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How Apartment List uses DIY market research to support renters during COVID-19

How Apartment List uses DIY market research to support renters during COVID-19

For most of us, home is a sacred space, and for those renting an apartment, this is no less true. Rob Warnock, a research associate at Apartment List, knows the importance of security and safety in housing. “Our entire team serves as champions for renters,” he says.

Apartment List’s mission to help renters find a home they love. The company has built a rental marketplace that connects renters with apartments across the nation. With a unique “quiz” feature, Apartment List gets to know its users to ensure the listings they see are the best possible fit.

The 3-person research team Rob is a part of works to “keep a pulse on the rental and housing market.” “We conduct original research that impacts not only our business, but also key constituents and the lives of renters.”

Conducting original research in a rapidly changing housing market

A wealth of information about the housing market is available through various government agencies and census data. However, this isn’t always the best source of insight for Apartment List’s research.

“Government data is high quality, but usually has a ‘lag’ to it,” Rob says. “The most recent information that we can get would be roughly a year old.”

In an average year when housing market changes happen over a span of months, this data delay may not be an issue. However, in 2020, housing markets are changing weekly, if not daily. Rob and his team recognized a major connection between COVID-19 and housing security early in 2020. His team needed a way to quickly get information about the issues renters were facing, and turn the insights into useful research pieces.

“It was critical for us to start collecting information as close to real time as possible,” Rob says.

Tapping into trends in real time

Apartment List had previously used SurveyMonkey’s platforms in other capacities, and knew right away that the partnership could be expanded to the research team’s goals.

For example, we wanted to dig into topics like ‘are people able to afford their housing bills each month,’ and get those answers within days."

Using SurveyMonkey Audience, Apartment List’s research team crafted targeted surveys that go beyond data and get a sense of what renters are feeling, struggling with, and worrying about in the midst of the pandemic. With each survey, Rob and the research team leaned on SurveyMonkey’s expertise to ensure that the process was as scientific as possible. “It was very important to be generating accurate results without bias,” Rob says. “We always want to help renters and our business make smart decisions without adding ‘bad’ information to the research.”

Through the surveys conducted in 2020, Apartment List gathered research that was beneficial to renters, property owners, and Apartment List itself.

Shifting to meet the needs of a changing rental world

To date, Apartment List has published 14 research reports discussing specific areas of the “pandemic housing market,” including where people are moving, the effects of remote work, and the impacts of this year on minority and underserved groups. One recent project uncovered that 32% of Americans entered August 2020 with unpaid housing bills. Another report covered the racial and economic divide of remote work. The research painted a stark picture of the reality for Americans going into the next few years.

“The data is alarming, and it gives us an important look at what we need to be doing as a business to help our constituents,” Rob says. Data Apartment List collected through these projects was reported in major national publications, helping to reach and inform a broader audience.

Apartment List’s research will continue driving the company’s long-term strategy, with the goal of helping renters work through known challenges and find stable, safe housing. “Without our work with SurveyMonkey, we would be less informed of the continuous changes in the market,” Rob says. “A lot of my work as a researcher involves finding the right data to answer the questions that we care about, which is exactly what has transpired as a result of these targeted surveys.”

Tap into real time trends and better understand your customers with original research. Learn more about SurveyMonkey Audience here