PSB Insights and Fannie Mae successfully transition the widely used National Housing Survey from phone to web

July 10, 2023

The Federal National Mortgage Association, more commonly known as Fannie Mae, facilitates equitable and sustainable access to homeownership and rental housing across America. For the past 13 years, Fannie Mae has partnered with PSB Insights to poll a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers every month to ascertain their views about the housing landscape. The findings from this consumer sentiment data are released monthly and are used by economists and housing industry experts to explain and forecast what is happening with the housing market.

Through 2022, the National Housing Survey® was conducted over the phone through Random Digit Dialing (RDD). However, declining consumer engagement with phone surveys in recent years has made it increasingly difficult and costly to reach a large and representative national sample each month — a challenge further accelerated by the recent pandemic.

PSB Insights and Fannie Mae focused on the research question: “How do we transition survey modes without compromising on the critical requirements of a long-standing and heavily relied upon tracking study?”, which include:

  • Reaching high quality, nationally representative sample
  • Maintaining comparability with the data from the prior 13 years of the study
  • Efficiently gathering data to meet monthly reporting deadlines
  • Delivering a cost-effective solution that could reliably support the study for years to come

Making this transition required close collaboration between PSB and Fannie Mae, as well as the willingness to have some difficult conversations about how best to tackle this transition. Ultimately, the process included assessing several options, including: (1) keeping RDD and augmenting with a list sample for hard-to-reach audiences, (2) leveraging widely used online non-probability sample, and (3) employing more limited and costly online probability sample. After detailed assessments and testing of each possible approach, it was determined that using online probability sample was the most appropriate and durable solution for the National Housing Survey.

Making the transition from Random Digit Dialing (RDD) to the Online AmeriSpeak® Panel

To test RDD results against an online probability panel, PSB and Fannie Mae selected the AmeriSpeak panel (operated by NORC, at the University of Chicago). The AmeriSpeak panel is a large online U.S. multi-client household survey panel that employs an area probability sample to ensure survey responses are representative of the entire U.S. population.

Parallel testing over 4 months showed that the results from the existing National Housing Survey® RDD phone methodology and the pilot with NORC AmeriSpeak yielded comparable survey results, including the key inputs to the Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), with very few statistical differences.

Additional benefits of the AmeriSpeak survey include:

  • Increased demographic representation. The panel allows for better representation of hard-to-reach audiences such as renters and Asians, increases contact with young people (ages 18–34), and improves the ability to reach more low-income households.
  • Shorter average survey length. With the AmeriSpeak online methodology, the survey length decreased by 33% (from 15 min to 10 min).
  • Higher quality data and cost savings. The shorter survey length has a positive impact on data quality and the overall approach is less expensive.

For Fannie Mae, the transition to the AmeriSpeak online was the clear winner.

We pride ourselves on quality partnerships with our clients

At PSB Insights, we embrace tough problems and find creative solutions. When transitioning Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey, we engaged in open conversations with our partner, consulted literature and experts, tested multiple options, and remained receptive to unique ideas. If you share our passion for tackling challenges head-on and exploring innovative approaches, we invite you to join us. In our partnerships we explore challenging inquiries, provide forthright answers, and construct creative solutions, even – and especially – if it means forging a new path.

Read more about how we transitioned the National Housing Survey from phone to web

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