Posted Oct 6, 2014

Renting in San Francisco: You Just Can’t Have It All

While there is plenty to boast about as a resident of the Bay Area, renting in San Francisco usually involves some type of trade off. You may find a great location, an apartment with fabulous amenities, or affordable rent. You might even find a place that has two out of three—but it’s highly unlikely you’ll land an apartment that has a great location, high-end amenities and an affordable rental rate. That would take some serious luck.

Renting in San Francisco

You can have a fabulous location and plenty of amenities, or you can have a lower rent, good amenities and a less favorable location, but you probably won’t find all three. Still, for many San Francisco renters, two out of three is more than enough. Your friends at Lovely are here to help you determine which two are most important to you:

Rental Prices

The words “cheap apartment” and “San Francisco” aren’t often found in the same sentence. San Francisco rental rates are among the highest in the entire country, and they are only increasing. In fact, depending on the neighborhood you choose, you can expect to pay three or more times the national average for a rental, or around three to five thousand a month.

Rent Control

You may feel a bit better about the high rent when you consider that many apartments in San Francisco are rent controlled, which means that the government regulates how much the landlord can raise rents each year.

However, buildings built after 1979, single-family homes, and most condominiums are exempt from rent control laws. If you have your heart set on shiny new construction or a single-family rental home with a backyard, you’ll probably have to kiss the idea of rent control goodbye.


The most in-demand neighborhoods are also the most expensive. This means you can have your dream location or a lower monthly rental payment, but you probably won’t find both. In Q2 2014, the median price in the popular Pacific Heights neighborhood was $3,950. In the Mission, it was $3,150, while in Alamo Square it was $3,273. If you’re willing to opt for a slightly less in demand area, you’ll find a median of $2,500 in the Outer Sunset.


Square footage and affordability are competing goals when it comes to renting in San Francisco. While you may find a studio apartment in the $1,000 to $2,000 range, a two bedroom could cost two to four times as much. To save money, you should consider paring down your furniture and personal belongings, so you can have both a San Francisco address and money for food.


As with any location, you can generally expect to pay more for a nicer apartment with more amenities. First, it’s an in-demand area, so renters are willing to pay more, and landlords notice, pricing their rentals as high as the market will bear.

Then there’s the fact that landlords can recoup the costs of improving and operating their buildings from tenants, with approval from the Rental Board. You may love the updated doors and windows or the new flooring in your apartment building, but you may also end up helping to pay for them in the form of rent increases beyond those controlled by the government.


Additional features typically serve to drive up rental prices. If you want a pet-friendly apartment, an on-site fitness center, or covered parking, you can easily find these things. However, you may have to pay more rent to get them. Other amenities, such as walk-in closets, new appliances, or swimming pools may also translate into higher rental costs.

With median rental costs in San Francisco falling in the $3,000 range overall, you shouldn’t expect to find a dream apartment that is also a bargain. When it comes to apartments for rent in this city, everything is a trade-off.

Want more moving tips and ideas or have some to share? Make time to connect with Lovely on Twitter.

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Renting in San Francisco - You Can't Have it All


Photo Credits: Sudheendra Vijayakumar, John Morgan

Niccole Schreck


Niccole is the Senior Brand Manager at Lovely. She has a passion for drinking wine, making things (often with wine corks), and helping renters find a perfect place to live.

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