Study: Sunnyvale tops list of Bay Area renter "sweet spots"

Sunnyvale. Courtesy RentCafe.

Renters' ability to deal with rising costs and sometimes stagnant wages is the subject of a new study by RentCafe, "Top Renting Sweet Spots in the U.S.: Where Your Income Goes the Furthest."

The study analyzes income, rent and necessities in 89 U.S. cities to reveal where paychecks stretch the furthest.  Locally, the Bay Area offers generous salaries, but only three cities Sunnyvale (#1), San Francisco (#13),  and San Jose (#17) rank in the top 20 nationally for a balance between income vs. expenses. 

Formerly filled with orchards and now an essential part of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale is America’s top city where renters earning roughly $146,000 per year get the most bang for their buck, according to the study. In Sunnyvale, the median income was triple the median wage in the U.S., while monthly rent ($3,000) was 76% higher than the average and the total price for basic necessities was only 28% above the national benchmark. 

In this case, the local price for essential food items, doctor visits, and other goods and services (like a movie ticket or a yoga class) added up to $1,385 per month. After paying rent, the median income of Sunnyvale renters would be enough to cover 24 times the value of basic utilities in the city (phone and energy bills), which was more than double the possibilities of those living in the Phoenix suburb Surprise, Ariz., which came in second in the top 20. Sunnyvale was also the only city in the report that scored more than 90 points (93.8), which means it's easier for renters here to strike a balance between income and expenses than it is for those in other cities. 

The study shows that in San Francisco:  

  • Despite San Francisco renters allocating a larger portion of their income to rent, they still fare better than most of the 189 cities analyzed when covering basic needs. This advantage suggests that while higher rents and slightly lower wages compared to Sunnyvale impacted its overall ranking, San Francisco's strong income levels still offer renters one of the best degrees of living balance.  
  • Income to Rent: 68th  
    Income to Food: 11th 
    Income to Utilities: 7th 
    Income to Transportation: 11th 
    Income to Goods/Services:12th 
    Income to Healthcare: 10th 

And in San Jose: 

  • While renters in San Jose face similar costs for food, utilities, transportation, goods, services, and healthcare as their Sunnyvale and San Francisco, they grapple with rents closer to those high-price cities without the matching wages. The median household income here falls below $100,000, leading to less disposable income compared to other Bay Area cities. However, San Jose still offers renters a better income-to-cost balance than most of the country. Out of 189 cities analyzed, it ranks 17th for affordability. 
  • Here's where San Jose stands in key affordability ratios:
    Income to Rent: 91st  
    Income to Food: 12th 
    Income to Utilities: 10th
    Income to Transportation: 13th 
    Income to Goods/Services: 10th 
    Income to Healthcare: 13th 

For the complete ranking of the cities that offer the best balance between income and expenses, go to: https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/market-snapshots/top-renting-sweet-spots-us/   

Rent chart


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