Concern over housing, specifically missed rent/mortgage payments and evictions, has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 conversation for the past several months. Google, in fact, reported that searches for “break a lease” are at the highest level they have ever been on their platform.

Using the Zignal Media Intelligence Cloud, we took a closer look at emerging trends in the COVID-19 housing conversation.

Key Takeaways

  • Year-to-date mentions of housing non-payments are 87% higher than in 2019.
  • Total mentions in the conversation have followed political developments, with two major spikes in:
    • Late March, when the initial CARES Act was being debated
    • Late July, when the CARES Act was set to expire
  • Proportionally, mentions of breaking lease agreements and mortgage foreclosures were higher in Washington, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas.
  • The second-most shared website in the conversation was the crowdsourcing site GoFundMe.
  • Conversations on Reddit were highly active in late March, as individuals and landlords began discussing the possibility of evictions. Prominent subreddits included:
    • r/legaladvice
    • r/landlord
    • r/personalfinance

Predictive Trends

1) Week of March 23-30: Discussions around evictions due to layoffs and the contents of the initial CARES Act
2) Week of July 27-August 3: Conversation dominated by mentions of the federal unemployment assistance expiring on July 31

With year-to-date mentions of housing non-payments 87% higher than in 2019, we layered Google Trends data on top of total mentions to better understand the evolution of the conversation. We found that a significant uptick in media mentions occurs slightly before an increase in online searches on the topic.

Takeaway: Financial institutions and lending houses should take note of social traffic, a clear leading indicator of customer intent.

Geographical Analysis

Upon first glance, mentions by geography can appear to be a list of most populous areas – and true to form, the state with the highest mentions in the housing non-payment conversation is California. However, when accounting for population, certain trends arise. While Texas is the second most populous state, its mentions are 16.5% higher than expected when compared to California, and 17.7% higher when compared to Florida, the third most populous state.

Several rural states also appear in the top 10 states discussing missed housing payments:

  • Tennessee, the 16th most populous state, accounts for the 9th most mentions of housing risks.
  • Louisiana, the 25th largest state by population, accounts for the 10th most mentions of housing risks.
  • Montana, the state with the 45th largest population, accounts for the 19th most mentions in the conversation.

Takeaway: Firms or organizations concerned with an impending housing crisis should pay special attention to regions where these types of conversations are over-represented, comparatively.

For more insights on the COVID-19 housing conversation, including top hashtags and stories, read the full Intelligence Brief on our Reports page.

For more information and resources related to COVID-19, visit Zignal’s dedicated COVID-19 Response Page, where you’ll find best practices, data-driven analyses, and shareable content you can leverage in your response to COVID-19.