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  • By Anna Marie Erwert, SFGATE

Bay Area rental market taking a hit during shelter-in-place

Normally, spring is a busy time for the Bay Area rental market. But with a state-wide shelter-in-place order ongoing and coronavirus cases still rising, that market is taking a hit — a trend that's growing across the nation.

According to national rent site RentCafe, by the second week of March, 30 percent fewer renters in the Bay Area were searching for an apartment.

The biggest drop so far was recorded on March 16, "when the number of visits decreased by 45 percent compared to one week prior," Adrian Rosenberg, a RentCafe spokesperson, told SFGate. "Mirroring the national trend, searches on Google such as as 'apartments' or 'apartments near me' have dropped significantly."

This doesn't mean people have given up, however. Those who were already in the process of securing an apartment have remained optimistic about their future move, at least according to a recent RentCafe survey. "We wanted to see what they think about the possibility of the outbreak affecting their moving plans, and to do that, we surveyed 6,000 people," Rosenburg said.

For 56% of respondents, finding an apartment remains a priority even during these times. 17% renters said they decided not to move, while 8% plan on postponing the moving process.

Almost half of the respondents reported no changes in their renting preferences. However, a notable 28% are considering something more inexpensive than what they looked for initially.

For 49%, the current situation has altered their apartment selection process. 17% now rely on online pictures or virtual tours, while 12% have decided to pick whatever is easiest to speed up the moving process.

Those that must search for an apartment are navigating the new process. Virtual reality tours, a luxury once reserved for home buyers, are now popping up as an option in Bay Area apa

rtment listings. Videos and virtual showings have also increased and a current search for "virtual" in Craigslist San Francisco apartments for rent shows a plethora of offerings advertising virtual tour capacity.

Local rental buildings are also adapting. At the Essex on Folsom near the Financial District, tours are either virtual or self-guided, by appointment only. Prices haven't changed much though — a two-bedroom is listed at over $6,000 a month.

In Oakland, The Atlas luxury condo towers has suspended in-person tours, but they're offering virtual variations, "Our leasing office has gone virtual. As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation has evolved, we have made changes to our business practices based on the latest public health recommendations..... [We] are temporarily ceasing all in-person property tours and meetings with prospective residents. Instead, we invite you to use our website to explore our community virtually. You may also call or email our leasing office to set up a virtual visit with one of our leasing professionals."

Interested renters can virtually walk through an apartment using the leasing

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