Bay Area rent hikes highest in U.S.

If you’re out looking for a new pad in the Bay Area you can expect to drop more bucks than ever before.

Rental price growth in our market was the highest in the nation for 2011, as much 12.2 percent on average according to a new report.

Researchers at RealFacts, a company that analyzes rental data, also found that occupancy in cities like San Francisco rose only 1.3 percent over the last four years. There’s just nothing available.

Real estate experts agree: “We’ve reached a point where there’s nothing out there,” said Craig Berendt, a broker with Berendt Properties in San Francico. “People are knocking down my door to get an apartment.”

When something good does hit the market in trendy neighborhoods, young professionals come from everywhere and line up for a chance to start a bidding war. And it’s not just Hayes Valley or the Mission — San Jose actually led the pack, with highest rental price increases in the U.S. last year.

For decades, the tech industry has been widely credited with driving-up commercial and rental real estate in the Bay Area, bringing young, high-earning and uncompromising professionals into market that are willing to spend way too much to get what they want. And with Facebook gearing up for one of the biggest tech IPOs in history, we don’t see this situation getting any better for the middle class in 2012.

“I see our middle class really starting to dissipate,” Berendt said. “Obviously we don’t want that. We want a well-balanced class system, but the rents are just going through the roof.”