Renters are on the hunt for open-air amenities, more space, and a better deal in the city they already live in as 2021 unfolds, according to a recent RENTCafé survey on how renters’ preferences have changed as a result of the pandemic.
An improvement in lifestyle was the main driver for the more than 10,000 people who participated in the survey while searching for an apartment on rentcafe.com. The top features respondents searched for a year into the pandemic included open-air amenities (21%) and more space (20%)—data that stands in stark contrast to RENTCafe’s March 2020 survey, where top drivers were price and safety. In addition, space and open air amenities were more important to renters than WFH amenities like home offices.
The prospect of a better deal motivated 29% of respondents, while the need for a change of scenery prompted a quarter of those surveyed to move. And perhaps most interesting? Contrary to breathless pandemic-era reports of Americans ditching their cities for secondary markets, approximately 90% of renters were looking for long-term rentals with 48% looking to remain in the same city. A mere 4% of renters chose to move because they could now be more flexible by working remotely.
“This shows that improving housing conditions—not drastic change—is the goal,” RENTCafe notes in the survey findings. Of those surveyed, one-third (34%) reported they’d already moved once over the last year, with the majority doing so because of the pandemic.
“After months of staring at the same walls, it’s understandable that some people want to make a move now, if only for a change of scenery,” the survey findings note. “However, many of those who moved back in the spring of 2020 seemed to have done so out of need—not because they wanted to. More precisely, their reasons for moving during those uncertain early days of the pandemic were related to their lease being up or feeling financially insecure.”
The survey also revealed that space and open-air amenities were more important than work-from-home amenities. Only 10% said a good internet connection was crucial, and 5% said they needed a home office.
Despite this data, the multifamily industry is prepping to meet the demands of a growing body of WFH renters. Research last year from Newmark showed that multifamily owners are increasing floor plans to create more flexible spaces (think one-bedroom plus a den) and more outdoor space to accommodate workers who are staying home. The firm advises developers, however, to make more incremental changes to unit mixes and amenities since resident needs are still being hashed out as the pandemic wears on.