Reality Check

Reality Check

Vets the truthfulness of claims and measures the efficacy of public policy

Are Bay Area Rental Prices At All-Time Highs?

By Sam Brock and Kinsey Kiriakos
|  Thursday, Apr 17, 2014  |  Updated 6:58 PM PDT
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Rental prices have been rising in virtually every part of the Bay Area. The oft-repeated, off-the-cuff comment about the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, is that it’s among the costliest places to live in the entire country.

Rental prices have been rising in virtually every part of the Bay Area. The oft-repeated, off-the-cuff comment about the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, is that it’s among the costliest places to live in the entire country.

Rental prices have been rising in virtually every part of the Bay Area. The oft-repeated, off-the-cuff comment about the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, is that it’s among the costliest places to live in the entire country.

And, a new report states rental prices in the Bay Area are at all-time highs.

Is that true?

The report was published by RealFacts, a real estate data company. It cited the “average” cost for renting, lumping 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments together. This is what the group found for the Bay Area’s three biggest cities in 2014:

• San Francisco: $3,057 per month.
• Oakland: $2,187 per month.
• San Jose: $2,066 per month.

These costs are no drop in the bucket, by any means. But are they all-time, record-setting highs?

It’s hard to say simply by glancing at the report, since RealFacts told NBC Bay Area that the figures are *not indexed to inflation (meaning the raw figure may be higher than ever before, but not necessarily the true value).

Many will remember the dot-com boom – rental prices soared during the late 1990s and early 2000s. When you adjust the “average” cost of renting in 2001- the peak of the boom- to reflect inflation, or the cost in 2014-dollars, here are what the dot-com rental prices project to:

• San Francisco: $2,842 per month.
• Oakland: $1,908 per month.
• San Jose: $2,228 per month.

So, for San Francisco and Oakland, the average monthly rent is at all-time highs.

But it’s a different story in San Jose. As the numbers show, it cost about $200 more to live in the South Bay’s biggest city at the peak of the dot-com boom than today.

The reality, though, is that renting in each of these cities and around the Bay Area is incredibly expensive.

“It’s as hard a time certainly as I can remember in the Bay Area in terms of housing affordability,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, an online real estate company. “Rents have risen even throughout the housing bust. Remember, [home] prices fell significantly in many places in the Bay Area after the housing bubble burst, but rents continued to rise.”

And, as for San Francisco being one of the most expensive city in the country to live, well, that is true – in fact, it’s the most costly city to live in right now.

“When we compared two-bedroom units across the country, the most expensive rental housing now is in San Francisco. Even a bit ahead of New York," Kolko said.

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