For decades, residential amenities have been viewed through the lens of physical spaces, such as pools, gyms, and laundry rooms. As these areas become increasingly common offerings in multifamily communities, property managers are working to find solutions that offer more amenity services to residents that don’t occupy additional physical space at all. Many have identified ways to better utilize existing spaces that might otherwise go unused by a large percentage of residents. As fitness classes and personal trainers gain popularity, multifamily community gyms will likely undergo a major transition.
Even with the growth of in-home fitness machines and health-focused lifestyle apps, we’re finding that gyms are still an important amenity for residents. According to statistics from the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), 83 percent of residents won’t rent an apartment without a fitness center, so multifamily communities are getting savvier with their offerings. Many are incorporating the latest gear such as Peloton bikes and other Life Fitness cardio equipment that integrate pre-recorded classes to help guide workouts. While state of the art equipment is always an incentive for wellness fiend residents, live fitness experiences led by expert instructors have proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience for residents. In fact, the NMHC found that residents’ desire for fitness classes is on the rise, with 38.9 percent of residents claiming this offering as very important to their living experience, and 41% saying they would be willing to pay an additional fee.
Last June, we acquired Torch Fitness, the provider of fitness, wellness, and nutritional programs in multifamily communities. As the race for superior amenity offerings has heated up, multifamily communities are finding that residents seek amenity services that provide efficiencies to their everyday lives. We’re seeing that these amenity services aren’t necessarily deemed as luxury, as they once were. Today’s workforce stretches the nine-to-five job well beyond, leaving residents little time to clock in the hours that chores require. The option to receive assistance with daily chores such as home cleaning, pet walks, and laundry have become a necessity for many residents as opposed to a luxury. Wellness amenity services such as fitness classes and personal training prove to be no different. As time for wellness becomes an increasingly important staple in residents’ lives, integrating fitness classes and personal training into multifamily community life also becomes less of a luxury and more of a valuable convenience.
At Valet Living, we’re finding that as wellness becomes a bigger priority for residents, evolving the physical spaces within a multifamily community such as the gym, pool, rooftops, and courtyards as a backdrop for interactive experiences is a rising trend in amenity services. For example, instructor-led fitness classes and one-on-one personal training sessions are increasingly integrated by real estate developers and property managers across the country. A lot of us in the industry see the value in providing experiences that create community, foster wellness, and provide residents with opportunities to see their communities as a place that fully supports living well.
In addition to the value added for property managers, resident interest plays a major role in driving this trend. Torch Fitness by Valet Living, has a 98 percent fill rating across all of its fitness classes. The recent acquisition brought in over 400 certified fitness trainers and dietitians to serve Valet Living Home communities and promote health and wellness through effective exercise and proper nutrition. Additionally, a Nielsen study of participants in group fitness classes around the world revealed that more than 85 percent of class members visit their facility twice a week specifically to engage in group classes. These high engagement rates further ensure that all of the resources put into these amenity services are being directly utilized by the resident, allowing communities to offer more amenity services without requiring more physical space. I think this is one of the biggest perks for property managers – all of the resources that are going into the amenity services are reaching the resident.
The amenity services that truly differentiate one community from another usually tie back to investing in the resident. Wellness offerings like fitness classes and personal training sessions aid in the resident’s health and happiness, while providing services that no longer have to be sought outside the community. Offering close-to-home fitness options is not only an additional competitive advantage for luring new residents, but it also helps to maintain occupancy levels, drive rents, fuel net operating income, and create asset value.
We’ve seen less resident turnover in communities that invest in the resident rather than physical spaces. This has helped our occupancy levels remain high, as residents are more inclined to stay in a community that includes their gym as well as their home. In 2019, of the 37,000+ residents that participated in fitness classes and personal training through Torch Fitness, about 75 percent of participants were retained, and only 25 percent were new participants in the class. We have also found that residents who do decide to leave the multifamily community typically seek out communities with similar amenity service offerings.
Fitness classes also encourage socialization between residents, and according to research from the National Apartment Association, residents who connect with their neighbors are more likely to renew their leases than those who do not. As empty homes become few and far between, rent prices are naturally driven up by competition, leading to higher net operating incomes for multifamily communities, as existing amenities assets gain greater value. Overall, property managers have more revenue with which they can further invest in their residents.
Fitness amenity services that take advantage of existing gym spaces in multifamily communities will continue to thrive and will be widely adopted. Torch Fitness fits right in with Valet Living Home, whose business model is largely based on investing in the resident and evolving existing spaces through services such as package delivery, laundry service, and home cleans. Since our acquisition of Torch Fitness in June 2019, we’ve already seen it add tremendous value to our communities across the country. The ability to offer custom fitness amenity services for multifamily communities has not only proven to be a unique asset to Valet Living, but also to property managers throughout the network. Investing in residents and their wellness has helped to form strong bonds within the community as well as reinvigorate underutilized spaces in Valet Living Home communities.