San Francisco Bay Area 2017 Rent Retrospect

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In 2017, the San Francisco Bay Area remained one of the top most expensive metro areas in the country for renters. The average rent in the Bay Area at the end of 2017 was $2,602, 3% higher than one year prior, according to Yardi Matrix. Over the last three years, the cost of rent in this pricey housing market jumped by 16%.

Apartments for rent in San Francisco went for an average of $3,430 in December 2017, with rents increasing slightly over the year, by only 1.5%, as was the case with many of the nation’s most expensive cities. In three years, rents increased by 8% for apartments located within the city limits.

Compared to the rest of the country, the price of rental apartments in the Bay Area in 2017 ($2,602/month) was almost double the national average rent of $1,359/month. Moreover, prices in the region are increasing much faster than those at the national level, 16% versus 12% over the last 3 years. Renters in the city of San Francisco, the second most expensive rental market in the nation after Manhattan, are paying over $2,000/month more than the average U.S. renter. However, rents slowed down significantly in San Francisco recently, growing slower than the national average rent, not just in 2017 (1.5% vs 2.5%), but also over the past three years (8% vs 12%).

Berkeley rents saw the highest increase, Menlo Park rents dropped the most

The average price of apartments in Berkeley is not only among the highest in the region ($3,146/month) but is also increasing at the fastest rate, jumping 6.8% over the year, crossing the $3,000 threshold.

Low-cost Fairfield is becoming less affordable for renters, with the second highest increase in the Bay Area in 2017, up by 6.7%, reaching $1,674/month. Redwood City renters also saw their rents go up last year by 6.4%, the third highest increase, and like Berkeley, exceeded $3,000, to close out the year at $3,121/month. Rents in Napa, Union City, and San Leandro jumped 6.1% in 2017 as the effect of the hot San Francisco market is spreading further out into neighboring towns.

Rents decreased in 2017 in a few pricey spots, with the biggest drop in Menlo Park, down by -5.2%, ending the year at just over $3,500/month, from almost $3,700/month one year prior. Other cities that boast expensive rents saw prices adjust downward in 2017. In Larkspur, apartment rents decreased by -2.4%, dropping under $3,000, to $2,948 at the end of December. In Pacifica, rental prices declined by -1.8%, at $2,687/month as of the end of the year. Popular Palo Alto managed to keep rents in check in 2017, ending the year slightly down compared to 2016, -0.7% decrease, wrapping up the year still with an average of $3,530/month.

All in all, prices in one-third of the cities in the Bay Area either declined, remained unchanged or grew slower than the national average, while two-thirds increased at a faster pace than the national average in 2017.

Palo Alto was 2017’s priciest rental market in the Bay Area, Suisun City was the cheapest

Two Bay Area towns boast even more expensive rents than San Francisco. Palo Alto had the priciest apartments in the entire region in 2017, renting on average for $3,530/month. Menlo Park apartments are the second most expensive, at $3,502/month as of the end of 2017. The third priciest market for renters in the Bay Area was San Francisco, with apartments renting for $3,430/month, followed by Berkeley and Redwood City.

Renters on a low budget should head over to Solano County to find the “Bay Area-version” of affordable apartments. Even the cheapest average rent in the Bay Area is still almost $100/month more than the national average rent. Suisun City had the lowest average rent in 2017, $1,441/month. And for the second most affordable apartments add $200 more per month to your budget: Vacaville apartments were renting for $1,641/month, the second cheapest for the region, 5.5% more expensive than a year prior. The third most affordable rents were in Fairfield, where apartments went up in price by as much as 6.7% in 2017, reaching $1,674/month. Other spots with affordable rents — around $1,700/month — are Antioch in East Bay, and Vallejo.

Southeastern San Francisco apartments saw the fastest growing rents in 2017

The priciest rentals in the city are located in the northwestern neighborhoods of San Francisco, with an average price of $4,486/month, virtually unchanged from a year prior. The second most expensive area for San Francisco renters is the China Basin, with rents averaging $4,079/month, slightly up by 0.6% from 2016. The least expensive parts of town in 2017 were Market Street, with an average apartment rent of $2,556/month, and the southwestern neighborhoods, where the average rent was $3,184 at the end of the year.

2017’s fastest growing neighborhoods in terms of rent were in southeastern San Francisco (Bayview/Hunter’s Point/Visitacion Valley/Portola), with a 5.4% price increase for the area, and an average apartment rent of $3,747/month in December 2017.

Check the average rent in your city in the interactive table below:

CityAverage Rent 2017Average Rent 2016Change Y-o-Y
Redwood City$3,121$2,9346.4%
Union City$2,341$2,2066.1%
San Leandro$1,936$1,8256.1%
Mountain View$3,027$2,8695.5%
South San Francisco$2,698$2,5615.3%
Castro Valley$2,119$2,0125.3%
Pleasant Hill$1,965$1,8784.6%
Santa Rosa$1,851$1,7744.3%
Walnut Creek$2,393$2,2974.2%
Daly City$2,488$2,3894.1%
San Bruno$3,070$2,9563.9%
Los Gatos$2,884$2,7823.7%
San Rafael$2,528$2,4562.9%
San Jose$2,620$2,5502.7%
Santa Clara$2,697$2,6252.7%
Foster City$3,113$3,0312.7%
Rohnert Park$1,887$1,8392.6%
San Mateo$3,050$2,9842.2%
Suisun City$1,441$1,4191.6%
San Francisco$3,430$3,3781.5%
San Ramon$2,340$2,3180.9%
East Palo Alto$2,401$2,3880.5%
Palo Alto$3,530$3,554-0.7%
Menlo Park$3,502$3,696-5.2%


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Nadia Balint is a senior creative writer for RENTCafé. She covers news and trends in residential and commercial real estate and their impact on our everyday life, including rental housing, for-sale housing, real estate development, homeownership, market reports, insurance, landlord-tenant laws, personal finance, urban development, economy, sustainability, and social issues. Nadia holds a B.S. in Business Management from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. You can connect with Nadia via email.

Nadia’s work and expertise have been quoted by major national and local media outlets, including CNN, CNBC, CBS News, Curbed, The NY Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post as well as industry publications, such as GlobeSt, Bisnow, Inman News, Multifamily Executive, and The Commercial Real Estate Show. Nadia also wrote for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive, HubSpot, and more. Prior to entering the real estate industry, Nadia worked in the legal field, where she gained over 10 years of experience in business, corporate, and real estate law.

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