Meet Jane Edward, a quintessential apartment resident: She’s 36 years old and single, works at an office, has no pets, owns a car, and lives in the suburbs. She’s also eager to buy a house in the next five years.
But in the meantime, Jane’s not entirely enthralled by her current apartment community, so she’s looking to upgrade. Jane’s wish list for her dream community would have a small grocery store or café in the complex; shopping communities within walking distance; a bigger, well-equipped gym; a walking/jogging path on the property; better soundproofing; separate sections for residents with children; and adequate parking.
These are just some of the suggestions Jane has shared for management companies and developers to design communities better suited to her needs.
Jane is among the 27,642 apartment residents who spelled out their lifestyle preferences in an exclusive survey by J Turner Research in partnership with Multifamily Executive. This first-of-its-kind industry report, titled "Resident Lifestyle Preferences: An Insight," highlights the lifestyle desires of apartment residents nationwide.
Our findings cover a broad range of topics critical to rehabbers, including renter’s attitudes, feelings, and behavior regarding homeownership, social life, the environment, health and fitness, neighboring stores, cooking, and more.
The majority (53 percent) of our survey respondents were Millennials (33 and younger), followed next by Gen Xers (27 percent, ages 34–49). In terms of employment, 62 percent of residents work at an office, and only 4 percent work primarily from home. The average commute time of residents is 23.81 minutes.
More than half (52 percent) of residents live in the suburbs; 46 percent, in urban areas. Thirty-three percent of apartment residents earn more than $75,000, and 95 percent have one or more cars per household.
Looking Forward to Homeownership
Home buying seems to be top of mind among the respondents, with 51 percent seeing themselves as buying a house in the next five years. Not surprisingly, it’s the younger age groups (61 percent Millennial and 28 percent Gen X) who are most interested in buying.
What’s particularly striking is that 25 percent of the residents are renters by choice, meaning they prefer to live in an apartment rather than a house. Of this 25 percent, again, Millennials are the front-runners (41 percent), followed by Gen Xers (27 percent).
More and more nowadays, people are embracing green living, including apartment dwellers.
On a scale of 1 to 10, their top choice among green features they would like to have was energy-efficient appliances (8.33). A close second was walkability, at 8.10; followed by recycling (7.76); sustainable sources of energy (wind/solar), (7.13); and low-flow toilets (6.91), which ranked last. (As one resident said on the survey, “Do not [install] low-flow toilets—it just means I flush eight times instead of one.”)
About 17 percent of renters are looking to buy an electric car in the next five years, a figure that will likely rise over time, so developers may wish to “future-proof” their communities with charging stations.
But eco-friendly homes come at an additional price: Are residents willing to pay for them?
Our findings reaffirm what previous research has shown—residents appreciate the idea of “green” as long it saves them money, but the majority of them are not keen to pay more for green features. And in terms of green amenities, fewer than 5 percent of renters said they’d be likely to use a community co-op garden.
Health and Fitness
The survey reflects the fact that residents prefer to have a variety of means for staying fit.
When it comes to their favorite activity, working out at least three times a week wins hands down (44 percent), followed by running (30 percent), swimming (11 percent), and yoga (10 percent). Most residents unanimously expressed the need for a large gym, open 24 hours, with a variety of modern exercise machines and equipment, as well as fitness classes.
Despite—or maybe because of—the popularity of social media, most renters (84 percent) spend their weekday evenings inside their homes. That figure changes significantly on the weekends, when 58 percent of respondents favor going out in the evening. As expected, age is a factor in determining this behavior, with 63 percent of Millennials, 58 percent of Gen Xers, 47 percent of Baby Boomers, and 29 percent of Silent Generation members spending their weekend evenings out.
When it comes to entertaining, however, the response was almost evenly split, with 38 percent of renters saying they entertained at least three times a month and 34 percent never or rarely entertaining. Perhaps surprisingly, nightclubbing scored an unequivocal lack of interest among our respondents: Almost three-quarters of residents never or rarely visit nightclubs.
Forty-two percent of apartment residents cook daily, and 25 percent grill out at least three times a month; 56 percent never or rarely grill out. It’s no wonder that some cooking enthusiasts demanded “bigger kitchens with more cabinets and storage space.”
An apartment community’s proximity to shopping centers and restaurants is known to influence resident decision making. And when it comes to the kinds of stores they most want nearby their apartment community, grocery stores (73 percent) rank as respondents’ favorite. “A grocery story within walking or biking distance is a huge pro,” said one resident.
The next–most popular close-in retail establishments were specialty restaurants and cafés (68 percent) and apparel and shoe stores (41 percent). Only somewhat important were fast-food places (22 percent) and arts-and-crafts stores (20 percent). Dry cleaning (15 percent) and sporting-goods stores (13 percent) ranked low on the list.
Shhh … quiet, please!
With a rating of 8.73 on a scale of 1 to 10, quietness emerged as a highly preferred aspect of apartment living. As aptly described by one respondent, “Peace and quiet is essential for comfortable living.”
Many residents suggested that the solution for achieving a quiet apartment environment could be found in providing sufficient and better insulation between the floors and walls of each unit.
Some other noteworthy findings relate to storage units, and to pets. For the most part (81 percent), residents don’t rent storage units, yet the older the renter, the more interested they are in storage: 29 percent of Baby Boomers and 26 percent of “Silent Generation” renters indicated the need to rent extra space. And surprisingly, a vast majority of renters, 67 percent, do not have a pet, and many respondants even indicated a desire for “pet-free apartment communities.”
Full survey results will be unveiled at the 2014 Multifamily Executive Conference. The data will also inform the 2014 Concept Community, “Renovation Nation,” being designed by RDL Architects.
For more, visit the Concept Community website.
Joseph Batdorf is president of Houston-based J Turner Research.