Renting to Generation Z: What Multifamily Pros Needs to Know

Author: Drew C Brucker

Millennials are getting all the attention.

Often ignored to this point has been their younger sibling—the aspiring, involved, and more technologically mature child.

And most multifamily companies aren’t spending enough time looking at and analyzing Generation Z.

Generation Z (also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Plurals or the Homeland Generation) has quickly become the largest generation since the Baby Boomers.

Although Generation Z has not yet been defined precisely, they are generally known as those individuals born between the mid-1990s and 2010. That makes this generation particularly important to the rental market as many are just now reaching the age to seek and obtain housing independent of their parents.


(Side-by-side comparison of adult population by generation)


As these young adults become a bigger force in the rental economy, what do multifamily professionals need to know about them?

Better yet, what should we expect?

Delivering on this unique generation’s demands and expectations early on will be critical. And with an ever-growing saturation in multifamily communities across the nation, customer experience differentiators will be key.


Gen Z Renters are Tech Savvy


More than any generation before them, Generation Z is at home with technology.

They are the first generation to live their entire lives in a world of smart phones, internet connectivity and social media platforms.

Most in fact, have never even experienced the “annoyances” of dial-up or wired internet access.

Remember the AOL yellow figurine that was frozen on your screen while all those funky noises were coming out of your computer’s speakers?

How about the guy’s cool voice that pronounced “You’ve got mail!”?

We've undoubtedly come along way. But how are those who haven't experienced those advances using the internet today?

Generation Z uses it the way generations before them used shopping malls - as a one-stop resource to find everything they need.

Housing is no exception to that.

As we continue to move forward, Generation Z will undoubtedly use web resources to the exclusion of newspapers, real estate signs and brick & mortar rental offices. In fact, they’ll likely scoff at just the utterance of those traditional marketing tactics.

They will expect, and realistically demand, those services in an online format.


Gen Z Renters are Mobile


Not only does Generation Z rely on the internet for most needs, they also use mobile devices to search for goods and services to a much greater extent than their predecessors.

Because of this and the rest of society’s tech driven nature, multifamily websites must be optimized for mobile use.

But this goes beyond making sure your website qualifies as “mobile friendly”. The mobile version of community websites will also need to be optimized and crafted specifically for a mobile-users experience with the site.

Websites must focus on, and incorporate, user experience features (i.e. virtual tours, 360 degree photos). Most of us in the industry have already seen this take shape.

But multifamily communities must also get away from the cookie cutter website templates that most of them go with. Building a new community website with your typical “floorplans, photo gallery, amenities, and connect with us” tabs will no longer cut it.

They need more connectivity and personalization. And the same argument can be made for apartment marketing and advertising efforts.

A whole new level of personalization, perspective, and overall approach will be needed – but what companies will adapt the quickest?

We’ve already seen the mass exodus away from the typical ILS advertising options. New advertising opportunities lie in highly targeted ad campaigns on platforms such as Google (AdWords, Display), Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Going beyond the status quo and diving further into specific and tailored customer experience structures will be essential.

Gen Z wants more, whether you can hear them yet or not.


Gen Z Renters Know What to Expect


Think about it.

As a majority, Generation Z is likely the first generation to make rental decisions without ever setting foot in a property prior to moving day. They are perfectly comfortable and content previewing future living spaces on smart phones and tablets.

That’s not to say they will strictly buy products and services strictly online however.

For those that do physically come into your community, assume they’ve done their research prior to visiting.

According to a recent study, at this point in the "buying process", Gen Zers have pretty much made up their mind on that particular product/service so communities better make sure they’ve got exactly what they’re looking for.

Given their highly mobile lifestyle, property management should be prepared to exchange all information with Generation Z electronically as a rule of thumb.

This likely includes leasing documents, utility/vendor information, renewal documentation, rent payments, and all property communication.

It may be easy to assume based on that list that your property is already providing some, if not all, of those things. The differentiator, however, will lie in the efficiency and ease of use for these renters.


Gen Z Renters are Inclusive


Contrary to most, Generation Z has viewed the world as a much bigger place than the backyard, the street, or the town they grew up in as an adolescent. The world is at their fingertips, and it has been for most, if not all, of their lives.

Because of the internet, they’ve experienced the world and all its diversity like no generation before them. By and large, they are comfortable with people of different races, religions, nationalities, beliefs, and backgrounds.

In fact, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation in US history – as it will comprise of 47% ethnic minorities.

Marketing aimed at Generation Z, therefore, needs to express an air of inclusiveness, openness and comradery.


Gen Z Renters are Instantaneous


Given their connectivity, Generation Z is used to getting what they want, when they want it.

Renting is no different.

They expect to be able to locate, re-locate, apply for, and obtain approval on rentals in an instantaneously demanding fashion.

Waiting days for communication from on-site community staff isn’t going to fair well.

As a result, multifamily organizations should be looking to streamline and automate as many processes as possible. Similar to when leasing staffs made the switch to electronic, a new revolution is forming.


Gen Z Renters are Socially Informed


Generation Z, as a frequent user of review sites and social media, are incredibly informed prior to making decisions.

They post and read online reviews. They’re frequently asking for recommendations via social media.

Consequently, management’s reputation matters now more than ever. The same goes for property upkeep, amenities and repairs.

Property managers who provide excellent service, coupled with a satisfactory customer experience, will receive better reviews. Properties who have a proactive strategy in place for online reputation will receive even better marks.

The end result…fewer (and shorter) vacancies.


Time to Move Forward

Generation Z is used to things happening immediately.

They prefer to handle most of their personal (and professional) business online and rental decisions are just another online adventure to these young adults.

Prepare for this generation now by building mobile-friendly websites with virtual tours and relevant content, having a proactive strategy to online reviews, streamlining and automating current processes, and hiring employees who are equipped to communicate and provide Generation Z with the tech-savvy processes they demand.


New Call-to-action

Subscribe to Rainmaker's Multifamily Housing Blog

Join fellow industry professionals! Get Rainmaker's latest Multifamily articles straight to your inbox. Enter your email address below: