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It's more expensive to rent an apartment in New York City than San Francisco for the first time since at least 2014

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/24/2021 ahartmans@businessinsider.com (Avery Hartmans)
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  • New York City has the highest median rent for a one-bedroom unit in the US, according to Zumper.
  • It's the first time New York has edged out San Francisco since at least 2014.
  • People have been moving back to New York in droves in 2021 - San Francisco, not as much.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

New York City has taken San Francisco's place as the most expensive place to rent an apartment in the US.

That's according to an August report from real-estate rental site Zumper, which found that New York has the highest median rent for a one-bedroom unit at $2,810. San Francisco is a close second with a median price of $2,800.

It's the first time since Zumper began tracking the data in 2014 that New York has nabbed the top spot.

The shift highlights how much has been steadily changing in both cities over the last two years. New York was hit hard by the pandemic, which reverberated through the real-estate market. In the first quarter of 2021, New York City rents dipped to an all-time low, to a median price of $2,700, according to data from New York real estate site StreetEasy. At the same time, landlords began pulling units off the market because those rents - and the demand - were too low.

But when the vaccine became more widely available this spring, things started to shift.


Video: What one of New York City's largest landlords sees in real estate (CNBC)

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As vaccinations became more widespread and life began to reopen in New York, residents returned to the city to take advantage of amenities like bars, restaurants, and museums. As of May, migration to New York was growing twice as fast as it was in 2019, according to location-data firm Unacast. As people migrated back to the city and demand for apartments rose, so did the rents.

Read more: Manhattan real estate is back

The same hasn't been true of San Francisco. San Francisco-based site Public Comment reported in December 2020 that as many as 89,000 households had left the city since the start of the pandemic. While some residents fled to locales like Austin or Miami, others simply left for the suburbs and exurbs of San Francisco.

Now, with remote work continuing to be the norm among Bay Area-based tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, it seems there isn't the same rush to return to San Francisco as there has been to New York, and it's reflected in the rents: Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $800 more in San Francisco than in New York in early 2019 - by early 2020, San Francisco's median rent had dropped to $520 more than New York's, and by January 2021, it was only $330 more, according to Zumper.

Zumper reports that while median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco has risen this year, it's up only 4.5% - compared to New York's 19.6% jump - and is still down 20% compared to March 2020.

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