As an investor in multi-housing product, we are always looking for ways to make our assets desirable to tenants in order to create demand, lessen turnover and secure market rents. As we move into a post-COVID-19 environment, now more than ever, we anticipate that renters will approach their living space differently than they did before the pandemic. With that said, it will be important for investors to cast a critical eye on existing assets, as well as what they will be looking to acquire going forward. The changes for both renters and owners are largely based on lessons learned during the pandemic relating to social distancing, preventive strategies to reduce the potential of transmission, and a potential influx of people working at home.
Below are some key strategies we have identified in order to find additional value in assets moving forward.
We recently sold a property in Highland Park at premium pricing called The Cottage Club, which consists of fully detached units. While detached rental communities are scarce, they offer tenants a heightened sense of health security and space with no common areas, elevator or shared HVAC systems. Adding perimeter hedging or fencing around each unit provides even more security and privacy, creating a greater value for tenants.
Enabled by technology and made even more desirable during the pandemic, for many workers and employers, working from home offers a myriad of benefits. Because of the heightened demand for a WFH scenario, we are now looking more intently at buildings with larger floor plans that can be reconfigured to offer a designated home office. For example, if a floorplan offers a generous living area, a portion of that can be sectioned off via a full or pony wall to create an office space. We can now market the unit as a WFH-friendly floorplan that will be more attractive to renters seeking an in-home workspace.
Additional value will be created by providing more private outdoor spaces as opposed to one large communal area. And while shared amenities like barbecue grills, outdoor dining and sitting areas are important to tenants, the property managers will need to be trained and diligent about disinfecting touch points on a consistent basis. When appropriate, tenants can be given easy access to cleaning devices such as sanitizing wipe dispensers, much like the grocery stores offer their customers as they enter the store.
The adoption of technology
Over the coming months, an enhanced use of on-site technology will likely be implemented by landlords to create touchless points of entry into common areas for tenants, their guests and third-party vendors such as package-deliverers.
It remains to be seen exactly how COVID-19 will change multifamily investment, but one thing is for sure: Tenants will be more selective about where they live based on how safe and comfortable they feel. As responsible owners who create spaces with their tenants’ needs and desires in mind, even small changes can make a big difference in the overall quality of life for a community’s residents.
BJ Turner is the founder of LA-based Dunleer.