Even with its sky-high rents, Boston has always been able say “Hey, it’s worse in San Francisco.”
But maybe not for long.
A new survey released Tuesday by real estate website Zumper found that the median monthly rent for a one bedroom in Boston is $2,720, just $130 shy of the $2,850 number seen in San Francisco. (New York City leads the pack at $3,260 a month.)
That’s an all-time high for Boston, which has long ranked among the priciest cities in the country but typically lagged behind the Bay Area — where the weather and booming tech scene pushed pre-pandemic real estate prices into the stratosphere.
For example, in February 2020, San Francisco’s median one-bedroom rent was $3,520, the most expensive in the country. Boston sat third at $2,500. In July 2019, San Francisco led Zumper’s list at $3,720, with Boston in fourth place at $2,450.
Since COVID hit, though, fortunes have shifted. While both cities saw rents fall through the summer and fall of 2020, San Francisco has been far slower to return to pre-pandemic levels, in part due remote work policies that have driven employees out of cities across the country. (Apple, Twitter, and Google — all based in the Bay Area — have repeatedly extended remote work.) The Boston rental market, in contrast, quickly bounced back from pandemic lows, especially after colleges largely re-opened in person last fall.
Between Jan 2021 and 2022, the median rent for a one bedroom here grew by 20.5 percent, Zumper found, and now sits 9 percent above pre-pandemic levels. San Francisco’s rent only rose by 6.3 percent in that same period and remain below the rents seen before COVID.
Still, even the slowdown during the pandemic has kept rents here somewhat in check. A December Globe story found that though Boston rents are on the rise, they remain just 1 percent higher than they were in March 2020, according to Chris Salviati, a housing economist at Apartment List.
It’s different from the unprecedented growth in the Massachusetts housing market, which has steadily soared. Sale prices jumped when markets reopened in the summer of 2020 and picked up another 15 percent in 2021, to a median single-family price of $530,000 according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. In Greater Boston that figure is $750,000.
The Bay Area also saw home values rise sharply last year, but at a lower rate than statewide figures in California, according to the New York Times.