Renters are back on their apartment hunt!

New data shows an increase in consumer optimism in renting an apartment, which is a boom after a recent severe downturn. The data is based on searches for renting an apartment on Google Trends and RENTCafe. It has returned to pre-pandemic volumes. That data is supported by surveys that show an increase in virtual tours to find the perfect apartment.

The increasing consumer optimism is an encouraging sign after online activity to find a new apartment experienced a sharp plunge brought by the coronavirus and social distancing measures. When COVID-19 was declared a crisis in this country around two months ago, the designation coincided with the beginning of the rental season. So, instead of an uptick in online searches for “apartments,” “apartments for rent” and “apartment near me,” prospective renters were searching for ways to disinfect their apartment.

Those online search terms are an indicator of consumer sentiment and the drop in those search terms brought by the coronavirus was substantial. In the week from March 11 to 17, searches for those search terms sunk by 24%, on the apartment search website, RENTCafe.

There has since been a recovery in online searches for those pivotal keywords, suggesting prospective renters are no longer putting their apartment hunt on pause, but are getting back in the game right now. According to RENTCafe, the upward trend started at the end of March and has steadily increased into April. The most recent April numbers show a 17% increase from pre-crisis levels.

These positive indicators are not limited to just online search patterns, but include “real apartment seekers.” RENTCafe, in a survey of 9,000 respondents on its website, found renters do not intend to postpone their moving plans. In fact, despite the coronavirus pandemic, 62% of renters said they are moving as soon as they find an apartment. Around 11% of respondents said they plan to remain where they are, while the remainder were undecided.

The survey also shows that prospective renters are adapting to the new normal they find themselves amid the global pandemic. In the last month, there has been a nearly 10% drop of respondents who have said they are not making any change in how they search for a new apartment.

On the other hand, prospective renters who now rely on virtual tours and online pictures that accompany that method of apartment hunting has seen an increase of over 10% in the same time frame. These virtual tours allow prospective renters to observe social distancing measures while still viewing an apartment to see if it is the right fit. The person can take these virtual tours from the luxury of their computer screen without having to enter the unit physically.