Reports from the housing industry tend to focus on millennials. But landlords are overlooking a rapidly growing and potentially profitable demographic: seniors. Over 10,000 Americans turn 65, the age of retirement, every day. Landlords who aren’t targeting seniors are missing a sizable pool of highly desirable tenants.
Retirees typically have more assets than adults from later generations, since they’ve had more time to build wealth. Seniors also tend to produce far less wear and tear on rentals, as they are less likely to have small children or pets. Finally, seniors move far less often than younger tenants: the rate is only about 5%. The longer tenants stay in your apartment, the less time it will sit vacant between tenants — and the more money you’ll make from rent.
Of course, there are specific concerns landlords need to address if they want to attract tenants in their 50s and beyond. For example, senior renters may be concerned about safety, accessibility, and livability. When making adjustments and marketing your property to older individuals, you’ll need to keep these priorities in mind. Here are eight ways to make apartments attractive to senior tenants.
1. Discuss the Advantages of Single and Multi-Story Apartments
Many seniors want one-story flats so that they don’t need to risk falling on a staircase. If you have a single-story apartment to lease, you can show this to prospective senior tenants and see if they express a preference for a home without stairs. But some seniors may want space for visitors, which a multi-story apartment is more likely to offer. If you have a property where senior tenants can live on the first floor and provide space for guests on the upper floors, this may appeal to them. Discuss their specific needs with regard to the number of floors.
2. Help Prevent Slip and Fall Injuries
Seniors are often injured in falls at home. You can make your rental more senior-friendly by putting some simple safety features in place. Apply non-skid wax to floors and remove area rugs if they can slide on bare floors. You might also consider swapping the current flooring material out for something like linoleum or cork, as these are softer options that can prevent falls or injuries related to a fall. Place non-slip mats in bathtubs and on bathroom floors, too. You might also consider investing in a curbless shower. Install grab bars in showers and by the toilet, as well as reinforced toilet paper holders and towel bars. Modern amenities like these don’t look like unattractive grab bars, but they can be used as a stable place to hold onto while a senior regains their balance. For maximum value, make sure these bathrooms provide safety features without looking too sterile.
3. Make Accommodations for Senior Tenants with Disabilities
As a landlord, you’re not allowed to ask prospective tenants about disabilities, and you can’t base your decision to rent on whether they have disabilities. However, you need to plan ahead for their needs. Approximately 10% of the global population, or about 650 million people, has a disability. If you rent to elderly tenants, you are likely to encounter some with disabilities. You are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for disabled renters. What’s more, the cost of those upgrades is yours to handle, not the renter’s. You may need to install safety features in bathrooms or to designate a parking space as a handicapped space, making sure it’s close to the front door of the property. Entry ramps may also need to be installed to promote accessibility.
4. Minimize the Risk For Burn Injuries
Many seniors (and other tenants, as well) are at risk for accidental burns. Place screens on fireplaces to protect seniors from getting too close to flames. If you have exposed hot water pipes, cover them with pipe insulation. In the United States, a house fire breaks out every 86 seconds, so make sure the kitchen contains a working fire extinguisher. You should also install smoke detectors with strobe lights for the hard of hearing and test the devices at least once a month.
5. Improve Unit Lighting
Since many seniors have problems with eyesight, providing proper lighting is important to help prevent accidents and improve overall quality of life. Replace standard light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are brighter and offer a better quality of light. Install motion-sensor lights in places where darkness might contribute to falls, like stairs and hallways. Consider pathway lights, which turn on when someone rises from bed at night and gradually dim after they come back. Not only will better lighting keep tenants safer, but it will also ensure the property looks its best.
6. Install a Security System
Seniors are at less risk of becoming crime victims than any other age demographic, but they are the group most concerned about crime. Make them feel safer by installing a security system for the apartment. It doesn’t have to be expensive to give a sense of protection. Older systems operate via subscription; the monthly fee is paid by the tenant, not the landlord. Alternatively, you could invest several hundred dollars in a security system with smart features. Having any security setup in place should be attractive to prospective senior tenants.
7. Improve Mobility and Navigation
When seniors experience impaired mobility, their living space should be set up so that there are fewer obstacles. Stairs are a big challenge for many elderly people, so put in extra-stable handrails in every stairway, even if there are just a few steps from one room to the next. If the apartment is furnished, think about ways to get rid of clutter that sits on the floor, like decorative statues or low storage cabinets. You’ll also want to move the furniture around to create more space for movement around each room.
8. Facilitate Socializing
If you have a larger property with many rental units, consider investing in amenities that will appeal to the senior population. A swimming pool, game room, workout room, and screened-in patio will provide tenants with areas to socialize or to entertain guests. If you attract senior tenants, you’re likely to encounter many widows and widowers living alone in their units. They may love the idea of being able to gather socially in common areas, without having to go far from home.
Seniors make great tenants. They move less frequently and aren’t likely to cause the kinds of problems that landlords see with younger renters. It’s profitable to rent to seniors due to low turnover, so you’ll probably make back your investment in amenities and safety and accessibility features. And you can feel good about helping seniors feel at home.