What renters look for in an apartment isn’t an easy question to answer because this can vary so much by location. Here in California, amenities that help tenants beat the heat, like central air and swimming pools, are popular, but they’re not the primary things that will drive tenants to select a space. For the most part, renters seek three basic things when they choose a place: safety—which may include maintenance and quality—convenience, and community. Delivering these isn’t always simple—however, it’s made easier by working with a construction partner who understands the market.
What Do Renters Look for in an Apartment? Three Must-Haves
Occupancy rates in apartments in the U.S. average about 95%, but that’s no reason to stop trying to gain a competitive advantage. After all, tenant turnover is to be expected. Despite that high occupancy, only about 52% of renters choose to renew leases when they expire, meaning turnover will always be a concern. To keep tenancy high and turnover low, landlords should focus on three key factors that attract renters.
#1. Safety, Maintenance, and Quality
Safety, maintenance, and quality will always be the top items prospective renters seek out when they’re apartment hunting. The curb appeal of the property will be the first thing they see, so it’s crucial that landscaping, exterior walls, and amenities are in good form. These individuals may often drop in for a walkthrough and will notice things like peeling paint, thin walls, faded carpets and floors, and uneven stairs. Time becomes a factor to resolve these issues when trying to fill a vacancy. And, before that vacancy even happens, individuals will likely write off a place that looks like it’s in poor repair.
It’s wise to do a site audit with an experienced contractor who understands multi-family housing so they can view the property with a critical eye and suggest improvements. They’ll notice things that someone who spends every day in the building may miss, like how the color scheme is dated or the floors are starting to warp, so their opinion will be invaluable.
Waiting too long to do this can create issues with current tenants—and those tenants don’t keep their opinions to themselves. They share them online and other prospective tenants read them. Fifty-two percent of apartment hunters check reviews of apartments online. This is the space where current and past renters will share their frustrations with, or enjoyment of, a property. If there are problems with the site not being properly maintained, potential renters are certain to learn about them in this space. A low rating on a site like Yelp, Apartments.com, or Google could be enough to deter individuals from renting unless management is proactive.
Having recent photos of well-maintained grounds as well as responses from management when concerns are raised is a crucial part of communicating the safety, maintenance, and quality of an apartment. A proactive audit of the property also helps to locate and resolve minor issues that can become bigger problems which would lead to safety concerns later.
Rent demand is going down in just about all markets except the multi-family metropolitan market. There’s a reason for that and it’s quite simple. Living in a metro-market is convenient. Renters know they can gain access to things like local restaurants, stores, and offices without the need for an extended commute. Essentially, when looking for convenience in an apartment, renters want:
- Walkability: Walkability scores help to establish an area as one that’s friendly for metro-renters. Typically, these scores are set from 0 to 100, with scores closer to 100 indicating most of an individual’s daily errands can be done without the need for a car. This is especially important for renters in metro-markets where parking is limited and often not affordable.
- Work-Life Balance: Today’s renters are more focused on being able to find a balance between their professional and personal lives and one way they do this is through telecommuting. Having an on-site business center with open access to WiFi to support these telecommuters can be a major selling point.
- Family and Pet Support: Renters who have children don’t want to drive for miles to access playgrounds and outside areas for them. Even single renters with pets want a place close by—and safe—to walk their dogs and enjoy the outdoors. Playgrounds and dog parks are fantastic additions when trying to appeal to today’s apartment hunters.
- Wellness and Fitness Access: More than 20% of Americans belong to a health club or studio, showing that fitness facilities are in high demand. Offering onsite fitness services allows these individuals to save on their health club membership and provides them with the convenience of being able to get to the gym quickly, with no need to commute.
While an apartment owner can’t change the location of their building to make it closer to local amenities, they can create or upgrade onsite amenities to provide the convenience consumers crave. On-site gyms, business centers, playgrounds, and dog parks can all increase a walkability score by giving renters convenient access to facilities without the need for travel.
One thing renters look for in an apartment that isn’t easy to pin down in ads or during a walkthrough is a sense of community. Savvy renters want to live in a place where they can be friends with their neighbors. Apartment owners and landlords can instill this sense of community by creating amenities designed to be used by groups. Game rooms, clubhouses, barbeque pits, and large patios all foster community, while holding events in these areas encourages individuals to get to know their neighbors.
Meanwhile, modern amenities and a well-maintained complex makes individuals more willing to refer friends and family to their apartment community, and these referrals are crucial. When existing tenants refer others to a property, their words hold a lot of weight.
In fact, 83% of Americans report that recommendations from friends or family members make them more likely to buy a product or service. As such, a strong referral program is vital for maintaining high occupancy rates.
Aside from having an appealing property with strong online reviews, managers should consider incentive programs to convince their tenants to refer new prospects. Offering discounts on rent, gift cards or other prizes can increase referrals and inspire goodwill.
Working with a Partner to Improve Renter Attraction and Retention
Construction partners who are well versed in multi-family dwellings specific to their location will be best able to provide apartment managers with the information they need to enhance their space and make it more appealing to renters. As construction partners are the ones who put in the amenities, they have specific experience with what’s in high demand.
When seeking out such a partner, it’s best to focus on firms with specific multi-family experience as the needs of these properties are so unique. A company with a wide breadth of prior projects—from basic interior remodeling to major expansions and overhauls—is best to have as a partner who can advise you on the additions with the strongest ROI.
A construction partner should be able to provide a portfolio of projects they’ve completed, as well as referrals from other complexes, to ensure the best possible match.
What renters look for in an apartment hasn’t changed that much over time. Individuals want convenient areas that are safe, well-maintained, and have a strong sense of community. By working with experts who specialize in apartment development, managers can deliver the safety, convenience, and community that prospective renters seek, while increasing overall tenant retention.