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Survey Reveals Industry Leaders' Top Concerns

Rent issues, talent management and government regulation continue to keep the rental housing industry up at night.

The “Multifamily Industry Leader’s Survey” has been conducted annually since 2008 by J Turner Research to gauge senior-level executives’ attitudes and expectations concerning leading issues of the day, from concessions and occupancy to their most challenging concerns, with the 2020 edition including a new section to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on property management.

The survey, based on responses from 1,651 participants (30 percent of whom are C-suite, vice presidents and regional managers; 70 percent are onsite personnel), found that the most challenging issues overall were timely rent payments (52%), followed by raising rent (40%) and hiring/talent management (30%).

Looking closer, there were differences between C-Suite and onsite staff’s perspectives about the most challenging issues. According to J Turner Research, the biggest differences between C-level and onsite staff where onsite professionals reported a bigger challenge are team motivation, package management and timely rental payments. Conversely, the biggest difference between C-level and onsite personnel concerning issues where C-level reported larger challenges are in the areas of hiring/talent management and government regulation.

The survey found that optimism about rent growth declined from 3.86 in 2019 to 3.32 (out of 5), the lowest level since 2010. Additionally, the percentage of portfolios offering concessions increased from 13% in 2019 to 66% in 2020, the highest level reported since 2010.

Setting aside rent and location, the survey respondents said that the top amenities for prospective residents are in-unit laundry (45%); pet policies (31%); upgraded appliances (31%); online reputation of the property (30%); fitness center (21%); and perimeter and onsite security (21%).

The Pandemic’s Effects on the Industry

According to the survey, the leading challenges for onsite staff concerning coping with COVID-19 are managing resident expectations, closing and opening amenities and securing safety equipment. For executives, the leading concerns were employee schedule management (i.e., remote work), eviction moratoriums/dealing with evictions and adapting to CDC and government guidelines related to the pandemic. Further, respondents indicated 68% of their properties are under a local eviction moratorium.

Concerning tour types, respondents reported in-person tours accounted for 42% of leases, virtual tours accounted for 37% and self-guided tours accounted for 27%.

As far as overall satisfaction with the organization’s handling of the pandemic, C-suite reported a 4.41 (out of 5), and onsite staff rated it 4.07.