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What features do renters look for when renting?

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A growing number of Canadians are now renting in order to stay in larger urban centres, or because they don’t want to be locked into a large purchase decision. To help uncover what renter’s want, Zolo conducted a rental property survey. We asked almost 900 renters to tell us what they wanted in a rental home, what rental features are important and to assess their overall commitment to being a life-long renter. 

Here’s what we found: 

Not surprisingly, most renters are millennials (51%), while 19% of renters fell into the Gen X camp, and another 17% fell into the Gen Z cohort (the generation after millennials). 

Only a small segment of renters was aged 45 or older, with only 1% reporting that they were aged 65 or older. 

About 41% of renters remained in the same rental home for three years or longer; quite surprisingly 9% of these renters stayed in the same rental unit for 10 or more years.  

  • 0 to 1 years: 17%
  • 1 to 3 years: 42%
  • 3 to 5 years: 17%
  • 5 to 7 years: 11%
  • 7 to 9 years: 3%
  • 10+ years: 9%

Renter's Guide - Additional Reading

What’s most important when looking for a rental?

The most significant factor to influence a renter’s decision about a rental unit was price, with 73% of respondents reporting that they stayed right on budget, 19% reporting that they found a unit that was under their budget and 8% said they went over budget. It’s fair to say that pricing and budget is one of the most important rental features when deciding on a place to live. 

But what monthly rental rate were renters willing to pay? 

  • 14% had a maximum rental budget of less than $500
  • 35% had a rental budget that was between $500 and $999
  • 28% had a rental budget that was between $1,000 and $1,499
  • 13% had a rental budget that was between $1,500 and $1,999
  • 5% had a rental budget that was between $2,000 and $2,499
  • 2% had a rental budget that was between $2,500 and $2,999
  • 2% had a rental budget of $3,000 or more

Rental rates aside, there are other features, both in the home and the community, that renters want.

The “must-have” features renters looked for in a rental home included: 

  1. A rental unit that was pet-friendly (47%)
  2. An updated kitchen (37%)
  3. A master bedroom with an ensuite (37%)
  4. Updated or newer model furnace and A/C units (31%) 
  5. A garage (28%)

On the other hand, the features renters cared less about was whether or not the home had a mudroom (65%) or pool (53%) or an in-law suite (47%) or if the home provided accessibility features for those with mobility issues (42%).

Renters are also picky about the location of a rental unit — favouring some community features over others. Asked to rate how important each neighbourhood feature was (and allowed multiple responses), 42% reported wanting a rental that was close to work while 34% of respondents want to be close to public transit. Other big draws were rental accommodations that were close to family and friends or schools (both 31%) or close proximity to nearby community stores (29%). 

Will you always be a renter?

Turns out the vast majority of renters (83%) plan on buying a home, and relatively soon.

  • 41% of renters plan to buy property in the next 1 to 3 years
  • 26% of renters plan to buy in the next 3 to 5 years
  • 12% of renters plan to buy within the year
  • 11% of renters plan to buy in six to 10 years
  • 10% of renters plan to buy a decade or more from now

For many renters, the biggest obstacle to purchasing their own home is saving up. Turns out 34% believe they need a larger down payment, while 14% cannot buy because they do not qualify for a mortgage; another 14% are in the process of repairing their credit score, while 12% cited the “lack of affordable housing options” as their main obstacles to taking a leap into homeownership. 

Renter's Guide - Additional Reading

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo Homebase. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards. Her north star is to consistently provide actionable, valuable and accurate information that helps elevate the financial literacy of everyone.