Investors buying or building apartments take note: It’s cyberspace, not closet space, that matters most to a fast-growing cohort of your prospective tenants.
“More than any other cohort, 62% of Gen Z renters believe apartment technology is extremely or very important. So much so that they’re willing to sacrifice space for digital features,” RENTCafe.com concluded after surveying 2,500 users of its online listing site.
High-speed internet topped the list of all sought-after amenities, and smart-home technology, like smart locks and thermostats, as well as energy-efficient appliances, ranked higher than an extra bedroom, RENTCafé said in a blog titled “Generation Z: Most Techy, Research-Focused, Instagram-Loving Generation of Renters.”
Other digital features of choice cited by the RENTCafé respondents were online and mobile rent payments and maintenance requests, which also were cited by older respondents. Two areas where Gen Z showed a marked preference over the others was in the ability to pay rent by text and their fondness for Instagram, the survey found.
Serving up savings with less space but more sizzle
While it might seem tempting to assume that respondents to a survey of digital apartment hunters would skew young, the 19- to 24-year-old set comprised only 19% of the respondents. The largest was baby boomers at 39%.
Still, Gen Z is a group coming into its own and moving out on their own, and developers are taking note. That includes the money behind a just-completed, seven-story building known as Ramble & Rose in a trendy neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas.
A recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram pointed to technology deployed to maximize the use of its space, such as “pocket closet” shelves that use an app to convert a bedroom to a home office and back in seconds, developer Brian Crowell of Hudgins Companies said.
“Being able to re-purpose that space, it regained us back 40 or 50 square feet. It’s like living in a 600-square foot apartment paying for 520 square feet. That’s $150 a month (in rent savings), and for some people that can make or break a deal,” developer Brian Crowell of Hudgins Companies told the Texas newspaper.
Studio apartments start at $1,000 a month in the building, the article said, and range up to $2,550 for a two-bedroom apartment. Crowell said most of the units are smaller and being marketed to medical technicians, gig economy workers, nurses, and other people looking for affordable housing close to their jobs.
Searching online, deciding in person, and the internet that binds them
Of course, people wanting to live close to their jobs is nothing particularly new, nor is space-saving technology (Murphy beds, anyone?). And while the internet as a search tool for apartments makes an online presence an imperative for property managers of the institutional and mom-and-pop variety alike, the personal touch still matters, too.
“More than any other age group, 39% of Gen Z renters start their apartment search on Google, with property ratings and reviews as their top research tools. However, when it comes to deciding on an apartment to rent, 72% prefer in-person tours,” the RENTCafé blog said.
Although sacrificing space is one thing, the younger set still has some standards: “While they know they can’t afford to spend too much money on rent (yet), the quality of the apartment is not something Gen Z renters are eager to compromise on. Of all cohorts, Gen Z’s seem to care the most about apartment finishes or building class,” the RENTCafé’ blog says.
So, the Millionacres’ bottom line here is that to attract Gen Z tenants to rental properties now and to keep them and engage those that follow, high-speed internet is a utility as much as a luxury. Even if you don’t provide it as part of the package, it needs to be available.