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What amenities do Seattle renters actually want?

A survey asked renters what apartment and community amenities are important to them

Roof decks: popular, but not that popular.
Ryan C Slimak

The Seattle apartment industry is full of interesting features—and it’s almost like each one is trying to outdo the last. One apartment in Wallingford has chickens and a live coop cam. Another building in the Denny Triangle has an 18-foot hemlock tree planted on the roof. But what features are actually important to renters?

A survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and Kingsley Associates asked renters a series of questions about what features are interesting to them, which are mandatory, and which add monetary value.

Surveys were distributed to residents by 25 national property management companies, including Pinnacle, AMLI, and Greystar. Many of those outfits tend toward newer or more luxury apartments, especially in Seattle—so this doesn’t include data from people renting from mom-and-pop outfits. But it does give us a sense of what people go for when they have the money to spend on some extras.

NMHC gave Curbed Seattle their breakout data for the Seattle metropolitan area, which includes Bellevue and Tacoma. Around 13,000 renters in the area responded.

Overwhelmingly, the most interesting amenity for individual apartments, according to the survey, is in-unit laundry. Despite emphasis on shared amenities in newer buildings, the convenience of not leaving your apartment—or hoarding quarters—won out above all else. It even topped high-speed internet access, which came next on the list, followed by a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, soundproof walls, and a patio or balcony.

A washer and dryer not only scored high in amenities that would-be renters find interesting, it also scored highest in features that make or break a decision to rent. The mandatory-item list looked similar, although bathtub ranked third here as opposed to seventh in the cool-to-haves.

What people are willing to pay more for is a different question. While respondents weren’t especially interested in an apartment with two master suites, they acknowledge that would add monetary value to an apartment—an average of $50 per month. So would that in-unit laundry, at just under $40 per month. A bathtub, however, despite being a popular feature, ranked lower as a value-add, at $25 a month.

Things almost nobody cared about, according to the survey, include built-in sound systems, in-wall USB ports, and breakfast bars.

Answering a question asked by KIRO’s Rachelle Belle earlier this month—“will renters use fancy amenities?”—the survey also asked about community features. Overall, the survey found that renters care about everyday conveniences more than bells and whistles, with secure parking, reliable cell reception, and recycling facilities all ranking highly in both being interesting and mandatory. Beyond the basics, fitness centers were most popular.

Besides that, some community features we’ve seen pop up around Seattle weren’t as popular, like bike sharing and shared office space.

The ever-popular roof deck ranked in the top half of interesting amenities, but not in the top ten—although on average, survey respondents said a roof area is worth about $30 extra per month.

The survey also asked those renters a more basic question: Why are you renting in the first place? The top answer shouldn’t be all that surprising, with 22 percent saying they haven’t saved enough for a down payment. (13 percent said they can’t afford to buy here at all.)

The next most popular reason was flexibility and convenience (18 percent), followed by being a recent transplant (11 percent).