As the Pandemic Persists, Renter Preferences Continue to Shift


by Joe Fairless

T he global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated multifamily trends that were already in place prior to the virus’s arrival – work from home (WFH), migration away from expen - sive gateway markets, and increas- ing investor interest in apartment properties. Now, more than 18 months into the pandemic, it’s obvious that those trends have accelerated even more. Imagine they’re a runaway stage- coach in an old-timey Western film – there’s no stopping ’em now! The next few years will bring even more change to the multifamily sec- tor, creating both opportunities and challenges for investors and owners. RE-THINKING LIVING SITUATIONS Earlier this summer, it seemed the U.S. was emerging from the pandemic. With vaccines readily available and infection rates declin- ing, employers across the nation rolled out plans for workers to return to the office, either full-time or part-time, ending more than a year of WFH.

But the resurgence of the virus, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, has delayed those plans. Many companies including Toyo- ta have announced plans to allow employees to WFH indefinitely, while others – Lyft, for example – have decided to postpone re-openings until Spring 2022. For more than 15 million house - holds, home is an apartment. And of those renters, 41.5 percent work remotely, according to a 2020 survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates. Though some employees want to return to the office as soon as pos - sible because they feel more pro- ductive in an office environment and miss co-worker camaraderie, far more employees desire the flexibil - ity that WFH offers. In fact, nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their job if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely, according to a recent sur- vey by LiveCareer. Anticipating several more months, if not years, of WFH, renters are rethinking their living situations.

They’re evaluating where they want to live, how much space they require, and the amenities they desire. Likewise, multifamily owners and investors are re-evaluating their portfolios as well, considering new markets and renovating their prop- erties to accommodate WFH. MOVING TO MORE AFFORDABLE LOCALES WFH gives employees the opportu - nity to move to locales that are more affordable and offer a better quality of life. They’re no longer tied to a particular city or metro area simply because their employers are based there. United Van Lines’ National Movers Study, conducted annually, exam- ines the reasons behind Ameri- cans’ migration patterns. Data from March to October 2020 revealed the COVID-19 pandemic influenced mov - ing decisions. The top reasons associated with COVID-19 were concerns for person - al and family health and wellbeing (60 percent); desires to be closer to family (59 percent); changes in


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