Most of us, at some point, have stepped onto the stage of one of those nearly-famous San Francisco rental open house dramas, when a group of people converges on the prospect of a new place to live.

A knowledgeable “seeker” summed it up for me: “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince.” The more places visited, the better the chance of finding the perfect one. Our challenge today is that there seem to be fewer frogs.

Out of curiosity, I started collecting Mission rental data a little more than two years back. My source? Craigslist. I took a snapshot of the places available in the Mission on the first and fifteenth of each month.

I avoided managing the data. The only listings left out were duplicates. Yes, some property owners list the same place multiple times. Sometimes those duplicates appear to be completely different spaces except for the address. So with duplicate listings and single rooms extracted, I compiled the rental data for the Mission.

These data were graphed to see how the “frogs” were trending. What appeared was not surprising — fewer frogs. Many more conclusions can be drawn from the data. The multitude of interpretations seems to be a bit of a Rorschach test — each person sees something different. Consequently, I decided to just present the graphs and let you see what you see.

The first graph, above, is the one I like the most. It plots every individual apartment listed for rent on Craigslist. The bigger red dots are the most recent listings. I like the graph because averages are sometimes skewed by very high- or low-priced rentals. There are simply not enough listings to bury the outliers. The left-most clump of plots are the individual studios available, the second is one-bedrooms and so on.

The second graph, below, shows a simple arithmetic average of all the prices in a given configuration (studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc.). Where there were a significant number of apartments, I trended the data. I don’t know if that was really necessary, as the numbers seem to tell a story all by themselves.

The third graph, below, shows how many apartments were listed by configuration.

The fourth graph shows the same numbers stacked one on top of the other to give the viewer a sense of the total number of frogs regardless of configuration.

What do you see? What are your conclusions? Post your thoughts.

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George Lipp

George Lipp has long lived in the Mission. He’s our volunteer extraordinaire – always out taking photos or running across crimes in progress.

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  1. Great data, thanks for sharing! Significantly less units listed on Craigslist over time, but only slight upward trends in rental prices. Are landlords using Craigslist less? Or, are units staying occupied longer? If the number of available units has really dropped as much as the graphs show, I’d expect to see more upward pressure on rental prices.

    1. I with you on the prices. All I can think of is that there is some kind of parity maintained with the rest of the city… but that is giving property owners a lot of analytical credit. perhaps affordability concerns – there has to be a tipping point somewhere. I always extracted the data the same way… all listings minus single rooms and duplicates. sure is puzzling. Oh yeah I checked rent control. It doesn’t apply to renting empty places.

  2. This is cool. Incidentally, there are only three graphs not four. The first one seems to be missing.