For Quick Housing Data, Hit Craigslist

Tanvi Misra at CityLab: “…housing researchers can use the Internet bulletin board for a more worthy purpose: as a source of fairly accurate, real-time data on the U.S. rental housing market.

A new paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research analyzed 11 million Craigslist rental listings posted between May and July 2014 across the U.S. and found a treasure trove of information on regional and local housing trends. “Being able to track rental listings data from Craigslist is really useful for urban planners to take the pulse of [changing neighborhoods] much more quickly,” says Geoff Boeing, a researcher at University of California at Berkeley’s Urban Analytics Lab, who co-authored the paper with Paul Waddell, a Berkeley professor of planning and design.

Here are a couple of big takeaways from their deep dive down the CL rabbit hole:

Overall, Craigslist listings track with HUD data (except when they don’t)

The researchers compared median rents in different Craigslist domains (metropolitan areas, essentially) to the corresponding Housing and Urban Development median rents. In New Orleans and Oklahoma City, the posted and the official rents were very similar. But in other metros, they diverged significantly. In Las Vegas, for example, the Craigslist median rent was lower than the HUD median rent, but in New York, it was much, much higher.

“That’s important for local planners to be careful with because there are totally different cultures and ways that Craigslist is used in different cities,” Boeing explains. “The economies of the cities could very much affect how rentals are being posted. If they’re posting it higher [on Craigslist], they may negotiate down eventually. Or, if they’re posting it low, they could be expecting a bidding war with a bunch of tenants coming in.” …(More)”