Resident communication preferences are changing—here’s what you need to know

Jillian Rodriguez
Jillian Rodriguez | 5 min. read
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Published on July 26, 2018

What are you doing to evolve resident communications depending on their age—and why does it matter? Throughout the leasing cycle, how you communicate with residents can make or break your relationship. Property managers always aim to deliver the kind of service that attracts and retains quality renters, but below the surface, there are generational factors at play that can influence how tenants perceive your customer service and even the unit itself.

In Buildium’s third annual Renters’ Report, we surveyed nearly 1,200 renters across the country. The results are in, and their responses revealed that as renter demographics change, so do their needs and preferences. Resident communication preferences are evolving, and this year’s report gave us data-driven insights into how property managers can personalize their communication style based on renter demographics.

What do you need to know about communicating with different renters through mobile technology, apps, and social media? Here’s our advice for mastering the art of communication for renters young and old.

#1: Get Smart About Technology

You already have a website and an online payment option—you can check technology off your list, right? Actually, our Renters’ Report showed that the Millennial generation is asking for even more when it comes to communicating through technology. Born between 1981 and 1996, there are 83 million Millennials in the U.S. The Millennial generation is expected to outnumber Baby Boomers by 2019, so if you haven’t been paying attention to their needs and expectations, now’s the time to study up.

According to our Report, Millennials are eager to pay rent, submit maintenance tickets, and sign leases online. More than any other generation, your Millennial renters want to communicate with you online, too—whether it’s via text or in-app communications, they’ll reach for their smartphone to contact you before dialing your number or sending an email.

But it’s not just Millennials who prefer tech-based communications. Generation Z represents a massive population of digital-savvy renters who rely on their smartphones in nearly every aspect of their lives. Born in 1997 or later, these digital natives are poised to expect online communication and seek out homes with smart technologies like thermostats, security systems, and locks. As younger residents enter the rental market, get ahead of the curve by adopting proven technologies and making online processes and communication the norm, not the exception.

#2: Invest in Digital Marketing

Before a resident even moves in, you’re building a first impression that will impact your relationship. Retaining a resident begins with that initial interaction, which more than ever, is taking place online. Renters from all generations are looking for apartments online; relying on your website, national listings, and social media to find their next home. Take full advantage by expanding your online presence and making sure your website, listings, and social accounts are up-to-date and easy to use.

Think of it this way: younger residents like Gen Zers have never known a world without technology. As they enter the rental market, they expect to find information about rentals online, too. Digital marketing allows you to get in front of younger renters and meet them where they are. Our Report shows that 69 percent of Millennials look to national listing sites to find a place to live, and their top 4 “go-to” sites were Zillow, Craigslist,, and Trulia. Make sure you’re syndicating your rental listings across these sites and posting them on your site, too.

#3: Create More Word of Mouth

Contrary to the hundreds of headlines about them, it’s not all about Millennials. Gen Xers actually make up 1 in 3 households who rent their home. While all generations apartment hunt online, Gen Xers also rely on word of mouth to make renting decisions. Members of Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980, and many of them were hit hard by the Great Recession. That means these individuals are a little gun-shy when it comes to financial decisions—in-person conversations help build trust and reassure uneasy renters.

To build relationships with Gen Xers offline, increase your presence in the community. Gen Xers use their personal networks to find trustworthy listings: local bulletin boards, community social media groups, and tips from people they know. Gen Xers are seeking a more personal experience—these are experienced homeowners who want to make a house a home. Show up at community events, board meetings, and local association meetings to create relationships that ensure they choose your rental over the competitor’s.

Once a Gen Xer becomes your tenant, continue to prioritize in-person interactions. While Gen Xers use mobile apps and smartphones nearly as often as Millennials, they’re looking for more from the rental experience. Check in with your Gen X residents and find ways to give them a sense of ownership over their rental. Talk to them about updates they want and things that need fixing. Keep an open line of communication so that when their needs evolve, you’ll be first in line to find a solution.

What are you doing to improve resident communications? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez is a freelance writer out of Detroit, Michigan. Jillian writes about everything from entrepreneurship to real estate to chocolate, and she loves every minute of it. Beyond writing, Jillian is an avid reader, a public radio junkie, and active in early childhood development. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing & Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

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