As home values fell yet again at the end of 2011, more and more people are looking to renting as an affordable, flexible lifestyle option, causing apartment vacancies to fall to their lowest point in 10 years. Reis reported that the apartment vacancy rate dropped to 5.2 percent in Q4 of 2011, down from their reports of 5.6 percent in Q3 of 2011. This higher demand for apartment housing means increased renting costs across the nation. In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey to more than 3,000 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2012 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, why they are opting to rent versus own property, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search.
Supporting a growing trend, 33.6 percent of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are previous homeowners (up from 20.5 percent in 2011). From the survey respondents who said they are homeowners looking to rent in 2012, 26.3 percent are doing so because they believe renting is a more affordable option and 21.2 percent prefer the flexibility renting offers in choosing where to live. Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses why their website visitors are choosing to rent versus own in 2012:
Renting is a more affordable option: (26.3%)
Flexibility to live where I choose: (21.2%)
To relocate for employment: (20.5%)
Cannot afford to keep up with homeownership expenses: (10.5%)
Lost home due to foreclosure and change in marital status: (less than 4% each)
“The fact that more renters are entering the market continues to create a series of challenges for the potential renter, including fewer apartments to choose from, which can drive higher rent rates,” says Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. “It’s more important than ever for apartment seekers to be informed and savvy shoppers by utilizing all the online resources available to search for apartments within their budget.”
More than 35 percent of respondents indicated they are moving out on their own – whether for the first time or back into their own place – which may be a sign of an improving economy and job market, especially in the rental demographic. Reinforcing that idea is the fact that 23 percent of renters surveyed reported they are relocating for employment opportunities – making that the number one reason for moving in 2012, as it was in 2011. However, the desire to have more space, to save money and to live in a more desirable neighborhood also topped the list. Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses why their website visitors are moving in 2012:
Relocating for employment opportunities: (23%)
Looking for a bigger apartment: (11.9%)
Shopping for a less expensive apartment: (11.3%)
Wanting to live in a more desirable neighborhood: (10.6%)
Change in marital status: (8.8%)
As part of their due diligence, this survey finds renters tapping multiple resources during their apartment search. While the majority of survey respondents rely on Apartments.com and online apartment classified listings websites, such as Craigslist to find a new place, there has also been a notable 9.2 percent uptick in the number of respondents who are using review websites this year over last. In addition to the dominant choice of Apartments.com, of which 100 percent of survey respondents were utilizing at the time of taking the survey, renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows:
Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle): (70.4%)
Search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, Bing): (45.3%)
Review websites (e.g. ApartmentRatings.com, Yelp!): (32.6%)
Word of mouth: (31.5%)
Local newspapers: (26.7%)
Apartment seekers currently in the market for an apartment are encouraged to read the following tips, from Apartments.com, to help them find the perfect place to live.
Identify “Need to Have” Versus “Nice to Have” Amenities:
Before beginning an apartment search, identify which features and amenities are must haves. Different apartment styles and locations appeal to a variety of renters, depending on the demands of their day-to-day routine. Amenities like newer kitchen appliances and marble countertops, laundry or workout facilities may result in a more expensive apartment. People who are new to a big city may be surprised to find parking hard to come by or an additional expense. The best way to go about finding a place that meets the needs of one’s lifestyle is to create a list of necessities and conduct an online apartment search against that list.
When looking for a place, experts suggest rent should not exceed 25-30% of one’s annual wages. Take a look at income after taxes and subtract expenses. Be sure to include food, car payment, credit card, entertainment and phone bills as part of the expenses. Whatever is left is what apartment shoppers can afford for their new place. Keep in mind this budget will need to cover rent and other services like gas, cable, electricity and garbage pickup, if these are not already included in the rent. If it’s not already included, ask the landlord or property manager to put what is covered and what is not into the rental agreement.
Inspect an Apartment:
Most shoppers wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive. So, why would anyone rent an apartment without seeing it first? Especially when a lot of the information to help narrow down the search, including apartment photos and videos, can be found online. On Apartments.com, walk-through video tours guide viewers through the interiors of apartments to help them pinpoint the places that meet their needs before scheduling an appointment. Once interested renters have arrived to the apartment, they should ask the landlord or property manager to give a tour and double check the appropriate safety fixtures (e.g. smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors) are installed and working. Also, test faucets, toilets and other pipes under cabinets for leaks in plumbing. Run a hand along the outside of the window to check for drafts. If there are any items that need to be repaired or replaced, make sure these are addressed before signing the lease.