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5 Key Research Findings About Tenants And Rentals

Nov 15 2016

As property managers and owners you want to know what keeps tenants happy. And what keeps them around and also what can set you apart from the competition. This article will help you in your rental housing business.  A new survey designed to help property managers and owners gain insight into what tenants care about the most in their apartments shows insight on:

 - What will they pay more for?
 - What drives them crazy?
 - What makes them happy?
 - What makes them sign a lease or renew a lease?
 - What makes them move on from a property?

The rental survey was done by Buildium in the summer of 2016 and the company said it was created because, “As property managers or owners, naturally you want to highlight the best assets of a rental, benchmark rentals against the competition, and discover which convenience features will encourage great tenants to stick around. That’s why this report was created.”

The study looked at regional differences, age and professional cohorts to look for trends.

“Overall, we came away impressed with the desire of tenants— particularly apartment tenants—to use digital communications, not only to find a place to rent, but also to keep in touch with property managers,” the company said in the report. “Moreover, we noticed a direct connection between a tenant’s relationship with their property manager or landlord, and how they felt about their rental.”

There were 5 basic findings:

 1. 74% of tenants like or love their rental, but 54% are likely to move out next year.
 2. Location. Location. Location. Renters want (and will pay for) a great neighborhood.
 3. Most commonly sought amenities are washer/dryer in unit, high-speed internet and central air.
 4. Tenants seek online convenience features like ePay, tenant portals, and text alerts.
 5. Loving a rental and loving a property manager go hand in hand.


5 key research findings about tenants and rentals

No. 1 - 74% of tenants like or love their rental, but 54% are likely to move out next year


More than half of the renters surveyed reported that they like their residence (52%), while nearly another quarter (22%) said they love it.

However, yet another quarter had a less positive feeling about their home, with 11% saying they don’t care, 12% saying they don’t like their rental, and 3% saying they actually hate where they live.

Unsurprisingly, a tenant’s likelihood of moving over the next year is in direct approximation to these feelings.

Those who loved their rental were least likely to report plans to move (only 17%). When those tenants did plan to move, it was usually for reasons such as job relocation or moving in with a boyfriend.

Those who hated their rental, however, were most likely to report plans to move (58%). When tenants are looking for a new place, the most common place for them to look is to ask around with friends, family or colleagues. Next on their list is to hop online and look at listings: first on Craigslist, and then secondarily on Zillow, a Google search, or ApartmentList.

No. 2 - Location. Location. Location.


One clear trend that emerged from all of these questions was that location is key.

“When we asked renters what they most love about their homes, two of the top three answers were a great location and a nice, safe neighborhood,” the report says.

 In fact, quiet emerged as a motif throughout the survey, with tenants indicating they would pay more for it, or that they seek it out in a new place to live.

6 things tenants would pay more for

The report says property managers and owners might consider six amenities the report found tenants say they do not have now but would pay more for:

 1. Swimming pool

 2. Fitness center

 3. Designated pet areas

 4. Onsite storage areas

 5. Doorman or security access

 6. Garden or community garden


5 key research findings about tenants and rentals

No. 3- Most sought amenities are washer/dryer in unit, internet and central air

When it comes to the amenities inside of an apartment, renters leaned toward the all-inclusive the survey shows.

The most desired choice was an in-home or in-unit washer/dryer unit, followed by included high-speed internet, central air, and included heat and hot water.

 These choices did have a bit more variety along generational lines, with the 70+ preferring included utilities as their top 3 (Internet, Cable TV and heat and hot water) while all three younger groups prioritized an in-unit washer/dryer and high-speed Internet.

Millennials wanted included heat and hot water, while those from 33 to 69 erred on the side of central air.

“If it makes sense to bundle services in with your properties and raise the rent, consider doing so. This is something tenants will expect to pay extra for, and could be a draw for your listing,” the report suggests.

No. 4 - Tenants seek digital convenience features


Another trend which emerged strongly in the report was the desire of tenants to conduct rental-related business online.

The report says, “Across the board tenants reported a lower level of access to conveniences than they desire. Offering options such as online listings, electronic leases, electronic payments, and online maintenance requests/tracking—in addition to waiving move-in or pet fees and offering flexible leasing options—will likely increase your number of rental applicants.”


In particular, “We asked tenants about online portals (property management sites where they can connect, get information, file maintenance tickets and pay rent) and the option to pay rent electronically. In both cases, tenants showed a strong preference—regardless of age cohort—toward using portals and ePay.”

More renters want to pay rent electronically. Where 37% of renters indicate they can currently pay online, 59% indicated they like or would like to pay rent via ePay methods.

The report said this information on digital convenience is an opportunity for property managers and owners to gain a competitive advantage and differentiate their properties.

5 key research findings about tenants and rentals

5 research findings about tenants and rentals

No. 5 - Loving a rental and loving a property manager go hand in hand


“Our data shows there is a direct correlation between liking a property manager and plans to move house in the next year. Making the extra effort to connect with tenants may significantly reduce repeat vacancies over time, and ensure you are holding on to the tenants you most value,” the report says.

Feelings about property managers tended to be significantly more negative overall than feelings about landlords and this “may present a real business opportunity for property management,” the report said.

The reason tenants may like landlords more, the study found, is that tenants of single-family homes may have been more likely to have found their rental through a word of mouth referral. Thus there was a potentially higher number of landlords with a personal relationship to their tenants.

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If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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