Market Report

Survey Finds Philly Renters Value Convenience, Comfort More Than Amenities

Luxurious amenities don't excite Philadelphia renters as much as they do those in other cities, a Village Green national renter survey finds. But high-tech conveniences like paying rent online are real turn-ons.

Stylish kitchens and other high-end amenities appeal to a sizable percentage of apartment-hunters, according to the Village Green survey. That percentage is smaller in Philadelphia than in other cities, however. | Photo: Brandon Morrison, PRDC Properties

Eurostyle kitchens, hardwood floors and bathrooms with Toto toilets and rain shower heads may lure tenants to apartment complexes in other cities, but here in Philadelphia, they leave would-be tenants relatively nonplussed. Instead, they’d rather pay their rent in a single click, and they find smart home features more appealing than renters in other cities do. Their tech-savviness carries over into the apartment search as well: a higher percentage of Philadelphians research apartment communities online than do renters elsewhere.

Those are among several interesting findings about local renters’ tastes and preferences revealed in Village Green’s first-ever National Renters Index. The Detroit-based apartment development and management company surveyed 1,000 renters nationwide, including 100 renters here, to come up with a list of the factors and features renters consider when shopping for apartments. The survey also measured renters’ satisfaction with their current residences.

Both nationally and in Philadelphia, the three things that matter most to tenants considering where to rent are the rent, the location and the community environment. The first two are overwhelmingly the most important considerations, with 85 and 81 percent of renters saying that rent and location respectively are key considerations. Forty-nine percent say the same about the community environment, while only 28 percent said property amenities mattered a lot.

The digital revolution has changed the way renters check out properties. Nationally, nearly six in ten renters — 59 percent — research communities online before visiting them. Apartment search sites like Apartments.com and Apartment List are the first choice for online apartment-hunters, with 65 percent of respondents consulting them. Next come the apartment communities’ own websites (60 percemt), with review sites like Yelp or WhoseYourLandlord coming in a distant third (26 percent).

Philadelphians are even more likely to go online first and to check out the reviews.

“The data demonstrated that Philadelphians are resourceful when it comes to making a decision around their next property,” Village Green CEO Diane Batayeh said in an email message. “From doing an online search prior to visiting a property (63 percent of all respondents) to viewing review-specific sites (37 percent), Philadelphians are some of the most likely renters nationwide to use web-based resources to assist in making their renting decision.”

Thirty-five percent of Philadelphians say great facility amenities matter when looking for an apartment. Good news for local apartment complex owners: even more — 38 percent — say they’re willing to pay extra to get them.

When evaluating communities, a majority of Philadelphians surveyed say they would be drawn to those that offer “a ‘homey’ look and feel” (65 percent), that fit their lifestyle (58 percent) and that let them submit maintenance requests online (55 percent), figures that are in line with those for all renters surveyed. But while a majority (52 percent) of all renters say that high-end amenities make a difference in their decision, only 45 percent of Philadelphians say this. A higher percentage (47 percent) are more interested in communities where they can pay their rent online, a feature that appeals to an identical share of all renters.

Philadelphians are also far more impressed by smart home technologies than renters in other places; 41 percent say they’d be more interested in apartments that offer them, compared to only 34 percent of all renters surveyed. But they’re no more willing to pay extra for them: just 29 percent of renters both overall and in Philly said they’d willingly do that.

In general, renters would rather not pay extra for the bells and whistles. Nationally, the feature the most renters said they’d willingly pay more for is high-end property amenities (38 percent of respondents); great facility amenities and great renter services tied for second (36 percent each). Philadelphians are more likely to open their wallets for great facility amenities (38 percent) than high-end property amenities (37 percent), though, and only one-third said they’d pay more for great renter services.

Once they settle in, tenants are generally satisfied with their communities: 37 percent say they’re very satisfied and 42 percent say they’re satisfied. But they’re not particularly attached to the places where they live: only 30 percent said they consider their residences an extension of themselves, while 38 percent said they had no strong emotional connection to them.

About one in five renters (19 percent) feel strongly enough about their apartment communities to write reviews of them. A solid majority of apartment-seekers (59 percent) read those reviews, and more than half say they carry either a lot (21 percent) or a good amount (32 percent) of weight.

Of the 1,000 renters Village Green surveyed, 700 — 100 per city — lived in seven cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Philadelphia. The remaining 300 respondents were drawn from various locations around the country.

Village Green manages apartment complexes in all seven of the cities plus 43 others nationwide; in Philadelphia, the company oversees the Alden Park apartment community on the Germantown/East Falls border.

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