Build-to-RentNational Housing Market Outlook

Build-to-Rent Tenant Preferences

Mikaela Arroyo photo

Mikaela Arroyo

October 8, 2021

We now have concrete data to back some of the multi-million dollar decisions that single-family rental developers make. For each of the following categories, there are things you should spend more on, and things that matter less:

  • Pet decisions
  • Materials / finish decisions
  • Amenity decisions
  • Home office decisions

Our New Home Trends Institute group (you really should join if you haven’t yet!) surveyed nearly 1,200 single-family renters with rent budgets of $1,000+ to figure out what matters most in a single-family rental home. We paired the results with our homeowner survey findings and DesignLens™ database to come up with the following conclusions


Matters more: Spend the money on some pet-friendly home designs

Pet friendliness is the third highest ranking reason that single-family renters choose to rent a home over an apartment, falling below a private yard (also important for pets) and having no one living above or below. Thoughtful niches dedicated to pets (like the one below) are very appreciated by pet owners without alienating those who don’t have pets, since they can use the space for storage

Matters less: Don’t spend on pet services

Don’t bother offering services like dog walking for an additional fee. Only 15% of renters would even consider opting into them. Single-family renters would much prefer paying extra for lawn or interior maintenance services.


Matters more: Spend extra for a fabulous kitchen

Premium kitchen finishes and energy efficient appliances are huge draws for single-family renters, with 42% considering them a top influence for choosing a home above others. Don’t forget about ease of cleaning, which is a top pain point among owners and renters alike. A great kitchen can be a huge differentiator.

Matters less: Spend less on premium flooring, healthy home certifications, and smart tech

These features ranked at the bottom of the list of draws for single-family renters. While nice to have, they do not sway rental decisions. That said, we also advise developers to spend extra money on materials that will reduce damage and reduce the work needed to get the home ready for a new tenant.


Matters more: Devote more land to relaxation amenities

When asked to select which amenities would influence single-family renters to choose a community over others, preferences for nature, security, and leisure amenities highlight the fact that single-family renters want a community they can relax in. Note that leisure is evolving, expanding beyond the classic active amenities like pools and tennis courts to include more casual, less expensive options like this fire pit surrounded by charming Adirondack chairs.

Matters less: Spend less on coordinating social activities

Social events (e.g., concerts or movie nights), community gatherings (e.g., farmers markets), and event spaces (e.g., party rooms) were the three lowest-ranking amenity options among single-family renters.


Our recent work-from-home survey finds that 51% of full-time employed households plan to work from home next year (38% hybrid, 13% exclusively from home). The desire for a home office varies by life stage:

  • Families: A full office or den matters more for single-family renters with children.
  • Non-families: A full office or den matters less for single and couple single-family renters, who often prefer the flexibility of using one of the bedrooms as an office.


Our consulting experts will tell you that each location and development density have nuances to these conclusions, and our DesignLens™ team can share great design ideas for each density configuration and target life stage you are considering.

If you are interested in learning more from our consultants, our DesignLens™ Director, or our monthly consumer surveys and prestigious design councils, please fill out this form, and one of our team members will get back to you soon.

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About The Author

Mikaela Arroyo photo
Mikaela Arroyo
Vice President, NHTI | Chief of Staff
Mikaela leads trend research for the New Home Trends Institute, conducting monthly surveys of consumers and industry professionals to better understand housing pain points and desires. As Chief of Staff to the CEO, Mikaela strategizes and supports the daily operations of the company, focusing on business initiatives.

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The New Home Trends Institute pairs design inspiration with exclusive insights into the “why” behind consumers’ housing choices. Gain exclusive insight into housing preferences and pain points through our monthly survey insights reports, webinars, and proprietary surveys of builders, architects, designers, and other industry professionals.
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