• AppFoilo Property Management helps renters find and lease apartments quickly.
  • DC renters, AppFolio says, are generally older millennials who appreciate technology.
  • AppFolio commissioned a national survey of renters about a variety of aspects of the process.

AppFolio Property Management, one of a suite of companies under the AppFolio name, quizzed residential renters across the country to find out what about the rental process appealed to, or displeased them, the most.

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 offer good insight into national trends in the multifamily rental segment.

AppFolio has clients in all 50 states, so their research experts were able to share some insights about specific local markets.

Vice president of Product Nat Kunes offered some insight on renters in DC.

“We see more mid-career professionals as the renters in DC,” Kunes said, “I’d say they are more likely the older millennials who work there.”

DC provides myriad transportation options, which appeal to all demographics.

“Millennials don’t want to drive,” added Kunes. “DC has growing public transportation options, which are great for people commuting for work.”

And, millennials are staying out of the housing market longer, which in the DC market usually means a move out to one of the surrounding suburbs.

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.

Kunes said that, in markets that are highly competitive for rentals, a property manager wielding an iPad can get a completed application, run a credit check and get a signed lease almost instantaneously. For renters who have looked at photos online, this saves them the effort of traveling from property to property to look at homes.

And, that’s a large part of AppFolio’s findings across the country. Renters say that they want to shop online, and if the digital presence of a particular property is lacking, they are likely to move on.

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 nine 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.

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 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 18-34.

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.

Kunes says that’s because, during the housing crisis, many people who lost homes needed to find rentals, so the percentage of income benchmarks were relaxed. Where in the past, one-third of income was the high watermark for what a budget could bear, more and more people are devoting more money than that to an apartment.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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