It’s always been about location in real estate, with amenities leading the rest of the pack of decisive factors when choosing a place to call home — in fact, having the right ones can make or break a lease. The last decade has been a race for developers to win the hearts of American renters, and apartment community amenities were among the strongest incentives that could tip the contest in one competitor’s favor.
While having an apartment that is equipped with the right features — from dishwashers, in-unit washers and driers to smart home solutions — remains crucial, as does a reasonable price tag, renters prioritize convenience in their residential choices. Apartment buildings need to check a lot of boxes to stay on the prospects’ radar and a lot more is expected from a community than in the past, from on-site parking and fitness centers to resort-like swimming pools, business lounges and clubhouses.
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In short, renters are now looking for the whole package. However, not all places are created equal, and while some cities are abuzz with high-end residential complexes that emphasize resident well-being, others offer more basic amenities to apartment renters. Where do renters have the best chances to enjoy a premier renting experience, amenity-wise? And how did new construction affect the amenity landscape?
We’ve set out to identify the best locations in the US for amenity-centric apartment communities, looking at more than 82,000 large-scale apartment buildings across the country. Digging in the Yardi Matrix database, we’ve analyzed the incidence of amenities in rental complexes with 50+ units, including outdoor space – both courtyard and rooftop decks – swimming pools and spas, fitness centers, business lounges, tennis, basketball and other sports courts, and more, and ranked the 100 largest cities from best to worst. The surprise comes from Arizona, where renters in both urban and suburban environments have easy access to an optimum mix of lifestyle amenities in their rental communities.
Here are a few Arizona highlights from the report:
• Gilbert tops the charts as the best city for rental community amenities with 59% of apartment buildings featuring a premier amenity landscape. Gilbert comes in second place with 58% of its rental properties equipped with community facilities that respond to varied renter needs.
• With 51% of apartment complexes featuring a mix of top-notch amenities, Scottsdale finds itself in the 6th spot. Outdoor relaxation spaces and swimming pools are now common in over 97% of local multifamily properties. Other over-the-top amenities that are accessible in apartment complexes are spas (94.20%), fitness centers (91%), clubhouses (88%) and business centers (57%).
• Mesa manages to snag the 8th spot with 49% of its apartment buildings featuring a blend of amenities. The premier amenities that placed the city in the top 10 were community outdoor space (99%), swimming pools (97%), spas (78%), fitness centers (71%) and playgrounds (51.93%).
• Phoenix ranks 18th in terms of amenity-rich communities – 44.5% of rental properties offer a diverse mix of features. Almost all large-scale complexes feature outdoor living space and parking, with 95% boasting swimming pools and 75% having spas. The Phoenix renter working from home has his or her pick from the 33% of properties that offer access to business centers.
Amenity-rich apartment buildings reach all-time high
Not only did apartment construction intensify over the last decade but it also saw a boost in community add-ons. On-site parking and common outdoor space became the norm for all new builds, with a few notable exceptions in land-challenged cities like NYC. Additionally, more communities than ever now offer a mix of amenities that help residents stay healthy and relaxed, including reading nooks, juice bars, Pilates and yoga studios and outdoor movie screens. The last decade started with roughly 38% of apartment buildings built in 2011 offering amenity-rich environments and reached a peak in 2020 when over 60% of new buildings came with a diverse blend of sought-after features.
Led by Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale, suburban rental communities come with all the bells and whistles
A well-planned suburban city close to Phoenix, Gilbert emerges as the best place for renter amenities. About 60% of local apartment buildings boast a diverse mix of communal features for residents. Community outdoor space is prevalent across all large-scale rental complexes, as is parking space, and almost all apartment buildings are outfitted with sparkling swimming pools that can rival anything a vacation retreat can offer. Close to 80% of Gilbert’s multifamily communities feature playgrounds and about a quarter offer their residents basketball courts.
Gilbert, in fact, comes with a high standard of living overall. It’s home to a vibrant economy fueled by plenty of job opportunities, beautiful parks and excellent schools that turn the city into a highly desirable place to live. Gilbert attracted many STEM-oriented companies as its proximity to Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus means that it produces a highly specialized workforce. It’s no wonder that Money magazine named Gilbert among 2020-21’s Best Places to Live.
While Gilbert came first in our national ranking, it isn’t the only Arizonan city to make the list. Its neighbor Chandler ranks second, with 58% of its rental properties equipped with community facilities that respond to varied renter needs. After the city experienced a job market boom facilitated by software and financial companies and the healthcare industry, among others, people started to move there in droves. The population increased by 20% over the last decade, which prompted the addition of about 6,500 rental units to the local housing market. All large-scale apartment buildings in Chandler boast a common outdoor space — be it a garden or a rooftop deck — along with resort-style pools and 24hr fitness centers. Moreover, apartment buildings are particularly family-friendly here, with about 54% of rental communities offering playgrounds for kids’ enjoyment. Renters can also make use of volleyball courts in roughly 45% of rental complexes.
Scottsdale joins Chandler and Gilbert in offering top-notch community perks with more than 50% of apartment buildings being outfitted with a mix of in-demand features. Most of Scottsdale’s rental buildings excel at offering entertainment space and access to pools, spas and fitness centers, whether they choose to enjoy the Sonoran-desert landscape or they seek a wellness-oriented activity indoors. Furthermore, a large majority of apartment complexes come with clubhouses. About 21% of rental communities provide tennis courts among their mix of amenities, and close to 11% of apartment buildings in the city offer their residents access to on-site golf courses.
Scottsdale’s renter packages are aimed at satisfying an increasing pool of high-end renters as the local demographic shifted towards a younger, more lifestyle-oriented generation. The city’s desirability stems from a thriving local job scene and the steps it’s taken towards sustainability. Among the many eco-friendly policies, the local golf courses are watered through the Scottsdale Water Campus sewage treatment plan.
Top 25 Cities by Community Amenities
California is not short of high-end apartment living and Irvine shines brightest in terms of renter amenities. While the cost of living here isn’t cheap, you generally get more bang for the buck. Apartments in Irvine rent for roughly $2,400/month, which is generally lower than in other large CA cities such as San Francisco or Santa Monica, with residents getting access to a plurality of amenities. Approx. 55% of apartment buildings offer a diverse mix of community features to help address their need for convenience, practicality and wellness. Most apartment buildings in Irvine come with premier outdoor space.
Sun lovers can enjoy those 280+ days of Irvine sunshine from the privacy of their community pool. Relaxing at an on-site spa as well as dropping by the community business center for a change of scenery when in “work from home” mode is also a possibility in more than half of the local apartment buildings. A large majority of apartment buildings in Irvine boast a clubhouse, and sports enthusiasts can have access to baseball courts in about 31% of apartment buildings. Tennis fans will find a court in about a quarter of local communities.
The first Nevada city to make the top 10 list, Henderson stands out as one of the best-equipped cities in terms of addressing renter needs as more than half of the apartment buildings here come with several perks. The Las Vegas suburb has grown considerably, prompting developers to add over 7,800 units in the past decade. Renters here can enjoy a versatile community lifestyle, whether enrolling in a lazy day at the pool or working out at the community fitness center without leaving the premises. Close to half of the rental complexes in Henderson offer their residents access to a playground and many now offer clubhouses for a plus of comfort.
Besides Henderson, North Las Vegas emerges as a top option for amenity-rich apartment living. Just across town from the Strip, and income tax-free, North Las Vegas is an up-and-coming city that has a lot to offer. Close to 48% of the local rental communities boast a nice mix of convenient community features. All apartment complexes offer outdoor space and parking spots, and swimming pools are almost a given in most of these places. Playgrounds are also a popular option in most of the local apartment complexes, and roughly 20% of rental buildings provide access to a basketball court in North Las Vegas.
Community outdoor space and pools? The Southwest bests the rest
Community outdoors space — whether it’s a patio or a rooftop deck — is one of the most in-demand amenities that renters look for in a residential community. As it turns out, cities where renters can most easily enjoy outdoor space are concentrated in the Southwest.
Renters in Arizona’s Gilbert, Chandler and Glendale can bask in the sun without leaving the premises of their community. Nevada’s renters in Paradise and Henderson also boast access to the same types of amenities in all of their rental communities. Coincidentally, the same cities also offer swimming pools in most residential buildings. Renting in cities such as Arlington and Plano in Texas guarantees you’ll have an outdoor spot to relax in and enjoy the sun at any of the rental communities. The same holds true if you’re a renter in Irvine, CA.