As a property manager, you probably feel in your business how big the rental market has become. But do you know how big, exactly? A Pew Research Center report built with Census Bureau data indicates that 36.6 percent of household heads were renting their property in 2016 — the highest number in over 50 years and close to the 37 percent peak in 1965.
The booming rental market is no doubt good news for property managers, but it also means more competitors are entering the space. Developers are in an amenities arms race as they rapidly install poolside cabanas, indoor basketball courts, and the latest golf simulators in an effort to differentiate their offerings. With rising interest rates and limited new home supply likely to continue into the foreseeable future, a strong and growing rental market is likely here to stay.
It's no shock to a property manager that improving retention is great for the bottom line — but how? As competition heats up, a clear trend is emerging — half of the top 10 most popular amenities added since 2014 revolve around bringing people together. But you don’t need to spend thousands on new swimming pools or outdoor kitchens to entice new residents to call your property home. Instead, smart use of technology can do the trick.
It’s Not Just Technology — It’s How You Use It
There’s a common misconception surrounding our use of technology — namely, that it isolates us and reduces the quantity and quality of our human interactions. From the use of abbreviations and emojis to our embrace of chatbots to avoid conversations with strangers, there are certainly ways in which tech can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Even avid use of social media, whose proponents claim it connects us with one another, increases the odds that individuals feel social isolation by more than three times.
However, technology can extend the value of an amenity. For example, how fun is a media room without a webcam and a big TV? It can also ensure all residents get to enjoy a space (a meeting room that can't be booked online will be hoarded by whoever gets there first).
For property managers, combating loneliness and forging a sense of community is vital. Residents might pay for quartz countertops or fancy new appliances, but the amount pales in comparison to what they would pay to have their friends in the same community. According to Laurie Lyons, executive VP of client services at U.S. Residential, renters will pay up to $200 extra each month to live in the same community as their friends. In order to capitalize on the need for amenities and create a strong sense of community, rely on these constructive technologies to bring your residents together:
1. Create an online community.
Community social portals are a great way to make it easier for residents to engage with one another. These tools can bring like-minded residents together, whether it’s for a craft night, a movie viewing, or a fun game. Online message boards are ideal because residents can read or post from anywhere, and they’ll love seeing an exciting activity when they check the board on a Friday afternoon at the office.
An online community also allows residents to share feedback for improvement and see how the community values the improvement ideas. For extra credit, put a computer or scrolling monitor in places like community laundry rooms to ensure residents see what is going on around them. Tying this online board into an app a resident frequently interacts with (such as his or her smart home app) is a great way to make sure timely messages like community events are top of mind.
2. Connect with the gig economy.
Whether residents are hiring someone (like an Uber driver or a dog walker) or working on their own side hustle, on-demand social sharing and service apps are a part of your residents' lifestyle. Capitalize on this trend by incorporating it into your multifamily property.
For example, create a co-working space that gets residents out of their apartments, and they’ll have a place to meet neighbors and get some work done at the same time. Making sure your community is gig-economy friendly also opens the door for operators to provide residents with the services and amenities they might find in a hotel.
3. Keep the community safe.
Your renters prioritize safety, and you should, too. According to a report from Schlage and Wakefield Research, 61 percent of Millennials say they will lease a property specifically thanks to electronic access features, and 55 percent will fork over a higher rent payment if a unit has high-tech door locks. "Curb to couch" access control applies to common areas as well as residences, helping residents feel safe knowing that the people they meet in around the property are supposed to be there while also helping operators not worry about managing fobs and keys for everyone.
Humans are social creatures. We all have different needs, but we require a certain amount of social interaction to live healthy lives. By prioritizing a sense of community in your multifamily property, you’ll enjoy the added bonus of meeting and maintaining your desired occupancy level without having to spend a fortune on advertising or new amenities. When it comes to property management, a tight-knit community markets itself.