The Rise of Bay Area Rent Prices

September 18, 2013 | Permalink

Less Expensive   More Expensive

San Francisco, as we covered in a previous post, is an expensive place to live. This is not a phenomenon confined to the boundaries of the city. The median rent price of an apartment or home within 60 miles of San Francisco is $2,100. A one bedroom costs $1,850, a two bedroom $2,250 and a three bedroom $2,500.

Monthly Rent by # Bedrooms

Median Monthly Rent by Number of Bedrooms, September 2013

Cities like Palo Alto and Mill Valley cost quite a bit more than this. Others, like Walnut Creek and Oakland, cost less. In this blog post, we examine the rent prices of each major city in the San Francisco Bay Area. How much does it cost to rent a home and how fast is the rent increasing?

A Note on the Data Source

All of this data comes from a new data service we’ve built that tracks and visualizes the rent in every city in America. If you work for a company that needs this kind of data for any location in the US, you can request access here.

The Rent. It’s High.

First, lets look at the most expensive places to rent a house or apartment in the Bay Area.

Median Rent by City

Ranked by Price as of September 2013


Source: Priceonomics rental data

San Francisco is expensive yes, but other places are actually more expensive. That’s because people in places like Los Altos and Palo Alto are lounging around in spacious houses while people in San Francisco and Berkeley are crowded into tiny studio apartments.

So let’s adjust for size and look at the most expensive places to rent per square foot.

Median Rent per ft2 by City

Ranked by Price as of September 2013


Here, San Francisco takes the top prize. But Palo Alto and Menlo Park continue to be quite pricey, even on a per square foot basis. Beautiful outlying areas like Sebastopol and the Russian River still offer cheap rent, but those locations make for long commutes to larger cities.

Remember the good old days when rent was low?

Neither do we. That said, the median rent price in the Bay Area has exploded from $1,690 in 2011 to $2,100 in 2013 - an increase of 24%. One bedroom rents have increased 28%, two bedrooms 30%, and three bedrooms 14%.

Price Increase by Bedrooms

September 2011 vs September 2013

Source: Priceonomics rental data

But rent prices have not grown evenly across the Bay. Below is a comparison of the median rental price of a one bedroom by city in 2011 versus 2013.

Price Increase by City

2011 vs. 2013

RankCity2011 1BR2013 1BR% Change

Source: Priceonomics rental data

San Francisco rent may have exploded, but the city doesn’t even make the top 10. In Berkeley, prices increased 20% in the last two years, yet the city doesn’t even make the top half of the list. The price of a one bedroom in Palo Alto “only” went up 10% in the last two years (before you rush to move to Palo Alto, be warned the price of a two bedroom went up 26% and a three-bedroom 14%).


Want more detail about rent prices across the Bay Area? The below tool tells you the median price of any type of rental by city.

Rent by City, September 2013

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