Attracting Gen Z Renters: MHN Summit Report

Experts share top marketing tips at MHN’s annual event.

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Residential professionals met at Multi-Housing News’ annual Excellence Awards on Dec. 2 to discuss “Appealing to the Gen Z Renter” during a virtual panel discussion. Moderated by Senior Editor Holly Dutton, speakers included Weidner Apartment Homes’ Director of Marketing Josh Draughn, Hickok Cole’s Associate and Art Director Jamie Mitchell, Common’s Director of Growth Marketing Jaya Paliwal and CA Ventures’ Vice President of Marketing for CA Student Living Allison Park.


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Gen Z renters are the generation that followed the Millennials, and they are the first group in history raised in a truly digital world, with social media, research and communication at their fingertips.

“That has really shaped the way they learn, how they digest and consume content, and how they communicate,” said Park.

Green Appeal

The panelists noted developers that want to appeal to Gen Z renters must consider their preference for a sense of community, sustainability and a smaller footprint in the world. Draughn said Gen Z renters prefer buildings that are LEED certified and offer activities such as gardening and clean-up programs around the neighborhood.

Park viewed wellness spaces such as outdoor areas and community gardens as one of the most important amenities for Gen Z renters. Draught suggested developers should provide the fastest Internet service possible. “If you don’t have that, you won’t get Gen Z,” he said.

Allison Park, Vice President of Marketing for CA Student Living, CA Ventures

Mitchell pointed out that the commitment to communities being marketed to Gen Z must extend beyond ownership to the property management teams. “Property management teams need to not only buy into that program but also sustain it,” he said.

Gen Z renters who want to reduce their impact on the planet and perhaps also recapture college life are considering micro office and living spaces. College life may have accustomed Gen Z renters to certain expectations, such as flexible, accommodating spaces that are functional and social media friendly. Micro spaces can create a college vibe, offering a smaller footprint and way to maintain connections.

Paliwal believes developers are working to provide creative workspaces to meet the needs of Gen Z renters seeking to change up how and where they work.

“Gen Z is a generation of doers,” said Mitchell. “They need spaces to work and Internet access, not just in their workspace but also complementary access throughout the building.”

Social Media Mavens

Reaching potential Gen Z renters means being authentic in your communications, as they can see right through a sales pitch, said Draughn. Companies should honor the Gen Z preferred method of communication by offering a phone number potential renters can text, not just call.

“Having a number to text is important but they must also respond,” said Park. “If they don’t respond, it’s almost worse than no number at all.”

Gen Z constantly follows the next new engagement platform and jumps on every new technology. Companies must follow them to whatever platform or technology they have adopted to see which brings the best returns in terms of connecting with these renters, noted Draughn.

Gen Z uses social media differently than other generations, according to Park. The highest ranked reason for them to use social media was to waste time, not to keep up with family and friends or to shop.

“It’s OK to put out marketing messages that are not marketing messages,” said Park. “Put out things that engage your audience and get their interest rolling.”

Jaya Paliwal, Director of Growth Marketing, Common

Paliwal has found Gen Z renters to be responsive to a marketing approach that is tailored to them. “They enjoy when they are in a profile where they are understood and see advertising or content that’s engaging and customized to their interests,” she said.

Although a customized approach might create some privacy concerns, Gen Z renters appear to be less concerned with that and more interested in how residential companies handle their information. Park notes that people appear to want firms to be better about what they do with their personal data.

Mitchell noted that Gen Z renters are not the same in all markets. People in smaller markets such as Nashville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C., are a different type of renter than someone from a metro area like Washington. “A broad stroke across Gen Z is not necessarily useful,” he said.

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