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Drawing on responses from over 172,000 participants, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and Grace Hill 2024 Renter Preferences Survey takes a cradle-to-grave look at the renter journey—from the apartment search and touring to renewal and move-out.

Sarah Yaussi, NMHC’s vice president of business strategy, shared five critical takeaways from the survey at the MFE Leadership Summit in Vail, Colorado, in early March.

1. The Rise of the Lifestyle Renter Is Real

“When we look at demand from lifestyle renters, it’s there and will probably remain for a long time,” Yaussi said.

Out of the survey respondents, 30% of renters said they have either owned a home or currently own a home. In addition, 17% said they don’t have any interest in purchasing a home, while 67% said they eventually would like to own a home when the time is right.

Sixty percent of renters cited maintenance-free living as the biggest benefit of renting.

“They see a value of not dealing with the headaches of homeownership,” noted Yaussi.

However, when it comes to the top reasons for renters moving to a new rental home, 49% of respondents cited lower rents, followed by more living space, 22%; better management company, 21%; better features or property amenities, 20%; and better location or neighborhood, 17%.

“But even if someone is a lifestyle renter by choice, they still want to feel value,” she added.

2. Digital Content Decides the Journey

For renters, the search for a new home has gotten more sophisticated, with 60% seriously considering between three and seven communities during their last search. For those doing online searches, 54% cited property and amenity photos as the most valuable digital content, followed closely by unit interior photos and interactive virtual or 3D tours.

“The first handshake is definitely online,” said Yaussi. “As these tools have gotten higher rates of adoption, people are seeing more value.”

She also urged operators to be on top of their ratings and reviews. Nearly 3 out of 4 respondents cited ratings and review sites during their most recent home search.

“This is a big part of the journey, and this is where a lot of people’s journey ends,” Yaussi noted.

3. The Multitiered Lease Decision Process

A renter’s leasing decision is much more than price, product, and location, said Yaussi. According to the survey, 44% of respondents said customer service and staff interaction is a very important factor, while 36% cited it as absolutely essential.

“As much as we are curating the tools and product, we need to be curating the people who can tip the scale for leasing decisions,” said Yaussi.

Other factors impacting leasing decisions include a community being pet friendly and healthy building certifications. Yaussi added that renters are checking mobile phone connectivity when touring. And of those who checked, 63% said that factors into their decision making.

4. The Three Cs for a Great Living Experience

According to Yaussi, the three Cs for apartment living are comfort, convenience, and connectivity.

Always near the top of the list are air conditioning and soundproof walls for comfort; in-unit washers and dryers, package rooms, and controlled access for convenience; and high-speed internet for connectivity.

One of the biggest changes from the previous iteration of the survey, noted Yaussi, is a surge in all things vehicle and parking related.

In the 2024 survey, 34% said they are interested in or won’t rent without electric vehicle charging stations compared with 27% in 2022. In addition, 53% shared the same sentiment about on-site car wash areas or a mobile car wash service versus 42% in 2022. Controlled access parking, covered parking, and dedicated visitor parking also saw increased shares in 2024 over 2022.

The most recent survey also gathered the latest data on remote work, with more than half of the respondents still working at home with some regularity post-pandemic. The majority of these renters, 92%, want free Wi-Fi to support their remote work habits, while 86% want more outlets and 67% want USB ports.

5. Back to Basics for Community Excellence

A majority of the survey respondents are happy with where they live, with 85% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the sentiment, “I enjoy living in my community.”

“This is a testament that you care about your residents and are doing great jobs on-site,” Yaussi said.

Sixty-six percent said neighbors respecting the rules was a key factor contributing to a positive sense of community, followed by feeling welcome by the community staff.

In addition, 45% of respondents said they plan to stay in their current home or building when their lease expires. While 28% said they planned to move to a different rental location, 69% of those reported that they either want to or would consider living in a community that their current management company manages.