Design Insights for Today’s Renters

Annaliese (Cole) Trehan, RA
Assistant Project Manager

The largest cohort of renters today is, of course, the Millennial generation. I fall squarely in the middle of this age group and have lived in many different sizes and shapes of apartments and condos over the last eight years or so. As a designer, I have kept my eyes open to the different approaches apartment owners take and kept my ears open when listening to friends discuss their current living situations. I’ve used this experience, and some serious Googling time, to curate a list of what today’s renters are looking for. And here it is:

CONNECTIVITY – Millennials are the first generation native to technology, and most of them happily incorporate it into their daily lives. When searching for an apartment, their first stop is a web search, and their last will be electronically signing their lease. Internet access and cell reception throughout an apartment community is considered a must. From choosing their unit to paying rent and submitting a maintenance request, Millennials prefer a virtual communication portal and up-to-date technology.

CONTEXT – Millennials are favoring urban living for its culture and inherently mixed uses, whether in a city core or a more suburban towne centre. Unlike their parents’ generation, they will gladly sacrifice personal space to live in a good location. A grocery store nearby is important to keep their pantry stocked.

CHOICE – Millennials grew up in the age of internet shopping and big-box stores. They are used to having many options and expect to be able to choose their preferred living arrangement. Having a variety of unit sizes available in an apartment community will keep their choices close to home.

CONTENT – With apartment unit sizes shrinking and Millennials forgoing personal space, the common spaces within an apartment community become even more important. Lobbies are taking their cue from hotels with high-design elements and construction. Renters will be looking for amenity spaces to supplement their smaller living quarters with areas for congregation, study, fitness, and entertainment. A roof deck and fire pit, or maybe even an infinity pool, top it all off.

COMMUNITY – Millennials are not only social online, but crave interaction with friends in person. They will be more likely to renew a lease if their friends live in the same apartment community and there are ample opportunities to run into each other throughout their days.

CONVENIENCE – Live / Work / Play is the new American Dream. Millennials are used to boundaries being blurred between where and when they work or play and much of it happens right at home. With flexible working arrangements and online everything, life can happen anywhere. An apartment community and its neighborhood can offer a renter convenient access to all of life’s necessities.

COMFORT – All renters look for some level of comfort in their new surroundings and the ability to live their lives as they have in the past, or better than they have in the past. A clean environment can lead to a restful and healthy life. An accommodating fitness center is becoming more and more important as many renters see the benefit of having a gym in their community. It becomes a sign of the healthy lifestyle they strive to live.

CUSTOMIZATION – Millennials are unlike the generations that came before them and do not like to fit into any molds. They are not their parents and yearn for the freedom to be an individual. Their apartment becomes a blank canvas that they can make their own.

CHARACTER – Millennials look for character and authenticity in their lives. They know a gimmick when they see one and prefer an honest material to a fake substitute. They look for quality materials that are easy to maintain, but different from what they may find in their parents’ home. A recycled glass or quartz counter top will catch their eye.

COST – Millennials have been educated with words like “green” and “sustainable” and know their value. They choose car shares over owning a vehicle, and walking or biking rather than driving. Location near public transit is incredibly important. They would like to be considerate of the environment, and favor green technologies that don’t affect their pocketbooks.

And that’s it! A neat and orderly list researched and written by your very own Millennial.


 The Martin Architectural Group was established in 1967 with a commitment to client service and design excellence. Our diverse portfolio includes mixed-use, multi-family residential, senior living communities, retail and office designs, transit-oriented developments, and sustainable projects. We are award-winning architects and planners committed to delivering the highest quality professional services to private sector real estate development. 

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