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Understanding the Modern Renter: Key Insights and Actionable Strategies for Landlords

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

The rental market landscape is evolving rapidly, with the modern renter's behaviors and expectations shaping the industry's future. This article explores critical findings from the Zillow Rentals Consumer Housing Trends Report 2022, providing insights into today's renters' preferences and practices, concerns, and expectations from landlords.



In This Article


Renter Preferences and Rental Practices

The modern renter's preferences and practices have changed significantly over the years. The report reveals that renters increasingly rely on digital tools for their rental searches, with mobile sites and apps steadily increasing since 2019. This shift towards digital platforms suggests that renters are narrowing their choices online, making it crucial for properties to offer comprehensive and robust listings.





What Renters Want and Their Concerns

When it comes to what renters want, affordability tops the list. The report shows that 45% of renters consider affordability the most crucial factor when choosing a rental property. This highlights the need for landlords and property managers to ensure their rental rates are competitive and affordable for potential tenants.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • Offer concessions that align with renters' focus on affordability, such as a free month or two of rent, competitive pricing, or free parking.

  • Consider alternatives to traditional security deposits, such as deposit insurance or lower deposit requirements.




The Norm of Security Deposits and Existing Disparities

Security deposits remain the norm in the rental industry, but the report reveals that disparities persist. While 85% of renters report paying a security deposit, the amount varies widely, with 30% paying less than $500 and 29% paying more than $1000. This suggests that landlords and property managers need to consider the financial capabilities of their potential tenants when setting security deposit amounts.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:


More Renters Now Live with Pets



The report shows that more renters now live with pets, with 30% reporting having one. This indicates a growing demand for pet-friendly rental properties, suggesting that landlords and property managers who offer pet-friendly options may have a competitive advantage in the rental market.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • Make updates to the property to make it more pet resistant such as updating your flooring.

  • Reconsider pet policies.

  • Implement pet-friendly policies or offer pet-friendly amenities.



The Shift Toward Mobile Devices for Rental Searches

More renters are searching for rental properties on mobile devices. The report reveals that mobile sites and apps for rental searches have steadily increased since 2019, outpacing the use of laptops or desktops. This trend underscores the importance of optimizing rental listings for mobile viewing.'


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • List your property with a modern real estate agent

  • List your property for rent on rental portals such as Zillow if you're renting by owner.




The Decline in the Use of Search Tools

Interestingly, the report shows that renters are using fewer search tools overall. Only 51% of renters used five or more resources in 2022, down from 62% in 2020. This may be due to consolidation in the rental listings market or growing trust in specific brands.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • List on reputable portals such as Zillow and Apartments.com

  • List your property with a real estate agent. Your listing will be syndicated from the MLS to most rental portals.



The Trend of No In-Person Tours


According to the report, nearly a quarter of recent renters took no in-person tours. This trend indicates the increased importance of robust and comprehensive listings, as more narrowing may be done online. Properties that offer remote viewing and touring can complement the in-person experience


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • Offer remote viewing and touring options.

  • Ensure your listings are robust and comprehensive and include a 3D Tour.

  • List with a modern real estate agent that leverages 3D tours and video walkthroughs and knows how to market rental listings.



The Growth of Online Application Options

The report reveals a growing trend toward online application options. Since 2018, the percentage of renters who reported submitting zero online applications has dropped, and the percentage who reported submitting one or more has grown. Overall, online options may reduce friction for prospective tenants, especially as younger generations increasingly prefer digital tools. The typical application fee was between $40 and $59.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • Offer online application options. You can use free resources from Zillow, Zumper, and more.



The Increasing Demand for Online Rent Payment

The demand for online rent payment is ticking up, with more renters indicating that they'd ideally pay their rent online. With a spike in 2020, that percentage has climbed steadily since 2018. In 2022, a 12-point gap exists between those who typically pay rent online and those who want to. This trend suggests that landlords and property managers who offer online rent payment options may be able to attract a wider pool of potential tenants.


Actionable Steps for Landlords:

  • Accept wire transfers

  • Leverage digital payment platforms like Cash App, Venmo, and Zeller. 

  • Offer online rent payment options. Zillow and other platforms offer free rental collection tools.



Conclusion

The modern renter's behaviors and expectations are shaping the future of the rental industry. From the increasing demand for affordability and pet-friendly options to the shift towards digital tools for rental searches and transactions, these trends highlight the need for landlords and property managers to adapt and evolve. By understanding and responding to these trends, landlords and property managers can better meet the needs of today's renters and succeed in the evolving rental market.





Frequently Asked Questions

Based on the insights from the Zillow Rentals Consumer Housing Trends Report 2022, here are some key takeaways and actionable steps landlords can consider to improve their services and meet the evolving needs of modern renters.


How can landlords retain good renters and reduce turnover?

Retaining good renters is crucial for landlords to maintain a steady income and reduce the costs associated with tenant turnover. According to the report, renters are primarily focused on affordability. Therefore, landlords can consider offering concessions that align with this focus. This could include a free month or two of rent, competitive pricing, or free parking. These incentives could decide between a qualified tenant signing or renewing a lease and one who moves to a competing option.



What should landlords consider about security deposits?

Security deposits can pose a significant upfront financial burden for tenants, even those who are financially qualified. They also add an administrative load for landlords and are funds landlords are unlikely to keep. The report suggests landlords should carefully consider their security deposit policies to see if they dissuade potential tenants. Alternatives to traditional security deposits, such as deposit insurance or lower deposit requirements, could appeal more to potential tenants.


If you're a landlord in Florida, you may offer renters the option to pay a non-refundable fee instead of a security deposit.


How should landlords approach pet policies?

The report indicates that more renters now live with pets, with nearly 60% reporting having at least one pet. If landlords struggle with lead volume, it may be time to reconsider pet policies. Most pet owners are unlikely to consider properties if pets aren't allowed. Therefore, implementing pet-friendly policies or offering pet-friendly amenities could attract more potential tenants.


If you're in a HOA, check the rules and regulations. If you decide to accept pets, investing in things that make your property more resistant to pets would be wise, such as upgrading your flooring to Vinyl, Tile, and water-resistant Laminate flooring. 


What digital tools do renters want?

The report highlights that more renters prefer online applications, lease signing, and rent payment options. Offering these digital conveniences can ease the friction of renting and may encourage tenants to stay in place for longer.


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