Survey: Moving Plans Back in Full Swing as Renter Preferences Shift to Virtual Tours

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Between March 18th-20th and March 25th-27th, RentCafe conducted two surveys focused on renters’ moving plans during the pandemic. Both surveys revealed optimistic results among those in-between homes. As the situation escalated worldwide and mid-April marked a full month since the first stay-at-home directives issued in the U.S., we wanted to see if those plans still stand.

A third survey conducted among 9,000 respondents between April 14th and 16th reveals that renters continue to show optimism in light of rapid developments related to COVID-19. Contrary to expectations, even more renters are intent on moving, 10% more than at the time of the last survey, while there was a 6% drop in renters that are staying put. Virtual tours are becoming more and more popular and there’s an increase in the number of renters ready to move which shows that more Americans are adapting to this new normal. Additionally, for many renters, a moving date is not flexible despite stay-at-home regulations. These could be just some of the reasons renters choose to see the light at the end of the tunnel and continue with their initial moving plans.

Compared to the end of March, when multiple states had already adapted to stay-at-home regulations, the percentage of those willing to move as soon as they find an apartment that fits them jumped by 10% reaching 62% in mid-April. At the same time, the percentage of renters who now plan on staying put had dropped from 17% to 11%.

The numbers of those who haven’t decided yet, who have put their search on hold for a few weeks, or who are considering renewing their current lease have remained pretty much the same throughout the multiple survey periods.

Similar to the previous two surveys, 43% reported no concerns about moving at a time like this. However, 24% worry about whether now it’s safe to move or not. The percentage of renters worried about their lease expiring soon (18%) and who still ponder whether they should move or renew their current lease (6%) remained the same.

The number of those waiting to move until the end of their lease remains unchanged (14%) since the beginning of the survey period in mid-March, much like those planning to wait it out until their landlord tells them to move out (3%). 14% are willing to postpone until it’s safe enough to move, while 8% plan on waiting until the entire situation gets resolved. However, the majority of respondents won’t postpone, with 61% of them now planning to carry on with their initial moving plans.

When asked about their prior renting preferences compared to current ones, 45% reported no changes — a 4% drop compared to the previous two surveys. However, the number of respondents looking for something cheaper increased to 31%.

The percentages remained more or less the same for those paying more attention to how clean a property is (16%), those now looking for a roommate (5%) and, coincidentally, those unwilling to share with a roommate due to health concerns (4%).

Although there are still renters who have to move for one reason or another, one thing is certain: the selection process for many of them has been affected.

The first survey revealed that 51% of respondents reported no changes in the way they select a rental during the COVID-19 pandemic. That percentage now dropped to 42%. By comparison, those who now rely on virtual tours and online pictures of a property increased by 11% since mid-March and reached 18%. The number of those who pick whatever just to speed up the process (11%) or those who physically visit fewer properties (8%) remained pretty much the same, much like those who have put their entire selection process on hold (7%) or have stopped visiting properties altogether (4%).

Overall, the results of all three surveys show that, despite the circumstances, renters have kept a positive attitude throughout the past month. Not only that, but the evolution pattern itself could be a sign that this optimism could continue to dictate renters’ decisions in weeks to come.

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Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email.

Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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