When Searching for Rental Housing, What are Potential Residents Looking For?


rentbits surveyed over 1,000 renters and here are some of the findings they found when they asked what potential renters are looking for when searching for their ideal rental.

As a landlord or Property Manager it is important to know what residents are actually looking for in a rental and what they are willing to pay extra for. Will investing in a garage increase your rental rate and decrease vacancies? How important is advertising move-in incentives? They presented 16 common features of rental advertisements to their respondents and asked them to rate the importance of each one.

Location was the most important one where over 92% of the respondents said it was either important or very important.

Besides price and location, pictures, lease terms, deposit amount, pet friendly, and washer and dryer included are some of the most important features of any rental and should be highlighted in advertising.

Pictures, being one of the most important pieces of your advertisement, were ranked as “Important” or “Very Important” by 78% of their respondents. Rental seekers want to be able to have a general idea of what they’re looking at before taking the time to tour a particular property. It is important to maximize the number of pictures allowed by your advertising source, and include both exterior and interior photos. The unit should be empty or staged before taking pictures, and avoid photographing a cluttered, lived in unit. Except for model apartments, new pictures should be taken every time you need to advertise the unit to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date.

In an article titled, “The Importance of Multiple Photos in Real Estate Advertising” it references a realtor.com study. This study indicates that homes for sale which feature multiple photos are viewed 299% more than those with none or just one photo. Those same advertisements have 72% more click-throughs.

Lease terms and deposit amounts were also seen to be very important by the majority of potential residents. Seventy eight percent said lease terms and 88% said deposit amount is either “Important” or “Very Important.” The process of moving can be very expensive, and then when you add on first month’s rent, a deposit, and an app fee, many individuals find it difficult to come up with that much money upfront. It may be beneficial for property managers or landlords to be flexible with the lease terms and create a solid payment plan to ease the cost. Another great option is to add move-in incentives such as first month free.

Shorter leases also tend to be preferred by new residents. These leases are also ideal for the property manager, because renewal is not required if the resident is not working out as suspected. If you would like to offer a renewal to the resident you can provide options of signing a 1-year, 6-month, or month-to-month lease. Of course their rental rate will increase if they choose a shorter term lease. As long as the property is acceptable, the resident will most likely renew due to the time and expenses of moving.

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that about 60% of U.S. households have at least one pet. The Pet Food Institute calculates approximately 60 million dogs and 75 million cats are owned as pets in the U.S. This is no surprise then, that exactly 60% of respondents told rentbits that pet friendly housing is “Important” or “Very Important.” The question then becomes, how do I rent to a pet owner without being left with a destroyed property?

As is standard in the industry, it is a great idea to include a pet deposit and pet rent, but these fees are not a guarantee of a great pet. It is more important that you conduct a pet interview, as well as include a pet addendum in your lease agreement. You can have pet requirements such as max weight limits, no puppies/kittens, no aggressive breeds, max 2 pets per unit, etc. It is also recommended that you require the resident to provide you with documentation from the vet that the pet has had all of their vaccinations, and that they have been spayed or neutered. Many counties allow or require pets to be registered, and as a landlord you should ensure this happens before move-in.

If you take the proper precautions, you can increase your resident pool by 60% and increase your revenue in the process.

When asked, “How important is having a personal washer and dryer when searching for a place to rent?” 40% of respondents selected “Very Important.” When they add respondents who selected “Important” as well, that rate becomes 66%. If your rental already has washer and dryer hookups, why run the risk of excluding 66% of rental seekers? Below are some benefits to adding a washer and dryer to your rental – and you may even make extra money in the process!

  1. A washer and dryer is a competitive advantage. This is especially true during times of decreased lead volume which include seasonal and economic factors.
  2. If a washer and dryer are really “Very Important,” at least 40% of potential residents would be willing to pay extra for them. If you don’t have a washer and dryer currently, advertise it as an option for an extra $25 per month. A full-size washer and dryer at a used appliance store will run about $400, which means that the resident will buy it for you within 16 months. Everything after that is increased profit.
  3. The washer and dryer is not only an asset but also a tax write-off.

Adding a washer and dryer to your rental may be the easiest way to increase your rental rate while filling vacancies faster.

They also provided an option for the respondent to tell them exactly what they would like property managers, landlords or leasing agents to do to make their home search easier. They compiled the comments by popularity and graphed the results below:

A few of the responses that summed up the general comments are:

  • I haven’t found anything or anyone to help me yet.
  • Prices & pictures are a must! If you can’t show a picture it’s not worth my time calling… it usually means it’s infested with some kind of pest. friendliness!
  • Don’t give me fluff – give me facts! Square footage, room size, pictures of all rooms – if there are 2 baths, I want to see both. For apartments/condos – what floor is it. Details, details, details. That way no ones time gets wasted.
  • They do a great job helping people
  • Pictures can either be very helpful, or sometimes misleading, but I avoid listings that do not have any
  • Be more friendly and not so cold.
  • Answer e-mail with information.
  • Provide detailed information. And be realistic in the description of what I am looking at. I don’t like when I view a home on a website and then go and visit it in real life and they look completely different. I would prefer it if the property managers didn’t dress up the homes just to simply get a sale/lease.
  • Just give as much info on the property as possible, many listings leave out pet info or square footage. The more info, the better
  • Be willing and receptive to potential residents that have had credit problems. That seems to be the biggest issue. I Think it is just as important to have a very good rental history, and job stability. To be honest, in my recent and on going search for rentals, the property managers have been very nice.
  • give all facts up front nothing hidden like app fees
  • Call back in a reasonable amount of time, be knowledgeable, sensitive to my needs and give referral to other resources even if they can not help you.
  • Call me back
  • Customer service and honesty, no sale gimmicks