by Lela Cirjakovic
The core benefits of renting will always be convenience and flexibility. As apartment owners continue to one-up each other in terms of amenity packages, a movement toward increased service offerings is emerging as a low-barrier-to-entry means to add value for community owners, operators and renters alike.
In regard to resident priorities, affordability and location still remain a top priority for renters across the demographic spectrum. This is followed closely by efficient service. Package handling is becoming increasingly important and, while advances in—and accessibility to—technology allows today’s renters to pay online, sign online and coordinate services online, the value of every-day efficiencies and a well-trained on-site team is immeasurable.
Appealing Across Geography and Demographics
The appeal of service and convenience is universal. Renters in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles are no different than renters in Columbus, Nashville and Austin. Concierge-like services such as curated event coordination, dry-cleaning pick-up and delivery, dog walking services and even valet trash pick-up are appealing to renters no matter what the location or whether they are young professionals, part of a recently formed household or empty nesters starting their next chapter.
It takes a well-trained, attentive staff to make those conveniences a tangible selling point to residents. Residents and prospective residents have many options and they can search online and get pricing, reviews, photos and detailed information about several communities in minutes. Apartment managers must up their game in terms of staffing for the long-term. They must solicit feedback and respond quickly to it. As an industry, property owners must work to attract, train and retain associates with higher skills and an inherent desire to serve residents. It’s critical that owners and managers continue recruiting from other fields and directly from universities to build a deep bench of future community managers.
Unpacking Package Delivery
As online shopping and frequent package deliveries have become more the norm than the exception, the need for simplified package delivery processes has increased exponentially. The use of automated notification systems, package lockers and mail rooms serve a secondary purpose as a place to meet neighbors. The days of a tiny wall of mailboxes and unsecured packages are gone, replaced by systems and spaces equipped to handle the increased volume of package deliveries.
Systems like Luxer One and Texas-based start-up Fetch send residents automated messages when a package arrives. As the means by which consumers procure goods continue to evolve, so will the means by which consumers receive those goods. While packages do need physical storage space—especially around the winter holidays—this adds value for renters and property management teams year-round by streamlining the delivery process. Onsite staff is free to tend to daily property needs and residents can keep close tabs on package deliveries. In some cases, existing properties are transforming underutilized physical spaces to accommodate package lockers and even refrigerated spaces for groceries and meal deliveries.
Fine-Tuning Technology for the Next Generation of Renters
Online portals improve the resident experience by streamlining pesky moving tasks like transferring utilities or changing your address. App-based technologies offer on-demand hotel-style cleaning services at the push of a button. These services have to be sold to prospective residents just like the physical offerings on site.
Lightning-fast wi-Fi throughout a building is the standard, not the exception. SMART home technology is the latest “trendy” technology amenity emerging on the multifamily landscape, but currently it is “nice to have.” The ability to set temperatures and lock doors from your smartphone or all-in-one furniture systems designed to save space by expanding or contracting at the touch of a button have a definitive “cool” factor, and we are seeing some residents willing to pay more for this. But how much more remains unknown.
Owners and operators can unlock tremendous value by providing top-notch service and thoughtful conveniences. While the appeal of pools, game rooms, fitness centers and expansive communal gathering spaces will continue to attract renters by choice for the foreseeable future, the long-term benefits of top-notch service and thoughtful conveniences will be key in attracting new prospects and retaining existing residents.
Lela Cirjakovic is executive vice president of Waterton, a Chicago-based property management and investment group.