New York City edged out San Francisco at the top of the company’s August national rent report. This month, the median one-bedroom rent in the Big Apple stood at $2,810, just a hair above the median one-bedroom rent in the City, which stood at $2,800.

This changing of the guard “would have been unthinkable two years ago,” the report notes. In early 2019, one-bedroom rents in San Francisco were more than $800 more expensive than rents in New York City. Since the pandemic hit, San Francisco rents dropped more significantly, and have been slower to recover, than rents in New York City. One-bedroom rents in San Francisco remain 20 percent below March 2020 levels, whereas one-bedroom rents in New York City are just 1 percent lower.

The report ascribes this discrepancy in part to the remote work policies of many tech companies. “Tech workers make up a disproportionate share of residents in the city, and tech companies are more likely to have adopted broad or permanent work-from-home policies. This allows those workers to live anywhere they want, and many of them have decided they don’t want to live in San Francisco.” With many tech companies postponing their return to the office due to the Delta variant, there may be a “ceiling on how much rent will rise in San Francisco,” the report notes.

The City may have lost the dubious distinction of having the highest one-bedroom rents in the nation, but it remains in the lead when it comes to two-bedroom rents. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city stood at $3,830, well above New York City’s median two-bedroom rent of $3,000. The desirability of two-bedrooms in San Francisco could be a product of the trend, identified by Harvard Business School researchers, of remote workers seeking out more expensive, more spacious housing.

While Bay Area rents remain well below their historic highs, they are recovering quickly in many places. Emeryville and Mountain View saw one-bedroom rents increase by more than 5 percent between July and August, according to the latest Zumper data. Berkeley, Santa Clara, and Fremont saw increases of greater than 4 percent. In San Francisco, one-bedroom rents increased by 3 percent since last month. However, rents in Oakland, San Leandro, and Hayward remained flat.

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