This Mission Triplex Illustrates the Truth About SF Rents

It’s now become proverbial wisdom that San Francisco has the highest rents in the US, after years of soaring prices driven by a combination housing shortage and population boom.

Problem is, that wisdom is just plain not true; while SF’s market rents have indeed shot to the moon and beyond in the past decade, and “rent burden” has become a real problem even for some wealthier SF renters, the fact is San Francisco never even really had the highest rents in the Bay Area, much less the country. (Check out our August coverage of this very issue for an explainer.)

Case in point, a new listing for a Mission triplex a few blocks east of 24th Street and Mission exposes a much more realistic look at SF rental prices: The ad for 2831 Folsom notes that “this classic triplex is fully rented at $64,092 gross annual.”

(2831 Folsom.)

That breaks down to an average of about $1,780 monthly across the three units, two of which are three bedrooms and the last one two.

This is drastically less than the figures we see quoted on sites like Zumper, which advertises a median price of $2,800 monthly for just a single bedroom apartment in SF in October, or competitor ApartmentList, which lists an SF median of $2,770.

Now of course, a median means that about half of all units in the data set are cheaper than that, so discovering a trio of rentals for a fraction of the price is not necessarily surprising.

And we don’t know what extenuating circumstances about the units themselves might potentially drive prices down, although for the record there are no complaints on file about this address with the Department of Building Inspection.

However, the important thing here is not that the rents for this building are lower, but rather that they’re pretty much exactly what we’d expect based on the US Census estimate of gross median rents in SF, which was $1,959 in 2019. (The 2020 figures are due out at the end of this month.)

So in reality, these are not cheap SF rentals, these are perfectly average SF rents, seen without the distortions created by the contrast between market rent prices and actual rent prices. (Again, see our previous coverage of the topic for more on the distinction.)

If you’re in more of a buying than renting place in your life right now, the list price for this entire building is $899K. The place last sold in 1988 for just $239K, about $554K in modern currency.

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