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How Apartment Renter Preferences Are Changing Because of the Pandemic

The pandemic has marked some shifts in the most wanted apartment amenities.

The pandemic has shifted preferences when it comes to what renters are seeking when considering new apartments.

Before the emergency of COVID-19, a Greystar survey revealed the most wanted apartment amenities in the U.S. included swimming pools, multi-use common areas, pet-friendly features and soundproof walls. Other features that made it to the top of the survey were in-unit washers and dryers, balconies, hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances. Meanwhile, renters with a smaller budget preferred fewer amenities in exchange for lower rents.

But because of the pandemic, these amenities preferences are shifting. For renters who are not especially price-sensitive, “space is king now that so many people are working from home,” says Greg Willett, chief economist with RealPage Inc., a provider of property management software and services. He adds that some property owners report they are tweaking their model units to highlight a desk set-up or convenient work-from-home arrangement in order to attract new residents.

“We didn’t specifically ask in [this year’s] survey but [space demand] is something we’re watching,” says Rick Haughey, vice president of industry technology initiatives at the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), an organization that represents apartment owners and managers. “We’re trying to determine whether this pandemic is going to change people’s housing preferences moving forward. And one of the big question marks is whether this would push a move to suburban apartments.”

In addition to more space overall, a bar eating area dividing the kitchen from the living room is an amenity that many renters responded positively to even before the pandemic, according to RealPage research. With people eating at home more frequently, Willett says that is “a feature that really gets high marks now.”

Given that people might be spending less time outside now, balconies are another design element that has always been popular and seems to be in even greater demand now, according to Willett. Some properties are also allowing  renters to reserve the use of an on-site pool or gym in advance, and that feature also seems to be in strong demand among tenants. Lastly, more sophisticated package delivery capabilities, and the ability to safely store e-commerce orders is another top priority among apartment seekers.

“Package lockers or package rooms that are available 24/7 that you can get a code and access,” says Haughey. “That’s another [feature] that is increasingly important during the pandemic.”

Haughey adds that better HVAC systems are gaining interest, mainly due to awareness around air quality control because of COVID-19. Soundproof walls, garbage disposals, internet access, and in-unit washer and dryers still round out the most wanted apartment amenities, according to NMHC research.

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