CHICAGO, IL - 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. Apartments.com 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, further corroborating news of an improving rental market in 2011. 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.
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%)
A significant number of respondents indicated they are apartment shopping now for a move that will not take place until much later in the year. According to the survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents are starting their apartment search three to four months in advance and nearly a quarter are looking as early as five months to more than a year out.
"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."
Supporting a growing trend in the industry, more than 20 percent of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are current homeowners. From these survey respondents who said they are current homeowners, 32 percent are also first-time renters, indicating a significant number of current homeowners and new renters are turning toward the rental market in 2011.
Survey respondents who are former homeowners also said they are renting this year because it affords them a lifestyle they prefer, including flexibility to relocate for employment opportunities and to live where they choose.
Apartments.com visitors 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 search for an apartment is by the "cost of rent" or "location."
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%)
Renters also want instant access to information on the go. According to the survey, 80 percent of respondents indicated they use a mobile device during their apartment search. Nearly half of these respondents said they use a smart phone or device including iPhone®, iPad®, Android or Blackberry® during their apartment hunt. Apartments.com answers the needs of on-the-go renters by offering a mobile version of the website and an app for iPhone and iTouch users. Apartments.com also offers a "Send2Phone" feature where renters can send information about an apartment listing from the Apartments.com website to their mobile phones as a text message.
Apartments.com is a leading national apartment Internet listing subscription service with more than 50,000 unique addresses representing millions of rental units from managed properties, newspaper classifieds and for-rent-by-owner properties. By incorporating the most relevant products to reach renters including personalized searches and highly visual ads featuring live chat, real-time rent, online video walk-through demonstrations, professional photography, a mobile website and iPhone app, Apartments.com creates easy access to its listings. Providing unmatched exposure to its advertisers through an intuitive name, strategic search engine placements, featured partnerships including Zillow, Yahoo! Real Estate, Univision and more than 120 newspaper websites and innovative emerging media, Apartments.com reaches millions of renters nationwide, driving both qualified traffic and highly-engaged renters to leasing offices nationwide. Apartments.com is a division of Chicago-based Classified Ventures, LLC. The Apartments.com network of apartment rental websites includes Apartment Home Living, a leading social media apartment website distinguished by a "live for fun" community experience, proprietary lifestyle matching and local living guides to help renters find their perfect place to live.