In an area long recognized for its high cost of living, San Mateo wears the crown as the most expensive for renters, according to a recent report.

Online rental database claims renters in San Mateo face the highest rates of all the major Bay Area cities and the monthly fees are thousands more than the median costs in comparable markets across the nation.

To compound the frustration for those scratching out sizable checks when the calendar turns another month, trends indicate the cost of living continues to rise — as rents jumped by 1.5 percent from this time last year.

While the growth rate lags behind the rest of the state by a few percentage points, that may come as little consolation to those paying the city’s median rental price of $3,400 for a one-bedroom unit and $4,300 for a two-bedroom unit, according to the rent report.

Despite acknowledging the report’s figures skew upwards toward luxury apartments, those who generated the most recent data plainly state the high-priced reality that many locally face.

“Rent growth in San Mateo has been relatively stable over the past year — some other large cities have seen more substantial increases; in contrast, rents in a few cities have actually declined,” according to the report. “Compared to most large cities across the country, San Mateo is less affordable for renters.”

For perspective regionally, the monthly cost of a one-bedroom unit in San Mateo is about $1,000 more than San Francisco; $700 more than Redwood City; and $500 more than Pleasanton, according to the report.

The gulf between San Mateo and other major cities across the nation is even more striking for two-bedroom units, as the monthly median floats at $1,700 in Seattle; $1,400 in Austin and $1,000 in Dallas, according to the report. San Mateo’s median rent for a two-bedroom unit is $3,140 more than the national median, according to the report.

ApartmentList experts have said previously San Mateo’s rates may be higher per unit because larger cities offer a wide range of prices distributed across many neighborhoods, while locally there are fewer cost fluctuations and more consolidated costs.

Online rental database Zillow offered a similar sky-high rate in San Mateo, pinning the median rent across the city at $3,850, according to the company’s most recent report.

RentCafe, another online rent trend track website, declared San Mateo the fourth most expensive market in the nation according to average rent — behind major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco. The report also found local rates grew by 1.5 percent from this time last year.

Renters in San Mateo getting more bang for their buck may attribute to the high cost as well, as the rents locally may pay for more space offered in a two-bedroom unit than a similar listing in a metropolitan high-rise.

Real estate expertise firm Marcus and Millichap attributes these astronomical prices to the skyrocketing cost of buying a home in the Bay Area, combined with the region’s ever-humming economic engine.

With the mighty demand to live near work comes cranes and work crews, according the Marcus and Millichap report showing an uptick in development of new housing projects.

“Peninsula projects dominate pipeline; mid-rise buildings most prominent,” according to the Marcus and Millichap report. “Amid incredibly tight vacancy, builders are rapidly increasing construction to the highest point since the late 1990s.”

During the boom, San Mateo has been spotlighted by builders, according to the Marcus and Millichap report.

“San Mateo assets have garnered significant attention as construction heats up on the Peninsula,” according to the report. “Assets near corporate campuses with upgrade potential receive multiple offers.”

ApartmentList experts have said increasing the available housing stock would be the most efficient way to offer renters some relief, as the demand outpaces supply locally by such a substantial margin.

In a report released last month, ApartmentList analysts suggested the metropolitan area between San Jose and San Francisco is the nation’s most undersupplied housing market when compared to available jobs.

While the issue is not unique to the Bay Area, the housing imbalance report implores local officials to approve more building under an effort to make desirable regions more affordable.

“In recent years, the majority of the nation’s biggest metros have not been building enough new housing, and that situation is compounded by the fact that in many of these metros, jobs are being added to the core cities, while the housing that is produced is being built in outlying suburbs,” according to the report.

While many cities may need to do their part in addressing affordability concerns, the most recent ApartmentList report indicates the local prices should remain higher than many other places.

“Renters will generally find more expensive prices in San Mateo than most large cities,” according to the report.

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(17) comments

Mr Eddy

I mostly blame gentrification and too much building expensive high density housing, there's no more room, the traffic is congested, and it's best to stop building and these big shots from tech companies shouldn't be coming here. I agree with lots of people here, if we stop these overbuilt developments, it would help stabilize the housing market and protect the quality of life.


Wonder why rents so high ?

Summer interns at major tech companies make astonishingly high salaries. According to an anonymous survey by a former University of California Berkeley student, Snapchat interns earn $9,000 a month, plus a $1,500 housing stipend. Monthly salaries at Pinterest ($9,000), Twitter ($8,400), Facebook ($8,000), Slack ($7,700), Uber ($7,300), Apple ($6,700) and Google ($6,600) are not far behind, and many companies offer generous housing, relocation and benefit payments.


Same old line of baloney supporting more building even though they're taxing the heck out of us to keep the infrastructure limping along, and ignoring traffic mitigation in large part and impacting the quality of life here. Do citizens have a right to be concerned when they are footing the bill of this failed plan? You bet your bottom dollar. Call us nimbys, call us what you will, but anyone with eyeballs in their head knows the real deal. It ain't the residents who are benefiting.

vincent wei

"Peninsula project dominate pipeline"...what is it that the build, build, build people don't understand about that statement....I know one thing that they don't seem to understand is that THESE ARE NOT AFFORDABLE UNITS BEING don't expect the building to lower any rents..............Developers are also now getting away with the latest buzz word MICRO units. Whooppeee..did you see how they slid that in there........ Now they can get them approved by the City Council and CHARGE FULL MARKET PRICES FOR MICRO UNITS... No problem says our council...every time.... and so this conflation of ideas goes on...with developers paying little to no mitigation and making the biggest profit margin that they have made in years...

Cindy Cornell

Marcus & Millichap is one of the chief drivers of speculation on apartment buildings. They are notorious for finding out which buildings still have reasonable rents, and they convince the buyer to sell, which generates a huge mortgage and property tax rate for the new owners who don't hesitate to evict and increase rents by $1,000 and more. Speculation is community suicide.

Seasoned Observer

Remember, the rents being quoted in this article are "asking rents" and do not necessarily mean that everyone is paying these amounts. Also, despite the high level of asking rents the fact this measure increased 1.5% (less than inflation) over the past year indicates that the additional units being brought on line is having the desired affect. The real culprit is the incredible amount of office space being allowed by cities up and down the Peninsula. Stop the zoning and general plan amendments to build these properties and the increases in the cost of housing will slow down.


Look at the sites Rent Jungle and Craig's List-- the going rentals are no where near with this article is indicating. And what is the point of putting out a pricing survey that is erroneous? Is it deception?

Cindy Cornell

So how much less are you claiming? $200? $400? They're still too high for average working people who are needed in our cities.


It's unbelievable that in this market there are still the voices of the NIMBY's and the anti-growth folks. We need more housing stock, we need places for the people who work here to live in. We need the infrastructure to support the population growth, including public transportation.

Christopher Conway

Unbelievable? what is unbelievable is the traffic and congestion that has occurred in our little peninsula hamlet over the last several decades. What we don't need is people who have just moved to the area telling us what we need to do for them.

Cindy Cornell

Then why isn't your crusader sword aimed at the burgeoning tech companies and the city councils that welcome new and bigger office parks with open arms?

Jon N

I understand that you feel we need more housing stock. It seems like it would be an answer, but it's really not. How much housing stock do you think we should add? How many thousands of houses or apartments? And what of this infrastructure you talk about? How long do you think it would take to get a freeway widened, and how long after the addition of all these new houses that you want will they just become overfilled again anyway?

Adding more is not the answer, because trees do not grow up to the sky. You can not add more forever.


More housing means more traffic on already clogged streets and roads.

Cindy Cornell

So where are the workers to live?


Wherever they want and can afford just like everyone else. .


Actually, more housing means less traffic because people won't have to drive so far to get to work. In fact, housing is built near public transit they won't have to drive at all.

Jon N

You probably don't know this, but public transit is also bursting at the seams. It's standing room only on rush hour caltrain runs. BART packs people in like sardines.

That's if you can get to Caltrain. In Foster City, you have to drive to the Caltrain station, there is such profoundly poor bus service.

More housing simply means more people. There's no more room.

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