Maximus Insights: How Bay Area Rental Behavior Has Changed During COVID-19

In 2020, everyday life has a different look. The pandemic has precipitated widespread changes to our daily routines, and forced individuals across the nation to reevaluate their priorities—including where and how they live. This is certainly true in the Bay Area, where the needs and desires of renters have evolved dramatically. Maximus Real Estate Partners commissioned InterQ to survey 825 Bay Area renters and compile quantitative data about their current mindset to better understand what’s happening in the market and the impact that the pandemic is having on renter sentiment, as well as trends in the Bay Area with a focus on San Francisco, in particular. The results of that survey are outlined in the infographic below, followed by a more in-depth qualitative assessment.


Of the renters surveyed, 31% are considering leaving the Bay Area completely, but a full 73% still want to stay within 60 miles of the city. Notably, direct concerns over COVID-19 are not the leading factor in these decisions. Just 2% of respondents cited fear of COVID-19 as a motivating factor in their desire to move, while 40% said they are driven by cost of living and 50% are seeking a different lifestyle and wanting more space. 

When it comes to interior features, renters are elevating previously wishlist-only items like in-home washers and dryers and more storage to must-haves. Perhaps in response to the pandemic’s impact on travel, an interest in reliable parking and pet-friendly rental agreements have also gained traction. 

Renters are also prioritizing safety, seeking communities that provide connection and homes that offer an overall better value for their money. And, since so many are now working remotely—68% of those surveyed are working from home full or part-time—89% ranked a more comfortable work-from-home setup as a high priority on a 10-point scale and many are paying special attention to the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood and a community’s shared spaces.

Safe opportunities for social connection is a key priority for renters. Respondents were interested in confabbing with neighbors in a pleasant, well-maintained community setting that allows for social distancing—such as outdoor green spaces and open-air pools. That said, renters are also seeking the safety of private patios and balconies—an amenity that ranks among their top five needs.