today is Aug 18, 2022

The pandemic has caused tenant wish lists to change.

Key Points

  • The pandemic continues to shape apartment tenants' needs. Amenities once seen as upscale are now expected.
  • Renters want features with an eye toward convenience, technology, and environmental sustainability.
  • Upgraded amenities require an investment from the landlord, but it could pay off with higher rents and tenant retention.

Apartment leasing is once again on the rise after the pandemic slump. To attract and retain tenants, landlords should offer tech-focused amenities that make living and working at home both comfortable and convenient.

Here are six examples of how tenants' needs and tastes are changing -- and why and how apartment building landlords should be amending their amenities.

1. Wi-Fi-ready units → Wi-Fi access included

The work-from-home era has made Wi-Fi access paramount, not to mention many tenants have cut the cord with cable, opting for a bevy of streaming services instead. Tenants expect to be able to connect easily, but they'd rather not have to worry about scheduling an internet installation upon moving in. Instead, they want their units connected already and the fees wrapped up in their rent.

According to market research and consulting firm Parks Associates, the average cost of broadband internet service for a household is $64 per month. But per Broadband Communities magazine, landlords could likely get that discounted to $20 to $30 per unit if they installed internet for the entire building.

However, in big cities like New York, where lack of internet access causes a divide among citizens, legislators are discussing whether to make internet access a utility that would be provided free by landlords.  

Two people are doing laundry in their apartment.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. On-site laundry room → in-unit washer and dryer

Apartment dwellers used to claim victory when they didn't have to leave the building to toss in a load of laundry. Now, they'd much prefer not to leave their units at all. While it's nice to have access to one of those oversized industrial washers in the communal laundry room, tenants want washer and dryer hookups in their apartments so they can socially distance themselves on laundry days. The Laundry Alternative, a company that sells portable washing machines online, nearly doubled its sales in 2020, proving that apartment dwellers were already trying to find a way to make it work. 

According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of a brand-new washer/dryer installation is anywhere between $350 and $2,000, depending on the location of the plumbing source.This can add up to a sizable investment for landlords, but it's one that could pay off. PayRent, a rent collection app, reports that tenants are willing to pay up to 20% more each month for in-unit laundry.  

3. On-site fitness → access to healthcare

It's going to take a lot more than just a few treadmills and elliptical machines to get people excited about leasing an apartment. That's why Comunidad Partners teamed up with nonprofit Veritas Impact Partners and a healthcare provider to offer telehealth services free of charge to residents. Tenants in affiliated apartment communities can download an app that connects them with a healthcare professional for both physical and mental health appointments; the service is expected to be offered indefinitely.

While tapping into the multibillion-dollar healthcare industry would indeed be a stretch for many landlords, it is interesting to note that many residents in Comunidad Partners communities have reportedly renewed their leases based on their access to healthcare alone.

4. Garage parking → electric car charging stations

Make no mistake: Tenants with cars still covet covered lots with assigned spots. But with more hybrid and electric cars on the road these days, tenants also need a place to juice up. According to Bloomberg NEF's 2021 Electric Vehicle Outlook, zero-emission vehicles will make up 70% of the automobile market by 2040. Savvy landlords would do well to get on this trend and install (or add more) vehicle chargers in their garages and lots. 

5. Front desk staff → doorbell cameras and package lockers

A doorman was once the hallmark of sophistication and security for an apartment building, and for many luxury apartment communities, it still is. But the pandemic made deliveries a necessity rather than a luxury, and many still prefer getting food, household items, and more delivered to their doorstep. 

According to Pitney Bowes, in 2020, there were 20.2 billion parcels delivered in the U.S., up 37% year over year. That figure is projected to double in the next five years. Considering how many deliveries an apartment complex gets already, how can a front desk staff keep up?

That's why many tenants want to lease apartments in buildings with doorbell cameras to vet visitors and secure package lockers so that they can pick up their packages any time. Amazon Hubs is one option for apartment landlords to offer 24/7 package retrieval. A 2018 article reported installation costs were between $10,000 and $20,000 for the basic 42-locker hub, with no ongoing costs.

6. Air conditioning → central HVAC with smart thermostat

Air conditioning has always been a necessity during the dog days of summer, and tenants prefer central air and heating. And what's more, they want to control both through a smart thermostat that can save them money. According to a 2020 report by the National Multifamily Housing Council, 70.15% of apartment residents indicated they were interested in money-saving devices like smart lighting and thermostats, and 6.6% said they wouldn't lease a new place without smart home technology. 

According to Fixr, the average installation cost of a smart thermostat is $300. The payoff comes with the potential for substantial savings on heating and cooling costs. 

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