At Highform, we work with developers and multifamily property managers to create marketing strategies and technologies to drive Class-A lease-ups, and innovative digital marketing for stabilized communities. With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the ability to reach potential residents, we decided to conduct a survey of renters to learn more about what they’re thinking, their concerns about the pandemic, and the best ways to market to them in this time.
Our survey ran between March 30 and April 3, with 1,021 respondents who are renting an apartment in the top 30 markets in the US.
Renters are highly concerned about the pandemic in general, and their ability to pay rent.
The vast majority of respondents indicate a high or very high level of concern about the coronavirus pandemic, with over 78% of renters worrying about the ability to pay their rent in the upcoming months. Among the 71.5% or renters with a level of concern of 8 and higher, 26.3% have changed their mind about whether to move or renew at the end of their lease.
Level of concern
8 and higher
ability to pay rent
Economic anxiety driving a large number of renters to consider breaking their lease early.
More than 24% of respondents are now considering breaking their lease early, specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority of those considering a lease-break indicated a desire to save money on rent as the main motivator, while 14.4% of that group want more space, as the number of renters working from home rises.
breaking a lease
Coronavirus concerns causing renters to change their mind about renewing a lease or moving.
Before learning about the coronavirus pandemic, respondents were separated by less than 3 percentage points when it came to their intent to renew their current lease or move. Now, intent to renew current leases is more than 11 points above intent to move. 13.9% of all respondents said they were originally planning to move, but now they will renew their current lease, while 12.9% originally intended to stay in their current apartment, but now plan to move.
Nearly one third of respondents originally intending to move out of their current apartment are now planning to stay, while 23.5% of renters originally planning to stay now want to move. Among those who have changed their mind, 65.4% indicate saving money as the reason, and among all people with an intent to move, 29.2% list more space as the reason.
Changed their mind
want more space
intent to renew
Working from home causing more renters to prioritize space as a motivator for moving.
The fact that more renters are working from home is a surprise to no one, but given that 77.2% of renters wish their apartment was better suited to working from home provides an unmistakable glimpse into how your marketing should be crafted. 48.3% of respondents who wish their apartment was better suited to working from home listed more space as a primary or secondary motivator for an upcoming move, so if you have spacious and/or more functional units, lean into that heavily in your marketing.
Desire a better
space for WFH
for more space
home more now
Renters conflicted between saving money and getting more space or a nicer apartment.
62% of all respondents list either more space, better space to work from home, or a nicer apartment as a primary or secondary motivator for a potential move, while 65.6% indicated saving money on rent as a primary or secondary motivator. In fact, a full 38.8% want to save money AND have a nicer apartment or more space. Meanwhile, 12.4% of respondents listed better service from management as a motivator for an upcoming move.
Considering a move
to save money
move to upgrade
Considering a move
due to poor service
Virtual tours more important than ever.
“Virtual Tour” has always been a term with many meanings in the multifamily industry. But calling a video or slideshow a virtual tour doesn’t mean it’s what renters find useful. That’s why we decided to get specific with respondents to learn which tools would be most helpful in a time when leasing offices are closed and not offering in-person tours.
Overall, 62.8% of respondents said a “3D interactive tour that allows me to control my view” would be the most helpful tool in choosing their next apartment. 22.4% said a “2-way video chat with a leasing agent walking me through spaces” would be best, while just 14.7% said photos and floor-plans are enough. In a control group, when specific brand names like FaceTime and Skype were used instead of 2-way video chat, affinity for that answer rose by almost 25%.
Prefer a real
3D virtual tour
Want a video chat
with a leasing agent
Photos & floorplans
Additional market factors to watch out for
Long-term, furnished rental inventory is increasing at a compounding rate, most likely due to AirBNB hosts converting their properties to long-term rentals. As traditional AirBNB bookings have grinded to a halt, owners are unable to keep short-term occupancy, and as their properties enter into the long-term rental market, they are actively creating a new class of competition for traditional apartment communities. Many of these listings are priced well within range of market rate apartments (and sometimes under), but offer condo-grade features and finishes.
We're watching this data closely and will provide more concrete information in a follow-up report.