Posted Jan 16, 2015

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier

It’s no big surprise that the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to live. After all, as Lovely’s 2014 Q4 quarterly report revealed, more than 20 of the country’s priciest cities for apartment rentals are in California.

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier

Among the 15 new cities that made the list in Q4, 11 of those were located in the Golden State, indicating an upward trend in housing costs across the board in California. But as usual, the No. 1 spot for most expensive rental prices in all of the U.S. was filled by the Bay Area’s namesake city, with others in the surrounding Bay Area following shortly behind.


Even cities that were once considered more affordable alternatives to San Francisco proper have seen exorbitant increase in median rental rate, and Oakland is no exception. This locale attracts not only those who work and socialize in San Francisco who want to stay close to the action, but also students and university staff from nearby Berkeley.

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier - Oakland

As such, Oakland has seen a rise in apartment rental prices of 25% year over year– an apartment that cost $1,395 per month at the start of 2013 will now run you about $2,000.

So what’s driving this sharp rise in prices over recent years? Demand is growing as Oakland becomes a mecca for the tragically hip– as Vice Magazine so eloquently puts it, Oakland has replaced San Francisco as “that place you moved to if you were too weird for L.A., but too lazy for New York.”

It has grown into a cultural playground thanks to its convenient proximity to other Bay Area hot spots and its once inexpensive living costs. But now that prices are shooting skyward and Oakland has become a ghost of its former affordable self, these “weird” locals may find themselves fleeing to other lesser-known neighborhoods.

San Jose

San Jose’s rental prices are not rising as rapidly as its other major-city counterparts, but that might just be because there is no room for growth.

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier - San Jose

As Lovely’s report reveals, this has consistently been one of San Francisco Bay Area’s most expensive cities to live in. Back in early 2013, an apartment would cost a whopping median rental rate of $1,855– more than even Los Angeles at the time. That amount has risen at more than 14% year over year, and as of the end of 2014, it lands at about $2,395.

San Francisco

Last but not least is the Bay Area’s pride and joy, San Francisco. According to Lovely’s report, it’s not only the most expensive city in the state to reside in, but the priciest in the entire U.S. with median rental rates at about $3,500 in Q4 2014.

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier - San Francisco

This signifies a year over year increase of 7.51% from Q1 of 2013 when the median rental rate was $2,950. However, keep in mind that this growth is not steady; prices actually dipped at the end of 2013 and the start of 2014.

Such a dip is a common occurrence tied to the typical seasonal slowdown. With fewer tenants seeking apartment rentals, the Q1 of the year– right now, may be the best time to start hunting for the perfect San Francisco spot at the most affordable price possible.

Is Bay Area Living Worth the Money?

San Franciscans are quite used to the high apartment rental rates. The Bay Area mitigates its steeper cost of living by paying workers more; in fact, the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour in fall 2014, sharing the No. 1 spot with Seattle for highest minimum wage in the country.

San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier - Is Bay Area Living Worth the Money?

Maintaining a steady job is also more likely in the Bay Area compared to almost any other metropolis in the U.S.– the San Francisco region was listed as one of Forbes’ “Best Cities For Jobs” in 2014.

While living in the Bay Area may be rough on the wallet for people not familiar with the cost of living, those who call it their home wholeheartedly agree: They couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Surveys have shown that San Franciscans are among the happiest and healthiest in the country.

That might have something to do with its rich culture– the area is abound with a variety of museums, theaters, music venues, top rated restaurants, and a unique mix of buskers who can be found performing on street corners in every neighborhood.

It also doesn’t hurt that the gorgeous beaches and shimmering waters serve as a backdrop to everyday life when you live in the Bay Area. It’s as famed English poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling once said: “San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave.”

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San Francisco Bay Area Keeps Getting Pricier

Photo Credit: John MuellerDecasecondsJim MaurerRussell MondyStéphane Rossignol

Methodology: Trends represented in the Lovely Rental Market report reflect Q4 2014 rental market data based on the comprehensive set of aggregated rental inventory posted on Lovely between January 2012 and December 2014, and is no longer active.

Prices reported are as indicated upon posting and do not capture the final pricing terms on closed lease agreements. In addition to Lovely’s posting platform, Lovely Pro, Lovely obtains listings by partnering with over 70 external providers to populate its marketplace with rental listings.


Stacee is the Content Manager at Lovely. She is an ice cream connoisseur who loves traveling, baking, and animals. Her guilty pleasures are karaoke and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

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