Every summer, the movie theater becomes a battleground, as action flicks and romantic comedies duel for box-office dollars in the crowded summertime movie market. It's not much different at an apartment property, where the prime leasing season brings a gaggle of renters looking to move. And in a relatively weak rental market saturated with new apartment buildings, you need to use every advantage you have to attract people to your property—and turn them into residents.

With the help of the NAHB, we're going to help you do just that. In April, the NAHB released its latest “Multifamily Condo Buyers & Renters Preferences Survey.” It's the third time that the NAHB Economics Group has conducted such a study, which was first done in 1992 and again in 2002. It covered preferences for design, features, layout, products, and material usage in new condominiums and rental apartments.

We concentrated on the rental end of the survey, where the stats suggested a number of trends. We chose just seven, summing them up in the story that follows. Consider it your VIP pass to this summer's hottest ticket: “What Renters Really Want.” As for how this feature ends, well, that's up to you.

Grand Entrance


Survey Says:Wall-to-wall carpeting scored big when it came to bedrooms and communal living areas, but for entry floors, 27 percent preferred wood and 26 percent opted for ceramic tile.

Dressing up an entry floor with wood or tile makes sense on a number of fronts. It's a cost-effective way to make a luxury statement, and it cuts down on maintenance. It's one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to give an apartment the feeling of a single-family home, especially in a townhouse apartment with its own front door.

“It's a very easy thing to do, it keeps the entry clean, and you don't have wear and tear on the carpet,” says Tom Grimes, senior vice president of property management operations for Memphis-based Mid-America Apartment Communities. “It's something that's standard in the majority of our communities, and we've identified that as part of our interior rehab program.”

Room to Spare

Survey Says:Renters want more space—ideally, 1,100 square feet.

Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president of research at NAHB, sees no surprise in this survey finding. “Everywhere we look, with single family and multifamily, people think bigger is better,” he says. “What's amazing here is the jump from 850 to 1,100 square feet. That's a big jump.” Another survey finding shows that while renters want more space, they're not always willing to pay for it. “They want a 29 percent larger unit but are willing to pay only 18 percent more rent. Their desires are that much bigger than [what] they want to spend.”

This is an area where older properties, which often have larger apartments, might have the edge. Since size definitely matters, tout that bumped-up square footage.

“We're seeing the percentages [of people wanting larger apartments] increase even more,” says George Quay, president and CEO of Village Green Cos. in Farmington Hills, Mich. “More and more today, low interest rates have given urban renters the option of being owners. In the past, when making that choice, people would settle for less square footage.”