As in most asset classes these days, multifamily communities are being judged more and more by the amenities they offer to tenants. Whether they are built-in products and services or access to them, renters have become accustomed to looking for certain features before signing a lease; buildings that have them can often command higher rents than those without the right stuff.
But what exactly are those amenities? Which matter to tenants more than others, and which don’t matter at all?
Western National Property Management is the residential real estate management arm of Western National Group. Headquartered in Irvine, California, Western National Property Management currently oversees the management of 179 communities and 24,801 units throughout Orange County, the Inland Empire, Los Angeles, Northern California, and Las Vegas. SoCal Real Estate spoke with Cindy Wick, regional VP at Western National Property Management, to find out how apartment owners and managers should approach the issue of amenities in their buildings.
First, Wick tells us, multifamily remains one of the most attractive assets classes — in fact, in 2018, investment activity in this space and new apartment development reached an all-time high. As competition continues to increase, property managers and owners need to ensure that their properties offer competitive amenities that today’s renters demand and will aid in driving long-term retention.
“These amenities differ from the typical amenities of the past and are constantly evolving,” Wick says. Following are the top amenities tenants are demanding, she says, as we move into 2019.
Concierge Services and Package Storage Options
“We have become a culture of convenience, which has resulted in increased deliveries at apartment communities across the country,” Wick says. “Today, we can have our groceries delivered, order a product that will arrive the same day, and as a whole, are ordering more online than ever before. This is something that is only going to continue to grow.”
Because of this, Wick says renters are increasingly demanding apartment communities that can provide additional package storage and protection options. Offering self-service package lockers and other tech-savvy options to keep packages safe will not only ease the mail flow for the front desk and the aesthetic of the apartment community, but also provide residents with a sense of safety and added convenience with the ability to pick up packages according to their schedule rather than designated office hours, she points out.
Other services that are in high demand include dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up lockers, as well as concierge services for residents’ pets, such as pet spas, day care, dog runs, and dog walkers, Wick notes.
Today’s renters are demanding the latest in tech-based and “smart” conveniences, Wick says. This includes everything from nest thermostats to smart fitness equipment to virtual apartment tours, among many others.
“Installing smart thermostats in every unit provides renters with the flexibility to turn on or adjust the current temperature in their apartment while they are miles away at work through a smart-phone app,” Wick says. “This amenity has wide appeal to millennial renters, as well as other renters who are looking for the opportunity to remotely control their thermostats and potentially decrease monthly utility costs.”
Renters are also demanding smart fitness equipment with Wi-Fi capabilities and virtual trainers, as well as fitness centers that incorporate open studios for fitness classes, Wick says. “Many apartment communities are now offering on-site yoga, Zumba, and other classes on a weekly basis to residents.”
These tech-based amenities are also extremely important in attracting new residents, Wick says. “For example, she points out, the traditional leasing process included potential residents scheduling an in-person tour to view the property and see a model unit. Then, if interested, the potential new renter would manually fill out the required paperwork and submit it to the community manager.
Today, one the most competitive property amenities can be offered before the person is even a resident, Wick notes. “Offering interested persons the opportunity to view the community online with 360-degree photos and schedule an appointment with a mobile app provides additional flexibility for the potential renter to review the property according to their schedule.”
Once the tour has been completed, she says, offering an online application form and a place to sign leases online expedites the process — a benefit for the new resident and the community, which now has the ability to more quickly lease up any vacant units, Wick says.
Amenities that Complement Ride-Sharing Services
While the idea of a ride-share company is far from breaking news, Wick says the increased popularity provides property owners and investors with an opportunity to offer a cutting-edge amenity that is in high-demand from renters. “We’ve seen this with retail centers now incorporating ride-sharing drop-off and pick-up zones and will begin to see this across the multifamily space as well.”
Identifying and zoning specific ride-share drop-off and pick-up locations within the apartment community will increase the already convenient process and is a feature that will not only catch the interest of potential new residents, but further diversify a property from its competitors and provide more convenience to current residents, Wick points out.
As we move further into 2019, property managers and owners will need to continue to upgrade properties and stay on the cusp of what today’s renters and future renters truly demand in a community, Wick emphasizes. “This will ultimately lead to increased retention and a properties ability to attract new residents.”