What kind of rentals attract senior tenants?

22 Replies

I was asked a question in another thread and when I started to answer the question, I realized it was a topic that was quite deep and may be good for a separate discussion.... 

Originally posted by @Bryan K.:

@Marcia Maynard what kind of rentals do you have that you attract seniors? 

When I think about it, it must be a combination of factors. For starters, we have great respect for our elders and know how to provide an environment that is comfortable for them. Some find us by word of mouth. Some stay long enough in our properties to become seniors! Out of 15 units, we currently have seniors (age 65+) in five of them. We have had some senior tenants who have moved on to assisted living or have passed away.

Some things to keep in mind when working with senior tenants.... 

1.  Speak clearly, slowly, and loud enough to be heard. As we age our brains can not process speech at as fast a speed as when we were younger. There is good reasoning inherent in the American Indian cultural norm of respecting elders and knowing "the slower you speak, the more respect you show." Hearing loss is also quite common with aging.

2.  Show an interest in who they are, the contributions they make to the community (past and present), and their legacy.

3.  Be flexible and willing to do some things the "old fashion" way, such as talking to tenants in person or on the telephone, instead of requiring communication by texting and email. At times, write an letter or send a card through regular mail. Accept rent in a way that meets the needs of the tenant, such as by check or money order, instead of insisting on rent being paid electronically or online.

4.  Respond favorably to changing needs that come with aging as regards the living environment. 

TOILETS - We will offer to change out standard height toilets to those that are chair height.  Some call these toilets ADA height or comfort height, but we prefer to use the term chair height, which is a term being used more often in the industry. If the space allows, we will also choose toilets with an elongated seat vs. round seat.

HANDRAILS & GRAB BARS - We will allow for the installation of attractive handrails and grab bars. We work well with social workers/OTs/PTs who may be involved in the selection of the items and/or help cover their cost. We will offer to assist with the installation or even proactively provide such if we see the tenant would benefit.

FLOOR COVERING - As the need arises, we are willing to change out floor coverings to better accommodate shuffling feet, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters.

ONE LEVEL & EASY ACCESS - Most of our properties are one level and have no more than two steps for entry. Also, we offer on-site parking near the unit and level pathways from the parking area into the unit.

BUS STOPS - Close proximity to public transportation for those who don't drive.

AFFORDABILITY - We strive to keep our units affordable. Many seniors are on fixed incomes, so we take that into consideration when we need to raise rent.

SAFETY & WELL BEING - We will check in on tenants and their needs from time to time. When the weather turns cold or when the weather turns hot, we will check in to make sure the unit temperature is maintained at a comfortable and safe level. We will go the extra mile to accommodate real needs, responding to urgent matters of a personal nature at times. We also keep an updated list of community resources and provide that information to our tenants when appropriate.

This may very well be a good topic to hit on. I've got no experience with but I could see it becoming a niche almost. My question though is are you planning to be limiting yourself to seniors as renters? I think that may get to be  too specific and you'll be passing up the bread and butter. I bring this up because I was considering buying a mobile home in a senior park but was cautioned against it because the pool of people who would be interested in many times smaller than those who would live in a family park.

Great post @Marcia Maynard  Most times when you think about renters you usually assume your talking about a younger crowd. What would you do in the case of yard work and shoveling snow? Might just want to have that done for them to avoid any problems.

Good points @Marcia Maynard  

I'm      not      sure     about     the      speaking     slower      we     in     the      Ozarks     speak     slow    enough     .


My dad is in his upper 80s, he's not deaf yet, still plays his French horn in concerts.

I agree with your points, be careful about pandering, many don't want to think of themselves as elderly needing special attention, on the other hand, others enjoy it and some feel entitled to special treatment. Need to be able to read folks individually.

Age does not change personality, a cranky old woman was a cranky younger woman. Don't think seniors or the elderly have thin skin, certainly be nice and polite, but you can still be stern if need be.

Seniors (55+), (okay, I'll admit hitting this stage) are not elderly, when they hit elderly, 75+ you get into another crowd.  

Guess what landlords, this is the fastest growing segment, baby-boomers are now retired and getting up there, I'm at the tail end of them, barely. Get ready for them (us)!

I realize there are senior MH parks, I suppose it can be a niche in some places, I wouldn't go there as an owner, primarily due to entrances being so high. Ground level, ADA assessable is key IMO if you're considering this market. 2nd floor = elevators.

And, quiet!!!! No basketball courts near units, close the tennis court and pool at or before 10:00 PM, open at 8:00/9:00 AM. IMO  :)

If the question is what units attract seniors, the key answer seems to be one floor living. This could be a ranch but it could also be an apartment in a condo building. I saw a presentation by a rental professional who consults to the big apartment REITs. One thing she said was that the average age of seniors selling their home and moving to rental accommodation was near 80. In her words they are already living on borrowed time. It is a mistake to think that these tenancies will necessarily be of long duration. I have stopped giving incentives to seniors as a result of this and other considerations. In the past I had been entranced by the idea of a senior renter and gave a month free and held a unit for a month in anticipation of a lengthy tenancy. This was a mistake.

I have had seniors that are easy to deal with and I have had one that was just a horrible curmudgeon, my worst tenant ever. I used to subscribe to the view that seniors are the best tenants to have, now I think it is more working people with steady incomes. They are busy at their jobs and have things to do with their time other than complain. Seniors will be at home a great deal of the time and this puts greater wear on the property as well as giving them time to nitpick. I tend to have more maintenance requests from seniors, and often for minor things.

LOL, greater wear and tear, I doubt that, they aren't playing ball inside, they are on their azz wearing out the easy chair and the remote!

That average age of selling sounds more to me like those going to assisted living, not just rentals. When folks get too old to care for the home, they can't care for a home that is rented either, it's the housekeeping and cooking that's the issue, not so much about painting the trim outside.

BTW, my dad still mows the lawn and takes care of the pool! Drives like a college kid too!

I'd much rather have a tenant say 65 and up with a good income. They are quiet, less active and less likely to move. That would be in a middle income or better range.

I can tell you that lower income may or may not be a PITA, the housing authority has some only cranky types, they have nothing better to do than stir the pot with tenants, complain to HUD, complain to maintenance and make demands, those folks do exist, but they are not the majority.

That goes more to scio-economic aspects than age. :) 

Also, buying in locations with access to good hospitals, easy access to fun things to do, etc are important.  I find that a lot of seniors follow the grandkids, so while an area like mine is very youthful, there is a secondary wave of seniors that have moved here to be closer to their families.  My own mom just did that last week!

When I sold new construction, there were countless times a young couple would buy, and then a few months later they would have a new baby.  A few months after that, we were selling homes to the new grandparents! 

I've a lead on 125 unit Assisted Living Facility near Orlando FL -- not wholesaling it just putting it out there.



@Marcia Maynard  Actually, there are approximately 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day! Whatever stage of life Boomers are in, is the market to be in. Baby Boomers Aside from residential real estate, Boomers affect the medical office market too, as well as businesses that cater to them. 

In California there is a special designation for Realtors Senior Real Estate Specialist

As to what seniors are looking for, it varies. Many active seniors like moving into subdivisions specifically designed for them as the Del Webb projects do which cater to active living. 

Builders take seniors into consideration by offering floor plans that accommodate in law units or two masters, and what is considered universal design. Universal design can be wider doors, and areas between counters, lower sinks with motion sensors in faucets, toilets that flush with motion detectors, diswashers, washers and dryers built up higher, pull out shelves and drawers, no thresholds on doorways, level floors on bathroom floors, and even elevators. The idea is to allow for wheel chairs if necessary, and low impact. 

I used to think that the 3-bedroom single family was the bread and butter of rentals and not to go below that.  But then I got into 2-bedroom single family homes and I was surprised at what great rentals they are.  They are great for a couple who has grown kids who have already moved out.  (Just don't advertise them as such!)

@Dawn A.  Just curious, why wouldn't you advertise them as such? 

Originally posted by @Karen Margrave :

@Dawn A.  Just curious, why wouldn't you advertise them as such? 

 That would be discriminating against families.

@Sylvia B.   Oops, I was thinking  she was referring to the number of bedrooms, slipped by me that she was referencing the couple with grown kids :) those pesky fair housing advertising standards, sometimes I think they're too restrictive. 

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :

@Marcia Maynard 

  have to be careful not to discrimate !! 

True. Who's talking about discriminating? I'm talking about accommodating! We don't market only to seniors or rent only to seniors. We have tenants in every decade of life. I agree that universal design is a good way to go, as mentioned by @Karen Margrave.  At age 57 I have only 8 years to go before I hit the 65 mark and by some accounts I am already a senior! My mother is age 95 and I have been the primary person watching out for her needs for the last 20 years, so I understand the aging process and how things can change over time. There is a wide range of abilities and disabilities among our senior tenants; it really is a case by case scenario. One of our senior tenants (age 75) is our property assistant and is a real go-getter; she even earns extra money cleaning rental units at turnover time!

Originally posted by @Sylvia B. :
Originally posted by @Karen Margrave:

@Dawn Anastasi Just curious, why wouldn't you advertise them as such? 

 That would be discriminating against families.

 Exactly!  You can state facts about the unit, but not opinions like what type of families the units are "good" for.

@Marcia Maynard  

  I meant that the other way around... I ran a few add's when I was sick of dead beat tenants and said I would only take 55 and older etc.. well got a call from that paper apparently you can't do that !!!  But at the time I did not really care I did it anyway  let them sue me !!  I have you beat by 1 year !.

For me its a moot point I am down to 11 rentals and when they are gone and done that will be the end of the line for me... Only thing I would do going forward in the rental arena would be a building large enough that I could hire someone like Cambridge here in Oregon and it also had an onsite manager so I truly never had to deal with TTT

But any way  enjoy the warm day today  :)

Thanks, Stephen, for the good advice and warning that people in their 80s may not live in our units as long as we (and they!) hope.  I read that the average age of someone moving into assisted living is 83.  This was info gathered from expensive facilities like Merrill Gardens, etc, so sale of a house would be involved.

But older renters love the "over 55" apartments and move in as soon as they can.  These apartments are much quieter.  And the smart landlords have grab bars in the loo and other helpful things so you can increase the length of tenancy.  

Laundry machines on each floor and elevators are mandatory to attract this crowd.  They usually don't mind fewer rooms and smaller kitchens so you can get more units in a building than from a family-friendly apartment complex.


I agree with the one floor living (I'm 64; about to turn 65 in a few months and sick and tired of getting all those Medicare Supplemental advertisements clogging up my mailbox!) and my partner and I live in a two story house and we've already had the discussion on what type of remodeling we'd be doing to the downstairs when attempting to tackle the stairs to go up to the bedrooms gets to be too much of a hassle.  

When "seniors" have called about our rental properties good selling points are that some are close to the many hospitals/doctors offices that my city has and some are on our city bus service.    We're replaced a few toilets with the chair height ones and, in one case with a senior couple with health issues, I've added a handicap seat available from Lowes.   We get questions regarding the number of steps needed to get into the house.

A fair number of our houses are older and were built with front porches.  They were built during a time when air conditioning (any air conditioning) wasn't around and folks sat on the front porches in the evenings.  I've noticed this is a popular habit with our older tenants (myself included).


@Marcia Maynard ,

I would add to your list possibly condos in elevator buildings. The higher floors offer a better view.

When communicating, yes  many folks will be more more face-to-face than tech-oriented. Land-line phones - or cellphones with exceptional audio quality - would be good, also. I'm in my 60s and to me a lot of cellphones sound like the Mercury astronauts talking to mission control - REALLY bad!

Just ask what they're looking for. Sure - you'll hear a lot of the same stuff over and over. That just means you're on the right track and a lot of what you've done before will be useful again.

Always be positive, always be courteous, always be respectful. "Respect your elders" isn't real popular these days, but to them, it's how they were brought up. Instead of "those damn, disrespectful little bastards", you want to come off like "the nice young man/woman from the apartment / rental house / etc.".

My $0.02 ...

It's great to read all these ideas! 

I see it comes down to two basic categories: Building Attributes and Landlord Attributes.

My mother passed away this year just shy of her 97th birthday. When she turned 90 her geriatrician told her... "Margaret, you know we have our first 30 years, our second 30 years, and our third 30 years, and now that you're 90, your in what we call the bonus period!"

I'm looking at what's good for people who are lucky enough to enter their third 30 years in fairly good health, still able to live independently. Next summer I turn 60, so that could be me!

Here is a summary of what I have gleaned:

Building Attributes: one level, ground floor, elevator in multistory buildings, no steps, universal design, wider doorways, smooth floor coverings without throw rugs, chair height toilets, hand rails, grab bars, bathroom near bedroom, laundry in unit or close by, good lighting, less square footage to take care of but enough to comfortably move around and to entertain visitors, close to bus stops, close to medical facilities, close to activities that interest seniors, garden, front porches, backyard patios/decks, quiet, warm, safe.

Landlord Attributes: respectful, attentive, face-to-face communication, willing to adjust speaking speed and volume as needed, willing to do things for tenants to keep them off ladders and step stools (change light bulbs, hang pictures, etc.), willing to adjust policies and procedures to accommodate needs (alternative ways to pay rent, use of telephone instead of texting, etc), genuine interest in seniors' wisdom and legacy, willing to check in on the safety and well being of residents, willing to assume responsibility for yard work, snow removal, and keeping outside pathways clear of debris, willing to help tenants connect with community services as the need arises (cleaning help, food prep programs, senior services, etc.), service oriented.

Nice thread, Marcia. I think that we might like to get into this niche.  

Do you buy properties in certain neighborhoods preferred by seniors? Or do you just hold on to older tenants once they start renting from you in their 50's (finding them by chance)? What about your advertising (of course without discriminating)? We have had success finding good tenants in their 30's by putting ads on Craigslist, but I suppose that's not a way to bias the pool toward seniors.

@Tanya F. We buy properties within 2 miles of our home. We don't advertise specifically to seniors. Most of our tenants come to us by word of mouth these days. At our 8-plex we have 3 seniors (two in their 70s and one who just turned 80). The other tenants are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. We have another senior at one of our duplexes in her late 60s. Two of our four seniors started renting from us before they crossed the 60-year-old threshold. We tend to have long term tenants. Our previous senior tenants have either eventually moved into assisted living facilities or passed away.

The key is, we strive to provide safe, clean, affordable, comfortable and quiet housing for responsible renters. Many seniors have fixed incomes. We're keeping our places affordable. As new investors buy up property in our town and raise rents, many seniors who are renting are being priced out of their places. We get calls by the droves through church and social networks... "do you have anything available?" So, I started thinking more about this population.

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