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Cityscape: Volume 25 Number 1 | Housing Technology Projects | Move-In Fees as a Residential Sorting Mechanism Within Online Rental Markets


Housing Technology Projects

Volume 25 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Move-In Fees as a Residential Sorting Mechanism Within Online Rental Markets

Remy Stewart
Cornell University

Chris Hess
Kennesaw State University

Ian Kennedy
Rice University

Kyle Crowder
University of Washington

An increasing number of American renters within major metropolitan housing markets rely on online platforms such as Craigslist to find rental units. Landlords that advertise rentals on these websites have been found to tailor the language used in their listings in reference to surrounding neighborhood demographics to influence prospective tenants’ rental searches. This work investigates the underexplored subject of move-in fees, referring to upfront costs to secure a lease, such as security deposits, application charges, and advanced rent payments that can affect whether a prospective renter can afford an advertised unit. This study advances a framework for how housing researchers can assess variations in landlord discourse within online housing marketplaces using text analysis methods and web scraping. It then illustrates how the resulting measures about move-in fees have distinct variations in prevalence along sociodemographic, spatial, and policy measures through a series of descriptive analyses, with subsequent conclusions toward policy implications designed to assist low-income renters with overcoming financial barriers in securing rental housing.

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