Village has previously expressed concerns about how property websites compile their quarterly market surveys and the uncritical frenzy they provoke in the media. (See Village Magazine, March 2022 Issue or https://villagemagazine.ie/donkeys-led-by-lyons/ ). Despite the latest reports again clogging the headlines and editorial, what is being passed off as analysis amounts to little more than reproducing the executive summaries of the press releases accompanying the reports.
There is undoubtedly a housing crisis in Ireland. Undoubtedly a major feature of the crisis is the dire shortage of availability of rental accommodation. The different market surveys all confirm this. What can be questioned is which of the different methodologies used best measures the actual magnitude, scope and characteristics of the crisis.
The nagging suspicion is that, while the findings of the property website reports capture broad trends, the flaws in their methodology at a research design level amplify differences and distort their findings.
The lingering doubt is that while these reports have high levels of accuracy, (the findings do not contain errors), their findings have lower levels of content validity (the methodology is unable to capture all aspects or the full extent of the phenomenon to be studied). Such suspicions are based on the reliance by these reports on convenience sampling / flawed sample frames.
The data generated is correct as far as they go, but they only go so far. Consequently, there is an obligation to be conscious of the inherent limitations of the research and to qualify commentary in light of these limitations.
The property websites obliquely acknowledge this but, it is almost never a consideration in media reporting – even when authors of the reports are being interviewed.
In reaction to the latest Daft rental property report, Focus Ireland reports that an increasing number of letting agencies maintain client lists of prospective tenants who they approach privately with new property listings instead of advertising them more widely on MyHome or Daft.
Moreover, there is mounting anecdotal evidence that single people in need of new rental accommodation are relying on their social networks to secure accommodation in house shares.
If these practices become widespread then part of the measured fall in the number of listings on property websites could be accounted for by a reverse networking effect. If landlords can secure new tenants without having to pay to advertise on the websites, then the number of listings will decrease. With fewer properties listed online, prospective renters will search elsewhere. Having fewer users then reinforces the decision by property owners not to list online and so on – establishing a pattern of steady decline with ever fewer online listings.
What is being observed in the shortage of rental properties adverts is in part, (probably in very large part), a shortage of available rental properties and, on top of that, there could be an additional element of changes in the structure of the property-market-advertising industry. Incidentally, it is a sign of the industry’s amour propre that they define “off market” transactions as transactions that are not advertised – even though these transactions occur within the actual property market.
So far this is just speculation (in an academic journal I would have to call the same speculation a hypothesis). Any methodologically robust attempt to test this hypothesis would begin with a scoping exercise to see if there is a prima facie basis on which to continue further research.
With a humility not present in other members of popular media, Village is inaugurating its own property survey – really it just a simple multiple-choice question. From the outset, it is very important that any findings cannot be deemed to be a representative picture of current real-world conditions; the value in the Village “survey” lies entirely as a suggestion if further research is worthwhile.
With that in mind, there is a link question survey on Twitter, ( https://twitter.com/VillageMagIRE ), if you or someone you know has recently begun a new rental accommodation.
Although the results will suffer even more from the same content validity problems, at least Village will make sure to highlight the substantial qualifications any findings demand. This is all that we expect from other media reports.