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Thu ,15/09/2016

What renters want for the next-gen apartment

The multifamily industry attempts to entice renters with cutting-edge homes with the latest smart-home technology, stylish interiors, and lifestyle-enhancing amenities.

But according to the most recent J Turner Research study, which garnered 84,924 responses nationwide, not all renters are ready and willing to pay for such upgrades.

Residents are definitively price conscious. But, of course, there are exceptions. Upgrades for which some residents are willing to pull their purse strings include 24/7 package lockers, fitness classes, steam rooms, walking trails, and a gated community. The verdict is almost evenly divided when it comes to shelling out money for hardwood floors and large closets, however.


Electric Vehicles: Not in the Near Future

Bloomberg forecasts that electric vehicles (EVs) will represent 35% of global new-car sales by 2040. But in the near term, the outlook for them isn’t quite so robust.

The J Turner Research study highlights that just 15% of residents plan on buying an EV in the next five years. Of this 15%, more than half (58%) are willing to pay for a charging station on-site. The vast majority (85%) of residents have no plans to buy an EV in the next five years.


Health and Fitness: Steam It Up

Newly constructed communities often boast a rich menu of health and fitness amenities to attract a diversity of demographics. While many renters just expect a fitness center to be included in their community, according to the data of the J Turner Research, there are a few fitness features for which renters are willing to pay extra. 

Offerings for which respondents would be willing to pay a minimum of $5 a month include fitness instruction, such as Zumba classes (46% of respondents); steam rooms (43%); track/walking trails (42%); and fitness machines with individually tailored connectivity and Bluetooth options (38%).


Common-Area Amenities: On-Demand Is Big

With the increasing demand for music and video streaming, it’s no surprise that residents are in favor of upgrades that support this feature.

More than half (56%) of the respondents said they’d use a Bluetooth-connected speaker in common areas such as pools, picnic tables, and grilling areas at least once a month. 

Close to half (47%) of residents said they’d use a high-definition theater room where they could plug in their mobile devices for viewing at least once a month. Not ready to let the weather play spoilsport, 55% said they’d use a weather-sealed, exterior, high-definition screen on a rooftop or pool area a minimum of once a month.


Closets for Cash

In-unit storage space is such a desired design feature that nearly half of all renters (49%) are willing to pay at least $75 more per month for larger closets (10 feet by 6 feet) rather than try to cram their belongings into standard-sized closets (4 feet by 6 feet) for a lower rent.

The survey shows that the older the renter, the more cost-conscious he or she is. Perhaps this is a reflection of both living on a fixed income and a wish to downsize among older cohorts.

While it may not be surprising that renters want more space, what is somewhat surprising is how willing they are to pay for it—and how meaningful a mere 6 extra feet is to them, especially when it means a higher rent (at a time when rents are historically high). 


Hardwood vs. Carpeting

Take a look at the age-old question of hardwood floors versus carpeting. While owners certainly have their preferences, the survey shows that not all renters are created equal when it comes to the kind of flooring they like. The younger the tenant, the more inclined they are toward hardwood.

When asked whether they'd pay $75 more per month in rent to have hardwood floors throughout all their living spaces, millennials and Gen Xers gave the most positive affirmation, with more than half of each of the two generations expressing a willingness to open the purse strings.

What's striking is the discrepancy between the older and younger generations, as baby boomers, and particularly members of the Silent Generation, were much less willing to tack on that extra $75. Perhaps this is a reflection of older generations living on a fixed income—though there may be safety issues at play here too, as hardwood floors can be slippery. Still, another issue may be well-worn conventional wisdom that millennials and Gen Xers prefer authentic materials.


Money-Saving Smart-Home Technology

With smart-home technology on the upswing, residents across the generations most desire amenities that will save them money. Ranked in order of preference, these include free Wi-Fi connectivity, smart thermostats, and Energy Star kitchen appliances. Next are features that offer convenience—keyless electronic front entry, built-in USB charging ports, in-unit motion-detection cameras, and motion-sensor lighting.


In Their Own Words

Respondents also shared a warning for multifamily companies—it’s not enough to add amenities, they said; operators need to make sure the amenities are functional the majority of the time.

The renters stressed the importance of focusing on “basic services like competent leasing-office staff and interior maintenance—everything else is window dressing to attract new tenants, not existing residents,” said one.

Two other themes that consistently featured in the residents’ comments were the need for better soundproofing and amenities for families with children, such as playgrounds.

One survey participant put it this way: “Never forget about families with children. There needs to be a place for children to gather. A game room in the clubhouse and/or playgrounds and basketball courts on the property [and] bike trails, or somewhere to ride their skateboards. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy. We are the ones paying the bills.”


Source: "Cost Conscious: What Renters Want in the Next-Gen Apartment", Multifamily Executive