Apartment rents in San Mateo are already twice as expensive as the national average and continue to rise, according to a database claiming the city is the fourth most expensive in the nation.

A report from online rental database RentCafe said the average rent in San Mateo was $3,229 per month, behind only Boston, San Francisco and Manhattan as the priciest locales in the country. Grouped with Cambridge, Massachusetts, the top five most expensive cities are the only in the nation where rents floated above an average of $3,000 per month.

The cost to rent is only growing more expensive as well, as the average monthly amount in March jumped marginally from the month before and nearly 3% from the previous year, according to the report.

What’s worse for those challenged to afford the cost of living is that rents typically increase over the summer months, when prices generally start to climb with increased activity on the rental market.

To that end, market analyst RentHop found June and July are the worst months to find a new apartment in San Francisco and San Jose respectively, as roughly a 2% premium is linked with rents in those peak summer periods.

The growth seen in San Mateo follows a trend across the country, according to RentCafe, as the national average rent grew by more than 3 percent over the past year. The average national rent in March was $1,430.

According to rental database Zumper, even the cheapest apartments in San Mateo are more expensive than the national average.

“There is no such thing as cheap apartments in San Mateo. The most affordable San Mateo apartments start at $1,500, and a luxury apartment or rental home in San Mateo can cost more than $7,000,” according to the website.

There is little relief to be found nearby either, as Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Oakland are also found in the top 10 most expensive cities in the nation, according to the RentCafe list. In all, half of the list is comprised of cities from San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara or Alameda counties.

Critics of online databases frequently claim the rents cited are to too high, and are unrepresentative of the experience for local apartment seekers. In recognition of those claims, RentCafe notes its report only surveys market-rate properties and excludes those reserved as affordable. The website also recently adjusted its rent estimation methodology to include more properties, with hopes of becoming more accurate.

Other websites though back the RentCafe report, as RentJungle claims the average rent in San Mateo in March was $3,171, also marking an increase from the year prior. Across the county, online database Zilpy said there was a 7% average jump in prices year over the year for all rental units, except four-bedroom units, which largely stayed flat.

The local market’s growth illustrates movement in direction opposite from momentum established around the start of the year, when rent increases indicated they had started to trail off.

But since January, when some experts suggested the historically hot market may cool, the average rent in San Mateo jumped from $3,123, which is where the price landed at the end of 2018.

Looking ahead, some experts suggest the cost of living will remain high — especially as some notable technology companies lay the groundwork to go public, which will likely enhance the demand for luxury apartments across the Bay Area and push the overall figures up further.

“As we get into the spring months and the beginning of the hot moving season, we only expect this number to continue to rise,” said Crystal Chen, a Zumper market analyst in her monthly Bay Area rental report.

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(14) comments

Mr Eddy

It's mostly because of gentrification that caused the cost of housing to go up, and the population in the bay area has rose too much. We have no more room for more people to come to our town, too much demand and very little housing. Also, we need to stop building, because it only makes the problem worse by making congested traffic and overpopulation. I own a single family house that was valued a lot cheaper, over a decade ago. That was before the offices and housing in Bay Meadows was built. The demand needs to go down by stop building these high density projects, and those tech companies will have to move somewhere cheaper to operate with less property taxes and less traffic.


The high rent is directly related to the landlords monthly overhead... monthly mortgage cost and property tax of the landlord. They can’t rent for no profit. It’s the banks fault for assessing the properties WAY too high.
My family bought a home in foster city in 1990 for 150000 and sold it 5 years ago for 1.4 million. How did our POS asbestos filled home built on a landfill become worth soo much? Market manipulation by the banks, period. Simple math people.

Do the basic math on what the monthly mortgage cost is on these Bay Area properties. Not rocket science.


The housing problem is caused by lack of housing, just like a famine is caused by lack of food.

You can mitigate a famine by getting more food. For example, after India adopted Norman Borlaug's high yield rice seeds, India never had nation-wide famine again. Likewise, you can mitigate housing by providing more housing.

You cannot mitigate famine by artificially setting a low price. For example, Mao regulated food prices, and 30m peopled died of famine in China. Likewise, you cannot mitigate housing shortage by regulating housing price.

Price control, as proposed by some readers, does not add a single rental unit to the market.

When you have 100,000 people looking for housing, and 90,000 rental units available, 10,000 people will have to go somewhere else or homeless. Even if government sets the rent to be $1, 10,000 people will have to go somewhere else or homeless.

The problem with the $1 rent solution is, however, nobody will put new property for rent next year. So next year, when the population grows to 105,000, there will still be only 90,000 rental units, so 15,000 people will have to go somewhere else or go homeless. A 50% increase, and a worse housing problem.

This simple facts seem to elude rental price control advocates.


This article just shows that if controls aren't imposed on landlords, then they will raise rents as much as possible, regardless of lack of inflation over the last 10 years. Think about the $3 229 avg monthly rent that the article quotes. Multiply that out and you'll get an annual number of $38,748! This is after-tax money. So figuring that someone's Fed tax+state tax+SS/Medicare tax load is 40%, that means that if you didn't eat and used all your income for rent, you would need to make around $62,000 just to pay your rent in San Mateo. Seriously? Add in food, a car maybe, entertainment, insurance, etc and you need to make at least $100k to pay this kind of rent. Or as I mentioned above, split the rent with 2, 3, or 4 other people.


And those renting from Equity Residential properties just got an 8% rent increase, after they had enough cash to spend $5.2 million on Proposition 10.

Time to disrupt the industry and eliminate middlemen, eliminate the real estate agents and mortgage brokers. The clock is ticking on that industry. After the real estate industry behavior in the last election regarding Prop10, no one will miss them.


Rent increase is inline with inflation - that means, in real terms, there is no rent increase. Correct?

Christopher Conway

Pretty soon it is going to get so expensive here, American citizens are going to use their market power and choose not to live here. Right?


Yes they can move to Mexico or Central America,
Why not start a caravan?


They will not choose to live somewhere else if this is where the jobs continue to be created. Meanwhile the people staffing community backbone jobs like police, fire, teachers are forced to commute 2 hours in. It's not a sustainable model to keep adding high paying jobs without adding commensurate housing. We are setting up a peninsula where young, well paid workers come to begin a career and then must leave when it's time to start a family. Nice for the aging households that were able to purchase a home before Prop 13 since the outrageous taxes paid by the young tech workers will support their services too. Not nice for anyone who doesn't benefit from Prop 13 and will have to move to buy a home when they're ready to raise a family.


NO, what goes on when rents soar, as they have in the Bay Area over the last 10 years is that 3, 4 or 5 adults rent a 1-bedroom apartment. Two get the bedroom and the others get the dining room. Neighborhood parking gets more difficult, garbage bins get overloaded, noise increases. But landlords don't care, as long as they get paid their excessive rents. And towns don't care and don't enforce any limits on occupancy.

This is the real reality of high rents.


There should be a requirement that cities have to allow the construction of one unit of housing for every job they allow to be created. If cities don't want more housing then they shouldn't approve the construction of office buildings.


A better way than esoteric "units" is square feet. For every job we need 600sf of home living space (equivalent of a unit)

Seasoned Observer

Expensive? Yes. Once we get past the headline we see that the average rent increased 3% over the past year which is right in line with inflation. Perhaps the increase in the number of units built over the past few years is having its intended affect. Now we need to stop the zoning and general plan amendments for additional commercial office space.

Cindy Cornell

And our cities continue to welcome more commercial development such as Facebook's Oculus in Burlingame with more highly paid tech workers, and fight renter protections tooth and nail with the help of SAMCAR and CAA.

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