Growing rental demographic could yield years-long tenancies

As cities around the world grow too expensive for young families, they’re renting longer, and this new demographic could provide landlords with stable tenancy for years.

But landlords need to be flexible.

Craig Watson, a landlord and sales agent with REMAX Escarpment Realty Inc., says that by allowing tenants to baby-proof his rental properties, he scarcely worries about vacancies.

“The last couple of years have been really challenging for young families, whether first-timers or new buyers, because they have to deal with the mortgage rules in place,” he said. “They’ve become more prominent on the renting side. I’ve had many more young tenants than I had many years ago.”

A good rule of thumb for any property investor is that they should cater to their tenants, and as young families struggle to become homeowners, Watson advises being accommodating.

“Be aware of their requirements so that you can best meet their needs,” continued Watson. “When I have people requesting these things from me, I don’t have any problem with it. You’re looking at families coming in and you want them to feel safe and secure, and as a landlord I’m trying to anchor in that tenant to a certain point. It’s my property, but their home, and I want them to love where they live.”

Carolyn Zielger and her husband run Tee-Zed Products, an Australian company with offices internationally, including in Canada, and it offers a line called Dreambaby. She says that baby-proofing a rental often makes landlords chary because nobody wants holes drilled in their properties, but Dreambaby uses special adhesives so that the safety products can be removed easily and without leaving traces.

“It’s important to develop products that don’t always have to be screwed in,” said Ziegler. “The products use adhesives and other things that can be put inside cabinets, because people want these things hidden.”

Australia is experiencing its own struggle with housing affordability, and Ziegler noted that accommodating young families isn’t just as a Canadian phenomenon.

“Due to the prices of rental properties, people are going into smaller apartments and need to maximize what they can do in those smaller spaces,” she said. “Regardless of whether you own or don’t, people want to ensure their children are safe.”

If tenants are installing baby-proofing apparatus themselves, Watson, who owns four properties with 15 doors, recommends putting in writing that they’re liable for damages. By and large, though, he says families are among his favourite tenant demographic because they treat his properties like a home rather than a rental.

“It’s a sound strategy to embrace options that increase the benefit of your tenancy. At the end of the day, our commodity as landlords is having a good tenant and my philosophy has always been to work with a specific tenant for the unit. I look at each tenant as a three-to-five-year plan.”

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