Full- or part-time work-from-home is here to stay for the foreseeable future, compelling many people to make room in their homes for a more permanent workspace. The need for more space is particularly crucial in apartments, where there isn’t typically much space to spare to begin with. Fortunately, apartment developers are noticing this rising need and their response is already reflected in current projects that are under construction.
In fact, out of the 92 cities in which we analyzed apartment floorplans in buildings under construction, 36% are already trending toward larger apartments compared to what was built in the past 5 years, Yardi Matrix data reveals. Specifically, these larger apartments increased by nearly 50 sq. ft., on average — a generous space for an apartment, especially nowadays when more people are working from home. On a more granular level, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments are expanding in size in almost half of the cities analyzed, with the latter adding a whopping 105 sq. ft. to its average size. 1- and 2-bedroom apartments are also registering increases of 28 sq. ft. and 39 sq. ft., respectively.
Experts confirm that this upsizing trend is linked to how renters’ priorities have shifted because of the pandemic.
“The pandemic and work-from-home has made people more conscious of the space in which they live and work,” said Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix. “The pandemic has significantly accelerated issues on designers’ minds well before 2020. These issues involve the rise of the home as a workspace, and a deeper emphasis on health and well-being.”
New Apartments Are About “1 Small Home Office” Larger
How much larger will the new apartments be? Well, the average increase in apartment size in the locations that are already building larger units is 48 sq. ft. — just enough for a small home office, a bathroom or some other type of living space that can provide a lifestyle upgrade for renters spending more time at home. This is a wind of change in apartment construction — especially in urban areas — and it’s setting the stage for new trends in living preferences following the pandemic.
Alex Valente, Senior Vice President for High Street Residential, says that in order to target renter demand for more space, his team intentionally designed larger apartments for Llewellyn, their recently completed 318-unit multifamily community in Los Angeles.
“At the time of design three years ago, this approach went against the grain of other developments in Downtown LA. The pandemic and resulting work-from-home model has only accelerated this trend and increased demand for more space. In addition to Llewellyn’s units being on average 20% larger than competitors, the unit mix is made up of 65% two bedrooms. This was done to allow renters to share the cost of living with a roommate or utilize a separate and private work-from-home space”, said Valente.
Daryl Spradley, Senior Vice President of Charles Wayne Consulting, Inc. says that while some places experience an upsizing trend, it’s still too early to know for sure whether it’s an effect of the pandemic or not. He argues that this growth in size is triggered by developers who are addressing “renters by choice” and “digital nomads” — people with high income who choose not to buy, but to rent, due to various reasons linked to lifestyle, such as mobility.
“The number of people that earn over $100,000 a year is significantly higher than it was 2 or 3 years ago. Those are renters, but obviously renters by choice because they can go out and buy a house”, Spradley said.
Spradley adds that most such renters in his city — Orlando, FL — are likely digital nomads who tend to stay for a year, rent, find a co-working space and then move on to another city.
Everett, WA Apartments Upsizing by an Additional 267 Square Feet
Analyzing all buildings under construction where apartment size data was available, we identified projects in 33 cities out of 92 which are already expanding floorplans to build more spacious apartments compared to what they built in the past five years. On average, the space added ranges from 267 extra square feet in Everett, WA to one more square foot in West Palm Beach, FL.
It’s also worth noting that these are just the cities where floorplan size information was available as of May 2021 for projects under construction. As such, it’s quite possible that the trend will be confirmed in even more locations as more data becomes available and developers have more time to adjust their construction plans.
Everett, WA — home to a Boeing factory — is the trend leader, with the largest apartments under construction compared to those built in the previous five years. It’s not only airplanes that are taking off here, but apartment sizes, as well. Apartments under construction in Everett will be upsizing by a whopping 267 sq. ft. larger — which also happens to be the length of a Boeing 747 wing. When delivered, these new apartments will have an average size of 1,195 sq. ft., compared to just 928 sq. ft., which was the average size of apartments completed in the last decade.
Meanwhile, other cities are also building larger apartments for rent: Kirkland, WA is upsizing by 211 extra square feet, Scottsdale, AZ by 208 more square feet and Midland, TX by 182 additional square feet, on average.
Moreover, 27 of the 33 locations are urban areas, which indicates a sudden demand for larger city apartments to address the new reality we live in, following a long-standing trend of building smaller apartments.
Even some large cities like Chicago are on the list after consistently reducing the size of rental apartments for years. With an additional 38 sq. ft. of space in its under-construction apartments versus the last 5 years, Chicago might be on track to offering more space to its renters.
In Texas, larger apartments are being built in seven cities: Midland is upsizing by 182 sq. ft., McKinney, by 98 sq. ft. as well as Leander, San Antonio, Irving, Lewisville and Houston. The state was also ranked as one of the best for teleworkers, according to a recent study, so renters working from home can look forward to finding larger apartments available in the near future. Florida is also well-represented, with four cities showing this trend: Sarasota, Orlando, Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach.
Cities Where Largest Apartments Are Being Built
Everett, WA is leading here, too, as its under-construction apartments measure an average of 1,195 sq. ft. — the highest among the cities analyzed. Not far behind is Scottsdale, AZ, home to a population of 251,000, with an average apartment space of 1,139 sq. ft. Athens, GA, a college town 70 miles away from Atlanta, is planning on delivering the third-largest apartments, at 1,132 square feet.
The surprise within the top group is Morrisville, NC, a small community 14 miles outside of Raleigh that is currently building the 10th-largest apartments, at 1,004 sq. ft., on average.
“Choosing where to live used to be more about proximity to the office. But now, with work-from-home and all of the delivery options available to residents, lifestyle has become more important”, Jones said.
Click here to see a list of the top 20 cities that are building the largest apartments.
Populous cities like Orlando, FL, Oklahoma City, OK or Charlotte, NC are also set on upsizing and delivering more spacious apartments, with average apartment sizes of 981 sq. ft., 977 sq. ft. and 1,010 sq. ft., respectively. One reason for Orlando’s prosperous apartment market might be the fact that it’s appealing to digital nomads, experts say. The average age here is 37 years old, which is about five years younger than the average for the entire state.
Represented by six of its cities, Florida is leading the way in building the largest apartments, with Sarasota planning to deliver apartments measuring 1,007 sq. ft., the sixth largest among all cities analyzed.
Cities Where The Trend is Taking a U-Turn After Downsizing for a Decade
Notably, 21 of the cities we analyzed that were previously building smaller apartments in the second part of the decade (2016 to 2020) compared to the first (2011 to 2015) are now adapting to renters’ needs for more space and currently building more spacious apartments.
Almost all of the cities in the top five that are now building larger are medium-sized cities in urban areas with populations of less than 600,000 residents.
Kirkland, WA — located on the eastern shore of Lake Washington — is adding the most square footage to its under-construction apartments: upsizing by an additional 211 square feet compared to the second part of the decade.
Scottsdale, AZ is next with 208 extra square feet, followed by Midland, TX, with 182 square feet more — both great cities for renters looking for larger apartments.
Furthermore, all of these 21 cities are building apartments measuring more than 821 square feet, with Scottsdale, AZ and Athens, GA planning to deliver the largest apartments, at 1,139 sq. ft. and 1,132 sq. ft., respectively.
RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.
For the completed apartments data, cities with fewer than 1,000 units or fewer than four properties/buildings were excluded. For the under-construction data, cities with fewer than 300 units or fewer than 2 properties/buildings were excluded.
Apartment data was provided by our sister company, Yardi Matrix, a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self-storage sectors.