Lately, I’ve encountered a flurry of rental applications from young professionals for a couple of my rentals in the River North neighborhood. It was a good place to invest as it’s a quick walk to the Loop, near all the trains, and is probably the easiest place to hail a cab. But when I acquired the properties several years ago, I never imagined that the rental fee would be within reach of younger professionals. That’s why I was rather surprised by the recent upsurge of interest from Millennials.

What’s more, their rental applications are quite competitive compared to other potential tenants from older generations. I wanted to learn more about what’s really going on with Millennials and the Chicago real estate investing market, and what I found not only surprised me, but also made me reconsider how investors can best market their Chicago rental to Millennials.

Renting Out an Apartment in Chicago: How to Market to Millennials

The Ever-Changing Perception of Millennials

Our caricature of Millennials being entitled brats who grew up earning plastic participation trophies, excelling only in video gaming, and complaining is really a farce. The fact is, they are well-educated multi-taskers with a wealth of energy—energy that they leverage to tackle tough problems, particularly in the workplace. As a result, they are well ahead of the earning curve, bringing in between 120-200% of the local median income. Research shows that these 35-and-under go-getters are now the largest demographic in the Cook County, Illinois rental market as well.

Sounds like a prime target audience for your rental advertisement, right? Well, you have to reach them first.

Communicating With a New Generation

Millennials are dubious about traditional advertising, so connecting with this niche requires a different tact. They get a bit dodgy when you approach them with marketing spiels and instead prefer to come to you. And, as the first tech-savvy generation, they usually make contact online if they have any interest in what you are offering. To attract their attention for your rental, you need to get your property listed on all the top online search sites. Be sure to post pictures of the property and, if the site allows, some reviews from previous tenants. Also, as much as Millennials love their phones, they don’t actually use them to talk, so provide them with the information they need to get a hold of you via text or email.

Most importantly, you’ll want to highlight your rental’s amenities and value (as opposed to sheer square footage) and describe to them how the property can be ideal for their particular lifestyle. Here are a few key attributes that these young professionals look for:

  • Location:  When Millennials are not working, they love gathering at the trendiest bars and cafes in town with their friends and colleagues. They want as much information as possible about the location of your rental. Add links to these places in your ads so they can check out the neighborhood. As an added bonus, mention which local hotspots are within walking distance or which public transit lines are located in the neighborhood.
  • Gathering spaces:  Of course, there are loads of hip bars and restaurants already catering to this preference, but many aspiring professionals want to save money. So, instead of going out, they stay in and host their friends for dinner parties or movie nights. Bigger kitchens, patios, and decks will appeal to prospective tenants as they provide the perfect setting for social gatherings.
  • Free Wi-Fi:  Those young adults are typing and texting on their phones. All. The. Time. Can you imagine how much data they go through in a single month? Even worse, do you know how much it costs? Let them know that your rental is budget-friendly for their lifestyle by offsetting their data expenditures. This will also appeal to those who not only rely on technology for personal use, but also for work. With telecommuting becoming more common and popular, having a fast and reliable connection is essential for those who work remotely.
  • Environmental friendliness:  Does the rental have energy-saving appliances, low-flow toilets, recycling bins, or bike racks? Protecting the environment tends to be a priority for this generation and they are willing to pay a small premium to ensure that their living space is contributing to greener efforts.
  • Proximity to outdoor activities:  More Millennials engage in outdoor activities than any other age group. After all, it’s a good way to blow off steam after long hours spent climbing the corporate ladder. Map out which biking trails, jogging trails, ski resorts, or sports complexes are near your rental property. If those attractions are not close by, advertise the walkability of the neighborhood.

You can also be flexible with your rental terms in other ways to catch the attention of this particular generation. Millennials don’t often carry cash or write checks like we have become accustomed to doing, so offering the ability to pay rent online will be appealing. Also, consider making your investment home more pet-friendly. A full 57% of Millennial households own a pet and another 20% more intend to get a cat or dog in the future, according to industry research. While you can require a pet deposit, don’t worry too much about property damages. Young professionals tend to put off raising a family, so these pets are their “babies” and they often hire caregivers to cover for them while at work.

Getting to know the developing target market of Millennials can seem like studying another language, or worse, being dropped off in a foreign country without a translator. HomeVestors® franchisees are equipped to understand market trends and they’re provided with access to seasoned mentors who have years of experience buying and renting properties. Effectively marketing your investment property to this and other demographics—with the right support—can bring in a long-term revenue stream, adding to your financial security and positioning you for even bigger opportunities. Get in touch with HomeVestors® today to see if franchising is the right move for you.


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