Bay Area is last place with rent below pre-pandemic levels

The Bay Area is the last place in the United States with rental prices below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new report from Apartment List. Sounds like a rosy headline – for us tenants at least – but the question remains how long the “depressed” prices will last.

New data estimates that rents in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area are still down 3.3% from March 2020 and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area is down 1.3% . Meanwhile, nationwide rental prices have soared more than 16% in the past year alone, with major Florida cities such as Miami climbing 34% since the month the pandemic shut down a large part of the United States.

In a separate report, Apartment List pegged the median one-bedroom rent in San Francisco at $2,390 in April, an increase of just 0.7% month-over-month, but an increase of 12.1% year over year.

Experts predict there are a number of factors affecting these further discounted prices, one of which is that the Bay Area has one of the most remote workforces. Tech companies have led the way in embracing working from home amid the pandemic and many continue to allow flexible or permanent work-from-home options.

San Francisco doesn’t dominate the highest of those median one-bedroom numbers in the region, however, according to Apartment List. San Mateo rents are about 1% higher, with a median room at $2,440. Fremont, Union City and Dublin also all have higher median one-bedroom rental prices.

Zumper, another apartment rental market, conversely still has San Francisco rents as the highest in the area. The median one-bedroom rent was $2,900 in April, according to their latest report, well above San Mateo’s median one-bedroom rent of $2,510.

Notably, rents are still well below New York averages, reports Zumper, which again took the top spot in the nation at $3,420 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Oakland prices rose even more modestly in April, with a slight 0.3% month-over-month growth and only 5.3% year-over-year growth. It’s still one of the cheapest cities in the San Francisco metro area, with a median one-bedroom of $1,660.

While prices in the Bay Area look “reduced, Apartment List senior economist Chris Salviati said they are unlikely to stay that way for long. Still, the Bay Area consistently lags the national average, and Salviati attributes much of that to the region’s lack of affordability before the pandemic began.

San Francisco is still the most expensive market in the country,” he said. “That’s a bit of a discount, but it’s nowhere near enough to make San Francisco an affordable market by any stretch of the imagination.”

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