Residential Finance Survey
This overview outlines the plans used for conducting the 2001 Residential Finance Survey.
The Census Bureau has taken the Residential Finance Survey (RFS) as part of the decennial census since 1950. The RFS is the only survey designed to collect and produce data about the financing of nonfarm, privately-owned residential properties. The RFS is a unique survey for several reasons:
We undertook several steps to make sure that the content for the 2001 RFS addressed the changes that have occurred in the mortgage industry in the 1990's. This included bringing together a group of primary RFS data users from in and out of government to develop the questionnaire content. We also conducted focus groups with property owners and mortgage lenders to get their input into the RFS content and collection procedures. Finally, we did cognitive testing of the proposed questionnaires to improve the validity of the questions asked.
Sample Design and Selection
We selected the sample for the 2001 RFS from Census 2000 address records and stratified based on the number of units at the address and other characteristics of the units as recorded in the Decennial Census 2000. Approximately 68,000 addresses were selected.
Data Collection Procedures
In the RFS, we determined if the property is a homeowner property or rental property. A homeowner property was defined as one having fewer than five units where the owner of the property lives in one of the units. A rental property was one with five or more units or a property of fewer than five units with none being owner occupied. Condominium apartments were homeowner properties if the owner lives in the unit and rental properties if the owner does not live in the unit.
We used the following four questionnaires to collect data for the 2001 RFS.
We conducted a pre-survey contact with mortgage lenders in the summer of 2000. The purpose of this contact was to alert lenders of the survey and to establish a contact person within each organization.
We mailed the "owner-seeker" letters (or send them to our Regional Offices) and the first round of homeowner questionnaires in April 2001. A follow-up mailing of the homeowner questionnaires was done in June 2001. The rental and vacant property questionnaires were mailed or sent to our Regional Offices in May 2001, with a follow-up mailing in June 2001. The lender questionnaires were mailed in two primary cycles, the first in July 2001 and the second in September 2001, with possible additional smaller mailings resulting from follow-up operations.
The 2001 RFS was both a centralized mail-out/mail-back operation conducted by
the Census Bureau's National Processing Center (NPC) in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and a field data collection operation conducted by our twelve Regional Offices. The enumeration of property owners took place mainly in the months of April through August 2001, and that of the lenders in August through December of that year.
Field interviewing for property owners occurred for cases in which the owner was either not identified or failed to respond to the original mailed questionnaire and follow-up letters, and for those cases sent directly to the field. Follow-up interviewing of lenders occurred in two stages. For financial institutions, that is, banks, insurance companies, and so on, follow-up telephone inquiries were made. If the lenders had not received the initial mailout questionnaires, new documents were mailed to them. Follow-up for mortgages held by individuals involved a personal visit by field representatives from the 12 census regional offices.