There’s no secret that residents are attracted to apartment complexes that offer in-unit laundry. Some apartment owners have begun making the investment to update units with laundry hookups to be more competitive. But depending on the available space, and the type of machines, it also may be wise to invest in updating your community laundry room or adding a community laundry room if you don’t have one already.
Take St. Paul, Minn.-based Plaza Apartments, for example. Over the past few years, the owners have made a significant investment to enhance residents’ apartments with in-unit laundry. More than 60 percent of the units now have stacked washers and dryers. And while this was a big convenience for the residents, there was still something missing.
While the in-unit machines were great for washing clothes, residents wanted, and needed, access to washers and dryers that could handle the cleaning of blankets, comforters and towels. In addition, residents who were living in apartments that had not yet been renovated with in-unit laundry also needed somewhere onsite to wash their belongings. The complex previously had three community laundry rooms with a total of six washers and dryers. Those rooms were converted into resident storage areas during the renovation.
The property owner, along with the property manager, decided that, in addition to the in-unit facilities, they would remodel one of the community laundry rooms with machines capable of washing and drying large loads. But they didn’t want just any old community laundry room. They wanted to make sure it resembled an extension of the living area, where residents would feel comfortable waiting for their loads to finish.
Plaza’s manager, Robin Hall, says the renovation has been a huge success. “Our residents love the new space,” Hall says. “It’s the rock star of laundry rooms.”
Plaza Apartments’ new community laundry room is not your typical laundry area. It’s designed to be inviting and provide the sense of comfort, as if you were doing laundry in your own home. It offers a modern and chic design with sophisticated technologies.
Installed were two extra-large capacity stainless steel Quantum control Speed Queen Horizon front load washers and dryers. The washers and dryers are stacked on 8-inch bases to make it easier for residents to load and unload their items. Prices range from $2 for a traditional wash to $2.50 for extra washing options. Dryers cost on average $1.50, unless a resident requests a longer cycle, at which point more time can be purchased for only an additional 25 cents.
The laundry technology sits in a revitalized space that features hardwood floors, granite folding counters, chair and table sets, and a flat screen television.
Reducing utility costs, gaining revenue
The owner and manager enlisted the help of route operator BDS Management Laundry Systems. BDS assisted Plaza’s owner and property manager with the concept and development of the high-end community laundry. In addition, they found laundry technologies that help the apartment complex reduce utility costs and generate additional revenue.
The Horizon machines are Energy Star-rated and equipped with Speed Queen’s Quantum controls, which reduces water consumption to just 12.8 gallons per cycle. And with advanced technology, more water can be removed from clothing during the spin cycle, reducing dry times and further lowering utility expenses.
An analysis shows that the new Horizon’s use 35 percent less water than the complex’s older machines. And the complex is earning additional revenue from the machines. Working with BDS, the complex earns a percentage of the revenue generated from resident usage.
“We’re making more money using these four new machines compared to when we had 12 machines,” Hall notes.
Pat Reddin, BDS’ vice president of sales, expects this trend to continue. “There are still a number of apartment units that don’t have in-unit laundry yet and need to use the community laundry room to do laundry,” Reddin says. “We’ve also heard that the residents, even those with in-unit machines, really like the space and will opt to use the community machines over their in-units.”
Consider a revamp for resident retention, competitive advantage
Some apartment owners are opting to renovate units in order to add in-unit laundry options. However, these types of projects can take years to complete and may be very expensive. If owners don’t have the capital for a project of this magnitude, they should consider revitalizing the community laundry area. At the Plaza, it took approximately five weeks to complete the community laundry room’s makeover. A remodel also means less interruption for residents with faster results.
Working with an experienced laundry service provider can help expedite the project significantly. They can offer services, such as utility analysis, which will help determine how much the building can save on water and energy reduction, highlight revenue generating opportunities, provide insight on laundry room design and materials, and may even be able to connect owners to contractors that can assist with the build-out.
Apartment owners looking for a way to offer residents an enhanced service should consider updating the community laundry room. Clean clothes are a primary necessity and should not be overlooked. And why not provide residents with a modern laundry area where they feel right at home?
Chuck Melton is the North American Sales Manager of Speed Queen Multi-Housing, a division of Alliance Laundry Systems based in Ripon, Wis. For more information, contact Melton at 920-748-4231 or [email protected]