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More Previous Homeowners Looking to Rent in 2012

As home values fell yet again at the end of 2011, more and more people began looking to rent as an affordable, flexible lifestyle option, causing apartment vacancies to fall to their lowest point in 10 years.

Reis reported that the apartment vacancy rate dropped to 5.2 percent in Q4 of 2011, down from their reports of 5.6 percent in Q3 of 2011. This higher demand for apartment housing means increased renting costs across the nation.

In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey to more than 3,000 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2012 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, why they are opting to rent versus own property, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search.

Supporting a growing trend, 33.6 percent of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are previous homeowners (up from 20.5 percent in 2011). From the survey respondents who said they are homeowners looking to rent in 2012, 26.3 percent are doing so because they believe renting is a more affordable option and 21.2 percent prefer the flexibility renting offers in choosing where to live.

Below are the five most popular reasons why Apartments.com website visitors are choosing to rent versus own in 2012:
Renting is a more affordable option: (26.3%)
Flexibility to live where I choose: (21.2%)
To relocate for employment: (20.5%)
Cannot afford to keep up with homeownership expenses: (10.5%)
Lost home due to foreclosure and change in marital status: (less than 4% each)

“The fact that more renters are entering the market continues to create a series of challenges for the potential renter, including fewer apartments to choose from, which can drive higher rent rates,” says Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. “It’s more important than ever for apartment seekers to be informed and savvy shoppers by utilizing all the online resources available to search for apartments within their budget.”

More than 35 percent of respondents indicated they are moving out on their own “ whether for the first time or back into their own place “ which may be a sign of an improving economy and job market, especially in the rental demographic. Reinforcing that idea is the fact that 23 percent of renters surveyed reported they are relocating for employment opportunities “ making that the number one reason for moving in 2012, as it was in 2011. However, the desire to have more space, to save money and to live in a more desirable neighborhood also topped the list. Apartments.com provides the five most popular responses why their website visitors are moving in 2012:

Relocating for employment opportunities: (23%)
Looking for a bigger apartment: (11.9%)
Shopping for a less expensive apartment: (11.3%)
Wanting to live in a more desirable neighborhood: (10.6%)
Change in marital status: (8.8%)

As part of their due diligence, this survey finds renters tapping multiple resources during their apartment search. While the majority of survey respondents rely on Apartments.com and online apartment classified listings websites, such as Craigslist to find a new place, there has also been a notable 9.2 percent uptick in the number of respondents who are using review websites this year over last. In addition to the dominant choice of Apartments.com, of which 100 percent of survey respondents were utilizing at the time of taking the survey, renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows:

Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle): (70.4%)
Search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, Bing): (45.3%)
Review websites (e.g. ApartmentRatings.com, Yelp!): (32.6%)
Word of mouth: (31.5%)
Local newspapers: (26.7%)

Apartments.com is a leading national apartment Internet listing subscription service with more than 50,000 unique addresses representing millions of rental units from managed properties, newspaper classifieds and for-rent-by-owner properties.

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