Keeping Renters Happy
The results of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recent bi-annual housing survey supports what the multi-family housing industry has already known for a long time – that given the opportunity, many renters would rather own their own homes than rent. Not only do multi-family properties compete for tenants with other apartment developments, they also compete with the lure of homeownership.
The NAR survey indicated that over 40% of homebuyers in the last half of 1997 came from rental situations. The number one reason for buying a home, over 37% of the time, was to own instead of rent. The multi-family housing industry may well draw the conclusion that to keep tenants happy, it must provide rental units that closely approximate the homeowning experience…and then some.
Many multihousing development companies are attempting to address the needs of renters by increasing amenities and by creating larger square-footage homes that can accommodate larger families and/or home activities. Others are working toward strengthening their appeal to renters by providing safer, more worry-free, maintenance-free environments. Still others are hoping to appeal to renters’ pocketbooks.
Apartment marketing consultant and trainer Dorothy Gourley believes there are several economic factors that may favor apartment life, namely the costs and bother of home maintenance and landscaping and the slow or nonexistent appreciation of homes in many areas. According to Gourley, rent increases for apartments nationwide have been kept to a minimum level during the last few years while amenities have increased, making them a better “buy” than in years past.
Today’s apartment dwellers have a renter’s market in which they can demand and get a wide assortment of amenities, rent abatements, flexible leases and other benefits just to sign on the dotted line. Amenities that were once considered luxuries such as swimming pools, covered parking, and on-site laundry facilities are now commonplace.
To compete, the multi-family housing industry must one-up itself.
Consultant Jennifer Levitt has researched the issue and has concluded that the success of multifamily developments will be based on how well they address the lifestyles of tenants. She says tenants, who are time-pressed like anyone else, enjoy being able to do several things at once. They like doing laundry in their apartments, and like being able to wash their hair and do a load of dishes without depleting the hot water.
They enjoy privacy, quiet and security. Shared walls mean noise. Shared corridors mean less privacy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 25% of all households have a single occupant, mostly women. Over one-third of all households are run by single parents, again mostly women. Security is therefore an increasingly important issue for them as well as traditional families, non-traditional couples and other demographics.
Tenants want to be able to do what homeowners take for granted – have a place to park their cars and be able to get their mail easily. Those issues can be a problem when a tenant has more than one car, or gives a party and discovers there is no place for guests to park their cars. And as far as getting mail is concerned, what about those times when a package is too big for the mailbox and has to be taken to the office, which is always closed by the time you get off work, and you can’t get your package?
Last but not least is the issue of natural beauty – sunlight and gardens. Many tenants are willing to pay extra to have a plantable garden and for larger windows to let in the sunshine.
The idea is to attract renters who choose renting for the lifestyle, not because they have to rent instead of own.