Person sitting at desk with headphones on

Rental Trends: What Renters Like, Love, and Can’t Live Without, NMHC, and Grace Hill Dig into Renter's Desires and Deal-Breakers

It’s a renter’s world; we’re just living in it. At least, that’s the guiding principle for a recent webinar hosted by, to dive deep into what residents look for in a rental unit — everything from “would be nice” to “can’t live without.”

The premise of the webinar, created in collaboration with Grace Hill Inc. and the National Multi-Housing Council (NMHC), is that in the rental industry, residents drive the market. They vote with their wallets and their moving trucks. Deliver what they want, and the community prospers. Failing to deliver what they want is a recipe for high turnover, empty units, and operational losses.

The panel consisted of Jagan Arumugham, Senior Director and Head of Analytics & Data Science at CoStar Group, Margette Hepfner, COO of Residential Management at Lincoln Property Company, Sarah Yaussi, Vice President of Business Strategy at NMHC, and Katie Jeffirs, Senior Survey Team Manager at Grace Hill, Inc.

This panel of industry insiders parsed through responses to renter surveys. The data ranged from thought-provoking to hilarious. Probably the most comical stat: 70% of survey respondents reported that they would only rent at a property with an on-site fitness center … but only 40% of the respondents reported using the fitness center.

New Year's Resolutions aside, Hepfner indicated that having free weights in the gym seems to be the biggest driver of resident buying temperature, followed by cardio equipment. Whether or not the residents actually use those amenities, they help close leases.

“It’s important to ask the renters what they want,” Hepfner said. “Pickleball might be popular in one place but not another.”

Versatility and Flexibility Rise to the Top

Other interesting data included the breakdown of overall property style — 57% of renters wanted an apartment, while 23% were interested in a townhouse and 19% in a single-family rental home. Housing supply continues to be a critical issue and is expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

The post-pandemic era has also seen an influx of interest in flexibility and versatility. People expect to live, work, and play in their homes, so it must serve all those functions. Since many more people can work remotely, they are more likely to be enticed by arrangements that allow for desk space or a private home office.

Nearly two-thirds of renters wanted a “flex” space in their rental. With the average apartment being just 800 square feet, which means efficient use of home organization is crucial, including modular closet storage and careful consideration of the purpose of every inch.

“If you can make it more functional, you can keep them longer and reduce the need for new residents,” Yassi said.

Net, Pets, and Smart Thermostats

Pets still drive renting decisions, with one-third of respondents reporting having a pet and 70% of those pets being dogs. 77% of those respondents indicated that breed restrictions didn’t concern them, although Hepfner noted a move away from weight and breed restrictions in the industry.

Internet and cell phone connectivity remain a deal-breaker. 90% of survey respondents indicated that they would not rent a unit with bad cellular or internet service. Yaussi added, “one-third of respondents said that they are gaming daily. That’s a lot of bandwidth. This is a priority area for operators.”

Finally, renters showed an interest in smart-home technology with the potential to add convenience and cost-savings to their living experience. Smart thermostats led the way with 70% of respondents desiring or requiring them. Sensor technology to help save water and detect leaks followed close behind at 67%. Hepfer noted that owners and operators have welcomed smart home tech by using it to monitor and improve building safety and efficiency:

“More important to us is wanting to know what is the overall health of the building from a valuation perspective? Are our onsite people able to view a dashboard for occupied and vacant units to monitor utility usage, etc., and to prevent damage or other things that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise? This gives a better understanding of our buildings so we can make better decisions about operating more efficiently.”

“What renters want” will understandably be a topic of keen interest for rental industry insiders who want to create value and prosper by giving renters what they want. In this survey, renters have spoken volumes, and the industry is listening.

To learn more about the latest renter trends, watch the full Apartmentology webinar on