While new home sales have gone through the roof in 2021, courtesy of historically low mortgage interest rates, multifamily developments are seeing ups and downs, depending on the market. With remote and hybrid work emerging as a trend with staying power, renters in high-priced urban markets are heading further into suburbia in search of more space at more competitive rates. While rental homes generate tremendous excitement, multifamily developments in many areas will have to work to attract higher tenancy levels.
The June 2021 Yardi Matrix Multifamily National Report notes that gateway cities—those midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies—in particular, are lagging in their rebound. Yardi predicts these cities may not begin to achieve their full growth potential until 2022.
So, how do multifamily developments win over new condo owners or apartment tenants? The key here is to elevate the tenant experience by rethinking condo and apartment amenities and layouts, taking service to new levels, and prioritizing multifamily maintenance.
1. Reconsider Your Amenities
Rethinking condo and apartment amenities is an ongoing process for many multifamily developers, but the COVID-19 pandemic has driven several trends. Health and wellness have become leading priorities, even as property managers found themselves having to temporarily close certain amenities including fitness centers and playgrounds. Many multifamily developments are adding solutions such as antibacterial countertops, ultraviolet lamps, and air purification systems to address this concern. Providing a connection to the outdoors will also prove attractive to tenants, whether through balconies, outdoor fitness centers, or community gardens. Smaller or segmented wellness spaces—think meditation rooms and spa services—have also seen upticks in demand.
Smart connectivity system, from digital locks to smart thermostats, also remain a leading demand for multifamily units. These technology solutions are quickly becoming a mainstream expectation, and coupled with the growth in remote work, will require developers to prioritize WiFi and 5G connectivity. The pandemic has also highlighted the value of adding or updating package spaces with Amazon package lockers or cold storage for grocery delivery.
2. Rethink Your Layouts
The COVID pandemic has driven several design trends beyond just condo and apartment amenities for multifamily developments moving forward. Many of these changes are in common areas, with developers moving to smart or touchless elevators, partitioned common areas with more private lounges over massive gathering spaces, and separate entrances. However, apartment and condo layouts are also evolving. Just as many tenants are searching again for garden apartments that don’t require shared access in a mechanically ventilated corridor, those same tenants are interested in foyers where they can leave dirt and germs at the door.
With the shift toward remote work, home offices and dens have become critical differentiators. Some developers are swapping out entertainment amenities to provide coworking solutions. Others are simply outfitting existing space with greenscreens or nooks that support workstations.
3. Reorient Your Approach to Service
While multifamily developments may not compete with homes sales or rentals on space, they have a tremendous competitive edge when it comes to service and community.
Multifamily Executive reports that the demographics moving into condos and apartments today are more laser-focused on work. As a result, they want to spend free time doing activities they enjoy, not chores. Adding apartment amenities meets this trend partway. However, multifamily properties can also burden chores by providing more supporting services for their tenants. AvalonBay Communities, for example, is partnering with local providers to help with everything from dog walking to house cleaning to laundry services.
Other property managers are providing these services in-house. To balance this demand on staff, many property managers turn to technology-based solutions to help free up their team members’ time. For example, robotic vacuum cleaners like Whiz from SoftBank Robotics can take on time-consuming cleaning tasks, freeing staff to tackle new value-added services that elevate the tenant experience.
4. Reprioritize Multifamily Maintenance
Aging rental units were facing a $45 billion repair backlog according to a 2019 analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and PolicyMap. Nearly 40% of renters that year lived in housing built before 1970. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies notes that these older units are more likely to have structural deficiencies, pose health hazards, and lack accessibility features than newer units. Following the tragic collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida, it’s a sure bet that multifamily building maintenance of all types will be under the microscope.
While local inspectors may focus on foundations and life safety features, tenants will be watching for features that include the cleanliness of typical condo and apartment amenities and the speed of maintenance response time. Response time, in particular, will be critical as more individuals work from their condo or apartment homes (or your coworking spaces) means more maintenance calls.
Now is the time to set aside funds to address repairs and take routine maintenance to the next level. Managers that communicate the steps they’re taking to keep multifamily properties clean, healthy, and in good repair may be surprised to find how attractive routine maintenance can be.
Whiz can help property managers communicate their commitment to wellness and tenant experience. As it quietly navigates common spaces and hallways, it’s a visible reminder of your commitment to tenant experience investments. Through the Whiz Connect dashboard, multifamily property owners and managers gain actionable data analytics-based insights on productivity, efficiency, and Whiz’s effectiveness. Through this data collection dashboard, you can give tenants visibility into cleaning operations and confidence in their surroundings' health and safety.
To learn more, contact SoftBank Robotics today.