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  • Dec 14, 2020
  • Stacy Holden, Sr. Director, Industry Principal, AppFolio Property Manager
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Key findings on what renters expect throughout the leasing journey

Ever since March, the real estate industry has been adapting and evolving to meet the changing needs of renters and residents. With social distancing mandates, property managers have had to work harder to attract renters and maintain their leasing operations from afar.

To better understand how renter attitudes have shifted in response to the pandemic and what they will expect from leasing and property management teams heading into 2021, AppFolio surveyed 1,000 adult renters across the U.S. Here’s a summary of the key research findings:

Renter living preferences have changed

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of life as we know it, and for renters, it has had a fairly big impact on their living preferences. In fact, 60% of the renters surveyed agreed that the pandemic has changed their preferences on where they live. Out of that group, some of the top reasons for moving or wanting to move included the following: the desire for a less populated location or region (44%), a change of scenery (41%), to be closer to family (25%), and to continue working remotely with no need to commute (21%).

Property managers can put this data to good use and make the most of any incoming demand by using the latest virtual leasing technologies. This way, prospective renters — who may be conducting their housing search from another state or region — can easily view and pre-qualify residents for units at a distance.

Virtual leasing is here to stay

The pandemic accelerated the property management industry’s digital transformation, and forced many to adopt virtual technologies to maintain their leasing operations. Now that renters are accustomed to using these virtual tools, it’s likely they are here to stay. In fact, almost 80% of people who signed a new lease during the pandemic and viewed a unit virtually said the virtual option was high-quality and they were satisfied with it. Additionally, 40% of renters said they wanted the option to view units virtually and in-person post pandemic, and 13% said they prefer to view units virtually.

Virtual showings are not only more convenient for renters and leasing teams, but they also provide more flexibility and save time. Along with virtual showings, renters prefer to carry out other leasing processes online. When asked which tasks renters felt were important for them to be able to complete with a mobile device or online, 46% said applying for a rental, and 48% said signing or renewing a lease are top priorities.

Renters continue to value service above all else

Even before the pandemic, service played an integral role in the property management industry, but now as renters have spent more time in their homes and communicating with their property management company, it’s even more essential. According to the survey, over half (54% of renters) said that when determining whether or not to renew a lease, the level of customer service provided by their current property management company is a key deciding factor in their agreement to renew.

While it hasn’t always been easy to maintain a high level of service during the pandemic, many property management companies have been able to keep up with resident expectations with the help of modern, mobile tools, like text messaging and email. Service will continue to be important to renters, so by offering these kinds of on-demand experiences, you can increase their level of satisfaction and likelihood they’ll want to live or stay in your community.

Technology can be your biggest advantage

According to the survey findings, it’s clear renters value and prefer to use virtual tools in their housing search. Today, it’s not enough to just be able to complete their initial search online, they also want to be able to tour the property, submit an application, and sign their lease entirely online.

By offering the fully virtual leasing experience, you can provide the flexibility and service renters want, all to attract more prospects and gain a significant competitive advantage. Powerful, cloud-based property management software, like AppFolio Property Manager, can enable you to move your entire leasing process online quickly. If you adapt and streamline their processes now, you’ll be able to make the most of future demand, meet your renters’ needs, and stay successful in 2021. If you want to learn more, listen to this video recording of a recent presentation on this data.

Stacy Holden is the Sr. Director, Industry Principal at AppFolio, a leading provider of cloud-based business software solutions in the real estate market. Stacy has over 20 years of experience in the real estate and property management industry and is an expert on how customers can leverage technology to solve some of their greatest business challenges.

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