Needs vs. Expectations: What Today’s Renters Want

In partnership with Kingsley Associates, NMHC unveiled the results of its Renter Preferences Report, shedding light on the factors that are most important to today's multifamily residents.
Andrew White, Christine Wachsman, Steve Boyack, Khushbu Sikaria and Sarah Yaussi 

At National Multifamily Housing Council’s 2018 OpTech Conference & Exposition in Orlando, the company unveiled the results of its Renter Preferences Report, in partnership with Kingsley Associates. RE Tech Advisors’ Associate Manager Andrew White, moderated the panel that included Fairfield Residential’s Senior Financial Analyst Christine Wachsman, Greystar’s Senior Managing Director Steve Boyack, The Bozzuto Group’s Vice President of Innovation and Product Development Khushbu Sikaria, and NMHC’s Vice President of Industry Communications Sarah Yaussi. 

The panelists discussed key takeaways from the data, which included subjects such as parking, short-term rentals, fitness centers, telecommuting spaces, technology and sustainability. 

Key takeaways 

Of the total respondents of the survey, 94 percent said they still owned a car and 39 percent had two or more. Although there is a rise in the amount of renters looking to live near and use public transportation, 71 percent noted that they wouldn’t move into a community that didn’t offer parking. In addition, 88 percent said they were interested in secure resident parking, putting a higher emphasis on both convenience and safety. 

The report also looked at how demographics impacted the outlook of short-term rental options, which has been a growing trend within the multifamily industry. When taking a look at the amount of renters interested in the ability to earn extra income by listing an apartment on a short-term rental site, versus those that would not rent in a building with this option, the data shows a clear pattern when it comes to generational differences. According to the report, more than 40 percent of renters from the age of 25 to 34 were interested in extra income, with less than 10 percent objecting to the idea of living somewhere with this option. However, on the opposite end, less than 25 percent of renters ages 55 to 65-plus were interested in the extra income, whereas more than 30 percent were opposed to living in a community that offered this opportunity. 

“Eighty-two percent of Millennial renters either have a positive or neutral response to the concept of short-term rentals,” said Yaussi, “while older renters are less open to this type of activity in their communities.” 

Qualifying factors 

When asked about qualifying factors, in which a renter would need these features to consider living at a property, the results were split amongst non-negotiable, critical and extremely desirable. Soundproof walls, air conditioning and high speed internet access were the must-haves for renters, while the following apartment features were an added bonus, but not a total loss if the unit didn’t supply them:

  • garbage disposal
  • in-unit washer/dryer
  • dishwasher 
  • patio/balcony
  • walk-in closet
  • Energy Star appliances
  • stove hood
  • refrigerator with water/ice dispenser 

When it came to community amenities, the list wasn’t as long, but the needs were much more prominent. The non-negotiable feature was reliable cell reception, followed by the critical factors of secure resident parking and amenity access. Swimming pools and fitness centers were an added perk, but was more aspirational to renters rather than a deal breaker. 

“Certain features and amenities are now shifting from something renters once wanted, to being a need, to not thinking about it anymore because it’s a necessity and should be offered automatically in a community,” noted Boyak. 

Sustainability expectations 

When it comes to green features, the panelist agreed that renters are now expecting these initiatives to already be in place within most communities. “There’s a high interest in sustainability but a low willingness to pay,” stated White, “meaning renters see this as an expectation and not something they should pay a higher rent for.”

Although this might be the renter’s perspective, the owner/operator has to deal with the reality of cost differences and how long these changes take to implement into a community. That being said, making small changes such as integrating recycling programs and swapping out fixtures and interior features for more green efficiencies, are steps towards providing these needs to the resident without going up against large budget changes all at once.