Survey Points to Larger Numbers of Renters by Choice

Only 59.5 percent of renters said that they 'definitely' or 'probably' would renew their apartment leases, according to a new survey by Kingsley Associates. The figure represents a new three-year low.

San Francisco—Only 59.5 percent of renters said that they “definitely” or “probably” would renew their apartment leases, according to a new survey by Kingsley Associates. The figure represents a new three-year low and is down from a high of 65 percent reported for the second quarter of 2010.

While renewal intent trended down in 2011, overall resident satisfaction remained stable, added San Francisco-based Kingsley. For the four quarters comprising 2011, an average of 76.2 percent of residents rated their overall satisfaction as “excellent” or “good,” compared to 76.3 percent for 2010 and 76 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2011.

These results might seem contradictory, but actually support the idea that more residents are choosing to rent in multifamily housing rather than enter (or re-enter) the ownership market. The enlarged pool of by-choice renters, while perhaps satisfied with their current digs, are nevertheless willing and able to move to find something better. That kind of flexibility, after all, is a major reason they are renters by choice.

Other survey findings support the notion that there are now more renters-by-choice, according to Kingsley. For example, for first time in recent memory, households with incomes $75,000 or more now comprise a greater share of surveyed renters (32 percent) than those earning less than $40,000 (30.7 percent).

Also, the company found, as of the end of 2011, 45.9 percent of surveyed apartment residents indicated that they live alone, an increase of over 2 percentage points from earlier in the year. Residents 55 and older now make up 13.4 percent of surveyed renters, compared to 12.6 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2011.

“In that our data shows a trend toward higher average income levels among renters in our surveyed population, it does suggest that there’s a growing proportion of renters by choice,”  John Falco, principal, Kingsley Associates, tells MHN. “Part of the motivation to rent rather than own is explained by the combined challenges in the housing and employment markets. These residents appear to be placing higher value at this time on short-term flexibility than on the potential long-term benefits of home ownership.”