New York–If there is one thing that apartment renters desire uniformly across the country, it would have to be amenities. According to a recent survey conducted by Apartments.com, nearly 60 percent of respondents prefer to rent, and mainly because this allows them a maintenance-free lifestyle with convenient access to amenities. While having more than one amenity is almost always a given (especially for Class A and B properties), the challenge for property owners and managers is choosing the amenities that will appeal to a broad range of demographics.
So who are the renters today, what age bracket do they fit in, and what are their favorite amenities? “The demographics that lend themselves to the rental market over the next decade or so, will be the Gen Y or the 50+ market,” Manny Gonzalez, AIA, LEED AP, principal at KTGY Group, tells MHN. “There may be some baby boomers and some younger than 50 as well, but mostly when talking about a multi-generational demographic, we think about the young and the old and not so much the age group in between.”
While this might seem like a broad range of likes and dislikes to cover, the good news for owners/managers is that the amenities the two groups look for in a property are quite similar. “They like to be in groups and they like to have social activities and intermixing going on. At the same time, they also like the privacy of their own unit. As a result, there will be smaller units and more one-bedroom units, but owners will need to spend more money on amenity packages.”
Prima Walker, VP of asset management for Wood Partners’ western region, echoes the same thought. “We like to cover all the bases when it comes to different demographics. From our standpoint, the actual selection of amenities is not that different for different demographics. What a 25 year old and a 65 year old look for in an apartment community is not that different. They both want a fitness center, a business center, a dog walk , a pool, etc., so we have the ability to have the same amenity package no matter what the demographic make-up. But if the demographic is going to be that wide of a gap, it would be the design of the community that you should be paying attention to.”
Walker explains, “With a fitness center, for example, you still want the cardio and weight equipment, but the choice of lighting and music should be something that will be uniformly liked. For example, hip-hop music and loud lighting are probably going to be too polarizing. In addition, for the older folks, there should be directions on how to use the equipment. The younger folks know how to use it. But for the older folks who also want to use it, the first set of instructions is very important.” She also suggests having vendors of the equipment as well as trainers come to the health club, and placing prominent signage as tools to make the gym more appealing to the older demographic. It’s the same with a business center. Everyone wants a computer and a printer, but the older generation may need instructions on how to find WiFi and how to use the printer. “Having instructional classes in those areas is a good idea.”
Gonzalez says the location of the building itself is a very attractive amenity to all generations. Both the Gen Y and 50+ demographics like being close to nightlife, restaurants, entertainment, etc. If they can walk or get on a train to get to shops and entertainment, that is more important than anything. “This is one amenity where you can appeal to that multi-generational demographic,” says Gonzalez. What surprises him about the seniors housing industry is that they too like contemporary architecture. “Just like the younger generation, the seniors don’t want to be like their parents. They don’t want to live in a community that their grandmother lived in,” Gonzalez adds.
The contemporary design works for people of all ages. Which is why Walker says they design their lounges/business centers like Starbucks, which appeals to both young and old. “There is lots of open space, lots of individual seating areas where you can be by yourselves but still be with people.” WiFi is something that definitely appeals more to the younger generation, she says. They are very attached to their electronics and they rarely go anywhere without them. At the same time, the older folks embrace the new technology but aren’t necessarily attached to it, so they won’t be huge users of WiFi.
Elad Dror, director of sales at The Moinian Group, says they look at the market and the demographic to find out exactly who they are targeting. “We design floor plans and apartments based on that. If we have young couples, people out of college or first time homebuyers as the main buyer, we build smaller studios or one-bedroom units. If it’s for people with kids, we build larger one-, two- and three-bedroom units,” says Dror. “As far as amenities go, right now, no matter what the demographic or location, a health club is a must. No one is doing new developments today without health clubs. Additionally, the lounge is becoming increasingly popular. These are amenities that appeal to people of all ages. But then we have classes such as yoga, karate, boot camp, boxing, etc. that target residents of a specific age.”
Natasha Vardi, director of residential rental properties at the Moinian Group, says a feeling of community is very important to people of all generations, which is why they have started serving breakfast at a number of their properties. “Recently, we also started offering residents the option to pay rents with their American Express credit cards, and this is something that appeals to everyone because they can earn point and win rewards, etc. We are always open to adding new amenities to our buildings as and when we see the need for something. For example, we recently added a kids play room at a property,” says Vardi.