San Diego is SoCal’s most competitive rental market

San Diego rentals are becoming more competitive, but rent prices are starting to slow

The Gaslamp sign over Fifth Avenue

A lot of people want to live by landmarks like the Gaslamp Quarter sign.

Photo via Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

Table of Contents

Looking to rent an apartment in San Diego? Prepare for some stiff competition. According to a study by RentCafe, San Diego ranks as the No. 18 hottest rental market in the US, making it SoCal’s most competitive market for the first time in two years.

Rentals by the numbers

RentCafe used Yardi data to rank 139 major US markets and assigned them a Rental Competitivity Index (RCI) score. San Diego’s RCI is 84 — which exceeds the national average of 60 — based on these metrics:

  • The average rental unit stays vacant for 33 days
  • 96% of San Diego’s apartments are occupied
  • 51.3% of renters renew their lease
  • Prospective renters will compete with 17 other potential renters, on average
  • Only 0.22% of San Diego apartments come from new developments
Colorful Apartments Little Italy SDtoday

Rentals in Little Italy are popular, and we can see why.

Photo via @_miabradwell_

SoCal competition

Last year, Orange County had Southern California’s most competitive rental market, but its RCI fell to 83 in 2023 — just one point behind San Diego.

Meanwhile, San Diego’s competitiveness increased. Experts attribute this to the growing rental population and limited space to build housing. According to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, San Diego will need to add ~100,000 more units by 2029 (13,500 units per year) to meet housing demands.

What’s the trend?

San Diego may be the most competitive rental market in SoCal, but it’s fallen five spots in the national rankings — down from No. 13 in 2022. Still, demand is expected to remain stable.

The county’s average rent was $2,425 in August, making it one of the nation’s most expensive markets. But, the average rent has fallen for two straight months: down 0.4% in August and 0.3% in July. Experts don’t expect long-term price declines, but they do expect stabilization after explosive growth over the past few years.

More from SDtoday