Survey Finds What’s Changed for Renters (And What’s Stayed the Same) Due to COVID-19

September 18, 2020

It's no surprise that coronavirus has changed how we live, work and play. But, some renters are seeing more of an impact than others and certain parts of life aren't going virtual. We surveyed just over 1,000 renters in our recent New Normal study to look at just how COVID-19 is impacting renters — both recently and how they see it continuing to change their lives in the near future.

In this report:

To mask or not to mask?

Almost three-fourths of those surveyed (74.9 percent) say they wear a mask all the time with 12.4 percent wearing one sometimes and 10.2 percent only if required by a business. Very few (2.6 percent) say they don't wear a mask.

For those renters who live in apartment communities, more than half (54.6 percent) say they always wear masks in common areas and almost one-fourth (23.7 percent) wear a mask sometimes in common areas.

Some apartment communities are also requiring masks, even when their state doesn't have a mandate. Sarah, one assistant property manager in Atlanta, Ga., shares, “We are requiring that all residents and guests wear masks in our lobby. We have also set up hand sanitizers in every common area."

Mask wearing in coronavirus hotspot states

While the areas most impacted by COVID-19 cases and deaths vary from time to time, at the time of our survey, The New York Times' "Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count" showcased the following areas as having recent growth in newly reported cases over the previous 14 days through the end of August:

  1. Iowa
  2. North Dakota
  3. South Dakota
  4. Alabama
  5. Kansas
  6. North Carolina
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maine

We see some correlations to renters in these areas wearing masks more in common areas, though this makes sense as some of these increases coincide with areas that do have statewide mask mandates like Connecticut and Maine.

More than three-fourths (78.3 percent) of U.S. renters say they wear masks always or sometimes in common areas of their apartments, but in New England that jumps to 90.5 percent. In the West North Central region with five states showing growth per capita in coronavirus rates (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota); however, the total is only slightly higher than all U.S. renters at 80.9 percent always or sometimes wearing a mask in common areas of their apartment communities.

How COVID-19 is impacting apartment searches

Approximately one-third of renters surveyed say they've done more virtual tours in the last six months and a slightly higher number (35.7 percent) say they plan to do more of them in the next year. About the same number of renters predict this trend will continue with 34.1 percent saying they plan to do more virtual tours in the next five years.

We're seeing many new options pop up, fueled by the desire for renters to have options that best match their needs and coronavirus concerns lingering.

However, there are some components to the search process, especially towards the end that may still be done in person. Many renters still see big purchases and decisions requiring in-person visits, with only 21.6 percent predicting more virtual mortgage and lease applications in the next five years and just slightly more (23.5 percent) saying they see more virtual car purchases happening in the same time period.

Apartment Guide is also providing more video content and up-to-date office hours for leasing offices to help make apartment searching easier for renters in this new normal.

Everyday life is changing, as well

The process of finding a rental isn't the only thing changing. Half of the renters surveyed have used a food delivery service (50.9 percent) more often in the last six months, though many plan their usage will go down with only 37.9 percent saying they plan to use it more often than usual in the next year.

Also, work looks a bit different for many renters with more than half of renters stating they have worked from home more in the last six months (54.8 percent) and close to half (42.2 percent) plan to work more from home in the next year. Even more renters anticipate they'll have more remote work flexibility in the next five years (61.2 percent).

This aligns with other recent studies on remote work, including one survey in June 2020 covered by — The Kung Group found that even when they reopen offices, 70 percent of company founders said they'll let some or all of their employees continue to work remotely.

Virtual versions of day-to-day activities are increasing with 40 percent of renters predicting telemedicine visits will become more common as well as virtual learning (46.7 percent). There's one trend that renters don't see going virtual — the first date. Only 6 percent of respondents say that will become more common in the next five years.

Cleaning more

Renters are no doubt taking some extra precautions to keep their own homes clean and stay safe in their apartment communities, as well. Homes are getting cleaned a bit more with 40.9 percent of renters saying they plan to deep clean their home more in the next year and more than half (54 percent) saying they've deep cleaned their home more in the last six months.

Many apartment communities have been taking extra cleaning and safety precautions since the Coronavirus pandemic began, as well. These steps seem to help quell concerns as we also previously heard in a coronavirus survey in April 2020 that most (64 percent) renters feel safe in their community during the pandemic.

Fewer frequent flyer points?

More than one-third of renters (36.2 percent) estimate that they'll travel less for vacation or work in the next year, but just more than one-third (35.4 percent) also predict they'll do about the same amount of travel in the same timeframe.

Other research on work travel commissioned by the SAP Concur Organization in May – June 2020 shows that sentiment is a bit mixed for business travelers who are looking ahead at their next trips post-COVID, with many expecting to feel worry (39 percent) or anxiety (30 percent) and 32 percent expecting they'll be excited to travel again.

Renters looking ahead

So, what do renters think life will look like in five years because of coronavirus' impact? Overall, renters expect they'll be doing many things virtually including working (61.2 percent), having telemedicine appointments (40 percent) and learning (46.7 percent).

More than one-third of renters also expect businesses and retail stores will require masks or social distancing even as far out as 2025, with 38.7 percent saying that'll be part of our “new normal."

Survey methodology

The Apartment Guide survey included collected responses in August 2020 from 1,059 respondents from current renters ages 18 and up. Of these respondents, 51.8 percent were female and 48.2 percent were male. Most were ages 18-60, with 95.9 percent of respondents falling in this age range. Just more than 80 percent of respondents were from renters with less than $100,000 in annual household income, with 55.2 percent reporting a household income of below $50,000.

Survey results were self-reported and are, therefore, subject to response biases, such as but not limited to social desirability and acquiescence biases.

Fair use statement

We don't mind sharing this information to help you with your personal projects and research regarding coronavirus and renter sentiments. If you'd like to share our findings with your followers or network, the graphics and content found here are available for non-commercial reuse. We just ask that you include a link back to this page so that readers get all the information and the authors receive proper credit.