Town previously expressed concerns about the way real estate websites compile their quarterly market studies and the uncritical frenzy they cause in the media. (See Village Review, March 2022 issue or https://villagemagazine.ie/donkeys-led-by-lyons/ ). Despite the latest reports again clogging headlines and editorials, what is presented as analysis amounts to 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 severe shortage of rental housing. The various market studies all confirm this. It is debatable which of the different methodologies used best measures the real scale, scope and characteristics of the crisis.
The nagging suspicion is that while the findings of the property’s website reports capture broad trends, flaws in their research design methodology magnify the differences and distort their conclusions.
The lingering doubt is that while these reports have high levels of precision (the results do not contain errors), their results have lower levels of content validity (the methodology is unable to capture all aspects or the full extent of the phenomenon to be studied). These suspicions are based on the fact that these reports rely on convenience sampling / faulty sampling frames.
The data generated is correct as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go any further. Therefore, there is an obligation to be aware of the inherent limitations of the research and to qualify comments in light of these limitations.
Real estate websites obliquely acknowledge this, but it’s almost never considered in media reports – even when the authors of the reports are interviewed.
In reaction to the latest Daft report on rental properties, Focus Ireland reports that an increasing number of letting agents are maintaining client lists of potential tenants whom they approach privately with new property listings instead of publishing them more broadly on My house Where Idiot.
Additionally, there is growing anecdotal evidence that single people looking for new rental accommodation rely on their social networks to find shared accommodation.
If these practices become widespread, part of the measured drop in the number of advertisements on real estate sites could be explained by an inverse network effect. If landlords can find new tenants without having to pay to advertise on websites, listings will drop. With fewer properties listed online, potential tenants will look elsewhere. Having fewer users then reinforces owners’ decision not to register online, etc., setting a pattern of steady decline with fewer and fewer online ads.
What is being seen in the shortage of rental property listings is partly (probably a very large part) a shortage of available rental properties and on top of that there could be an additional element of change in the ownership structure -market advertising industry. Incidentally, it’s a sign of the industry’s ego that they define “off-market” transactions as transactions that are not advertised – even if those transactions occur in the real estate market.
So far, that’s just speculation (in an academic journal, I should 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 pursue further research.
With a humility not present in other members of the popular media, Town inaugurates its own real estate survey – in reality, it is simply a simple multiple-choice question. From the outset, it is very important that the results cannot be taken as a representative picture of current real-world conditions; the value in the Town “investigation” is entirely a suggestion if further research is worthwhile.
With that in mind, there’s a link question survey on Twitter, ( https://twitter.com/VillageMagIRE ), if you or someone you know has recently started a new rental unit.
Although the results will suffer even more from the same content validity issues, at least Town will make sure to highlight the substantial qualifications required by the results. That’s all we expect from other media reports.