Renter Search BehaviorThere are currently more than 100 million renters in the United States, a number that has been steadily climbing since the beginning of the 21st century.  In the past year, high demand has led to decreased vacancy rates and a record-breaking rent prices.

High demand has created a competitive marketplace for the booming multifamily industry as property managers and landlords aim to attract the best renters and position available rental properties in the limelight.

Recent studies from Google and have evaluated the top avenues renters use to find their next rental property.

The verdict?

An online presence is key when marketing to renters, the majority of whom will search for their next rental property on the Internet.

The results of this study are not surprising when one considers how prevalent Internet use is with American consumers.  78% of adult American look for information online about a service or product they are thinking about buying.

Key highlights from the Joint Study by and Google on Online Search Behavior and Trends of Apartment Renters include:

Renter Search Behavior

  • 72% of respondents use the Internet first when starting a search for an apartment
  • 61% of online apartment searches begin with either an apartment listing site or a search engine.
  • 66% of respondents have rented an apartment found online.

Renters’ Feelings About the Internet

  • 71% of respondents feel they rely on the Internet for their apartment searching now more than three years ago.
  • Respondents view the Internet as the most effective source when searching for an apartment.  Newspapers are the least effective source.  
  • 71% see the Internet as the most up-to-date source for apartment vacancies.

Renter Mobile Device Usage

  • 50% of respondents search for an apartment online with either computer/tablets and 50% with smartphones.
  • 79% of renters use a smartphone regularly.

Are real estate agents still relevant for rental searches?

Less than half of apartment renters use a real estate agent during their search.  And even when working with a broker, 87% of renters will still conduct their own online searches for apartments.

Length of Rental Search Process

More than half of respondents spend between two weeks to three months searching for their next apartment.  Only 6% spend less than 1 week looking for an apartment.

Property managers and landlords will miss out on accessing a key portion of the renter market if they limit their marketing efforts to newspaper advertisements and posted “For Rent” signs.  An active online presence needs to become a priority for marketing vacancies and sharing information about your property management business, property amenities and other benefits of renting from you.

Reputation management in terms of online reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp and other local review sites should be included in your marketing plan as well. 8 out of 10 renters consider consumer reviews important to their rental property search.  Google yourself or your business to find out what people are saying about you and your competitors to stay on top of the game.

The growth in mobile device usage, especially among renters, means that property managers and landlords with benefit from advertising solutions that are optimized for mobile viewing. Rental ads need to look as good on smartphones and tablets, and the ability to apply online directly from a mobile device should be a priority.

The data in this post is provided by a joint study from and Google.  You can view the complete report here: Online Search Behavior and Trends of Apartment Renters.

Methodology contracted Market Connections to partner in a research study among apartment renters to understand their online search behavior. A blind online survey was conducted among tenants and investors in January 2015. The margin of error for the study is +/- 3.5% at a 95% confidence level. Google’s research leverages proprietary internal data. Additionally, Google contracted Millward Brown Digital to conduct a research study to better understand how digital drives real estate research and purchases. MBD conducted an online survey using panelists who researched on real estate websites within the past 6 months. Surveys were fielded between December 3rd through December 12th, 2014 (n=1500). Clickstream purchase analysis was run for Q1 and Q2 2014 (aggregated).