For the first time in years, the apartment rental market is beginning to experience signs of recovery as the U.S. economy slowly begins to strengthen.
Reuters reported the rental vacancy rate fell to 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 from 10.3 percent in the July-September period—the lowest since the second quarter of 2007. Witten Advisors predicts rents will increase 4.5 percent in 2011 as operators become aggressive in raising rents with little fear of losing customers to other housing options. In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey to more than 1,800 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2011 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search.
Socioeconomic factors are often the leading indicator of growth in the housing industry. The survey results revealed nearly three times the number of respondents—or 28.8 percent—are looking to move to relocate for employment opportunities in January 2011 compared to 10.4 percent from the previous year. Other key findings from the survey demonstrated many renters are starting their apartment search earlier in the year, a large volume of current homeowners and first-time renters are entering the market and having access to accurate apartment information is paramount when looking for a new place to live.
“It’s a good idea to lock into a lease right now,” states Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. “Many management companies have announced rent increases and we’re starting to see this reflected in the rents advertised on our site. As vacancy rates continue to drop and the rental market improves, we expect to see the upward trend grow. Deals can still be had, but they’re getting harder to find. Use the tools available online to search for apartments by rent ranges that work with your budget.”
The primary factor fueling moves for survey respondents are new job opportunities. However, the desire to have more space, affordability and living in a safe neighborhood also topped the list. Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses on why their website visitors are moving in 2011:
- Relocating for employment opportunities: (28.8%)
- Looking for a bigger apartment: (13.3%)
- Shopping for a less expensive apartment: (9.7%)
- Rent increase: (6.7%)
- Wanting to live in a safer neighborhood: (5.7%)
Survey respondents also want access to accurate apartment information and the option to tailor their searches by price and location when looking for a new place. According to the survey, 64 percent of respondents said being able to check real time availability of a specific apartment matters most and 72.2 percent said the two most popular ways they prefer to searc
It is also clear that renters are tapping multiple resources to find their next apartment. While 81 percent of Apartments.com visitors surveyed said they are using an Internet Listing Service (ILS) during their apartment search, they are also utilizing popular search engines, listening to recommendations from others and reading their local newspapers. Only five percent said they are using social media websites during their search. Renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows:
- Internet Listing Service (e.g. Apartments.com, Rent.com and MyNewPlace.com): (80.9%)
- Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle):(46.2%)
- Search engines: (38.4%)
- Word of mouth: (31.1%)
- Local newspaper: (27.1%)