San Francisco's Rental Market Experiences Steepest Decline Since 2021 as Median Prices and Demand Drop

San Francisco's Rental Market Experiences Steepest Decline Since 2021 as Median Prices and Demand DropSource: Mobilus In Mobili, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on December 06, 2023

San Francisco's rental market is taking a nosedive, with median rent prices at their lowest since mid-2021. In November, a one-bedroom apartment asked for a median rent of $2,190, down 16.4% from $2,620 back in November 2019, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The rental market is cooling off, and with fewer people hunting for apartments in the city, it's a trend that shows no sign of reversing any time soon.

While California's typical rent has soared between 2019 and 2023, increasing by approximately 13%, San Francisco's market is straying from the statewide pattern. According to Apartment List's December 2023 Rent Report, the city's median rent dropped by 2.2% last month, diminishing by 6.7% over the last 12 months. This decrease is in stark contrast to the state's slight decline of 1.8% and the national average dip of 1.1% in the same timeframe.

San Francisco is not just battling a seasonal slump; the continued trend of remote work and a wave of tech layoffs have compounded the issue. Landlords in the Bay Area metropolis are pushing attractive offers such as free rent to lure tenants, a desperate move reflecting the overarching struggle to fill vacancies. "San Francisco is notorious for not creating affordability through new housing supply," senior research associate for Apartment List, Rob Warnock, told The San Francisco Chronicle. However, the city is inadvertently making headway on affordability with the sheer drop in demand.

Rents in areas like South of Market and Mission Bay have tumbled sharply over the past year. Conversely, some pockets of San Francisco have seen their rental prices edge upward. Still, those are a rarity and don't reflect the broader market trend captured in the data from housing broker Zillow, showing an overall downward trajectory. Even with the city recognized as having the third highest rent among the biggest United States cities in November, it's becoming clearer that even steep rents are not immune to market forces.

With the city's rent falling from $2,350 in November 2022 to $2,190 in November 2023, a drop of 6.7%, which outpaces nearly all other large U.S. cities, it's a figure that solidifies the city’s standing at number 99 in terms of rent growth among its peers. Current rates place San Francisco as the #14 most expensive U.S. city, with a 58.4% higher median rent than the national average.