Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Verify method before trusting rent price study
Ever since the Eagle Ford Shale boom took hold in Victoria, the housing situation in town has become increasingly constrained. Both the buying and renting markets have had trouble keeping up with the community's growth, and new apartment complexes are under construction or have already been finished to help meet the demand for more housing.
But despite the increase in the number of apartment complexes, renters across Victoria have seen their rates continue to climb. That's why it was surprising to learn that a blog post on ApartmentGuide.com made the statement that Victoria has the largest one-year drop in rental prices. The data the website collected shows the median price of an apartment as of May 1, 2013, as $920 and the median price as of May 1, 2014, as $604. According to those numbers, that's a 34 percent drop in rent.
However, the website only reports listings from 17 apartment complexes, six of which are in Victoria. The rest are in Edna, Port Lavaca and Cuero. The 2013-14 edition of the Victoria Yellow Pages contains listings for 36 apartment complexes in Victoria. That means that even if those were all of the complexes in Victoria, the website's study is based on only about 17 percent of the complexes in Victoria combined with numbers from outside communities.
Anyone who actually lives and has rented an apartment in Victoria would have been suspicious when seeing the initial study, even without knowing its methodology. When Advocate reporter Jessica Rodrigo contacted Courtney Craig, content strategist for RentPath Inc. and author of the report, for an article on the study, Craig said the information is based on complexes that post their information on the website. It is the responsibility of the apartment companies to keep their information up-to-date.
This underscores the importance of knowing the full context of a study, especially on the national level, before assuming its level of accuracy. To anyone outside of Victoria, a cursory glance at the information presented on the website would present a picture of a community where housing levels are returning to more affordable levels. But to Victoria residents, the picture is very different.
Studies are intended to offer an accurate breakdown of information to help people outside and inside a situation or area understand and analyze the facts. When done well, studies can offer information that can be used to correct problems and educate others. When poorly executed, studies show a skewed viewpoint that promotes inaccurate information. It is critical to look at a study's methodology before deciding on the reliability of the information presented. If the methodology is flawed or the information sample is too large or small, the numbers are most likely not trustworthy.
In the case of the ApartmentGuide.com study, a topic that covers such broad information as rental rates across the nation should always be cross-checked with local sources. People living in the communities often have better, more accurate information than an outside group relying on businesses to self-report their rates.
We hope those who use the website think to check the facts before making an assumption about the rental market in Victoria. Otherwise, new residents will be in for a surprise when they try to find an affordable apartment.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.