Survey of Renter Perception on Moving during the Pandemic Indicates Surprising Optimism

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Moving is hardly ever easy and anything that delays the process adds to our stress and displeasure. The outbreak of a novel virus is more than enough reason to put a pin on plans for many renters caught in-between homes, thinking of moving during the pandemic.

Just two days before several states started issuing stay-at-home conducted a survey of over 6,000 people searching for a new rental home, to find out their perception and initial reaction in these troubling times. The survey ran between March 18th and 20th and asked renters whether they’re still planning to move now, what their main concern is, if and for how long they intend to postpone moving, and how do their renting preferences and selection process change, if at all.

The responses were surprisingly optimistic across the board for a majority of respondents, despite rising concerns regarding the spread of Covid-19 and a visible drop in overall apartment search volume just in the past week.

Finding an Apartment and Moving during the Pandemic: Renter Perception

For the majority of respondents, finding an apartment remains a priority even during these times. 56% said they would move as soon as they find an apartment, compared to 17% who decided not to move. Still deciding or postponing are: 16% who haven’t decided yet, 8% who plan on postponing the whole moving process, and 3% who consider renewing their current lease instead of moving during the pandemic.

Renters seem optimistic about moving during the pandemic, with 45% of respondents having no particular worries at this time. On the other hand, 18% of them reported pondering whether it’s safe to move now or not, as another 18% are concerned about their lease expiring and having to move regardless. Understandably, more than 13% are worried about finances and paying rent, while 5% weigh in on whether they should renew their current lease or not.

60% of respondents have no interest in postponing their move-out date, while 14% plan on staying put until the end of their lease. As 13% put safety as their main reason for waiting it out, 9% plan on postponing until the entire crisis is resolved. 4% of renters who visited RentCafe plan on staying put until their landlord informs them they have to leave.

Almost half of the respondents reported no changes in their renting preferences following the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). At the same time, as many as 28% are now considering something cheaper than what they looked for initially, while 15% say they are now paying more attention to how clean a potential new apartment is.

Opinions are almost equally divided when it comes to living with roommates under these circumstances:  5% would still share quarters with someone, while 4% are no longer considering that due to health reasons.

Recent developments don’t seem to have significantly altered the way renters select an apartment while moving during the pandemic. A majority report that there is no change in their rental selection process. 17% make their decision based on online pictures and virtual property tours, while 12% of them consider picking anything available just to speed up the moving process. 9% plan on visiting fewer properties and only 8% have put their selection process on hold for now. Among the ones who took the survey, just 4% say they are now avoiding visiting properties altogether.

These survey results go to show that, whether it’s because of optimism, forced circumstances or other personal reasons, finding a home takes priority even in the most troubling of times. But things tend to develop fast in times of crisis, and as such, we’ll be interested to see how the renter perception on finding an apartment and moving during the pandemic changes as things progress.

RentCafe plans to re-run the survey later this week to capture renter sentiment after stay-at-home orders were put in place in a number of states. Visit the RentCafe Blog for updated survey results and the latest news in renting.

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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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