• AppFolio Property Management recently conducted a national survey about the apartment rental process.
  • In Houston, the rental market is still steady.
  • Millennials want to transact their personal business, including renting an apartment, digitally whenever possible.

AppFolio Property Management, one of a suite of companies under the AppFolio name, recently conducted survey to delve into important criteria that renters are looking for in the current multifamily space.

The survey results, meant to be used as advice to its customers, professional property managers who oversee anywhere between 10 and 5,000 units, also point to national trends in the multifamily rental segment as a whole.

Since AppFolio has clients in all 50 states, they were willing and able to share their insights about local markets.

Houston was one of the markets about which Vice President of Product Nat Kunes had specific insight.

“When we look at an overall market,” Kunes said, “we look at both population inflow and outflow. Houston still has inflow, although it is slowing slightly.”

“It’s slower growth, but we’d still definitely call it growth.”

Kunes acknowledged that there is a slowdown in the energy sector, a segment in which many employees seek rental housing. But, he added, Houston is luring more employers in financial services and other industries there, tempering the impact of the losses in the oil and gas industry.

AppFolio’s survey wanted to gauge what is top of mind for today’s renters. The property management industry, they say, has one of the slowest adoption rates of technology. But renters are in the other camp: they eagerly await and adopt tech trends.

Online convenience can make or break a signed lease.

With more and more consumers renting versus buying a home, the rental market has become increasingly crowded.

So, with that in mind, AppFolio quizzed current renters on where they found their listing. Nearly one-third (29 percent) say they found the rental listing for their current residence online. Word of mouth still came in big, at 23 percent, and finding a rental through a Realtor notched a measly 9 percent.

AppFolio says they streamline the rental process from beginning to end by offering quick screening of residents, and online rental applications and rent collection. Once a tenant, communications from the property managers can come via text message.

Owners get their own portal for accounting and reporting purposes, and a streamlined vacancy ad process. Mobile inspections are also offered, which helps cut down on the time that units are vacant.

The study points out how much the resident of today appreciates and embraces these digital tools.

Today’s renters not only find listings online, but they’re also attracted to digital conveniences in deciding which rental to move into next. From paying rent to reporting a maintenance issue, renters want to be able to do apartment tasks from their phone, iPad or computer, whether on-the-go or sitting on the couch.

Nearly half of the tenants surveyed (46 percent) prefer to pay their rent digitally—through an app, website or by automatic withdrawal from their bank.

Millennials, a big demographic in the Houston rental market, are least sensitive to price. Of the total respondents to the survey who say that price was the top reason for eliminating a property from the search, only 28 percent are age 18 to 34.

And, that age group’s expectations, as well as the resetting of expectations for housing costs, are dictating that a larger percentage of monthly income goes to rent. Thirty-two percent of respondents said half or more of their monthly income goes toward rent.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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