What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment? | All Property Management

We posted an article last week that looked at how and why rental demand is increasing among Americans ages 55 and above. This is a trend that is expected to continue as Baby Boomers age.

So, the question becomes: How will you capture a share of the 55+ renter market?

It’s important for landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations to understand what older renters are looking for in an apartment. One of the challenges is that the demographic of 55+ renters is incredibly diverse. There’s no single renter profile for this age group. The needs of a 65-year-old resident are much different than someone who’s 55 or 75 years old.

Research indicates that there are a few things that older residents have in common, at least in terms of what they want out of their living spaces. Read on for more information, including property upgrades that will make your building more attractive to renters as they get older.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#1: Accessibility

Older Americans are looking for homes that will be easy to navigate as they age. Homes with long driveways or multi-level entrances can be difficult for older adults to traverse.

To increase the appeal of your property for 55+ renters:

  • Offer parking as close to the entrance as possible.
  • Be sure that walkways are as level as possible–the path itself, as well as any bricks or pavers.
  • Try to keep outdoor patios level with adjacent indoor rooms. Raised decks or grand front porches may look nice, but they’re not particularly functional for older adults.
  • Install an ADA-compliant ramp if space allows. This will attract a larger share of renters looking for a home where they can age in place. You get the added benefit of appealing to disabled residents of all ages.
  • Consider widening doorways. This is particularly beneficial for residents whose mobility may be constrained by a wheelchair or walker. At least 36″ is needed for wheelchair access, though 42″ is preferable.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#2: Inclusive Rents

The 55+ renter demographic is also looking for rents that include all utilities: heat and hot water, gas and electricity, cable and internet, even parking and laundry. Today’s 55+ renters have owned their own homes before. They’re tired of the maintenance and upkeep that’s required, which is often a driver of downsizing to an apartment community. Older Americans are looking for homes where the yard work, snow removal, and other strenuous chores are included in the rent.

In addition, it’s often the case that after one spouse passes away, the other struggles to manage their budget or stay on top of the bills. As such, older renters have a preference for homes that include all of these services in the standard monthly rent. It’s one less thing for them to worry about as they age.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#3: First-Floor Living Spaces

An estimated 40% of new homes being built have a first-floor master suite, representing a 15% increase over the past decade. “That’s the number one request these days from Baby Boomers,” says Bruce Nemovitz, a Certified Seniors Real Estate Specialist based in Milwaukee.

As Baby Boomers age, getting up and down the stairs becomes more of a challenge and a hazard. First-floor bedrooms and bathrooms allow people to age in place.

If you’re planning to renovate your rental’s bathroom, make sure that your upgrades are valuable for renters of all ages:

  • Install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet.
  • Consider adding a comfort-height toilet, which is easier to get on and off of for older adults.
  • A walk-in shower with bench seating is ideal.
  • Otherwise, be sure that the tub has a swing door to allow for easy entry and exit.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#4: Room for Guests

Someone who has hosted their friends and relatives at their home over the years may be apprehensive about downsizing. They worry that if they sell their longtime family home, they won’t have room for people to stay. Typically, older Americans are looking for properties that have at least a second (if not a third) bedroom that can be used as an office or for visiting friends and family.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#5: High-End Finishes

Many Baby Boomers are accustomed to high-end finishes in their homes, and they’re looking for the same level of quality when they downsize to an apartment. It’s important that kitchens and bathrooms have a high-quality look and feel. Consider asking the older residents you know what they would like to see in their home–is it better to spend your money on marble countertops and solid-wood cabinets, or would they rather trade pricy materials for new appliances?

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#6: Better Lighting

Lighting becomes even more important as people age. Proper lighting isn’t just a preference–it’s a safety measure. Motion-sensor lights are ideal for driveways, entryways, hallways, and other common areas. These lights brighten up an area without an older adult having to fumble through the dark looking for a switch. Inside, add multiple light switches to reduce the number and length of trips needed to turn a light on or off.

If you’re considering renovating your rental property, you may also want to consider investing in larger windows. Bigger windows will increase the amount of natural light that the home gets, which also increases the unit’s appeal to prospective residents of all ages.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#7: Space to Gather

Older adults are living longer into retirement; and increasingly, they place a high emphasis on remaining social. To lure 55+ renters to your property, consider creating spaces for them to gather together with family, friends, or other residents.

Within the unit, open floor plans with combined kitchen/living areas can be great for entertaining, as are well-kept outdoor spaces. If you manage or own a larger community, consider upgrading lobbies, clubhouses, pools, and picnic areas. Host events that encourage residents to mix and mingle.

Landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations are increasingly vying for their share of the 55+ resident market demographic. That’s why it’s so important to understand the preferences of older Americans. A range of property upgrades–some of which are simple and inexpensive–can be made to increase the appeal of your property among 55+ renters.

If you’re looking for other ways to attract older renters to your property, consider hiring a property manager. An experienced property manager will know how to best position your property to entice renters of all ages. When you’re ready to get started, All Property Management will be here to help.

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.