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Designing and developing residential spaces today means understanding how the pandemic experience has altered the way we live and the expectations we now have for our homes. To gain a better understanding of emerging attitudes toward residential rental spaces, the National Multifamily Housing Council and Grace Hill surveyed nearly a quarter of a million renters across the nation to publish a 2022 update to its biennial "NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report."

Since its inception in 2013, the "NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report" has been the premier data source for expert insights into the minds of the nation’s renters. The survey remains the apartment industry’s largest and most comprehensive resident survey. It is also the only survey that captures the myriad of changes around rental preferences coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey identified a number of emerging trends affected not just by the day-to-day necessities of the pandemic, but also by the experience renters had spending so much time at home. It was discovered that the home that works for a few hours each evening may be different from the one that works 24/7/365. Issues related to health, convenience and comfort also were far more important statistically in this survey than those of appearance, status and luxury.

Here are the trends that the majority of renter respondents to this year’s survey identified as most important.

Active and healthy

Perhaps because of so much concern around illness, respondents to the survey were particularly concerned about active living and healthy lifestyles. Indoor air quality and “healthy” buildings were particularly sought-after, with 71% of renters interested in enhanced air quality and 65% saying that healthy building certifications would have a positive effect on their leasing decision.

While renters in multi-unit buildings have long been sensitive to ambient noise, this became a bigger issue during the pandemic when residents were working, socializing and entertaining themselves from home all day every day. In fact, the data show that 90% of respondents were interested in soundproof walls, making them the third most desirable home feature in the survey.

In addition, more than 70% of renter respondents said that a fitness center was either a highly desirable amenity or an absolute must.

Choice and flexibility

The rise of work-from-home opportunities has driven many renters to consider new housing options, be it a different type of rental home or in a different location.

Even the concept of a typical rental lease is being reexamined, with 54% of respondents saying that they would be open to the concept of a rental housing membership program, allowing them to live part-time in a variety of locations within a portfolio of rental properties.

Organization and delivery

 During the pandemic, many spent some time “Marie Kondo-ing” their homes and renter respondents were no exception. Survey data show that they were interested not only in flexible space that could serve multiple uses, but also features to help them stay organized—including modular closet systems which sparked joy for 72% of those surveyed.

Of course, home delivery was a saving grace for many throughout the last two years. Renter respondents were far more likely to seek out options for secure and even climate-controlled delivery. Package lockers and package rooms were desirable features, but respondents were also interested in doorstep delivery options for even more convenience.

Smart and connected

With 70% of respondents interested in a smart home thermostat and 67% expressing interest in leak detection systems and water-saving features, smart home technology for renters today is about far more than just convenience—it’s economical and eco-friendly as well.

Renter respondents were looking for uninterrupted connectivity, with an expectation for robust and reliable cell phone coverage in common areas and top-of-the-line Wi-Fi within the rental home. In fact, 89% of renter respondents said that they were either interested in (34.5%) or wouldn’t rent without (54.4%) high-speed internet access.

Pet-friendly and outdoorsy

Two must-haves of the pandemic—outdoor space and pets—came together as a primary concern in this year’s survey findings. More than one-third of respondents were pet owners, with 70% of those owning dogs. For these adoring pet parents, community perks like dog parks, grooming stations and doggy daycares were much-coveted amenities.

Along with a pet-friendly place to play, renter respondents continued to look for outdoor spaces, private and common. Patios and balconies were popular as unit features, while common spaces like pools, grilling stations and rooftop terraces offered exciting value-adds, especially in warmer climates and high-density urban areas.


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