Packages are inundating apartment communities right now and building staff is likely to get swamped as the holidays unfold. So how can property managers handle the deluge and stay on top of the package handling process?
They need to keep evolving, according to Yolanda Gordon, senior regional manager at Chamberlin + Associates, a company that manages more than 70 communities around Arizona and that has recently expanded its footprint to Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas.
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“The new renter is looking for convenience and ease of use,” Gordon told Multi-Housing News. Online ordering is at an all-time high—with no end in sight—and managing packages effectively is one of the most time-consuming challenges property managers currently face. For Chamberlin + Associates, lockers proved to be the solution when onsite teams could no longer keep up with the demand of managing packages.
“We are moving toward package lockers and charging the residents a small fee for this service. What was once a courtesy is now an income generator,” Gordon said. First, the fees collected offset the cost of installing package locker systems in the common areas, and then they cover the administrative costs for this service.
However, this solution requires space, and handling large items that residents order—such as furniture or workout equipment—can be a problem. Another important thing to consider is that perishable goods or valuable items like tech devices need extra attention, particularly during busy periods of the year.
The regular approach
How do smaller properties or communities that don’t have enough space manage deliveries? Some are repurposing amenity spaces as package rooms or using a portion of the amenity space to put in package lockers. Gordon believes this is a good use of space and says that the landlord will see their ROI within the first year or two.
Laundry rooms or mechanical rooms can easily be converted into package rooms or reconfigured to create more space for package overflow, according to Patrick Winters, president & principal with Nadel Architecture + Planning. “This can be a great temporary solution during busy seasons such as the holidays,” he said.
Another solution is to designate an area on the exterior of a property for lockers. This can help save limited lobby space.
For properties that are in the design process, it is important to consider having rooms with cold storage, an amenity that will help the communities stand out. Winters anticipates that demand for cold storage rooms will continue long after the pandemic recedes as residents become accustomed to the convenience of these services.
The high-end approach
At Anagram NoMad—a newly renovated 396-unit tower just steps from Madison Square Park, owned by Global Holdings Management Group—a 24-hour concierge team handles residents’ packages.
“Packages are…checked into our online system to provide an alert to the resident that they have a package for pick up. Packages are stored in our package room and checked out by a member of our team, who then updates the system to reflect that the package was picked up by the resident,” Anagram NoMad Senior Community Manager Amy Gorman told MHN.
The concierge service is part of the luxury building’s package of hotel-like amenities. Residents can also use it to book other services, such as home cleaning or grocery shopping.
Leave it to a third party
To remove the package management burden from onsite teams, some operators use third-party off-site package delivery companies. For example, Fetch specializes in last-mile logistics for apartment buildings, leveraging a large network of warehouses in 21 markets across the U.S.
By outsourcing their package management services to third-party companies, communities avoid the need for dedicated space on-site and allow office teams to focus on revenue-driven initiatives like leasing and move-ins, which is often a major pain-point for communities with less staff, according to Jennifer Chestnutt, vice president of marketing with Fetch.
“These solutions can allow for major time savings for on-site teams—an average of 30 hours a week for a 300-unit property,” Chestnutt said.
No matter how property managers handle their residents’ packages now, they should be aware that 2022 is expected to be the first trillion-dollar year for e-commerce, according to the latest Adobe Digital Economy Index. This means that dealing with deliveries will continue to be among property managers’ top concerns.