Sarah Yaussi is vice president of business strategy at the National Multifamily Housing Council. Opinions are the author’s own.
Thinking ahead is essential for ensuring that multifamily owners and investors can meet the needs and requirements of both their current and prospective residents. The 2024 NMHC and Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report offers comprehensive insight into the practical and aspirational goals renters have for their homes and lifestyles.
Based on responses from 172,703 verified renters nationwide, this year’s survey report reflects the needs and desires of renters, ranging from financial to technological to health and wellbeing.
While fancy bells and whistles can be top of mind for developers, the survey results show that it’s the practical and everyday needs like in-unit and energy-efficient appliances that renters care about. Among the features that renters cited as most important are an in-unit washer/dryer (93%) and air conditioning (93%).
Other important features maximize privacy and work-from-home convenience, notable since more than half of renter respondents said that they work from home at least part of the time. High-speed internet access was almost as important as air conditioning (90%). Soundproof walls (88%) and noise-reducing window panes (83%) were similarly important.
With people of all ages and income levels increasingly depending on mobile technology, so-called “dead spots” in a community can be deal-breakers for renters. Reliable cell phone reception was the community amenity that was most often cited as very important to renters (86%), with 39% of respondents saying that they would not rent without it.
Most renters said they expected to pay extra for those top conveniences. However, for some renters with strong feelings about specific needs, they were willing to pay higher premiums. For example, for renters who said they would not rent without amenities like on-site childcare, on-site pet services or a pickleball court, they said they’d be willing to pay $59.31, $57.12 and $56.53 more a month, respectively, for access to those services.
A welcoming atmosphere
New topics for our 2024 report are financial health and wellbeing. The ability to pay rent with a credit or debit card without incurring additional fees was the most popular request, with 34% citing it as “absolutely essential.”
When asked what factors contributed to a positive sense of community, 66% of respondents cited “neighbors respecting the community rules.” Data from the report point to things like noise, pets and trash as areas where residents are particularly sensitive to others following community policies.
Second in this category was “feeling welcomed by the community staff” at 52%. Here, too, careful onboarding and ongoing communication can make a big difference.
However, the good news is the majority (85%) of respondents reported that they enjoy living in their communities. A majority of respondents also reported that they feel included and accepted in their community, their property staff demonstrate a culture of respect and kindness and they feel their wellbeing is important to community management.
A community’s first impression to prospective renters generally comes via an online interaction, so a robust suite of online services and the ability for renters to do deep research into the community is critical. Respondents said they would like to see floor plans and unit availability, real-time pricing and photos or videos of models and amenities before they arrive at the community they’re interested in.
In terms of communicating with potential and current renters, email was overwhelmingly preferred by respondents, even for setting up property tours and non-emergency maintenance requests.
Overall, this year’s survey shows that residents are interested in more than dollars and cents when it comes to their choices regarding where to live. They want to feel a sense of connection to their community. They want to feel seen and known. They want their needs to take precedence, and they want to live alongside neighbors who are like-minded members of the community.
Understanding what renters want and need, creating effective messaging and communicating it clearly allows multifamily owners and property managers to connect with their ideal renters and keep them happy long after they’ve signed that first lease.