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Generation Z Renters: The Must Knows for Multifamily Pros

Generation Z Renters: The Must Knows for Multifamily Pros


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 iGenerationPlurals 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.


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  • Thanks for sharing, Drew! Your blog post offers great insight on Generation Z and explains why multi-family professionals need to pay attention to this group.

    Multi-family professionals must recognize the tech savvy nature of Gen Z in order to meet their interests and successfully rent their properties. By focusing on the security system, property managers can ensure the system is technologically advanced and compatible with any future updates. An open architecture platform is designed to allow for future upgrades and can work with many different software systems. Property managers can feel confident in their system, knowing they have the freedom to update as needed.

    Likewise, property managers should also recognize the importance of mobile among this generation and look for ways to implement compatible technology. Smart phone credentials, in particular, would be of great interest to Gen Z renters as they frequently use their phones and would appreciate the convenience.

    Drew, do you think Gen Z would be interested in the connectivity of devices?

  • Drew Brucker

    Ann Matheis

    Hey Ann, thanks for adding in your thoughts. Great perspective.

    I absolutely believe Gen is/will be interested in device connectivity. One major takeaway I got when writing this piece was that while millennials and gen z are similar, they're also much different. Gen Z looks at social, connectivity, and functionality a tad bit differently. I'm crafting an article as we speak regarding the similarities, differences, and the way we should be strategizing for these younger renters.

  • Mark

    Hi Drew,

    Interesting piece, but I wanted to inquire about this line -"We’ve already seen the mass exodus away from the typical ILS advertising options."

    What constitutes as a mass exodus? A recent joint study published by Google and Apartments.com found that 61% of renters turn to either an ILS or search engine first. Adding to this the number 1 first online source used was an apartment listing site at 32%, followed by search enginge at 29%. Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube didn't even rank in the top 5 and were lumped into the 'Other' category at 2%.

    I don't see ILS services going anywhere, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on why you think an exodus has, or is taking place.

  • Hey Mark,

    I'm happy to clarify. Before I go into that, I want to recognize that you made some great points. Those statistics are true but what their missing is the context of where those numbers were 1...3...5 years ago. The shift has already happened and it will continue to happen...just in a slower format, typical of the MFH industry.

    As someone who helps multifamily organizations with digital marketing, online reputation, and advertising, I can tell you that the shift away from ILS advertising is real. It may not be moving as "fast" as we might think, as MFH operations and changes move rather slow (as we all know). But from someone who has guided MFH ad spend, I wouldn't waste a dime advertising on ILS sites. The pasture is just too green in other advertising formats. Why advertise in a place where your competition ALSO shows up? Going beyond that, the conversion tracking that ILS sites provide is rather poor. Instead, you could be using advanced targeting (geo, age, interests, behaviors) that falls in line with Fair Housing where you have the entire stage to showcase your community (i.e. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Snapchat Geofilters, etc.).

    I hope that provides a little more clarification in my thought process there. If you want to discuss further, shoot me an email dbrucker@letitrain.com or visit my website at www.drewbrucker.com .

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