Why Are Rents Going Up Five Times Faster in SF Than in Oakland?

Scott Lucas | November 7, 2013 | Story Real Estate

Let's stipulate that SF is an awesome city. But do you ever wonder about the dollar-to-awesomeness ratio out here? Maybe you should.

There's more fuel for the citywide sport of complaining about rents today, as a new report says that rents in SF have increased 10.1% since last October. SF is the nation's most expensive city, with median rents on a two-bedroom apartment at $3,250 ($100 pricier than a comparable pad in New York City, the runner up). It also has the fastest growing rents, beating out Portland at 9.8% and Seattle at 9.2%.

But one striking figure seems to call out for more explanation. That's the numbers for Oakland. Its average two-bedroom rent was only $2,250—a full thousand dollars lower than San Francisco's. But the growth in Oakland's rents was only 2%. How could that be? After all, we all share the same BART system. The food's comparable. The East Bay's weather rocks. Heck, we're so close, SF might even let Oakland's basketball and baseball teams play here! So what happened to all those stories of San Franciscans priced out of the West Bay and driving up the rents (and raising the specter of gentrification) in the East?

One answer could be good old supply and demand. Oakland has a relatively high vacancy rate—4.6% of its 15,800 units were empty in March of this year. By contrast, around the same time, SF had a vacancy rate of 3.2%. A higher vacancy rate means that there are more apartments available for rent, keeping rents lower. Look at it this way—Oakland' s market is like a soft, comfortable beanbag chair. It has some give. SF's is like the bar stools at Tosca. Sexy, sure. But hard. So, so hard.

So, what are San Franciscans to do? Better grab some of that Twitter IPO stock first thing tomorrow morning—or maybe start casting an eye across the Bay. Just don't start late-night sexting New York City. She's no good for you.

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