Multi-Family Residential Developments

NAREE2021: Twice as many renters moved during the pandemic as the year before, survey says

A whopping 60% of renters moved during 18 months since the onset of COVID compared to the just 29% who moved in 2019, according to a national survey of nearly a quarter-million renters across 79 different market areas.

Rick Haughey, Vice President for Innovation and Technology for National Multifamily Housing Council, released the report’s preliminary findings Thursday at the National Association of Real Estate Editors 2021 Conference in Miami. The full report will be released in January.


The NMHC sent surveys to more than a million renters living in 4,564 professionally managed apartment and single-family rental communities to learn how the pandemic changed the priorities for renters.

“Renters of all stripes are on the move,” Haughey said. Of those who moved, 25% said it was because of remote work and nearly two-thirds expect their remote work situation and space needs will be the same going forward. More than a third expressed an interest in shared workspace within their rental community.


“That has a significant impact in how we design apartments going forward,” he said.

So what are renters in 2021 looking for?

In addition to a dedicated workspace, the most important features are strong cell phone service and broadband and private outdoor space. Younger renters are more interested in centralized internet service, perhaps because 31% of them are gaming in their apartments.

“If you have bad internet, it’s a deal-breaker for half of renters,” Haughey said.

Smart technology, such as keyless locks and biometrics, seemed to fall out of favor, but other smart features were important, even critical, to respondents. Haughey said the most popular smart feature is the smart thermostat. According to the survey, 70% of respondents said they were interested in the feature or wouldn’t rent an apartment without it.

The survey revealed strong preferences for storage and organization in the living space and the rental community. That could mean bike storage, cold storage for grocery delivery. “Most telling is that renter interest in better modular closet system jumped to 72% from 56% in the last round, making it one of the apartment features with the biggest positive change during that two-year period,” the report states.

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