Though the youngest of this cohort are still at home with mom and dad, those on the older end are leaving the nest, graduating college, and out there hunting for apartments of their own.
And what are they looking for? It’s unlike any other generation that’s come before them.
Gen Z is gravitating toward a new breed of rental properties—ones that meet their need for convenience, cater to their affinity for technology, and align with both their entrepreneurial and social spirits.
A Demand for Tech
As digital natives, technology is at the forefront of Gen Z renters’ needs. As Greg Gleason, managing partner at Corigin Real Estate, puts it, “A lack of technology adoption is generally a nonstarter for Gen Z.”
Specifically, Gen Z renters want digital rent processing options, app-based amenity reservations, and tech-enabled communications with their property manager, maintenance team, and more. A virtual touring and leasing process is also critical, according to Ryan Shear, managing partner of development firm PMG.
“As the first true digital natives with no memory of life before smartphones, Gen Z's concept of service is oriented to frictionless mobile transactions and controls,” Shear says. “They don’t want to have unnecessary conversations or wrangle paperwork, so the leasing process needs to be designed as if completely virtual, from text-based conversations to video tours to application processing and lease execution.”
As many Gen Zers are gig and hospitality service workers, they often operate outside of regular business hours. This makes tech-driven self-service amenities important as well. Examples include things like smart package lockers and keyless locks on gyms, pools, and other on-site features.
“The Gen Z renter is looking for amenities that allow for self-service on their own schedule,” says John Doyle, vice president of on-demand property tour firm Tour24. “So whether that is conducting a self-guided tour at 8 p.m. after the leasing office is closed or retrieving their UPS package in the middle of the night from a self-service locker, the Gen Z renter wants the ability to take care of a task by themselves whenever it is convenient for them.”
Generation Z is a social bunch, and they value communal spaces and well-appointed lounges where they can catch up with friends or meet new ones.
“They are active and social, so the amenities they are looking for or seem to be most important to them are those outside the apartment home,” says Seth Wise, co-CEO at The Altman Cos. “They spend less time in their apartments than other generations of our renters.”
But just adding a communal space isn’t enough. According to David Hart, president of Steinberg Hart, developers should offer a variety of options, both indoor and outdoor, and ensure there’s ample seating for larger groups. Additionally, Hart also says “Instagram-worthiness” matters to these renters. They want unique spaces that break the mold and are hip and shareable.
There’s also a desire for communal work spaces—not just social ones. As Wise puts it, “Gen Zers are entrepreneurial, wanting to find a way to make hobbies their profession. This creates the need for creative and communal work spaces to allow for creativity and the growing trend of remote employees or telecommuting.”
Gen Zers are extremely physically active, and, according to recent research, when combined with millennials, they actually make up 80% of all U.S. gym goers. Knowing this, it’s no surprise they demand robust fitness amenities from the places they call home.
“Workout space remains a high priority for Gen Z renters—most notably access to a gym and pool on-site, as well as a location that makes it easy to find good walking and running paths nearby,” Hart says. “Gen Z is also less dependent on cars to get around than generations that came before them, so bike-friendly design—including prominent bike storage with easy access and good lighting—is important.”
As with their communal spaces, though, Gen Z renters aren’t looking for plain-jane pools and cookie-cutter gyms. That Instagram-worthy aesthetic is still crucial.
“Younger tenants still want to see on-site clubhouses, pools, and fitness centers, but there is a shift away from size in favor of quality and design,” Gleason says. “People want spaces that feel special and unique. We find this is generally true with our tenancy, but especially with the Gen Z demographic.”
Be Prepared for More Demand
Though Gen Z has shown a growing interest in home buying over the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic may have them renting longer than expected. According to a recent survey from LendingTree, more than half of employed Gen Zers have seen their paycheck negatively impacted by the virus.
If financial hardships like these keep Gen Zers renting for the foreseeable future, adapting properties to their unique needs will be more important than ever.