The single family rental market continues to be a hot topic of conversation among builders and developers, especially here in Arizona where we have some of the most robust SFR progress in the country. We continue to engage with experts in this market segment, and a recent seminar by John Burns Real Estate Consulting offered commentary on nearly every angle of the SFR space, from investing to land development to product design and more. Thanks as always to John and his team for leading the industry in this important conversation.

I’ll unpack more from the seminar in future posts, but I’d like to start with demographics. John Burns demographers Chris Porter and Mikaela Sharp provided some insightful information. Three specific data points they shared will definitely influence our floor plan designs as we continue to work with single family rental builder and developer clients across the country.

#1: Lure Apartment Renters with Great Outdoor Living

nullCOVID-19 has generated overwhelming conversation about the need for quality outdoor living spaces in all home types, including multifamily. But SFR has a unique opportunity to leverage outdoor living as a key differentiator, especially for young renters (23% of the SFR pool). These individuals or couples are often transitioning from multifamily spaces where outdoor living is either nonexistent, small or requires social interaction. Substantial, private outdoor living is a true luxury.


Quality outdoor living is possible regardless of square footage. Our architects frequently incorporate courtyards, patios and porches into the footprint of even the smallest plans. This helps integrate the space, connect it with the interior and provide cover. These spaces also enable architectural opportunities, like variety in elevation style and floor plan layouts. Modest outdoor living can feel luxurious when it works well within the floor plan.

#2: Give Family Renters Flexible Space

nullChris and Mikaela noted that 39% of all single family renters are families, and many of them are in a “need to rent” situation. But that doesn’t mean they’re willing to settle. These families still yearn for the American Dream, and most still hope to own a home one day. In the meantime, their single family rental home should address their specific needs.

Open floor plans remain important for all types of homes, but for families in the single family rental space, too much openness can be a detriment. Since most SFR homes offer modest square footage, fully open plans seem like a good solution to make spaces feel larger. But these open floor plans need to provide some separation and potential flex spaces that can be cordoned off from the main living areas. Otherwise, feeling larger doesn’t do a family much good if they can’t find separation within common living areas. Inviting “subtle privacy”, as Mikaela put it, gives families some much-needed breathing room and improves the livability of an open plan.

#3: Give 55+ Renters Storage

Renters over age 55 are the next largest group seeking SFR (38% of all renters, according to John Burns), and they are often willing to downsize. However, that doesn’t mean they want to get rid of their stuff. SFR must provide quality storage options so 55+ renters don’t have to sacrifice. After all, these renters have the means and flexibility to be as picky as they want when selecting a rental home. Storage features can make or break a floor plan for this renter.

All renters benefit from added storage, especially when transitioning from multifamily properties where storage is often scarce. But for 55+ renters in particular, plans should offer same-level storage, oversized pantries, pull-down racks for upper cabinets and easy access to daily use items, like pots and pans. Avoid attics and high shelving or cabinetry, even if they look great from a design perspective. Functional storage wins the day in the 55+ market.

nullThis simple footprint incorporates all three key design features I’ve highlighted: Connected flex space (1), convenient storage (2) and great outdoor living (3).

In the end, single family renters aren’t that much different than single family buyers. Regardless of the strategy, floor plan designs for sale and for rent will be better received when they address specific needs of targeted demographics.

Next time, I’ll take a look at the wide range of single family rental product types under development today and how design can make or break these new SFR communities.

Source: John Burns Real Estate Consulting Events