In a study released last week with the delicate title, “The Rent Is Getting Too Damn High,” Trulia says that, well, Bay Area rents are indeed getting too high.
The real estate site sifted through its own rental data between 2012—the year that prices bottomed out after the housing crisis and started their alarming ascent to present levels—and 2017 for perspective on precisely what’s happened.
Perhaps surprisingly, San Francisco has not seen the largest margin of increase over the past five years. That dubious honor goes to Cape Coral (somewhere in Florida) where prices on the site vaulted 61.9 percent in five years.
And in second place is none other than Oakland, which suffered a 51.1 percent price spike during the same period, from a median rent of $1,952/month in 2012 up to $2,500/month now.
San Jose fared not much better with the fifth largest increase overall, a margin of 40 percent. In practice this adds up to almost the exact same price appreciation as in the East Bay—a $2,500/month San Jose home in 2012 now costs $3,500/month.
And San Francisco comes in at seventh place—cold comfort, indeed—with a 37.9 percent spike, from $2,900/month on average to $4,000/month even.
Sacramento also makes the top ten, with a 35.8 percent increase landing it in the number nine spot.
For perspective, Trulia also reports that the average rent spike nationwide is 19.6 percent, which, of course, is already quite a bit, but by local standards looks an awful lot like easy street.
However, renters should note that Trulia’s figures represent only homes on Trulia, which tend to be relatively new, high-end, and more expensive than the average San Francisco home—because after all, those are the sorts of homes most likely to have vacancies in this economy.
The United States Census provides median rent figures that are much closer to what the average San Francisco renter actually pays. Figures for 2017 aren’t yet available, but we can reference data from 2012 through 2016, which should be comparable.
Here’s how much median gross rents went up in San Francisco and in surrounding counties in that four-year period:
- San Francisco: 10.49 percent (from $1,477/month to $1,632/month)
- Alameda County: 13.2 percent (from $1,265/month to $1,432/month)
- Santa Clara County: 20.22 percent ($1,508/month to $1,813/month)
- Contra Costa County: 12.3 percent ($1,340/month to $1,506/month)
- San Mateo County: 17 percent ($1,541/month to $1,803/month)
- Solano County: Seven percent ($1,249/month to $1,337/month)
In December, the Census reported that gross rents nationwide rose $21 since 2012—which is quite a bit within this context—although the released figures don’t go into further detail.
The reason why the actual rents recorded in the census are so much lower than those on sites like Trulia—and the reason the increases so much less severe—is because they reflect the influence of longtime leases and (wait for it) rent control, the kinds of deals that rarely come up on modern rental sites.
So while Trulia’s report tells us a little bit about the price of trying to find a new lease after the city’s boom of new construction, it also ends up telling us much more about the value that older housing stock offers to renters by comparison.