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Will COVID-19 Change What Renters Look for in a Property?

Apr 05, 2020 by Aly J. Yale
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already had sweeping effects on the rental market. Short-term rentals are getting hit hard, and Airbnb is feeling the burn. Tenants confined to their properties 24/7 are causing issues, and landlords are being told to halt evictions -- even if their renters can't pay up.

Down the line, it will likely have even longer-term effects on the market, altering how tenants rent properties and even what they want in a rental in the first place.

Poised for change

Renters -- and Americans in general -- are being forced to rethink how they interact with others as well as the properties they live in. As social distancing and shelter-in-place orders lengthen, these new ways of life turn into daily habits, and habits, as they say, die hard.

For the rental market, that could mean increased demand for:

Home offices

Many Americans are now working from home, and as employers see how this arrangement can cut overhead costs and still maintain productivity, it's likely WFH will become more commonplace -- even once the pandemic ends. Renters might require designated home office spaces, or even just office-like amenities, such as built-in desks and bookshelves.

Stronger Wi-Fi

Internet use has surged over the past few weeks as people work from home, binge on Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), and use Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) FaceTime with loved ones to stay connected. While demand may lessen a bit when shelter-in-place orders are lifted, an increase in permanent work-from-homers will likely necessitate better access to Wi-Fi moving forward.

More distance between neighbors

Social distancing is what will lessen COVID-19's impact on the world, and this will hold true for any other communicable illness outbreaks that follow it. In the long run, it could cause renters to lean more toward single-family properties in an effort to put more distance between themselves and their neighbors.

Business centers in multifamily properties

Renters who do choose multifamily units will likely require more on-site work-related amenities -- things like business centers with printers, computer stations, and more. On-site food options may also see increased demand as those work-from-home pros seek out breakfast, lunch, and coffee options during the workday.

Larger spaces

For renters with small spaces, sheltering in place can be hard -- especially if they're living with other people. We can expect many to look for larger rentals and more spacious floor plans moving forward.

The bottom line

These are just ideas, of course, and there's no telling what the rental market -- or the world in general -- will look like once we emerge from this crisis.

The one thing that is for certain? Things are changing -- and people are changing with it.

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Aly Yale has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.