The rental housing industry is no stranger to change. Throughout the decades, the multifamily sector has witnessed its fair share of highs and lows, ranging from economic recessions to occupancy booms. Through it all, our industry has remained consistent in its dedication to customer service, loyalty to local businesses, and steady support of technological solutions. Now, the multifamily industry must conquer a new challenge: providing the apartment experience that residents desire (and deserve) during and after these uncertain, trying times.
A few months ago, Forbes reported renewed interest in apartment searching, as residents continue to move in and out of rental properties during the pandemic. Even with searches reaching pre-pandemic volumes, coronavirus has shifted resident expectations – just like many other aspects of daily life. Despite your current roster of luxury amenities, it’s likely that your management team will still have to adjust your current leasing approach to effectively capture incoming prospects.
Of course, certain precautions should be followed by every multifamily community to ensure everyone’s safety, such as diligently sanitizing common areas or providing on-site staff with as many preventive measures – like hand sanitizer and disposable face masks – as resources allow. However, what about residents’ long-term expectations? Which amenities, services, and conveniences should you afford current and future residents in light of recent events? Check out the suggestions below!
Creative Co-Working Spaces
Co-working spaces have steadily increased in popularity over the past few years, but these days, they’re far more than a trendy apartment amenity – they are essential to the American work-from-home force. With over 60 percent of the population now working remotely and countless businesses unsure when they’ll resume in-person operations, it’s safe to say that these spaces will be a much-appreciated feature to incoming prospects. Implementing or updating co-working spaces is especially important to the current residents who will continue working from home, even after the worst waves of the virus subside— i.e. Google recently announced remote work will continue to at least Summer 2021.
Any work-oriented space should contain safely distanced desks and chairs, a seamless Wi-Fi connection and plenty of charging outlets. Add features for eventual communal use, like a coffee bar and billiards table, and your co-working space will be just as attractive, if not more so, than other designated co-working spaces within your given area. If your community is lacking the space needed for a co-working station, consider marketing any generously sized floor plans as “work-from-home friendly.” If these homes have enough space to comfortably accommodate work-related necessities, this label will encourage prospects to consider how interior apartment spaces can serve their remote needs.
Fun Outdoor Offerings
As our knowledge of these new obstacles grow, it has become increasingly clear that shared outdoor spaces are preferable over indoor ones. According to numerous studies, Americans are safer outdoors when it comes to potential spread of COVID-19. Additionally, being outdoors offers numerous wellness benefits to residents, including mood enhancement and the opportunity for physical fitness. Considering that 95 percent of Americans have reported experiencing anxiety during the past few months, you can bet that safe outdoor access – which is proven to alleviate emotional distress – will climb to the top of your resident’s wish list.
In fact, Bloomberg has recently declared that “building better balconies” is one of the pandemic’s crucial takeaways for the real estate industry. Individual patio and balcony offerings will continue to be a deciding factor for many prospects, who are hoping to expand their apartment square footage through outdoor spaces. As for community-wide amenities, features, like outdoor lounge areas and dog parks, are still highly sought-after by prospective residents looking for safe ways to break-up the monotony of self-isolation – as long as regularly scheduled sanitizing and social distancing is practiced in such spaces.
If there’s one industry that has excelled to meet the challenges of the pandemic, it’s technology. Big Tech – including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – is laying the groundwork for the future of their companies, purchasing cloud computing businesses and social media apps, hiring an additional 175,000 employees, and continually optimizing the services they offer. It’s true that Big Tech has undoubtedly gotten bigger during 2020, since their products and services allow Americans to maintain some semblance of normal life. Thanks to this industry, we can digitally connect with loved ones, order groceries and other necessities, and engage in more contactless workflows overall.
Speaking of contactless workflows, they are needed to push our industry – which relies on personal touchpoints – forward during a time of emergency. For example, apartment tours are a “make-it-or-break-it” point within the Resident Lifecycle that you cannot afford to sacrifice to pre-recorded video tours or 3D floor plans. Prospects prefer to see the actual apartment home that’s up for grabs, with only 14 percent of them willing to lease an apartment sight unseen. AI chatbots are one of the technological solutions that have arisen as a way to fill personnel voids during this time, helping both leasing agents and leads adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The final impacts of the novel coronavirus across the business landscape are yet to be seen. Luckily, a few tweaks to your current operating strategy is all multifamily owners and operators need to make a big difference in the appeal of their property and the well-being of their residents. These suggestions are just a few examples of how your team can rise to meet all of these brand-new expectations from your prospects and residents alike. By investing in these amenities, you’ll only further establish your community’s commitment to resident satisfaction and, above all, safety.
Kerry W. Kirby is a global entrepreneur, technology innovator, philanthropist, and the founder of 365 Connect, an award-winning technology firm within the multifamily housing industry. Over the course of his career, Kerry has been the recipient of an array of highly acclaimed awards, including the esteemed Louisiana Governor's Technology Award. He has been named to the Silicon Bayou 100 List of most influential entrepreneurs for nine consecutive years and has received a prestigious Titan Entrepreneur Award for his technological achievements. An acclaimed speaker, author, and award-winning podcaster, Kerry has appeared on the BBC Digital Planet program, NPR News, and various media platforms and outlets. He has contributed to an array of articles and studies on the convergence of technology in the rental housing industry.
Kerry serves on the Board of Advisors of Rainbow, a national nonprofit organization that provides service-enriched housing programs for affordable housing communities across the country, as well as the Board of Advisors of the Multifamily Women’s Summit, an event that allows women to strengthen their expertise, influence, and professional network in the multifamily housing industry. He is Chair of Technology Initiatives for the Multifamily Innovation Advisory Council, a private, members only group focused on assisting owners and operators of multifamily communities identify pain points and explore innovative solutions that will drive change across the industry.