Southern California Real Estate Question

A few months ago I helped my son shop for an apartment in San Diego, where he is working for Ballast Point Beer.  Currently I am helping my daughter look for apartments in Pasadena, where she may be attending art school.  In both cases we found that small studio apartments often have higher rents than one- and sometimes even two-bedroom apartments in the same complex (and with the same fit and finish, amenities, etc.)

What the hell?  I understand that there may be more demand for studio apartments in these neighborhoods among young singles than for larger apartments, but once one sees the studio for $2200 and the one-bedroom for $1800, why would one still choose the studio, which might be half the size?   Ease of cleaning?  Is there some artificial demand from some government or financial aid program that will only pay for studio apartments?  Do Chinese students come to the US and suddenly get agoraphobia from an apartment that is too large?


  1. Ben:

    I went to college in Pasadena and still live in the area. I haven't observed anything systematic like what you're describing. The obvious explanation would be subtle differences in quality, whether maintenance and interior, or top floor/bottom floor, or close to street/noise, or minimum lease terms, etc.

    If you want any recommendations or boots on the ground for extra pictures, etc, I'd be happy to help out :), but remove all capital letters and numbers first.

  2. NL7:

    Worse view? Different floor? Sunnier versus shaded? Upgraded kitchen? Different amount of closet space? Washer dryer in unit?

    A washer dryer in unit is very valuable. A good view from the unit can be major. In a place with highrises, higher floors tend to be more valuable. In a walk-up, higher floors are not as valuable as places with elevators.

  3. me:

    Looks like my earlier comment got lost, apologies if this surfaces twice in the end.

    Rental markets are far from perfect - there are information advantages (a lot of landlords don't do sufficient due diligence in raising rents) and, fundamentally, the poor design of landlords offering singular unique goods at fixed price points. Compare with a scenario where prospective tenants bid on real estate.

    AFAIK, the optimal way to find rental living space in a popular city is to rent as large a place as fits the budget and then to sublet.

  4. Brad Warbiany:

    I'd also suggest that there might be qualitative differences in a studio that seem odd to people of our generation... If you're looking at a 600 sq ft studio vs a 720 square foot 1bdr, you very well might be sacrificing a HUGE portion of living space to have that bedroom. Whereas some younger people might be more willing to pick one larger room.

    As an architect's son, it's made me very attuned to how space is used in a dwelling. Sometimes square footage isn't the whole story. It's quite possible that an open-designed studio will "feel" much larger than a 1 bdr because of the use of space. And good use of space is so much more important when there's not much to go around -- says the guy renting a 1200sf 3bdr house in SoCal with great flow...

  5. Agammamon:

    I don't know how well-off the young man is but $1800 is pretty high for a one bedroom in SD. It sounds like he's deliberately looking for a place in the 'hipper' parts of town. And depending on his paycheck, that's going to take a huge bite out of spendable cash with little to show for it at the end.

    He should be able to find plenty of 1BR's (one should only take a studio if one is extremely desperate or extremely desperate for the location) in the $1200 range in places like El Cajon.

    Trolley notwithstanding, its not like he's going to be able to go 'car-free' in San Deigo - at least without giving up easy access to every part of SD that isn't his immediate neighborhood.

    Personally, I'd rather live in a less popular ZIP code and have the extra cash in my pocket. He can still cruise the hotter neighborhoods with his car - and pick up the girls riding on the back of their boyfriend's bike.

  6. Agammamon:

    Id' second this. For me an in-unit W/D is about the only thing that's non-negotiable. If it doesn't have at least a hookup for one I'm going to pass.

  7. ben:

    It's California so planning-induced scarcity would be my first guess. If studios attract younger, noisier crowds then I'd expect tougher rules targeting studios to follow in response to demands for protection from NIMBYs.