What Renters Want: Managed WiFi Beats Retail, Every Day of the Week

By: Kathryn Casna

Internet is no longer an amenity—it’s become a necessary utility. Residents in multifamily communities use it to work, learn, play, shop, stay healthy, and engage with friends and neighbors.

Owners and operators who deliver a WiFi experience that satisfies renters’ evolving needs are more likely to attract and retain residents—which translates to fewer vacancies, higher retention rates, and greater resident satisfaction.

The trick is knowing what renters want. So we asked them.

Here’s what we learned from our third-party research report—and why we think managed WiFi is one of the best investments owners and operators can make in their multifamily communities this year.


Our third-party partner, Parks Associates, surveyed 2,012 U.S. apartment residents who have decision-making responsibility for technology products and services in their homes. The survey was conducted Aug. 18-26, 2023, and the sample of surveyed residents aligns with the age, income, education level, and gender demographics of U.S. apartment residents.

Affordable internet is a deal-maker

The internet can be a significant expense for renters, right alongside electricity, water service, and trash collection. That means it factors into budgeting when prospects check out your community—and can determine which communities they’ll consider moving into.

When choosing an apartment, 23% of renters said monthly rent was their top concern and 21.2% said neighborhood safety was most important. Affordable internet and onsite laundry facilities came in next, with about 16% of renters naming them their top concern. That puts affordable internet on par with being able to wash clothes.

Affordable internet outweighed covered parking and an onsite gym combined. Renters said it was even more important to them than the ability to have pets.

The takeaway? Affordable internet attracts prospects, while pricey internet drives them away. If internet is expensive in your area, providing a lower-cost option like managed WiFi could lure residents away from your competitors.

How expensive is too expensive? Prices in your area could vary, but the average renter pays $69.50 per month for retail internet—the kind of internet they can get directly from a provider. And more than 60% of renters pay at least $51 per month. So providing internet for $50 or less can elevate your community to the top of a prospect’s shortlist—and improve your profit margins. But more on that later.

Value supersedes provider choice

When renters compare internet features, affordability is by far the most important, even more than having multiple provider options. More than three-quarters (77%) of renters said having a low cost was the most important feature, while 65% said having more than one provider option was most important.

That’s good news for owners and operators who plan to be the sole provider in their communities. Investing in internet infrastructure can be a large upfront cost, and the more residents who sign up for your service the better your ROI. Some owners and operators worry about pushback if they’re the only provider. But if the price is right, you’ll see more adoption and less pushback.

Another way to ensure high adoption rates? Be better than retail internet. 

While affordability is most important, plenty of residents named other, quality-based features that matter to them. They want WiFi that’s immediately available upon move-in (62%), reaches gigabit speeds (55%), and lets them roam seamlessly throughout the community (53%).

The takeaway? Residents are happy to let you be the only option—as long as that option is cheaper and better than retail.

Residents want managed WiFi

With renters trying to get the most value out of their internet investment, it’s no surprise that managed WiFi appeals to them. Four out of five (81%) surveyed residents said they want the sort of seamless, property-wide connectivity that managed WiFi delivers. And residents are willing to put their dollars where they can find that seamless experience.

Managed WiFi is quickly becoming a stronger pull for prospects than retail WiFi. More than 50% of residents who have managed WiFi said it was a deciding factor when choosing their current apartment, while just 22% of those with retail internet could say that.

All those prospects your community lures away from competitors can help you fund your WiFi investment—and improve your NOI. Most renters (64%) said they would pay $50 per month for a managed WiFi solution. And since owners and operators can typically provide managed WiFi for less than that, managed WiFi represents a huge revenue opportunity.

Managed WiFi delivers

When retail WiFi and managed WiFi go head to head, we learn even more about why renters prefer the latter: 87% of renters with managed WiFi said they had internet at a fair price, while only 66% of those with retail said the same.

As for speed, 85% of renters with managed WiFi said their internet was fast, compared to 80% of those with retail internet. Renters reported that managed WiFi is at least as reliable as retail.

Long story short, renters see more value in managed WiFi and, by extension, in the communities that offer it.

The big picture: Managed WiFi for the win-win

Renters factor internet into their criteria when choosing a multifamily community, prioritizing it alongside on-site laundry and just after monthly rent and neighborhood safety. First and foremost, prospects want affordable internet, but they also factor in internet quality.

Renters want great internet at an affordable price, and giving it to them can help you stay competitive and boost resident satisfaction. Managed WiFi is an excellent way to accomplish that. In fact, many renters actively seek out managed WiFi and will factor its availability into their decision.

Managed WiFi is a win-win for multifamily communities: owners and operators get higher retention rates and an additional revenue stream, and renters get a better internet experience at a lower price than retail internet.

When we zoom out, we also see that delivering quality internet service at an affordable price contributes to renters’ financial stability. The internet provides them access to education, job opportunities, telehealth, and social connection—all things that can increase the likelihood they pay rent on time, stay in a lease, and enjoy your community for years to come.

Think investing in managed WiFi could be right for your multifamily community? Download a full tactical guide—created by our third-party partner, Parks Associates—to learn how to implement Community WiFi, SmartRent’s managed WiFi solution.

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