NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Call this the high roller face-off: where do you need more money to rent?
Cut to the punchline: San Francisco, per new data from apartment rental site Zumper, has edged out Manhattan as the country’s priciest city. According to Zumper, an average one bedroom in San Francisco runs $3,100. In Manhattan, it costs $3,000. A San Francisco two-bedroom costs $4,050. In Manhattan, feast on your bargain: a two-bedroom in the Big Apple costs $3,550.
The differences aren’t immense, but that’s the price of bragging rights in this two town duel. This shift also upsets the long held belief that, of course, Manhattan is the nation’s priciest address.
Along the way, you will also learn where to score bargains - comparatively speaking - in the two cities.
For starters, however, know that pitting the borough against Baghdad by the Bay and San Francisco wins the rent derby going away, and for that there are multiple reasons, said Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades. He pointed to the explosion of tech inside the San Francisco city limits and the well-compensated workers that attracts as a prime San Francisco driver.
A second reason is that the new construction within San Francisco is largely limited to luxury buildings in desirable neighborhoods such as SOMA.
A third reason is that, by Georgiades’s estimate, perhaps three in four San Francisco renters are protected by the city’s tough rent control (they are paying much below the market rates quoted above), and they are loathe to move. At a recent count, San Francisco vacancy was 2.9% and, you bet, a lot of that was in new construction that is exempt from rent control.
Things are no better in Manhattan where a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman pegged vacancy at an invisible 1.64%. The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at NYU estimated that about 50% of Manhattan apartments are rent stabilized or rent controlled (the latter is stricter, but it applies to a handful of units where a resident - or lawful successors - have been occupants since July, 1971). Manhattan may have more potential movement among renters than does San Francisco, but it is not that much either way.
Where can you find the best bargains? In San Francisco, Zumper points the fiscally prudent to three neighborhoods. In the heart of the city there’s the Tenderloin - long the nabe favored by those down on their heels - where a one bedroom can be had for $2,125. A two bedroom is $2,850.
Across the city in isolated Lakeshore - southwest San Francisco, around Lake Merced - one bedrooms run $2,409 and two bedrooms are $3,289. Locals usually describe it as safe but dull and hard to get to anywhere else in the city.
Best buy: Bayview-Hunter’s Point, another isolated neighborhood - tucked into the southeast of the city - that has been officially designated as an area of “extreme poverty.” A one-bedroom costs $1,600, a two-bedroom $3,250. For hardcore urban pioneers, this is how to impress.
You want bargain Manhattan? Zumper has three uptown choices. There’s central Harlem, where a one-bedroom runs $1,913 and a two bedroom is $2,713.
Next: east Harlem, where a one bedroom is $1,950 and a two bedroom is $2,850.
Best buy: Washington Heights, a large neighborhood that runs north of 155th Street, where a one-bedroom runs $1,763 and a two-bedroom is a dazzling $2,250. Fact: it usually rates among Manhattan’s safest neighborhoods.
Note: unlike san Francisco, where two of the three best buy neighborhoods are isolated, all three Manhattan best buys are well served by the city’s subways.
Now for the surprise: Manhattan may be outpriced across the board by San Francisco, but New York’s toniest neighborhoods rival San Francisco’s in price and often are in fact costlier.
Case in point: a one-bedroom in uber-hip SOMA in San Francisco is $3,500 (two-bedroom: $5,000). In Manhattan’s Nomad (North of Madison Park, a once ignored eastside neighborhood now in full tilt coolness), a one bedroom costs $3,500 but a two bedroom is $7,500.
In San Francisco’s South Beach - just up from SOMA, on the Bay - a one-bedroom is $3,602, and a two bedroom is $5,280.
In Manhattan’s Flatiron district - just south of Nomad - a one bedroom is $4,000 and a two-bedroom is $5,700.
As for San Francisco’s priciest neighborhood, it’s Russian Hill -- one-bedrooms go for $4,000 and two-bedrooms are $6,500.
But for New Yorkers with cash, there’s Tribeca - the Triangle Below Canal in lower Manhattan - where a one-bedroom is $4,200 and a two-bedroom fetches $6495.
Do the math: It just takes more dough to live like a one percenter in Manhattan...but if you are a content 99 percenter, you may find it hard to top the appeal of Washington Heights. Take that, San Francisco!
--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet