The Light: Renters Need Their Space | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

The Light: Renters Need Their Space

“Space” in home and community design has never been more important. People need space for health reasons, and people need space and privacy to work from home. Working from home will be a significant shift that stays with us for years.

With record low mortgage rates, the need for more space is one reason that new home sales have already finished their V recovery. To succeed during lease-up, the more than 400,000 apartment units currently in some stage of construction also need to capitalize on tenants’ need for space.

A few weeks ago we asked, “Does it take a pandemic to get millennials to buy?” This week we ask, “What does it take to get people to rent?” We highlight two opportunities for new apartment construction, both of which were already trending before COVID-19 hit:


Efficient floor plans that provide privacy and natural light

Couples and roommates will need apartment homes that provide multiple work spaces with separation and privacy. Rooms that can flex to support different functions, such as office during the day and fitness in the evening, will be part of the new apartment landscape. We are starting to see some apartment designs that include the use of movable walls to expand or contract as room uses change.

While planning for roommates is important, we also anticipate some renters will be less amenable to sharing their homes. For them, apartment floor plans will need to balance the lifestyle elements they want with smaller sizes that can keep rents attainable. That will mean apartments that are large enough to support both living and working with very efficient square footage and design elements that promote physical and emotional separation.

In smaller apartments, fresh air, outdoor spaces, and access to natural light take on even higher importance. Consider more balconies and allow for cross breezes with double exposure where possible. Balconies also create semi-private environments for renters while providing the opportunity for social interaction (at a distance) from neighbors. Remember the images of quarantined residents singing on their balconies in Italy? We also expect more garden style apartments as stairs will be used more often.


Community amenities that are secure and flexible

Outdoors translates to health and promotes the opportunity for flexibility and social distancing. We advise more “under roof” spaces without walls that provide shade and fresh air. Apartment communities will need more places for outdoor yoga and parks for free play or alfresco dining. Today’s consumers love their pets more than ever, and community amenities that include dog parks or pet washing stations will resonate more than ever before.

The demand for safely delivered consumer goods is higher than ever, and how apartment communities handle the security of those deliveries will increase in importance. Architects and apartment developers are experimenting with private parcel lockers with touchless technology in central locations within their communities or as part of the apartments themselves in vestibule-like structures. Individual handling of package deliveries will be must-haves for the future renter.

Apartment communities that can adjust to shifting consumer demands will have a competitive advantage in what we believe could be a very competitive leasing environment. The most successful apartment communities will be those that incorporate the new trends along with the traditional features that renters demonstrate they want the most—attainable rents, low-maintenance living, and amenities.

Contact Ken Perlman, Lesley Deutch, or our other team members for more insight into changing rental preferences and trends in new construction.


Ken Perlman If you have any questions, please contact Ken Perlman, Managing Principal, at (858) 281-7214 or by email.
Lesley Deutch If you have any questions, please contact Lesley Deutch, Managing Principal, at (561) 998-5814 or by email.