StuyTown

Part
01
of five
Part
01

Apartment Feature Priorities

Apartment renters in the United States seem to be interested in a wide variety of apartment information based on their relative markets. Throughout the national market, however, demand exists for information regarding cheaper rent, adequate cell phone service, caring and responsive management. Additionally, renters are interested in a variety of updated features both in the rental property itself and the larger rental community.

In the New York market specifically, cost of rent remains a primary focus with potential renters showing a great deal of interest in potential price increases. Additionally, New York renters show a high level of interest pertaining to an apartment's security, proximity to places of work, and specific updated amenities. The remainder of this report seeks to provide a deeper breakdown of the information that renters are seeking in both the national and New York metropolitan market.

RENT

According to 2017 data, 48% of renters in the nation would leave their current accommodations for a location with cheaper rent. In New York city specifically 40% of renters are not making sufficient income to rent an apartment alone. Instead, these renters are seeking roommates to offset rental costs that consume 41.2% of their income. In addition, New York renters seek information regarding potential price increases for rental properties. Most renters in New York and San Francisco report being willing to pay a 1-5% increase in rent but only if upgrades are made to their properties.

CELLULAR PHONE SERVICE

Renters nationwide are concerned with reliable cellular phone service in the properties they rent. A survey of 269,000 renters in 2017 found that 5% of the respondents were moving to get access to better cellular reception.

QUALITY COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT

The quality and responsiveness of rental community management is of interest to many apartment seekers. 43% of survey respondents believe that community managers should be responsive enough to respond to all reviews related to the rental community. 34% of respondents were moving to find accommodations with better property management. In the New York market, this desire takes on different form with renters seeking rental communities that provide opportunities for in-community socialization.

APARTMENT FEATURES

Renters seek a wide variety of information regarding available amenities and features at rental properties throughout the United States. In terms of physical aspects of the accommodations, features frequently sought include air conditioning, high-speed internet, soundproof walls, in-unit washer/dryer setups and dishwashers. Large spaces and ample closet space also factors into an individual's decision to rent a given property. 51% of renters would settle for a "regular" size closet while 49% of renters seek "large" closets. Further, renters, particularly millennials, seek security via amenities such as keyless entry and other "high tech" offerings.
Renters have also shown particular interest regarding an apartment's proximity to their workplace. 64% of millenial renters believe that finding an apartment close to their location of work is more important than finding an apartment that is near family or friends. In New York city, the desire for closeness extends to access to public transportation as well.

COMMUNITY FEATURES

Rental community features that renters seek include access to fitness and health centers. In the New York city market, one in four renters is interested in bocce ball and raquet ball courts. Renters are also concerned with access to off-street parking (aside from 44% of millenials reporting that they would surrender parking spaces for access to "high tech" apartments). Renters also seek apartments that are close to restaurant and nightlife options.

In New York, additional community features of interest to renters include valet trash and recycling services and front desk receptionists.

CONCLUSION

Renters nationwide are seeking information regarding affordable rent, adequate cell phone service, quality community management, and a variety of apartment amenities when searching for living accommodations. While New York remains a unique market, renters in the metropolitan area show similar desires for cheap rent with limited price increases, and modern amenities. New York City renters also show particular interest in proximity of rental communities to their workplaces and public transportation as well as the security features and fitness amenities available at the location.
Part
02
of five
Part
02

Apartment Moving By Season

Summer is the most popular time to move in the Northeast, including New York City, for both men and women (30% for both genders, compared to 23%, also for both, who would prefer to move in the spring), and especially for families with children under 18 (30.2%, compared to 23% who would move in early fall).

In terms of ethnic groups, Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than other groups to move in the winter — 25% for both, compared to 22% of both non-Hispanic whites and Asians.

In terms of motivations, people move in summer due to better timing (it coincides with summer vacation, convenient for families with young children and university students) and good weather conditions. On the other hand, those moving in winter, particularly in New York City, do so due to more availability of apartments, as well as lower median rents.

METHODOLOGY
In researching this brief, the most comprehensive information on demographics of seasonal movers came from a study performed by the US Census in the year 2009, published in 2011 — these are the most recent data on the topic that could be located, and thus were included below.

Most of the information outlined below is about the US at large, and does not specify on moving between houses or apartments. Any information specific about New York City is mainly about apartments, and mostly about renting, not buying.

Please note that none of the sources consulted specified any different needs for the apartment renting process or features on the apartments depending on the season.

SEASONALITY: DEMOGRAPHICS
Overall, summer is the most popular season for moving: according to the US Census, in 2009, 11% of moves happened in June, 8.5% happened in July and 10% happened in August. On the other hand, December, February and March are the least popular months for moving, with around 7% of moves happening in those months.

This trend is most noticeable in the Northeast (as well as the Midwest), where 30% and 31% of people are more likely to move in the summer, compared to 22% and 20%, respectively, of people who would do so in the winter — likely due to weather conditions. Percentages for the South and West are 29% for summer (both regions) and 24% for winter (both regions).

In terms of gender breakdown, there are no differences between seasons. According to the study, a similar amount of men and women (23% for both) moved in the spring (March to May), and a similar amount of men and women (30% for both) moved in the summer (June to August).

Households with children under the age of 18 are most likely to move in the summer (30.2% of them) than in early fall, presumably because of the start of the school year is an inconvenient time to change housing. According to the study, 24% of households with children under 18 moved in the fall, compared to 25% of households without children under 18.

In terms of race and ethnicity, the foreign-born population is more likely to move in winter than native-born population (25% compared to 22%, respectively). Blacks and Hispanics are also more likely to move in winter (25% for both) than non-Hispanic whites and Asians (22% for both).

SEASONALITY: MOTIVATIONS
Whereas there is no hard data as to what motivates people to move in one season or another, there are some qualitative insights that can be gathered from the numbers outlined above as well as some other sources looking into the real estate market both in New York City and the US.

Moving in summer is convenient for a number of reasons. For families with children, it provides them with ample times since young kids will be in summer vacation and school-related obligations are off. Similar reasons can be said about university students, both those still finishing up and those who have recently graduated — this information is relevant to New York City, as pointed out by RentHop, a city with dozens of local colleges and universities. Summer is also a time in which corporations relocate junior employees, making it a moving time for new hires in the city.

Weather is also a major contender for moving, which is an activity that requires transportation and time outdoors — a factor that will be taken into account by residents of the Northeast, including New York City.

However, for those people with some flexibility or less family obligations (such as single people or families without children) winter offers some attractive factors worth taken into account.

Sources point out that people moving in winter are moved by a much less saturated market, with a higher availability of apartments as well as moving services (rental trucks, moving companies, etc).

Data also shows that average rental apartment prices in New York City drop in winter — the difference between median prices between July and January reaches 4.5%. Apartments are also on the market for a longer time in winter (an average 61 days in January, compared to 36 days in August), making the process of deciding on a specific place much less pressuring.

CONCLUSION
To wrap up, families with young children in the Northeast are more likely to move in the summer, due to the convenience of school vacation and better weather conditions. However, winter movers do so for better rental prices and more rental offers.
Part
03
of five
Part
03

Apartment Renting Journey

In the United States, the top factors in choosing an apartment rental are affordability, neighborhood safety, and commute. Renters are also influenced by various psychological factors, such as the framing effect, anchoring bias, focusing effect, and stereotyping. In New York City, rental volume has increased, resulting in landlords offering additional incentives (such as gift cards and one or more months of free rent, among others), with prospective renters willing to commute further for the right deal.

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS INFLUENCING APARTMENT CHOICE
According to this article, the main psychologically induced factors impacting apartment rental choice are as follows:

1. Framing effect - relying on the language used in marketing a property, whether positive or negative (e.g. Does "cozy" mean "small and cramped?").
2. Anchoring bias - making a decision based on the first information you receive (e.g. such as the price, or amenities).
3. Focusing effect - weighing factors unevenly, "putting more importance on some aspects and less on others" (e.g. one apartment is clearly better but you find yourself interested in another apartment that has some "extra" quirk, such as an outdoor pool).
4. Vonn Restorff effect - focusing too much on one item that is glaringly negative (e.g. an unkempt bathroom).
5. Stereotyping - making comparisons to prior experiences that may be overly generalized and untrue for the given property (e.g. you have bad experiences with college students, so you're more wary to rent an apartment with a college student as a neighbor).

TOP FACTORS INFLUENCING APARTMENT RENTAL
According to results from the 2015 American Housing Survey, main factors considered were; neighborhood, home, and affordability. Raleigh, North Carolina topped the list, and NYC was low on the list due to lack of affordability. Top rated cities have homes with few "structural or cosmetic problems." In contrast, New York was noted as uncomfortably cold for 24 hours or more (19.4%), and not having a working toilet at some point in the last three months (5.7%). Additional factors consist of public transportation and neighborhood satisfaction (good schools, low crime).

In another rental survey by Zumper (the "Zumper Annual Renter Survey"), covering the overall US rental market, the top three factors influencing apartment rentals are affordability (81%), neighborhood safety (69%), and commute (66%). In a demographic breakdown, the survey showed that commute was less important for older adults, and women ranked neighborhood safety and affordability higher than average.

NYC-RELATED INSINGHTS
According to the New York Times, inventories of available apartments have resulted in landlords offering additional incentives. "In Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, inventories and vacancies are up, and landlords are offering new tenants discounts, like several months of free rent and no broker’s fee. In the Bronx and Staten Island, rents are holding steady because those boroughs did not experience the same rapid rent escalations or volume of new development." Additional incentives offered by landlords include benefits such as one or more months of free rent, gift cards, and two year leases with no rent increase, among others.

CONCLUSION
To conclude, the top factors influencing apartment rental choice are affordability (81%), neighborhood safety (69%), and commute (66%). In NYC, the rental volumes are increasing, leading landowners to offer incentives to distinguish themselves and attract renters.
Part
04
of five
Part
04

Apartment Search

When it comes to online apartment searches, people have the option to use desktop or mobile. We have found that while we cannot overlook the role of desktop in online apartment searches, more and more people look for apartment online using their mobile devices. We were not able to find any statistics that specifically pertain to online apartment searches in New York City. Therefore, we have decided to include U.S wide statistics instead.

ONLINE APARTMENT SEARCH IN 2016

In 2016, the proportion of people who look for apartment online using desktop was 62%, according to a report by J. Turner Research. In this survey, only 20% expressed a preference to search for apartments using their phone. The figure for people who look to rent a house online shows similarly high proportion of desktop use (74%).

ONLINE APARTMENT SEARCH IN 2017

In 2017, more people use mobile to search for apartment online. Our research shows that almost 65% of apartment search happened via mobile devices last year.

related findings

It's important to note that Google now uses a mobile-first search index where it will look at the mobile version of a site first for its ranking purposes. Therefore, websites need to offer excellent user experience in their mobile version to make sure they achieve higher rank on Google search engine.

Another emerging trend in online search is the use of voice search. With the voice search, the location of the device will become a big factor in determining the search results. Google will use this location to pull the most relevant results on a particular search. Thus, website's community listing needs to be set up properly to make sure it points to the correct location and shows up on the local search.

CONCLUSION

More people use mobile devices to look for apartment online in 2017. This trend is expected to continue, supported by Google's new algorithm in site ranking and the increased use of voice search.
Part
05
of five
Part
05

Apartment Mobile Website Best Practices

Overview

The online apartment listing industry is becoming more and more competitive and mobile apps are competing to best meet the needs of the renters. Although specific case studies were not published documenting user experience, I was able to focus on best in class examples using compiled lists found and corroborated with Google Play Store ratings. These included The search covers the most common practices attributed to some of the best mobile sites in both New York City and the United States as a whole. The ability to sort the search by filters, map features, and have quick apartment listings were the three most common. Below you will find an in-depth description of these three practices as well as other features included in the apps.

Filters

The ability to narrow down a renters search through the use of filters is one of the top three mentioned features for mobile renting apps. Filters allow the user to narrow their search to meet specific needs. This helps reduce the waste of valuable time in a quick changing market. While every app has a different array of filters to choose from, some common filters include price range, apartment size, and amenities. Naked Apartments, a mobile app that covers NYC, let users search for apartments without brokerage fees, while Sublet allowed users to search for features like “pet-friendly or handicap accessible”. Filters enable the user to find the best deal within their budgets, as well as meeting their necessary requirements, quickly and easily. According to U.S. News, some of the "best in class examples" that use filters included Zillow and Truilla.

Zillow gives users the ability to "personalize a search to specific features such as pet policy, in-unit laundry or on-site parking, and save the searches that interest you the most." Truilla allows users to use filters bu also "puts interested renters in direct contact with the property manager, without having to fill out an inquiry form for every apartment they're interested in or search for a phone number."

Map Feature

The map feature allows the user to zoom in or select a specific area/neighborhood to narrow their search. For example, PadMapper, used in New York, allows a user to select from a map of the five boroughs. Realtor.com even has an option that allows the user to draw their own desired search area and labels the “houses by price on the map”. Some apps go even further in their mapping features. Trulia Real Estate’s app allows you to select “layers” with features such as “heat maps, local boundaries, amenities, and school[s]”. This can benefit renters that are not familiar with a particular neighborhood. Realtor.com was listed among the top ten apps by U.S. News.

Quick Listings

One of the more frequently complimented features is the ability to quickly update listings. This means adding new listings and removing outdated listings quickly. Real-time availability and an organized, well-formatted listings page was valued in almost every highly rated mobile app.

According to U.S. News, a best in class example would be Zumper. Zumper is offered on both Apple and Android devices. It offers "access to an inventory of more than 1 million rental listings, with instant alerts as residences that meet your needs come online." Zumper is partners with Experian, which allows the renter to submit an application with their to the property owner securely through the app.

Other

While the above three features are by far the most common practices, they are not the only features credited to successful app experience. Items such as floor plans or 3-D tours, details of amenities, apartment scores, and broker reviews are among the features that help the renter evaluate the property within the app. Features that assist in the searching process can include alerting the user to properties that meet their requirements are posted, scheduling tours through the app, and saving their searches.
Apps that went even further included features such as directions to the property location and the rental property application. Some apps even partnered with a credit company so a credit score could be downloaded to the application. Having a one-tap communication line with the broker or current resident was another popular feature included in apps.
Lastly, for a renter, the experience doesn’t end when you choose a property and it can be the same for an app. RadPad users pay their rent using the app, Walk Score tells you what is within walking distance from your property, and Next Door can connect you with your neighbors and community to talk about events.

Conclusion

The focus of this report has been on reviews and compiled lists of applications based on usability/user experience. Also, attached is a document listing the mobile apps mentioned in text and their Google Play Store ratings. There are a plethora of mobile apps now and a wide range of features included in different apps is to be expected. The three mentioned in depth: filters, map feature, and quick listings had, almost equally, the most mentions by far.

Sources
Sources