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Which amenities matter most to renters?

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A new study from the National Apartment Association explores which amenity offerings are most desirable

As the building boom in downtown Chicago rolls well into another year, competition among developers in attracting new renters has hit a fever pitch. Nearly 6,600 apartments are scheduled for delivery this year in Chicago alone, and to stand out, developers look to design and special building and in-unit amenities to attract new renters. But which amenities matters most to renters?

According to a report from the National Apartment Association and Enodo Score, the most popular building amenities are the ones that bring people together. The organization, which says it bases the results of its study on 100,000 survey responses from 35 states, has concluded that common amenities such as fitness centers and common areas for gathering and socializing tend to be the highest rated and most important amenities by renters.

In terms of in-unit features, renters tend to appreciate appliances and items that make life a little easier. For instance, in-unit washers and dryers were ranked as the most desirable in-unit amenity while balcony and patio spaces rated lowest. In real estate listings and promotional materials, agents and developers often highlight seemingly ubiquitous features like granite countertops and higher-end kitchen appliances, but the results of the National Apartment Association’s study suggest that residents do tend to care about these specific items more than others.

Because certain amenities and features matter more to residents, developers that provide offerings like fitness centers, business centers, and common areas can expect to get premium rents. But even still, competition between developers in Chicago remains fierce. Many new developments offer unique amenities to separate themselves from others. For example, the new Wolf Point West tower features many of the standard amenities highlighted in the National Apartment Association’s study, but it also features more premium amenities like a virtual golf simulator. Meanwhile, new rental developments in the neighborhoods feature amenities like bocce ball courts or repurposed ‘L’ cars as common spaces to stand out.