The 10 things a tenant wants in a top dollar apartment: Cameron McEvoy

The 10 things a tenant wants in a top dollar apartment: Cameron McEvoy
The 10 things a tenant wants in a top dollar apartment: Cameron McEvoy

It is no secret that apartment renters have high expectations when choosing somewhere to live. This is because these property seekers often have to sacrifice some of the more desirable features that a house rental offers.

Features like added space, yards, and reduced noise are sacrificed to enable renters to afford to live where they want to livein a smaller space, like an apartment or unit. For example, if a two bedroom house with a backyard in a popular beachside capital city suburb was just as affordable as a two bedroom apartment or unit in that same area, the house would be in higher demand.

This is not to suggest that apartment seekers will just accept any property. If anything, apartment rental seekers are arguably more picky due to the additional challenges that apartment living brings. Things like noise, space, and privacy become bigger issues in an apartment versus a house.

Adding weight to this is the ratio of apartments to houses in highly desirable rental areas. Investing in an apartment-heavy area means you will be up against more competition to make your apartment more desirable than most, in order to command the best possible rental return in that suburb marketplace. With this in mind, as investors, it is vital we consider all of the things that may turn off would-be renters when purchasing apartments as investment properties.

Here are 10 areas where tenants have high expectations of an apartment or unit if they are to pay top rent for it:

1)      Location

Location is usually the main reason renters sacrifice other things. If you are considering buying an investment apartment in a great suburb, but in the worst or most inconvenient street within that suburb, perhaps reconsider that property. Especially true if the entire area is unit or apartment heavy. Location needs to be near all the core things; transport nodes, retail.

2)      Traffic and exterior noise

Tied to the above, renters are getting more precious about noise these days as metropolitan city traffic increases. Buying a unit on a main busy road in your chosen suburb is a risky move. The location may be convenient in terms of transport, shops, entertainment etc. But remember: many people are not heavy sleepers. You will put people off who are sensitive to traffic noise.

If on a main road, only consider units with double-glazed windows. If double-glazed windows aren’t fit, use this as a negotiation point when buying. Explain that you’ll need to spend money on windows to attract the best return for your investment.

3)      Internal and neighbour noise

 Modern apartment block architects, engineers, and designers are increasingly factoring noise levels to their plans. In newer apartment block constructions architects are using less common walls and also distributing balconies that prevent neighbours peering in or literally living on top of each other’s balcony noise.

In older stock though, this is a factor that few investors consider in their inspections, but is very important. Rental-seekers really do value privacy in apartments and you should too when considering which ones to buy.

4)      Balconies in general

 Yes, renters love them regardless of suburb. If you take two units of a similar quality/street/size etc. – one with balcony and one without – the one with balcony will always be a big drawcard for renters. This is amplified if the suburb does not have many public parks/bbq areas/beaches or spaces where renters can properly entertain their guests. Covered and lit balconies are especially considered by would-be renters which is worth keeping in mind when looking.

5)      Bathroom layout

This one varies so there is no hard and fast rule. Different renters expect or need different things. For example, a bathtub is coveted in apartments in middle and outer ring suburbs, as well as regional towns, as it factors well with the younger family market.

Families with young babies or children under five will always favour bathrooms with bathtubs. However in other areas where the demographic is more young single professionals, students, or downsizers, bathtubs may not be expected and in fact you could likely retain the same rental rate for a bath-less unit as one with a bath. Yet, the bath-less unit may be $10k cheaper to buy.

6)      Laundry facilities

Laundry needs should also be considered in accordance to your target suburb demographics. Bigger apartments for young families will usually expect an internal, separate-to-bathroom, laundry room. Inner-city studios though, may just have a laundry cupboard in their kitchen, or even less, a shared laundry room with other units on the same floor.

Talk to local agents and get a feel for what the demographic expects. That way, you won’t be overpaying or an apartment or unit purchase that includes features that your future tenant are not really willing to pay extra rent for.

7)      Parking

 You need to find out what tenants expect in your chosen suburbs on this one. Again, ask local agents what renters expect. Also ask what the going rental rate is for a unit with parking included, and one without. Then ask if different parking types attract higher rent (for example, a full lock-up garage for exclusively that unit’s tenants, versus perhaps just an unsecure, open-air spot for just that unit, versus a shared open-air parking lot that works on a first in, best dressed approach daily).

Once you know this, you can calculate the rental return achievable for different parking option apartments in relation to purchase cost; and purchase a unit that drives the best return based on that.

8)      Resort-style features

 Again, entirely dependent on the area, needs of the area, renter demographic, and cost. In some areas, the renter expectation is that lifts, pools, gyms, rooftop BBQ areas, and so on, will be included. Of course, they pay for this in the form of a higher weekly rent. You should exercise caution if you find an apartment for sale in your chosen suburb that is significantly cheaper, but does not include any of these features.

If you area is expecting these features, and your unit does not have them, you won’t be able to command high rent for your apartment. This difference in cost likely won’t be proportional to the returns you’d get if you just purchased a unit with the features that your market is expecting.

9)      The little extras

 Your chosen area may be expecting Caesar Stone bench tops, Italian tiling, jet bath tubs, air conditioning, and so on. Or, it may not. Knowing the difference is what you as an investor needs to figure out. That way, you will ensure you do not pay for features that your apartment renter is not expecting – or not willing – to pay extra rent for.

For this reason, my personal investor style is to select more modern apartments in areas where tenants do not expect the bells and whistles. Though these renters may be willing to pay extra rent for them, the stakes are heightened when these goodies are damaged or need replacement after long-term wear and tear. You can find yourself in the same rental-return advantageous position with a more modest investment apartment in a more modest area, if you are smart.

Doing this means that when things break, these capital costs are cheaper and easier to repair than complex ducted air conditioning systems, spa and Jacuzzi bathes, and so on.

10)   Quality of life.

Basically, if your chosen area’s demographic favours things like community spirit, quiet/calm behaviour, then this expectation has a whole value of its own.

Why? Because above and beyond and physical or location-based features is this wildcard factor of overall lifestyle desirability. To identify it if this is desired in your target suburb, you just need to compare the rental return achievable for, say, a no-frills apartment in an average (so, not poor, but not excellent) street location within your target suburb, with a similar apartment in neighbouring suburbs.

If you find that the suburb prestige is very similar overall, yet two almost identical apartments (when compared based on factors #1 – #9 above) are commanding substantially different rent, that tells you that the quality of life must be very high in the more expensive apartment.

If you suspect this to be the case, you then need to confirm it. This is easy to do, providing you are not too shy. Just ask the neighbours. Yep, if you are putting an offer in at inspection knock on the doors of the other units, it doesn’t matter if they are renters or owner-occupiers themselves. Mention that you are considering buying and simply ask them "is this block a nice place to live?" They will open up to you.

Cameron McEvoy is a NSW-based property investor and maintains a blog, Property Correspondent.


Cameron McEvoy

Cameron McEvoy

Cameron McEvoy is a NSW-based property investor and maintains a blog, Property Correspondent.

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