How Renters Are Adapting to The Changing Rental Landscape During COVID-19

As demand for long-term rentals rebounded in April, as Google search trends show, we recently surveyed Zumper users * and asked them how COVID-19 had an impact on the way they rent . The investigation found that 85% of users are still looking for apartments during the pandemic.

Google trends show a rebound apartment search volumes similar to those of spring last year

Demand for long-term rentals hit their lowest point in mid-March, as Google search volumes fell about 40% year over year. Since then, Google search volumes and Zumper traffic have recovered in April, with Google Trends search volumes even returning near the spring of last year. Tenants are again looking for apartments, but, as the survey reveals, find themselves in a new rental landscape with changing priorities and feelings in response to the pandemic.

Financial impact on tenants: 35% have lost their job or received wage cuts

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Overall, 2 of the 3 Zumper users were financially affected in one way or another due to COVID-19. Among those affected, 35% have lost their jobs or received a reduction in wages. Many had to bear additional costs and / or had an impacted co-tenant. Considering the financial consequences, a significant part of those who want to move are probably tenants who need cheaper rent.

Modification of apartment search criteria: Need more virtual tours and reduced budgets

The main way that search criteria were affected after the pandemic was that tenants were looking for more virtual tours. In response, many apartment properties and marketplaces have introduced online visit and digital rental features, such as Instarent by Zumper. Tenants are also reducing their budgets, due to financial constraints, and expanding their search radius to include neighborhoods or areas that they may not have considered before. A smaller part of the users had to reduce their search radius and 5% in fact increases their budget.

New challenges when looking for apartments: Fears of not responding, apartments not accurately reflecting list descriptions, and lack of affordable options

Tenants are very concerned that they will not have a response from property owners or managers during this period, as many may not actively seek new tenants during orders for on-site shelters and home stays. The fear of not being able to see the apartments in person, which was the second most important concern, goes hand in hand with the uncertainties associated with scams, meetings with owners and apartments that actually correspond to the corresponding photos and size descriptions. In addition, many tenants are also struggling to find affordable options, which is extremely important as the previous charts show the negative financial impact on many tenants of the pandemic.

Changing the priority of list details: image quality, descriptions and floor plans are particularly important while travel time becomes less of a concern

Image quality was the most important factor for tenants when looking at a list of apartments at that time, as it was difficult to see an apartment in person. Floor plans and ad descriptions have also become particularly important, as tenants say it is difficult to estimate the size of an apartment from online videos or photos. With many companies working from home indefinitely, travel time, which was very important to tenants, was prioritized for one of the least important details.

Changing visit preferences: 1 in 3 now prefers to travel virtually because of COVID-19

There is always a certain nervousness around the use of online visits, because 52% of users declared that they prefer to visit in person despite COVID-19. However, on the other hand, openness to virtual tours is increasing, as 32% of tenants said they would prefer to visit virtually due to the pandemic.

As 40% of our users would never have left their home, the functionality of online visits is becoming more important and, as our national rent report for April shows, 80% of tenants would be ready to rent an apartment that they only visited virtually.


* The Zumper survey was sent to Zumper users from 04/16/2020 to 04/23/2020 and received more than 500 responses.

Additional data for this post was collected from Google search trends.

To keep up to date with rent changes across the country, like or follow Zumper on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Looking for a new place? Look for apartments for rent on Zumper.

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