Renters seeking roommates hit the brakes, and landlords shift away from short-term sites

By Brick Underground  | March 23, 2020 - 1:30PM

SpareRoom, a roommate-matching site, saw a 30 percent decline in searches last week.

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground/Flickr

When New York City closed schools and shut down bars and restaurants in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic, would-be renters looking for a roommate situation also put the brakes on their apartment search. 

According to a report from roommate-matching site SpareRoom, there was a significant drop off in New Yorkers looking to move. Searches dropped by 30 percent on March 16th and 17th compared to March 9th and 10th.

SpareRoom also noted that one in five rooms posted on the site by brokers had a rent reduction in the past two weeks in an effort to fill them before more restrictions were enacted. (All open houses and in-person showings are now banned as a result of the city's new stay-at-home rules for non-essential workers.)

Another impact of the pandemic: SpareRoom saw a 19 increase in ads from landlords in New York. Owners shifted from short-term rental sites like Airbnb and others as tourism fell and opted for longer-term rentals. Renters still continuing their search are opting for video calls to meet their potential roommates online instead of in person, says Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.

“Roommates are getting creative by using video calls to hold virtual viewings and interviews. The people you live with make a far bigger difference to you than the property itself, and video calls are a great way to get that all important first impression before deciding to go and see a property. It also minimizes the need for travel and social contact so it’s a win-win,” Hutchinson says.

Nationally, residential real estate searches fell 35 percent in one week on the platform, the site says.

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