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Outdoor Apartment Amenities: Why They’re So Popular in 2021

Outdoor Apartment Amenities: Why They’re So Popular in 2021
It’s an age-old question for multifamily operators: What can I do to make my property more appealing to residents? Keeping a leg up on your competition means constantly being on the lookout for new trends and new ways to keep residents satisfied. In 2021, the best way to attract and retain residents is with outdoor apartment amenities. Read on to learn why outdoor amenities are all the rage these days. Then, discover which outdoor amenities you should consider for your multifamily property.    What’s behind this outdoor amenity shift? The shift to outdoor amenities has its roots in reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. After enduring over a year of lockdowns and other restrictions, residents are now looking for places that reflect a new set of priorities.   Residents are seeking outdoor amenities for two reasons: A shift to remote work 2020 lockdown reactions   1. A shift to remote work You might be surprised to learn that remote work is one of the biggest reasons renters are looking for outdoor apartment amenities, but it’s true. Companies trying to comply with social distancing guidelines opened the remote work floodgates, and remote working has never been more popular. Some people are taking advantage of their newfound work-from-home (WFH) capabilities by moving to the suburbs. However, remote workers who are staying in urban areas are prioritizing properties that meet the demands of their new lifestyles.   2. 2020 lockdown reactions The lockdowns that began in 2020 and stretched into 2021 were tough on everybody. No ma......
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The Printer: 2020’s Most Popular Amenity

The Printer: 2020’s Most Popular Amenity
At the start of 2020, if property managers had been asked to rank their most popular amenities, it probably would have gone something like this: Fitness center Pool Clubhouse Dog run Rooftop patio However, as the year unfolded and health safety precautions were implemented, those big-ticket property features have been primarily:  Closed Closed Closed Closed Mercifully open, with occupancy restrictions Closed  Flash forward 11 months, and take a minute to honestly assess your community’s amenities in 2020. Which of your amenities has seen the most use this year? No, Zoom, Netflix and Amazon aren’t amenities. It has probably been your printer.  Keeping Kids Occupied and Educated When the pandemic forced many schools to close in March, office teams nationwide stepped up for their youngest residents by printing out coloring pages and puzzle games and distributing them to grateful families. While it may have been a seemingly small gesture, it was a thoughtful touch that was incredibly well received by parents. As the months progressed, parents took a page out of that same playbook. Whether they were printing out distance learning assignments for their kids, or copying activity pages to keep them occupied, onsite teams know how often they fielded resident requests, asking, “Could you just print this worksheet for me?” or “Can I get another copy of this?”. Fewer people than ever before own their own printers, so turning to property staff for free printing help became a natural solution for parents. When the fall semester commenced and students resumed their remote or h......
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Seemingly Small Resident Services with the Biggest Impact

Seemingly Small Resident Services with the Biggest Impact
Small Services Add Up to Resident Satisfaction Property managers can shut down their swimming pool and spa for a week for renovations, and residents will be understanding. Temporary gym or game room closures for equipment replacement are generally acceptable, as well. Managers can even require residents to relocate their vehicles off-site for a few days while the parking lot is repaved, and receive little push-back. But run out of printer paper or forget to restock the complimentary coffee machine, and the office team is going to hear about it.  It’s often the attention to the little things that keeps everything on an even keel at apartment communities. Residents depend on those seemingly minor conveniences to help them stick to their daily routines. We’re creatures of habit, and we build dependencies on those services that have been ingrained into our daily structure.  Simple Services are Significant  Think printing isn’t important to your residents? Check with your on-site teams to see how often residents ask to have things printed. They’re probably spending far more time accommodating resident printer requests that you think.  More than 32% of apartment residents who responded to a recent survey said their printing, copying and scanning needs have increased since they started working or schooling from home, due to the pandemic. Print volume has also gone up accordingly. More than 57.4% of residents said they now print more than 10 pages each month and 31.5% of survey respondents reported that they print more than 25 pages per month. The survey ......
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COVID-19 Trend: Printing Needs Have Increased for Residents and Staff

COVID-19 Trend: Printing Needs Have Increased for Residents and Staff
Printing Demands Crumple the Notion of Going 100% Paperless As multifamily companies continue to extend the scope of their sustainable environmental practices, one movement that has gained traction in recent years is the idea of “going paperless.” In theory, going paperless essentially means eliminating paper flyers, guest cards, sticky notes and other paper products in favor of digital alternatives and cloud-based technologies. It sounds simple and, of course, good for the environment. But in practice, going truly paperless is an unrealistic goal. Take a look around the typical leasing office and it’s easy to see that still it’s far from the reality, as many property staff depend on paper materials to help educate residents on important topics. With thousands of digital communications flooding residents’ inboxes on a weekly basis, it's often the paper communications that are most likely to be noticed, read and engaged with. While going paperless is an admirable idea, it’s not a feasible business model at the property level. Nor is the idea realistic for residents, particularly under current circumstances with more people working remotely and attending school virtually than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey, 51.8% of respondents reported that their printing needs have held steady or increased since working or schooling from home. Many parents especially depend on paper printouts so that their children can learn and complete homework assignments, versus relying on entirely screen-based education.  Fortunately, printing for residents and property staff does not have to be unsustainable. In fact, many ......
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My Top 5 Takeaways from OPTECH


  I was asked to team up with Mike Whaling of 30 Lines and Greg Isaacson of MultiHousing News to share our top 5 takeaways from day 2 of the OPTECH Conference.  I hope you find these takeaways meaningful!   1.       Explosion of Service and Experience-Based Amenities During day 2 of the conference, physical amenities within individual apartments gave way to a dramatic shift towards service and experience-based amenities.  In a convergence with hospitality, more amenities were focused on the overall community and how the residents interact with it.  Here were some examples we heard: Shifting job roles to provide concierge-based services Towel service and food delivery at the pool Building a personal profile of each resident to understand their individual preferences, and then cater the service to those needs Expanded event planning, such as ski trips, book clubs, and wine clubs Weaving technology into the amenities provided, especially for signing up and reserving amenities Note:  I only covered Day 2, so amenities within the apartments may definitely have been on display in other days.   2.       Coworking While coworking had been a growing amenity in multifamily, COVID has caused this amenity type to completely take off.  With so many offices shutting down temporarily, or even long term, communities are shifting to coworking to provide a space for residents to work from home.  This includes the ability to reserve offices on an hour, day, or monthly basis to provide additional revenue, or providing social spaces for coworking, residents have begun to......
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Innovations that Create Resident Loyalty and Don’t Rely on Technology

There is a lot of focus on technology in the apartment industry these days. And rightly so. Today’s residents are seemingly glued to their smartphones, and we’ve all seen how software, mobile apps, smart-home technology and artificial intelligence can be used to significantly improve the resident and prospect experience. But operators must not lose sight of the powerful impact that non-technological amenities and features can have on the lives of residents. Today’s renters have a real longing for connection and wellness, and forward-thinking owners and managers have realized that meeting these needs can also be achieved through innovations that don’t rely on Wi-Fi or a sophisticated software program. Below are some non-technological innovations through which apartment operators can distinguish themselves from the competition and create a community full of satisfied and loyal residents (these amenities and others will be discussed in a session at the upcoming MICA 2020 conference): Concierge and lifestyle services. Today’s residents are extremely busy. Between their demanding jobs and other responsibilities, they often have precious little energy or time to take care of everyday chores and tasks. When a community offers concierge and lifestyle services – dry cleaning, dog-walking, housecleaning, clothes folding and plant watering, to name just a few – it allows residents to easily handle their day-to-day responsibilities. These services enable renters to use their downtime to relax and unwind. In the process, these offerings can create real resident loyalty and satisfaction. Exercise and wellness classes. Many apartment communities have a fitness center filled with cardio machin......
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An inside look at laundry revenue (commissions)

Greetings Gentle Readers! Today's topic is one that is of some concern to multifamily apartment owners currently in a laundry lease or thinking about signing a laundry lease. "Commissions" is a colloquial term used by laundry vendors and property owners alike but in reality "commissions" are legally "RENT" for the space the machines occupy. Typically the property will receive a percentage of the gross revenue (collections) that the machines generate from usage by the residents on the property and in some cases off property usage. How that percentage is computed can be confusing.  There are 3 very broad categories of RENT payments that are computed and made typically monthly. First let's look at what some variables the laundry vendor will input to calculate any type of RENT payment. Capital investment (buying the machines and providing technology payment systems if suitable)  Operating expenses (installing, servicing, collection, processing, insurance, vent cleaning, etc., etc) Term of the lease (Typically, 5, 7 or 10 years) Contingency Risk (Occupancy, market risks, competition from in unit hook up) Revenue (collections) from historical performance over the past 12 - 18 months Condition of the property (new construction or existing) Class of Property (A, B, C, D) In unit connections Vend prices Competing laundromats in the area # of Machines Vandalism risks Type of Machines (front load or top load) Quality of Machines (Factory New or from Inventory)   Once those variables are collected and input the commission or RENT payments can be determined by the laundry vendor's software program. ​And, as I......
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Are Your Amenities Running Blind?

Are Your Amenities Running Blind?
Mary the resident moved in 10 months ago and was absolutely wowed by the fitness center.  The leasing consultant, Jeff, smartly keyed in on this being one of the primary deciding factors in her new home, and was able to leverage that incredible fitness center reaction into a lease.  Congrats!  Fast forward to today:  Did Mary begin her enthusiastic plan to start using the gym?  Did she even step foot into it once since she moved in?  We have absolutely no idea, and because  of our complete lack of knowledge, Mary slipped through our fingers on the renewal. This is the fundamental problem so common with community amenities – according to our latest research, only 15% tracked amenity usage, and of those, some responded by only tracking visually, which is an extremely inaccurate way to keep record.  I realize that implementing a system to track usage would cost money – no debate there.  However, consider the data that could be obtained!  Consider these three enormous benefits of tracking your amenity usage: 1)      Your renewal process can be custom tailored to exactly how the resident actually used the property.  Imagine how much more effective the sales approach could be if you knew that Mary the resident used the fitness center every day, OR how much information could be gleaned by the fact that she didn’t use the fitness center.  If we remain ignorant about our residents actions with our community, then our ability to renew our residents is dramatically reduced.   2)      Beyon......
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Is Recycling Now a Sham?

Recently on an invoice from our trash service provider I noticed an extra charge of $254 for a “Contamination Fee”. Unfamiliar with this type of charge I contacted the company who told me that the property’s Recycling Dumpster contained items that were not recyclable. I thought, “Okay, maybe I need to educate our Residents better.” Sending emails and letters proved to work for one month. Then the next invoice contained not one, but two of these “contamination fees,” each $254! What?????   I called the company again and was told the only thing the company considers to be recyclable is cardboard. Hummm. But the label on the Dumpster says otherwise. “We recommend that you tell your tenants to only put cardboard in the Dumpster.”   Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of recycling? I asked.   From what I have been told, both Waste Management, as well as Republic Services, another national waste removal company, would ship their scrap paper, plastic materials, and other recyclable items to China for processing. However, last summer, China began to refuse to accept these shipments, virtually eliminating the possibility that they would accept anything from foreign countries. What Waste Management and Republic Services has stated is there is no alternate provider who accepts this type of thing without having to pay extremely expensive shipping and dumping fees. Therefore, waste removal companies are taking the recycling to landfills.   In other words, your contract (usually a 5-year contract) that specifies your property will accept resident’s recyclables in a marked container is in fact collecting......
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Does Your Beautiful Pool Actually Drive New Leases?


Last month, we conducted a study of apartment community amenities to identify what amenities were driving excitement, activity, and most importantly, new leases.  (You can access the full report here)   Perhaps unsurprisingly, the community pool was cited most often as one of the three amenities that excited prospects the most, selected by 64% of property management professionals.  So the question becomes, if everybody thinks their pool is "wowing" prospects, is it really helping with the final decision to sign a lease?

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