Rents in San Francisco are a-tumblin’

Leasers, on your marks: The city’s 1-bedroom rent is down 9.2%.


June 3, 2020

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

San Francisco’s real estate market just took the Wayback Machine to  spring 2017.

After some Silicon Valley titans announced that working from anywhere will soon be a permanent option, a new rent survey offers a possible glimpse at the city’s future. 

In year-over-year terms — meaning rent in May 2020 compared to May 2019 — San Francisco’s median 1-bedroom rent fell 9.2%. That’s the biggest drop that the real estate platform Zumper has recorded and the city’s lowest average price since March 2017. (Granted, a 9.2% decrease still means, uh, $3,360 for a 1-bedroom.)

Teasing out an exact causation is tricky, but you can probably blame the downturn on tech. While 1-bedroom rents fell 0.5% nationally, other nearby tech hubs saw similar trends:

  • Around Apple’s playground, in Cupertino: -14.3% 
  • On Google’s home turf, in Mountain View: -15.9% 
  • Near YouTube HQ, in San Bruno: -14.9%

But wait before you pour one out for the real estate agents 

San Francisco rents didn’t bottom out overnight: After a mid-2019 peak, the city’s rent had been declining even before the pandemic.

Month to month — AKA May 2020 compared to April 2020 — the city’s fall was a little more graceful: -2.6%. 

So what about other big cities? 

  • New York’s May 2020 rents were down (-1%) compared to May 2019.
  • In Boston, year-over-year rents dropped ~2%. 
  • Seattle’s month-to-month rent actually went up (+0.6%), but they’re still down considerably (-4.3%) compared to May 2019.
  • While SF is floundering, people are still flocking to Oakland: That city’s month-to-month (+1.6%) and year-over-year (+4.9%) rents each saw a jump.

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