The Apartments that Listing Sites Have Been Hiding from You

The Apartments that Listing Sites Have Been Hiding from You

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Brittney Morgan
Aug 29, 2017

How often do you browse popular websites for apartment listings? As it turns out, they might not be giving you all the facts—at least not according to a new report from Apartment List.

It's what they're calling a "luxury bias." Apartment List did a data analysis comparing apartment listings (from their own site, along with listings from Zillow and Zumper) with real rental data from the Census American Community Survey, and ultimately they found that private listing sites tend to over-represent apartment stock in zip codes with higher rents, and under-represent apartments in zip codes with lower rents. Or, in other words, the listings you see online are likely to show a larger percentage of higher-priced apartments than what is actually available in the city.

(Image credit: Apartment List)

In New York City, for example, more affordable Harlem is under-represented on listing sites, while lower Manhattan—which is more gentrified and pricier—is over-represented. The median rent for the over-represented areas of the city is $2,120, but for Harlem and the rest of the under-represented areas, the median rent is actually $1,130—that's a 62 percent gap, and the largest one of all the cities Apartment List reported on.

Washington, D.C. also saw a large gap of 40 percent between it's over-represented zip codes and under-represented areas. In fact, Georgetown, a neighborhood the report refers to as upscale, only makes up 3.5 percent of the total rental units in the city—and yet it makes up 12.6 percent of the rental units on listing sites.

The report also looked at listings in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, and Detroit—all of which saw similar patterns. The report noted that, across all of the cities in the analysis, the median rent in the over-represented neighborhoods was 40 percent higher than it was in under-represented zip codes.

"As our research shows, the rental units available on private listing sites do not paint an accurate picture of a city's rental inventory," the report concludes. "When median rents are calculated from these biased samples, the resulting estimates will tend to overstate the true price of apartments in a city."

To check out more city-specific data, visit Apartment List.

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