I recently moved from Boston to San Francisco. In the months leading up to the move, I scoured mailing lists and craigslist to find cheap apartments. The prices listed were astronomically high. It was common for me to see apartments listed for around $1000 to share a room in an apartment with 5 to 7 people. Due to rent control, it is still possible to find affordable rooms, but they are few and far between.

Just how high is rent in San Francisco? America? If you hate paying high rent prices for crappy rooms like me, below might be an indicator for which cities to live in, or which cities not to live in.

Median Rent Prices for the top 100 most populous cities

Datasource: https://www.kaggle.com/zillow/rent-index

It’s surprising to see just how much higher San Francisco rent prices are in comparison to the rest of America. In 2017, the top 3 highest rent cities are San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. There’s little respite for sacrificing location for a longer commute. The top 5 as of January 2017 are:

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. San Jose, CA
  3. Oakland, CA
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Anaheim, CA

West coast, best coast?

Looking at median rent prices alone has major caveats. One could look at median rent prices in Delhi and be overjoyed by the fact that the rent is cheap. However, it is plausible that people just make less money in Delhi on average. Despite the bleak picture above, Californians could be making more money than the rest of the country. And, in fact, there are multiple sources that indicate that Californians do indeed make more money, on average, than the rest of America.

Another interesting piece is examining the price per square foot. Rent prices could be sky high in San Francisco, but maybe the rooms are huge (spoiler, they’re not). The graph below shows how the price per square foot has changed over time.

Median Price per square foot for the top 100 most populous cities

Datasource: https://www.kaggle.com/zillow/rent-index

This graph paints a slightly different picture. San Francisco, again, tops the charts for price per square foot. However, some new players from other states enter the mix. The top 5 as of January 2017 are:

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Jersey City, NJ
  4. Honolulu, HI
  5. Oakland, CA

Does your city have crazy high rent? Try searching for it. Let’s all move to Detroit, MI where the median rent is $750, almost 1/6 the median of San Francisco.

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Published on October 19, 2017