Yes, we know that the rental market in SF is crazy, but figures about what the actual median rent is here have been widely exaggerated, misunderstood, and irresponsibly quoted quite often over the last year. Case in point: this SFGate blog post, which was widely shared on social media this week, quoting the new "median rent" figure of $4,225. As Socketsite correctly and more responsibly points out, that figure is based on a rental index published by for-sale housing data site Zillow, which represents an estimated figure for condos and single-family homes for rent and this figure does not include rental apartments.
Likewise, most earlier figures that have come out on a quarterly basis from real estate consulting and data firms tend only to take into account rents for new units hitting the market in newly constructed rental developments all of which tend to be "luxury" rentals in central locations and not representative of the market as a whole, either.
Real estate startup Zumper, which tries to connect renters with landlords and provides quarterly reports on rents nationwide, is likewise heavily weighted toward new, non-rent-controlled units. Their latest report, just three days old and covering average rents through May 30, puts the median one-bedroom rent currently at $3500 (up from $3200 in October), with studios now averaging $2650 and two-bedrooms averaging $4700. Yes, those figures are still high and still topping the rest of the nation, however they prove that $4225 is considerably above the actual median which Socketsite puts at $3458 as of May.
Zumper earlier found that rents citywide went up 13.5 percent in 2014.
Taking into account the city's large stock of rent-controlled, older apartments, a recent report by NYU's Furman Center showed that the estimated "real" median rent in San Francisco rose from $1375 to $1491 between 2006 and 2013. That remains the highest in the country, but New York, with a far huger stock of rent-controlled and stabilized apartments, not to mention rentals at the extremely high end, is not far behind.
All these figures are estimates, of course, but there's no way to give a reliable snapshot of the market without accounting for San Francisco's large, older housing stock, most of which comes available on Craigslist or through smaller listing agents.
And yes, the rent is still too damn high. But it's probably not going down by much, so...