Covid has changed the real estate landscape, perhaps forever. Working from home and hybrid work arrangements have become a part of our lifestyle and we’re spending more time at home now. This has had big implications for homeowners and renters alike. Expert real-estate investors Matthew Lee and Ming Lim run Volition Properties, a leading Toronto-based real-estate investment advisory and realty firm. With the help of their team of investor realtors, they’ve looked at rental market trends. According to them, these are the top trends that renters are looking for right now.
Functional Working Space
Office, den, nook, whatever you want to call it: renters are looking for somewhere to work at home other than their kitchen island or dining table. This is especially important if there isn’t a separate bedroom in the apartment.
Bigger and More Bedrooms
People don’t always want to try and find design tricks to make small bedrooms look bigger: sometimes they want the rooms to be bigger. Whether it’s in the Toronto rental market or elsewhere, there is a huge premium for being able to fit in a bigger bed and a desk. Having an additional bedroom also allows couples to have separate workspaces when working from home – especially for Zoom calls – and gives them some personal space of their own.
To cure the boredom, renters have picked up many new interests and hobbies throughout the pandemic. Now they are looking for flexible and adaptable spaces to continue to pursue these. It’s a bonus if a space can double as a home gym.
Balconies and Outdoor Patios
One of the big trends in the rental housing market during Covid has been easy and quick access to outdoor space. Renters don’t want to be stuck inside all day: instead, they now value being able to step outside quickly and enjoy a coffee or read a book on an outdoor patio or balcony.
Renters still want that social connection but in a safe environment. With a backyard meant for summer entertaining, they can have friends and family over for a BBQ or drinks while still maintaining a safe social distance. A growing trend is that they want a dedicated private outdoor space that isn’t shared with other tenants.
Spending so much time indoors, renters are craving the sense of tranquillity that live plants can bring. They will pay premium prices for a unit that’s close to a park. In addition, while this isn’t so much a feature of an apartment as it is a decor item, outfitting your unit with planters and planter boxes – indoors and outdoors on a balcony or patio – can give your unit that certain sense of home over other units.
More Natural Light
Among the biggest window design trends for 2021 are simply having more windows, larger windows, skylights: anything that counteracts that boxed-in feeling you get when spending 24 hours a day indoors. This is especially important in, for example, the Calgary rental market, where renters tend to opt for studio apartments. Windows facing either south or west are more desirable, since that it is where sunlight generally comes from.
Well-Lit Basement Units
At the start of the pandemic, when rents were on the decline, renters tended to opt for main or upper-floor units that were only slightly more expensive than basements. One way to attract tenants to basement units again has been to use modern pot lights and feature lighting to ensure these spaces are well lit. It’s one of the easy ways to brighten up a dark basement.
There has been a big shift to wanting completely separate entrances for rental units. While this isn’t possible when living in an apartment building or condo building, renters who live in a house with multiple units specifically don’t want to share entrances or amenities with anyone else. This is one of the reasons that laneway suites have become so desirable.
Renters love it when they have their own private Heating, Cooling, and Air Conditioning – or HVAC – systems. This means that you won’t be sharing any of the same air as other tenants in the building. Separate HVAC systems aren’t cheap, though, and typically can only be put in when completing a large multi-unit renovation like the ones Volition handle for their clients.
With more and more people adopting pets for companionship to help combat isolation, one of the biggest rental market trends to have come out of the pandemic has been renters looking for units that allow their furry friends. Quality vinyl plank flooring can make your unit more durable, since it resists scratching and resists moisture better than other types of flooring – and looks great too. Buying pet-friendly furniture for fully furnished rentals is a good idea too.
Bike Storage, Bike Parking and Bike Racks
With people being more environmentally conscious but also still concerned about the Covid transmission risk of using public transit, there has been a massive uptick in the use of bikes. With bikes, however, comes the need for bike storage. Landlords are starting to cater to this demand by providing bike lockers, sheds, bike racks or other bike parking solutions.
In many cases, people who are worried about using public transit during a pandemic have decided to buy their own cars instead of bikes. After all, there’s the Canadian winter to keep in mind. This has led to a surge in the demand for dedicated parking for rental units.
Trend Away From Smaller Units and Micro-suites
To find out the things you need to know before you buy your first rental property, it’s a good idea to join a real estate investor meetup group. Many novice investors have opted for smaller units and micro-suites because these are cheaper to buy and easy to rent to young, first-time tenants. Volition’s investor meetup group has always seen this as an unsustainable investment approach. Covid has proved them right: these properties are now the most difficult to rent out.