COVID-19 has dramatically reshaped the way people live, and shaken up the rental market in new ways. It’s affecting everything from where renters are moving to the terms they’re willing to agree to in their leases. While the pandemic is not yet over, renters are at the point where it’s natural to wonder: What changes are here to stay — and which ones are coming down quicker than peel-and-stick wallpaper? Ahead, experts share the four apartment renting trends that are on their way out.
When it comes to pets, landlords are throwing renters a bone. One in five households got a new pet during the pandemic, which has made renting with cats and dogs more common. “The biggest ‘old-school’ attitude that is on its way out is ‘no pets allowed,’” says Kyle McCorkel, a real estate investor with Safe Home Offer in Pennsylvania, who rents out 50 units. “I’ve heard that plants are the new pets and pets are the new kids, especially since the start of the pandemic. The idea for me is that if the renter is a responsible pet owner, they will likely also be a responsible tenant.” The pet deposits and extra monthly pet fees for your furry roommate will remain. But McCorkel says he’s been using vinyl plank instead of carpet in many of his pet-friendly rentals.
As a third year of pandemic living approaches, a new short-term living industry has sprung up to meet the demands of renters who need more flexibility in these unprecedented times. The advent of “work-from-anywhere” lifestyles challenges the status quo of locking into year-long leases.
“The desire to live, travel, and work in a new way was emerging pre-COVID, and has accelerated now that more knowledge workers are geo-shifting their lives,” says Jon Slavet, CEO of Sentral, which offers flexible living stays with optional unfurnished or designer furnished apartments in several cities including Austin, Denver, Miami, and Los Angeles.
Deep Discounts and Concessions
Early in the pandemic, the rental market swung in favor of renters. Not only were landlords offering deep discounts and concessions as a way to entice renters to fill vacant apartments, but the perks were plenty — things like free housecleaning, gift cards for meal delivery services, and waived parking garage fees. These sweet deals, however, were short-lived.
“Since the rental market has stabilized, we are no longer seeing those discounts being offered as much anymore,” says Michael Lucarelli, cofounder and CEO RentSpree, an automated rental application company. While some of the bigger cities emptied out during COVID-19, demand has rebounded, he says. In fact, rent prices, on a national level, spiked by a record-setting 18 percent in 2021, according to Apartment List.
For some renters, this means downgrading into units that better align with their budgets. “Many renters were quick to sign new leases in order to take advantage of the generous incentives being offered during the height of the pandemic,” says Zoe Elghanayan, principal and senior vice president at TF Cornerstone, which has a portfolio of luxury rentals in New York City. “Once renewals came around and rents returned to their pre-COVID rates, many of those who had upgraded from a studio to a one-bedroom or from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom found that those types of apartments were not within their budget without additional one-time incentive offers factored in.”
Doing Business in Person
Performing common renting tasks in person was already dwindling, says Robert Carrillo, a property manager with Century 21 Haggerty in El Paso, Texas. But almost overnight in March 2020, the world went virtual — and Carrillo says it converted those last holdouts who believed in an old-school approach to renting with lots of face-to-face interactions. Virtual tours have become a new norm, making it easier for those who are considering out-of-state moves, he says. Everything from applications to lease signing and paying rent or submitting work orders can be completed online or with apps, Carrillo says.