Leasing office and lobby areas at multifamily properties have graduated from disconnected spaces with a plethora of walls to transitional areas with warmth and personality. The leasing offices of today are open and blend with clubhouse and common areas, which not only make prospective and current residents feel welcome but also foster the communal use of these spaces.
Common-area design should address the needs of renters and potential residents. A well-designed and outfitted leasing area helps them connect with your property, and building that connection is what leads to residents who don’t want to leave.
Pivoting from a dedicated office where prospects sit across from a large desk to a hospitality-inspired environment with soft armchairs or lounge seating provides a more comfortable vantage point to get the rundown of your property. “We need to focus less on the transactional aspect of the leasing experience,” recommended Kia Weatherspoon, president & founder of Determined By Design. “At every touch point, I want to welcome someone into a space with softness and approachability.”
An inviting or unique lobby or clubhouse space can make your prospects’ experiences more inspiring. “Art is the perfect introduction into a space,” noted Weatherspoon. When planning a welcome area/lobby design at a multifamily project, she and her team intentionally incorporate art that reflects the community and culture of the area where the property is. At Barry Farm, an affordable housing project in southeast Washington, D.C., Weatherspoon incorporated an interactive art display, with images of notable community figures that illuminate the ceiling as people move through the lobby.
What feelings do your lobby and leasing areas evoke? Leasing and lobby spaces should also foster an initial, warm connection, Barb O’Steen, senior director of real estate for Greystar’s North Carolina and South Carolina portfolios, said. Residents who feel a sense of community won’t want to leave.
Instead of a conventional leasing desk, Greystar has incorporated a concierge-style leasing counter at some of its properties, “We take that whole barrier between you and your prospect out of the equation,” O’Steen noted. “Our associates are resident facing at all times.”
Additionally, too many walled spaces and separate offices can make the space seem cold and less inviting. Room configuration is key, with spaces that transition into each other to provide the best experience. According to Katie Long, senior interior designer at Cortland Design, “One of the most important aspects is the circulation of all these spaces, which is very important as you move through the tour path.”
Evoking feelings of approachability and connecting with prospects can also be achieved through thoughtful add-ons like refreshments and fresh flowers. At some Cortland properties, there are beverage centers with offerings such as kombucha or beer taps, according to Long. Having a welcoming team at your leasing center to greet people is another way to create a welcoming experience.
Harmony also adds to the approachability of lobby and clubhouse spaces. There should be some sort of theme, rather than too many elements that clash with each other. Art and décor should be well coordinated. Thoughtful details contribute to a holistic approach not only in your lobby and surrounding spaces but also throughout the entire community.
Even with spaces that blend together, such as coworking or lounge areas, lobby seating and amenities, residents want to be comfortable and “feel like they can congregate and meet new people in these spaces,” according to Long. “We want them to see (these) areas when they’re touring, so they can comfortably access them and decompress outside of their units.”
Innovation can provide more creative ways to build that connection from the first visit. To capture the interest at its 226-unit community The Guild in Charleston, S.C., Greystar got creative with the design. When visitors and prospects walk into the lobby there, they are greeted with a custom scent and a signature playlist in the background. “We curated this playlist very carefully to match how we wanted people to feel when you walk in the building,” O’Steen said. “When they walk in, they should feel like their needs are going to be met. Above all, we’re providing comfort and warmth.”