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SELL THE DWELL
Reasons Renters Move — and What Landlords Can Do About It

.....................Few numbers speak to the state of renting more than this one: Nearly half (46%) of renters who moved in the past year are considering another move either right now or within the next year.

And it’s not just young people who are on the move. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2020, more than two-thirds of these renters (69%) are considering moving within the next three years — including almost one in five baby boomer and silent generation renters (19%).*

Most of the renters who plan to move in the next year — 56% — plan to move to another rental. So what’s behind the churn?

To be sure, many of the moves are due to significant life changes such as marriage, the arrival of a child or a change in financial circumstances — things you as a landlord have no control over. But other moves appear to be influenced by renters’ dissatisfaction with their rental situation, which is something you can address.

Let’s take a focused look at some of the reasons why renters are moving and some best practices that might help you minimize tenant turnover.

Relationships matter

Tenants across the board move for many of the same reasons, regardless of home type. The most common include rent increases, personal preferences related to space and neighborhood, and significant life events that drive or force change.

But some moves are associated with how renters feel about their landlord or property manager. In fact, renters who moved from a previous rental in nearly all housing types say one of their reasons for moving is a dislike of their property management. 

Dissatisfaction with the people managing their rental home is cited as a reason for moving by a pretty significant swath of renters: 30% of single-family renters, and 32% each of multifamily/large apartment renters and those leasing other home types such as condos and townhomes.

Good communication makes a difference

Good communication is the hallmark of any healthy relationship, and that applies to tenants and landlords or property managers too.

The good news: A majority of renters rate their property management or landlords as good or excellent when it comes to some of the most important aspects of their interactions. 

Among all renters, 60% say the people managing their home demonstrate good or excellent professionalism, 65% give high marks for timeliness and 69% for friendliness. 

The bad news: Only 46% of renters who are currently planning to move rate their management’s communication as good or excellent. That compares to 74% of renters who say they have no plans to move within the next three years. 

The trend is similar for professionalism (50% of current movers vs. 76% of non-movers), timeliness (47% vs. 73%) and friendliness (57% vs. 80%). 

Single-family renters more likely to express satisfaction 

Renters who live in single-family homes are more likely than renters as a whole to say that their rental management has good or excellent communication (67% vs. 60%). That may be one of many reasons why renters in single-family homes are more likely to stay put than those in other forms of housing: 39% of single-family renters say they’re not considering a move within the next three years compared with 29% of both multifamily renters and renters in other home types. 

In key areas, private owners appear to be doing a better job showing up for renters than property managers.

Renters in homes managed by a private owner were more likely to rate their rental management as good or excellent compared with those renting from a management company in these areas:

  • Friendliness (72% vs. 66% for those renting from a management company) 
  • Timeliness (66% vs. 58%)
  • Communication (64% vs. 57%)

At a time when the rental market is feeling the impacts of nearly 3 million renters moving back in with their parents, landlords and property managers might take a moment to reflect on how they’re interacting with tenants in each of those areas to see if there are opportunities for improvement.

Identify tenants’ communication preferences

One place to start is communication. When it comes to communicating with the people managing their homes, 67% of renters prefer remote communications. Of that group, 37% prefer the phone, followed by email (31%) and text messaging (26%).

Baby boomers and silent generation renters are the most likely to prefer to talk in person. About half of them (48%) want face-to-face contact, compared with only 29% of Gen Z and millennial renters and 34% of Gen X renters.

While the data helps to illuminate the differences, the best way to determine a tenant’s preferences is simply to ask them.

Takeaways

  • Recognize and respect that people have different preferences around communicating. Ask how they would prefer to exchange information, and be responsive on all channels that you commit to — phone, text, email, web portal, etc.
  • Set expectations around communication channels so that people know when they can expect a reply. Establish an emergency channel, and be sure to arrange for backup if you can’t respond immediately or soon thereafter.
  • Look for opportunities to connect around something more than the business at hand. Asking how someone is doing, especially during difficult times, can go a long way toward building genuine human connection.

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Lindsey Schober

I try to be a big part of my community and have strong professional relationships with our tenants,” because, he noted, “the closer we are with our tenants and the community, the closer we are to the money. If something comes up, we’ll know. And we can work with the tenant. I don’t want to be the usual landlord. We’re there for them.