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In partnership with The Center for Generational Kinetics, RealPage has released data from a survey of 2,000 American renters aged 18 to 55. It found that 66% of renters are satisfied with their current housing situation and prefer the freedom to rent more inexpensively than to buy in the areas they live.

Related to satisfaction, 73% of respondents say they are renting in areas they can’t afford to buy in, a point showing that multifamily can help diversify preferred neighborhoods. “The research tells us that most apartment renters are happy being apartment renters,” says Jay Parsons, chief economist for RealPage. “Older renters say they’re renting because it frees them up from home maintenance and other responsibilities. Younger renters are renting because it gives them more flexibility.”

Jay Parsons, RealPage chief economist.
RealPage Jay Parsons, RealPage chief economist.

In today’s economy, 44% of renters think renting is a smarter choice than buying, with 51% of Gen Z renters leading this group, and 48% of all age groups say renting gives them financial freedom. Respondents note being able to afford their monthly rental payment as the top reason they are living in their current apartment.

Parsons says, “These generational trends are super interesting. We live in a nation where the American dream is buying a house, yet basically half of the youngest renters are saying, ‘Hey, we think renting right now is more financially responsible.’ I was surprised by that number; whether they’re right or wrong, it doesn’t really matter.”

The wave of younger by-choice renters also has higher expectations in terms of technology and communication channels. Gen Z and younger millennials expect all technologies to be included in a new rental property, and over half (51%) are likely to pay for electric doorbells and cameras at their current rentals. The group is also willing to pay higher rent (56% of Gen Z) for green and sustainable initiatives like smart water and composted waste.

“What the results clearly show is that renting is hot today, but that there is nuance across age demographics in terms of benefits, discovery tools, the overall experience, and amenities, including technology,” says Jason Dorsey from The Center of Generational Kinetics.

To communicate with property managers, 79% of renters think they should be able to get everything they need through direct message, text, or chat. “It’s a lot of good news for property managers as ‘centralization’ is one of the biggest buzzwords in the industry right now,” Parsons explains. “This data point really supports the strategy of saying 4 out of 5 of your residents don’t want to talk to you in person and that a lot of issues can be resolved by somebody at centralized location.”

Interestingly, the survey found that Gen X renters have adapted to using technology to find their next rental, while Gen Z wants to focus on community and use more social channels to determine their next rental. When researching properties, Gen X is more likely to research the crime history of a neighborhood, and the younger group is more likely to dive into the lease agreement terms and pet policies.

“There’s a shift happening where younger renters want to have more direct control over the search process,” says Parsons. “They want to be able to look at reviews and ratings, do a virtual tour, maybe even talk to somebody who lives in the apartment community.”

All generations note a quiet environment and parking, or a garage option, are the most important amenities when choosing a new property. Additionally, safety, comparable monthly rates, and good online ratings and reviews are the most important characteristics for finding a new rental.

In correlation with a quiet environment, respondents say that problems with neighbors, such as noise, and slow-to-respond property managers are significant factors in deciding not to renew a lease. If property managers update their unit, provide quick and quality repairs, offer flexible lease terms, and provide online renewal lease signing, renters in all age groups are more likely to renew.

Older groups say they are more likely to renew to “avoid the hassle and cost of moving,” while younger renters are more influenced by upgraded amenities and new technology.

“I think a lot of property managers are aware of these differences in generations, but having data to support it can really be a powerful way to expedite changes and some of the evolution of how we service residents, but also, hopefully, this gives property managers some comfort that the data supports a lot of things that they're already doing,” Parsons concludes.