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Free rent? With apartment supply increasing, Bay Area landlords turn to concessions

Kate Talerico, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

A $2,000-a-month studio apartment might not be considered a good deal in most parts of the country. But in the Bay, it might be — especially if the landlord throws in a sweetener.

At least, that’s how Gwen Wang, 23, felt when she got a discount on a new studio in the Skylyne Apartments in Oakland. Her complex offered two months rent free on a studio typically priced at $2,400 a month, bringing her closer to her budget of $2,000 a month.

“With the promotion, it made sense to rent here,” Wang said.

As thousands of new units hit the market around the Bay Area, concessions — such as free rent or free parking — are becoming more common, especially in apartment complexes. As of October, two in five apartment listings in the San Francisco and Oakland metro areas were offering concessions, and half of listings in San Jose offered them, according to a new study from Zillow.

“As a way to incentivize renters to come in, concessions are rising across the board,” Zillow economist Nicole Bachaud said in an interview.

The new units are a result of a mini building boom that hit the Bay Area during a time of low interest rates during the COVID pandemic, primarily concentrated in urban centers like Oakland and San Jose. In 2022, 3,158 new multifamily units were completed in Oakland, and 1,314 in San Jose, according to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.


Concessions are most common in newer apartment communities during their initial lease-up period, as they try to fill vacant flats by offering free parking, or a few weeks of free rent.

The Skylyne, a 402-unit, 24-story building that opened in 2020, reached 95% occupancy last year, but it is still offering concessions during the slower holiday season to compete with neighboring apartments.

“Even during renewals, we’re offering two or three months free,” said Isabella Easton, assistant community manager. “It’s keeping residents, and it’s getting them through the door.”

In San Jose, The Julian, a 381-unit complex north of downtown, is offering six weeks free and six months of free parking. The Miro, a glistening glass-paneled apartment complex that opened in 2021, with studios priced between $3,000 and $3,700, is offering six weeks free.


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