Following early COVID-19 lockdowns, amenity providers and community managers saw a drastic spike in residents’ requests for existing amenities, including faster internet speeds, more frequent trash and recycling services, and outdoor common areas for some much needed, socially distant fresh air. But as life starts to get back to normal, multifamily communities will have to shift again, keeping the changes that residents still want post-pandemic and reconsidering the ones that they don’t.
While many may view amenities as tangential to overall resident experience, getting them right is vital. A 2020 Kingsley Resident Preferences Report found that amenity services are an essential community addition for community managers. According to the report, 21 percent of residents leave because of a lack of amenities, and 44 percent of potential renters say amenities constitute a significant factor when choosing a new place to live.
With communities around the country beginning to transition to our post-COVID reality as vaccinations increase, community managers should be prepared for amenity demand to look a bit different.
During the height of the pandemic, virtual fitness classes and gatherings were the only way to connect with others. According to a MindBody Virtual Fitness Survey conducted in 2020, 85 percent of consumers reported using a live-stream fitness class. Though gyms are now reopening, many communities are looking to adopt a hybrid model, where residents have the freedom of choice to attend fitness and other classes in person and virtually.
Beyond fitness, there are opportunities to engage communities with various classes, including cooking demonstrations, entertainment, and more. These options afford the opportunity for residents to connect with others across the country and to experience things they may not have otherwise tried. While many are eager to get back to in-person events there are others who will still prefer to be connected from the comfort of their homes. The hybrid model allows us to offer residents a virtual option to augment and enhance the everyday, in-person community experiences and events.
Being able to book experiences through a digital management platform will continue to offer convenience for both residents and property managers. From a property management perspective, tech-enabled amenity services increase profits and staff efficiency, and most importantly, make residents happy. From a resident perspective, these solutions help avoid a trip to the front desk or leasing office. They can schedule fitness classes, pet walks, home cleans and more, all with the touch of a button, adding convenience to busy schedules.
During the pandemic, community managers saw a significant uptick in trash accumulation and package deliveries. According to a resident study conducted by Bozzuto Management Co., 86 percent of residents say they rely heavily on package delivery.
While many people won’t be spending as much time at home, valet trash and recycling pickups will remain a desirable and valued amenity and will continue to rise as e-commerce continues to be a popular and convenient option for residents. One of the key ways communities can fulfill this new and growing need is to combine convenience for residents and efficiency for staff making it a win-win for both parties. Not only is it a hassle for residents to have to bring their trash to a dumpster or a garbage shoot, but employees also should ensure that it is disposed of properly.
Communities around the country are also deploying technology to assist with trash problems. Computer vision is being deployed in order to better inform management when garbage bins are full. Apps have been created to allow residents to request trash pick-ups if they’ve missed their designated time or just went a little overboard on Amazon.
Work to live
According to Pew Research Center, 71 percent of people say they can do their job from home all or most of the time and 54 percent of respondents indicated that they would like to continue working from home after the pandemic. This compares to the 20 percent of people who said they worked from home before the pandemic. To address the continued influx in people working from home, even if only for a few days a week, renters can anticipate developers putting more thought into construction, such as integrating high-speed internet, cell phone signal boosters and additional Ethernet connections to provide a stronger connection to school and office.
Because many plan to work from home at least some of the time when offices and schools fully reopen, we can also expect to see an uptick in renters’ demand for large floor plans with flexible and adaptable workspaces and convertible furniture for multifunctionality in the home. Some communities are also exploring converting common areas to co-working space, making reservation systems all the more critical. People are interested in working space within their buildings to break up the work from home environment, especially those with families. It will be important for those who do offer a business center or co-working space to market it appropriately as it is an offering that has only recently become a priority for residents and has the potential to drive a significant number of tenants.
Despite the stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases, leasing velocity was still up, prompting communities to reimagine how they think of their on-site staff. Several companies offered self-guided tours to promote safety and maintain social distance during COVID, which freed up some of the leasing staff’s time. In general, leasing agents wear many hats beyond leasing apartment homes: they manage packages, plan resident events and do anything necessary to keep residents happy. Because of this, management companies are increasingly engaging with third-party vendors for amenities and other services in order to keep the resident experience positive and retention high while leasing offices focus on bringing new residents in. Some management companies are also embedding the amenity service providers into their properties where the amenity service lead and liaison is the first point of contact for all resident needs and feedback. This helps relieve the management team to focus more on the property and other areas.
Time on our hands
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a run on puzzles, bread-making supplies, and free weights as people suddenly had more time on their hands than ever before. While many people are getting out of the house more now, residents will look towards convenience amenities including house cleans, doorstep package delivery, dry cleaning and laundry services, and trash pickup. Because residents will be spending more time away from home, they’ll have less time to clean and do other chores.
Beyond this, with animal adoption skyrocketing during the pandemic and people beginning to go back to the office, we also anticipate more desire for pet care options. This includes offering pet walks, but also having a community that offers dog park equipment, pet waste, and wash options.
Continuing to implement convenient and fun options for residents post-pandemic is vital from a retention standpoint. You also need to understand which amenities are important to your resident demographic. Implementing just a few of the above tips can help your multifamily community remain competitive during the “new normal.” This reopening moment is a perfect opportunity for management teams to connect with residents to find out what residents want so that they can thoughtfully cater to their requests and consider reprioritizing their own plans as needed.