Kids are high-impact on rental properties. So why the heck would any landlord go out of their way to attract families?
First, because families tend toward longer tenancies. Young adults in their 20s move frequently, as they bounce between jobs, date around, get married, and start having children. It’s a tumultuous time.
Once they find a family home to raise their children, they often set down roots. Families—parents and children alike—tend to value stability.
If my word alone isn’t good enough, consider that from 2010-2015, only 35.2% of adults aged 40-44 and 29.7% of adults aged 45-49 moved, compared to a huge 61.2% of young adults aged 25-29.
Millennials are just now entering their prime childbearing and rearing years. They are also the largest generation and one that continues to grow (due to immigration). That makes them a huge, housing-hungry demographic of potential rentals.
Lastly, consider that renters with children grew by 14% in the period from 2009-2015, significantly faster than growth among unmarried renters (10%).
No matter how you slice it, families are a large and growing percentage of the renter population. So, how can landlords target them to secure long-term, low-turnover renters who will stay for the long haul?
Here are eight amenities to attract families and have your pick of the renting-family litter. Some can be added after buying, and others are amenities to keep an eye out for in your rental investing hunt. Many will continue adding value for decades to come.
8 Features That Make Your Rental Irresistible to Families
1. High-Quality Local Schools
Good schools are a priority for every parent. It was true 50 years ago, and it will be true 50 years from now. As you search for strong rental investment properties, keep a close eye on the quality of the local schools.
An ideal solution is a good school within walking distance. My mother rented a modest house when I was growing up, but it was in a safe neighborhood with an excellent elementary school within walking distance. The circumstances of our move were no coincidence: We stayed in that tiny home longer than any of us preferred and moved when my younger sister finished at the elementary school.
Where did we move? To a larger home, within walking distance of where I went to middle and high school.
Parents will accept smaller or otherwise imperfect homes if the schools and their proximity are right. Bear that mind as you scout prospective rental investments.
2. Fenced-In Backyards
As with good schools, what parent doesn’t want a backyard for their kids?
Parents can send the kids out back to “go roughhouse outside,” and secure a little peace and quiet for themselves. Backyards mean yard games—and perhaps even a garden for mom or dad.
Neighborhoods with fended rear yards tend to attract lots of families, which in turn attracts more families. More children in the neighborhood means more potential friends—and more potential distractions and entertainment to keep the kids occupied.
3. The Patio & Fire Pit Combo
If backyards are primary draws for keeping the kiddos occupied, adults enjoy relaxing on a patio—perhaps with a glass of pinot noir in hand.
Patios don’t have to cost a fortune to install, either. On the low end, patios can cost under $1,000.
In most of the United States, patios can only be comfortably used five months or so of the year. But that can be extended by several months with a simple addition: a fire pit.
Nor do fire pits have to be permanently (and expensively) installed, either. You can pick up a standalone fire pit for $50-100.
We teach our students to find “hook” amenities that are inexpensive but attract prospective renters’ attention. Fire pits are a perfect example.
4. The Marriage-Saver Trinity: Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher
This should go without saying, but unless your rentals are (very) low-end, you should include a dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer.
Renters have come to expect them, and it will deter many otherwise interested prospects from your property if you fail to provide them.
If you don’t have these yet, it may be a good opportunity to differentiate your unit by buying smart home appliances that can be programmed and otherwise connected to the renters’ smartphones.
In small apartments, small stacked units are fine, and in desert climates, you may get away with skipping the dryer, but skimp on the “marriage-saver” trinity of appliances at your peril.
5. The Walkability Balance
Having amenities like grocery shopping, cafes, bars, restaurants, entertainment, playgrounds, parks, etc. within walking distance is a major draw. There’s just one problem—more walkable tends to mean higher density, which tends to mean higher traffic.
Car traffic is not ideal for young children (there’s an understatement for you). So what does the perfect family-friendly walkability look like?
Simple: The property sits comfortably on a low-traffic street, within easy walking distance of a denser, high-amenity street.
Keep this walkability balance in mind as you scout prospective properties. As the next wave of suburbanization hits over the next decade, keep a particular eye on the “surban” neighborhood trend.
6. Safety Details
Parents tend to be hyper-focused on safety, so put yourself in their shoes for a moment and look for potential hazards in your property.
The first that comes to mind is railings and balconies. How secure are they? Railings in many older homes can be loose and rickety, so spend a little extra effort to doubly secure all banisters and railings. They shouldn’t budge when shaken.
Don’t stop there, though. What else in or around the property could potentially prove hazardous for youngsters? Loose wiring? Lead paint?
Put yourself in the frantic mindset of a young parent, and look for little ways you can improve your units’ safety to “boast-able” levels. Make it a selling point!
7. Size: 3-4 Bedrooms, 2-3 Bathrooms
Homes smaller than 3 bedrooms will not keep family renters long-term. They’ll leave as soon as they can afford it or when they escape some other constraint holding them there.
On the flip side, homes larger than 4 bedrooms tend to make poor long-term rentals for a host of reasons, ranging from maintenance to the higher ratio of children to adults and the simple fact that anyone who wants to live in a 6-bedroom mansion will probably buy rather than rent.
The sweet spot? Homes with 3 or 4 bedrooms and at least 2 full bathrooms.
8. Paint Flexibility
How can you keep renters longer? By giving them a sense of “ownership” and “investment” in the property.
While that argument is typically made for lease-option and rent-to-own agreements, here we’re getting even simpler—letting tenants paint the property their own colors.
With that said, landlords should put a few protections in place. A simple lease clause or addendum can work wonders, requiring the tenants to repaint in neutral colors upon move-out. Failing to do so will lead to repainting costs being deducted from the security deposit.
Landlords usually need to repaint their units upon turnover, so why not move the responsibility to the renter?
This trick can be used elsewhere too, from landscaping and gardening to interior customizations. The more a tenant feels like they’ve made the property their home, the longer they’ll stay, and the lower your turnover rate will be.
When showing the property, simply say, “By the way, if you wanted to customize the property in any way, such as painting it your own choice of colors, we’re open to working with you on that.” You’d be amazed how well prospects respond to this simple offer—because they’ve probably never heard a landlord make it before.
One of the lessons we stress over and over with our students is that turnovers are where landlords lose the most money in their returns. (See this visualization of rental cash flow for a deeper explanation.) The trick to making money as a landlord therefore is minimizing turnovers. Look for properties and neighborhoods where families will settle in long-term, and look for ways to make your existing properties that much more appealing to these long-term family renters
The reward? Higher ROI and lower labor on your rentals moving forward.