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How ApartmentList’s critical research shines a light on the coronavirus rental crisis

How ApartmentList’s critical research shines a light on the coronavirus rental crisis

Since the start of the pandemic, American’s have been more worried about the economic impact than anything else: (In July, 92% of Americans were worried about the financial impact vs. only 70% who worried about the safety of their families.) And that concern is warranted.

With unemployment at record highs, we knew that people’s ability to pay for basic necessities like housing will be affected, but we didn’t know how drastically—or how immediately. 

 In times of crisis, putting numbers to problems can help remove fear of the unknown and aid future planning. One SurveyMonkey customer decided to collect some more tangible data points as we as a society decide what happens next. 

ApartmentList used SurveyMonkey Audience to understand how societal and economic impacts of the virus were impacting people’s ability to pay rent. They surveyed over 4,000 people each month. Their results, which have been picked up by publications ranging from the New York Times to BuzzFeed, are sobering—but not hopeless.

We’ve listed a few takeaways below, but you can check out their full analysis here

ApartmentList’s top 5 findings about Americans’ ability to pay rent during the pandemic

  • Paying rent is a huge challenge: Since the start of the pandemic, housing payments were seriously affected. In ApartmentList’s April survey, 25% of people couldn’t pay their full rent on time.That number went up in May, hitting 31%. By August, 33% had not paid by the end of the week and 32% had accrued rent debt. Buzzfeed's article called the situation "a rental recession."
  • And it’s not just the renters: Homeowners, though generally wealthier, are almost as likely to miss their housing payments as those who rent. In May, the exact same percentage of people (22%) missed mortgages  as missed rent payments.
  • But better late than never:  Here’s where it gets hopeful: While many have been missing their rent payments at the beginning of the month, a big chunk of those people were able to come up with it before the 30th. In July, for example, only 10% of people were still delinquent at the end of the month. 
  • Landlords have been understanding: Empathy is also high—and rising. In May, 10% percent of renters said that their landlord or property manager lowered their rent—without being asked. 40% of the renters who couldn’t pay on time were able to get reduced or deferred rental rates with their landlord. By August, almost half (49%) of the people who couldn’t pay rent on time had gotten a deferral or reduction. .
  • We’re still not doing enough: As part of the CARES act, many Americans got a one-time payment of up to 1,200 dollars. Yet ApartmentList’s data did not show meaningful differences between rental delinquency rates the month the checks came through (April) and the surrounding months. That means that while the money might have been appreciated, it wasn’t enough to fully address the housing affordability crisis.

A note on doing your own consumer behavior research during the coronavirus pandemic

With so much in flux, businesses in almost every industry may need to reevaluate their market strategy or financial planning. Market research is a great way to understand exactly how your audiences have been affected, and SurveyMonkey has a few resources that can help with this.

  • Our ultimate guide to market research walks you through the process of “DIY market research” step by step, so that you never have to turn to a firm. It explains how to build a scientifically sound survey, track trends over time, and how to analyze your results.
  •  For general consumer insights, SurveyMonkey has a product that lets you buy consumer responses called SurveyMonkey Audience.
  • If you’d like to survey existing customers, SurveyMonkey has a free survey template that you can use to check in on business customers. It’s direct, professional, and focused on areas where your customers may be struggling or needing support.
  • Our recent study found that people are more open to taking surveys than they were before the pandemic, so you shouldn’t feel hesitant to reach out. Check it out if you’d like to learn more.

The more we understand about the way the world is changing, the better prepared we’ll be to plan for the future. Research like Apartment List’s can help us set expectations and address potential issues where we can.