Splurge or Save? Advice for Developers and Property Managers

Sometimes buildings are constructed quickly so tha...

Sometimes buildings are constructed quickly so that people can start renting as soon as possible and owners can start seeing a return on their investment, and, hopefully, a profit. But sometimes when people move too quickly they end up making mistakes or cutting corners that could end up costing them down the road. (Seriously, do you think Superman would actually have worn his underwear on the outside of his tights if he had slowed down and thought a little bit when he was getting dressed?)

Though you might see faster results when you do certain things by the book when developing a new building, there are some construction aspects you might want to slow down and reconsider, or pay a little extra for better quality. It might take longer, and be more expensive, but in the long run, you’ll end up with happier residents, which means a lower turnover. And more money for you. Of course, there are other things that you shouldn’t waste your time and money on that could yield the same results.

Here is a list of things you should splurge more time and money on…or not…when developing a new multifamily community.

Splurge on thicker walls and floors. Recently, it seems like all new buildings have paper-thin walls. Yes it’s easier to build that way. It’s definitely cheaper than making sure all the walls and floors are sound proof. And, yes, part of living in an apartment is having to deal with other people in the community. But, trust me on this one, hearing your neighbors is annoying. No, that’s not a strong enough word. Infuriating? No. Hulk-smash! Yup, that’s the one. No one wants to hear their upstair’s neighbor’s dog that only barks at 2 A.M., or their baby, who also only cries at 2 A.M. And if people want to tap dance at 2 A.M. or vacuum, or whatever, well, that’s their prerogative. Thicker walls might cost you upfront, but it will be the biggest selling point of your whole community, swimming pool and screening room be damned! Your residents would never want to leave, and you’ll have no problem filling their units if they did.

Save money on marketing efforts. It probably still costs money to post an ad in a newspaper (how quaint!). But you know what’s free? Craigs List. And Facebook. And Twitter. And word of mouth. That’s the big one. Have a wonderful community, and people will do your marketing for you by posting reviews on Yelp and telling their friends.

I would sell my soul for a walk-in closet. Seriously.

Splurge on closet space and useful appliances. Walk-in closet, walk-in closet, my kingdom for a walk-in closet! There is never enough closet space in an apartment. If you build them, they will come. Also, useful appliances, such as dish washers or washers and dryers, might cost you more upfront or raise your water bills if you’re the one who pays it, but they are a huge draw for renters. Anything that makes your renters’ lives easier will pay off for you in the long run.

Save money on resident events. It’s great if property managers want to have events for the residents. That makes a complex into a community, and all that jazz. But there’s no need to break the bank, especially because you’ll never get 100 percent of your residents to an event. Pizza parties will attract just as many people as a catered event (and are usually more delicious).

Splurge on your onsite staff. Sure, you could grab people off the street to be your leasing agents or property managers or supers. And, in this job market, you probably could get away with not paying top dollar. But, cliche as it might be, you get what you pay for. If you don’t pay well, or take the time to train your staff properly, they won’t hang around for long. And your residents and potential residents will pick up on the fact that your staff is either inept or miserable, or both. No one wants to work in a sweatshop. And, I’m certain no one wants to live in one.

What else should developers or property managers invest in or save money on?

-Jessica Fiur, News Editor

Photo credit: John Wollwerth