Tech Tools Top Renters’ Wish Lists

A survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates finds reliable connectivity is the top must-have for renters this year.

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Mobile phone and high-speed Internet connectivity throughout an apartment community are among the top must-haves for renters in the 2020 Apartment Resident Preferences Report released Tuesday by the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates. The report, which details the apartment features and community amenities that renters can’t live without, featured input from nearly 373,000 renters living in 5,336 communities across the nation.

In addition to the latest must-haves, the report also details how much renters expect to pay for perks and services and what matters during their apartment search. The information is useful for developers, architects, designers, property managers and leasing agents looking to improve the renter experience for current and future apartment renters, said John Falco, principal of Kingsley Associates, in a prepared statement.

Rick Haughey, vice president, industry technology initiatives at NMHC, noted in prepared comments that while emerging technologies are important for virtual tours and online engagement, the majority of renters still prefer to visit a property with a community representative. Only 14 percent said they would rent an apartment unseen, he said.

Not surprisingly, high-speed Internet connections were important or very important to 91.7 percent of those surveyed with 74.8 percent saying pre-installed Wi-Fi was important or very important and 69.3 percent saying community Wi-Fi was important or very important. Those high-speed Internet connections are crucial because 64 percent of respondents said they are using online streaming services. The survey found 54 percent of renters have a growing number of Internet devices with 54 percent saying that have between one and four and 35.4 percent saying they have between five and nine devices.

Mobile phone connectivity was also as high on the rankings as Internet connectivity with 91.2 percent saying it is a must to have reliable cell reception and 44 percent saying they won’t rent an apartment without it.

Voice-activated technology has also become more important to renters with 43 percent of respondents saying they were interested in or would not rent without voice-activated virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. More than a third said they already owned such devices.

Smart home technology has also grown in popularity, giving residents unparalleled control over their space whether they are at home or away. Residents said they are most interested in the smart-home devices that will save them money. Smart thermostats and lighting placed the highest in renter preference with 70.5 percent saying they were interested in smart thermostats and 66.9 percent saying they were interested in smart lighting. Smart locks also placed high on the list with 63 percent responding they were interested. Despite their interest, very few tenants said they wouldn’t rent if buildings didn’t have some of these smart home devices at this time.

Other trends: 

  • Short-term rentals—Young renters expressed more interest in short-term rentals than older renters with 60 percent of respondents saying short-term rentals would positively impact their perception of a community or have no effect at all. Just 16 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t rent at a property that allowed short-term rentals. The 2019 survey found that 82 percent of millennial renters had positive or neutral responses when asked about short-rentals. Older tenants were also resistant last year when asked about short-term rentals in their communities.

  • Coliving—The report found that most residents said they would not be interested in coliving at this time. Nearly 70 percent said they would definitely not be interested in coliving at their building.

  • Coworking—Scored higher with 55 percent saying they would be interested in an on-site business center at their properties. So far, though, only 15 percent said they either used or would use coworking space in their buildings. But that is expected to grow because 42 percent responded they work at home at least part of the time.

  • Pet amenities—More than one-third of respondents said they were pet owners with the majority owning dogs. Dog owners responded they would pay between $28 and $34 more per month for pet perks like a community dog park, pet-washing station or on-site pet services.

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