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Renter Behavior Has Shifted In All Sorts of Ways

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

By Paul Bergeron

January 20, 2022, at 06:55 AM

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Working from home is just one driver for new and interesting goings-on in multifamily living.

From actually using their ovens to searching for available apartments by laptop instead of smartphones, renter behavior has clearly changed over the course of the pandemic, according to panelists at NMHC’s 2022 Apartment Strategies Conference in Orlando.

NMHC’s Mark Obrinsky led a chat on the subject with panelists John Affleck, Senior Vice President, John Burns Real Estate Consulting; Laurie Baker, Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President, Camden; and Ashley Sinclair, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Brand Loyalty, Village Green.

Many of these trends come from the work-from-home renter contingent, Obrinsky said. He cited that 45% of residents in a newly released NMHC survey indicated that they worked from their apartments several times a week in 2021 – up from 19% in 2019.

He said that two-thirds of those working from home indicated that they would continue to do so in 2022.

The ‘Amenity Wars’ are Over

Baker said her communities are seeing this popularity and Camden is asking that her properties’ staff highlight as many ways that they can about how renters can work from their apartments.

Sinclair said apartment marketing typically focused on the glamorous amenities and beautiful common area images, but for now, “we’re seeing prospects more interested in images of the interiors of the actual apartment that they are considering.”
She said you also see that in social media posts such as TikTok, where renters are posting about what it’s like to live at their apartments. Prospects want to know, “What’s it really like to live there?”
Affleck joked that the long-standing, pre-pandemic “amenity wars” are finally over. “The best amenity you can offer prospects these days is an available unit,” he said.

Resident Prospects Chattier Than Ever

Sinclair added that, interestingly enough, “we’re getting more traffic to our site from searches on personal laptops than of mobile devices.” She said that is partly explained from prospects working from home, using their laptops, and not doing apartment searches on their smartphones while in their companies’ offices, as they did pre-pandemic.

Sinclair also said that prospects are perhaps in greater need of personal engagement, and are speaking to leasing professionals on the phone for 5 more minutes longer than before.

“They just want the chance to communicate with a person; they talk more about themselves and their lives, instead of just having short calls to get basic questions about the apartment answered,” she said.

Seeking More Space, Faster Service

Baker said maintenance requests are up because “a lot of residents are spending much more time in their apartments, staring at their walls, and looking for things that might need attention. And they expect immediate response from our teams to take care of things.”
Baker said her units’ kitchens are getting more use. “There were times [pre-pandemic] when a resident would move out and you could tell they never turned their ovens on,” she said.

The panel said smaller unit sizes typically have the greatest turnover, but now, residents who are moving out are more willing to stay in the property and lease a larger apartment as they prefer more storage space.

“They are talking to their neighbors more, making friends, and they are deciding it’s better to stay connected to those new friends than to completely move out of the property,” Sinclair said.

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