In a survey of Auckland renters living in properties managed by Barfoot & Thompson, a strong majority maintained their ambition to own a home of their own - with fifty-nine percent saying they intended to buy in the next two-to-five years.
The response surprised even Barfoot & Thompson, Auckland’s leading real estate company.
“We were taken by surprise by the positive response around buying a home in the next few years. It’s very encouraging particularly given much of the recent commentary around it has been negative,” says Barfoot & Thompson Director Kiri Barfoot.
“From the media reports, I would have expected fewer renters to say that they are aiming to buy a home, but perhaps there has been a change in sentiment towards the future of buying a house.
“A number of factors could be behind this. Auckland’s housing market has steadied in the past few months after several years of rising prices – we also have around 30 percent more houses listed for sale than the same time last year. More choice is good for people thinking about buying. The unitary plan has also been confirmed, creating some certainty about future development in Auckland.”
The Barfoot & Thompson survey, which was conducted in August, sought to open up the lines of communication and understand the good and the ‘could do better’ of Barfoot & Thompson’s property management service as well as build on its enhanced property management training programme that launched just over a year ago.
A random sample of one thousand tenants (response rate 31 percent) from its database of 15,000 tenants were contacted.
Price, location, and valued extras
Renters were asked what the important factors were in choosing a rental property.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents said price, and 85 percent said location. The number of bedrooms (67 percent), and kitchen space (52 percent) were also important.
The most popular ‘extras’ influencing renters’ choice in a property included additional car parking spaces (57 percent) and extra storage space (53 percent). Outdoor space, a fully fenced section, and pets being allowed were also popular; each considered an influential factor in choosing a property by over 40 percent. Spa pools proved popular with just 13 percent.
Barfoot & Thompson also asked tenants: how long they had been in their rental property and if they had been there longer than one year, what was the reason they stayed.
Eight percent had been in their rental property less than six months, 24 percent for up to two years, twenty percent for two-to-five years, and forty-seven percent more than five years.
Tenants reasons for staying beyond one year included the property having reasonable rent (64 percent of respondents) and being close to school and/or work (59 percent). Thirty-seven percent said having a good property manager influenced their decision to stay.
“A significant number of people in Auckland live in rental properties,” says Ms Barfoot.
“Unsurprisingly, renters and buyers are looking for the same things – the right amount of space, in a good location for work and schools, and something within their budget. Further down the list, but still important, renters also named insulation and good heating.
“Tenancy duration and security is really important for both tenants and landlords, which is why we like to understand what keeps tenants happy in a property.”
Relationship with a professional property manager
When asked who they would prefer to manage their tenancy, 48 percent of respondents said they would prefer a professional agency, 25 percent said an owner, and 28 percent said they had no preference for one or the other.
Survey respondents rated Barfoot & Thompson’s communication timeliness as 6.5 on a scale of one to ten, something which Ms Barfoot says the business is focussing on improving.
“Around a year ago, we updated our property management training programme specifically to improve communication. Training now covers different personality types, and communication styles to help personalise how we work with tenants.
“Our mystery shopper results show this is working so we hope when we run this survey again next year, this score is higher,” says Ms Barfoot.
What tenants asked
Tenants asked about the frequency of rental inspections, which Ms Barfoot says is a common question.
“The frequency is set by the insurance policy the property owner has signed up to. Recently, some policies have revised the timeframe.
“Some require inspection every three months for the policy to remain valid, whereas others allow longer between visits.
“For tenants, it’s a good time to bring up any smaller maintenance issues. Sometimes we find for the smaller things tenants wait, so an inspection can be a prompt.”
Following the results of the survey, Barfoot & Thompson is aiming to influence a more positive experience for renters.
Ms Barfoot concludes, “It’s important to understand what tenants and landlords needs and expectations are. We want tenants to be happy with their tenancy; whether its communication, how we handle maintenance, or any part of the property management agreement we have on behalf of an owner.”