Renter Engagement Ideas That Keep Residents Around

Smiling resident adjusting her smart thermostat

If improving renter retention feels a bit like chasing your tail, you might just need a few simple renter engagement ideas to keep people around, bring in positive property reviews and cultivate the apartment community of your dreams. The good news is that resident satisfaction is actually pretty high across the board. In fact, most U.S. residents are satisfied with where they live. Some are unhappy, but many sit somewhere in the middle.

Like undecided voters in a close election, these undecided renters could be pulled either way. It’s up to you to convince them — better yet, show them — that they live in a great community. With the help of real data from the 2022 NMHC Renter Preferences Survey Report, let’s look at effective, data-driven renter engagement ideas to keep residents from moving on.

Provide ways to keep homes organized

The longer people live in one place, the more stuff they’re likely to accumulate. And if their living space gets too cluttered, they might think about moving to a bigger place. However, if you can provide tools that help renters get more out of limited space, you might be able to retain residents for longer.

One popular way to do this is through modular closet systems, which have seen a 36% increase in interest since 2020. These modular closets let renters arrange the closet in a way that suits their organizational needs.

Offer flexible space

Renters appreciate the ability to adapt their living space to a variety of needs. While this is a longstanding perk of homeownership, in recent years, two-thirds of renters say flexible space is important or extremely important to them. Think of flex spaces like multipurpose rooms but for apartments: entertainment rooms, offices, study areas, reading nooks, etc. can be set up according to individual taste and need.

There are creative ways to do this, including modifiable floor plans and furniture that transitions for different uses. Microhomes, or tiny houses, are often between 100 and 400 square feet, making them prime examples of how to create and utilize flex space.

Allow short-term leases

With the rise of remote work, there’s an increased demand for short-term leases. People who work from home may not be tied down to one location. Shorter leases (e.g., six-month terms) are particularly appealing to remote workers or those in transition. But you can even go beyond simple six-month leases with a rental housing membership program — similar to a vacation club. More than half (56%) of people who moved during the pandemic say they would consider joining a flexible program like this.

Invest in smart tech

Technology that adds convenience or drives savings can be a major selling point for renters of all ages:

  • Smart thermostats
  • Leak detection
  • Water-saving features
  • Smart waste management  
  • Solar panels
  • Smart locks
  • Low-flow devices
  • Property management software (tenants use it to pay rent and make maintenance requests)

Whatever you offer, make sure you put them in your marketing. Talk about them in your resident newsletter, website, email, social media and any other place you send communications.

Make on-site deliveries a safe, preferred option

With the rise of online ordering and package deliveries, many properties don’t have the infrastructure to handle a large volume of deliveries. Self-service pickup options like package lockers or a package room can help manage incoming items. Some luxury communities even offer in-house deliveries, but research has found most renters do not like the idea of having people enter their units to deliver packages.

Do more to accommodate pets

One-third of renters live with a pet or service animal. If your community allows pets, don’t skip this one as part of your resident engagement strategy. Pet-friendly rental housing has been shown to boost resident retention.

Pet amenities include:

  • Dog parks
  • Pet washing stations
  • Doggy daycare
  • On-site grooming
  • Be open to as many types of pets as possible (eliminate breed restrictions)

Offer a fitness center

Fitness is a top priority for many renters, with 70% saying they want or wouldn’t rent without an on-site fitness center. More than half of those with access to a community fitness center use it exclusively, so it’s crucial to keep all equipment up-to-date and well-maintained.

What should you put in your community gym? Free weights and cardio machines are the most-requested pieces of equipment. Of those who never or rarely use the fitness center, 29% cite either lack of equipment or outdated equipment as the reason.

Meanwhile, one-third of renters simply aren’t interested in this amenity. That’s why it’s important to survey your community to find out what your residents want. Some communities simply aren’t interested in this feature, while some wouldn’t do without it.

Utilize outdoor space

Outdoor amenities are a great resident engagement idea. The exact nature of the amenity will depend on the region as well as the community. In the Southeast and Texas, 73% of renters have a strong interest in community pools. In high-density metro areas, renters are more interested in rooftop spaces with barbecue grills.

Send texts when appropriate

Texts have a 98% open rate, making them an extremely effective way to communicate with renters. You can use texts to share reminders about community-wide projects or emergency situations that require moment-by-moment updates. Make sure you give the recipient a chance to opt-in first, of course.

Some property management solutions such as Yardi Breeze Premier can accommodate two-way texting. Every correspondence is stored online for reference or legal purposes. That way, you’re never scrambling to remember whether you sent an important due date or friendly reminder.

Be transparent

Transparency always matters, but it matters most of all during difficult conversations. For instance, it’s important to know how to write a rent increase notice in a way that states the facts without driving renters away.

Tenant portals give renters instant access to key documents and information. Portals also keep owners in the loop and help foster trust and transparency. In addition, making rules, regulations and other agreements visible and easily accessible can help reduce misunderstandings and improve the safety of your entire community. With software like Yardi Breeze and Yardi Breeze Premier, you can securely store permanent records of all documents and communications in the cloud for your office as well as your residents.

Renter engagement ideas in a nutshell

It’s important to have a resident engagement strategy that matches the needs of your community. You can offer organization tools, flexible spaces, smart technology and outdoor amenities all you want, but if you’re not giving people what they actually want, it might be all for naught. Conduct annual or semi-annual resident satisfaction surveys. Use that feedback to improve your residents’ living experience.

Not sure where to start? Ask — then listen to — your community. That’s the best way to improve renter engagement.