According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, there were over 110 million renters in the United States in 2015. At Childs Dreyfus Group, we design living spaces for these renters on a daily basis, and one of the first questions we ask ourselves is “Who are we designing for?” Take a look at who today’s renters are:
A large percentage of today’s renters are in the Millennial generation. Many industry experts believe Millennials are forced to rent because student debt makes it impossible for them to save for a down payment, but this is not necessarily the case. Many Millennials are in rental properties by choice. This generation prefers having the convenience of having someone to handle these items without inconve- niency them. Moreover, they’re driven by job offers, mobility and being able to quickly change jobs and move when needed – making renting a perfect proposition for this group!
Living in an apartment or condo also allows them to live in a trendy neighborhood without breaking the bank on an overpriced home. If they rent, they can be close to all of the hottest restaurants, fitness studios, and entertainment venues that they may never be able to live near if they were to buy a home. A community that is within walking distance to these attractions is extremely appealing to Millennials.
Of course, cost does play a factor in why Millennials choose to rent over buying. Some Millennials rent so they can free up more money that can be used to enjoy their lives on fun experiences, while others are renting as they save for a down payment. Regardless of the reason, interior designers and architects must pay attention to this generation since so many of them are currently renters.
Believe it or not, Generation Z has now officially entered the renter’s market. This generation is shaking things up with their unique set of needs and desires. Most of Gen Z will not be interested in traditional amenities such as a fitness center or swimming pool. Instead, this generation gravitates towards amenities that help them reach their entrepreneurial goals, such as rooms where they can socialize and network with other residents, or craft spaces where they can learn new skills or get a new hobby. Much like Mellennials, a typical Gen Zer has grown up with a smartphone glued to the palm of his hand, so he is used to speedy delivery and responsive customer service. Apartment communities that can quickly repair maintenance issues or respond to questions or complaints will also be very appealing to this young generation.
This generation has a deep appreciation for the sharing economy, so they think of privacy in a very different way than other generations. They often view common areas in a residential space as an extension of their private home. They won’t fuss over small living spaces in their individual units as long as there is plenty of space for them to work, live, and collaborate with others in the common areas.
A large chunk of today’s renters are Baby Boomers. In 2005, there were 10 million renters in their 50s and 60s, however that number grew to 15 million by 2015. According to the Housing Studies of Harvard University, this generation accounts for more than half of the country’s renter growth over the last decade and the growth is expected to increase over the next few years.
Members of this generation tend to own a home throughout the majority of their adult lives, and then decide to go back to renting once their children have grown up and moved out. Baby Boomers who make this decision are interested in downsizing and simplifying their lives so they no longer have to keep up with repairs, landscaping, and other maintenance that is required when you own a home. Baby Boomers will be looking for rental properties with updated appliances and high-end finishes that they won’t have to worry about replacing or repairing.
But just because they want to simplify does not mean they aren’t looking for luxury. Baby Boomers are choosing to rent so they don’t have to live in a quiet home in a suburban neighborhood. When they move into a rental property, they want to live somewhere that offers community events so they can meet and connect with other people. They’re also interested in luxurious amenities that allow them to live a life they never experienced while in a single family home raising children. What kind of amenities? Think high-rise views, a fully equipped fitness center, and other amenities that simply aren’t feasible in a single-family home.
In the last decade, there has been a huge increase in the number of single-family home rental properties. The overwhelming majority of people who rent out these single family homes are married couples with children. However, just because small families are renting out single family homes does not mean they account for a significant percentage of apartment or townhome rentals. In fact, married couples with children only made up about 9% of apartment renters in 2015.
Based on this small percentage, communities should not choose amenities that cater to this population, such as playgrounds for children. Instead, interior designers and architects should focus on Millennials and Baby Boomers, who have very different wants and needs than married couples with children.
In 2014, it was reported that over 70% of renters owned at least one cat or dog. This is a very important statistic for interior designers and architects to pay attention to, as it could impact how they design communities. For example, these renters will most likely be interested in communities that offer dog parks or dog grooming stations on-site. This makes life much easier for them since they won’t have to transport their pets anywhere in order to let them play or get them groomed. If it’s impossible to add a dog park, make sure you have plenty of walking trails—and don’t forget to add stations with plastic disposable bags so owners can pick up after their pets and keep the community clean.
But, the outside of the community is not the only place that should be pet-friendly. Choose building materials that are durable and won’t be easily damaged by pets. For example, pets can easily cause stains and rips in carpet, but other flooring material is much more durable. Keep this in mind as you design the interior of units in a pet-friendly community.
When designing rental properties, think back to this profile of the average renter in the U.S. so you can choose amenities and interior design features that will appeal to today’s renters. Of course, the average renter will vary depending on the location of the community, so it’s important to consider these tips along with the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods before making any decisions.