San Francisco drops to 3rd most expensive city in US to rent, data shows

Melanie Woodrow Image
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
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San Francisco has dropped to the third most expensive city in the U.S. to rent behind New York City and Boston, according to new data.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is becoming more affordable, according to newly released rental data.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Catherine Scott was living in San Francisco.

"I lived the tech dream," said Scott.

Scott says she was laid off in March of 2020. When her lease came up that August, she decided to move to Florida.

"I was thinking about staying if they would have lowered the rent but they wouldn't budge, so it kind of made the decision for me," Scott continued.

RELATED: SF home prices are dropping faster than any other city in America, data shows

Devon Watts and her family also moved out of San Francisco during the pandemic, relocating to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"It's a much more affordable place to have a bigger house for a family," said Watts.

Watts, a Bay Area native now working remotely for a San Francisco tech company, says she thought the move would be temporary but she and her family soon discovered they loved their new location.

"No plans to come back that way anytime soon," said Watts.

It's that attitude that analysts say is driving Bay Area rental prices down.

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At one time, San Francisco was the most expensive city to rent. It dropped to second behind New York City and now has fallen to third for highest one bedroom median rents.

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"In October, it was actually dethroned by Boston," said Crystal Chen, Zumper spokesperson.

"San Francisco has just not recovered fully, I mean New York saw more people migrating into the city than pre-pandemic and I think Boston has a bigger student population that also drives up demand," Chen continued.

Ernest Chen experienced it first hand. Chen moved to France during the pandemic. He recently returned to his San Francisco teaching job but continued renting out his home, opting instead to rent an apartment in the city.

MORE: Census Bureau: SF metro area sees mass exodus during pandemic; more consider leaving

Chen says he got a great deal on his new apartment, but also took a loss on the home he's renting.

"It was $400 less than we were expecting," said Ernest Chen.

"If you're a renter and you want a good deal, now is the time to start looking," said Crystal Chen.

Bay Area housing prices are still high. When looking at two-bedroom median rents, San Francisco holds on to second place and San Jose and Oakland make the top 10 list for two-bedroom median rents and one-bedroom median rents.

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"San Francisco is never going to be a super cheap city that no one wants to live in, so I think rent prices will stay high but it's nice to see that there has been a softening," said Crystal Chen.

Scott's Florida savings were short lived. She ultimately moved again to New York City, an even more expensive city than San Francisco.

"It's crazy how life unfolds," said Scott.

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