“Maturing Millennials” or those around age 34 are having babies at a higher rate compared to the rest of their generation. As we’ve previously written, they are influencing the urbanization of the suburbs movement by seeking more space in markets they can afford in so-called second tier municipalities. As Building Design + Construction reports, “…while Millennials are moving out of their parents’ houses and into multifamily developments, the developments that they want are in secondary and suburban communities where they can afford larger, more affordable space. This means they’ll be looking for mixed-use suburban locations with a bit of urbanism, as well as transit-oriented developments so they can get to work in urban commercial centers.”
Millennials also don’t overlook lobbies. “An active, inviting lobby is always important, as it is the first impression that the renter and his/her guests see upon entrance,” says Building Design + Construction. “The lobby should be open and situated like a lounge, evoking the feeling of an extended hangout space.”
In lieu of buying a home and paying a mortgage, Millennial renters prefer to allocate those funds toward higher-end apartments offering luxuries that a starter home would not. In addition to the above amenities, these luxuries include security and concierge services, in-unit laundry and dishwashers, and conveniences such as smart controls for HVAC systems, dog parks, pet washing stations, recycling services and electric car charging stations.
The total student loan debt in 2018 was $1.6 trillion, which has made it difficult for recent college graduates to save. With rents increasing in larger cities, Millennials are seeking side-hustle income property opportunities. Traditionally, this has been conducted by property owners, but Airbnb and certain landlords have recognized an opportunity and market for home-sharing for tenants. Niido Powered by Airbnb launched in 2018 and features rentals in Orlando and Nashville. “Rent your couch, a room, or your entire apartment to offset your rent or pay for your next trip,” according to the company website. “By using your apartment to generate extra income, we enable residents to spend their time and money the way they want, while at the same time supporting a global community of travelers and adventure seekers.”
Traditional package management is causing headaches for property managers. Boxes from Amazon, groceries, and other deliveries inundate front offices (UPS delivered 800 million packages during the 2018 holiday season, up 50 million from 2017. That’s not including deliveries from the USPS and other shippers.). Staff spend hours logging deliveries, and the additional time and manpower is expensive. Residents are feeling the burden by not being able to claim their packages outside of regular office hours. Additionally, there are the legal liabilities associated with lost or damaged items.
Multifamily property managers are adapting by redesigning package rooms and management systems to accommodate tenants in the following ways:
Dedicated Package Delivery Centers
The traditional mailroom is a dying breed, as apartment and condo buildings have been installing dedicated package delivery centers for the last ten years. “Such facilities have grown in number and sophistication as the flood of packages has risen, and as residents’ reliance on them has gone up exponentially,” according to Building Design + Construction.
Package management system disruptors are playing a major role. Multifamily Executive calls 2018 the “tipping point” of package-management automation. Property managers are taking advantage of the technology to reduce costs and create a more self-sufficient environment. Companies like Package Concierge and Parcel Pending allow deliveries of packages in secure lockers that are accessed using touch-screens. Residents receive text messages with PIN numbers to alert them of package-arrival, and they can retrieve them whenever they’d like. The technology is so popular that the lockers are now being used in retail and grocery locations, corporate campuses, and universities.
Creating Community Experience
If tenants are happy, so are property managers and investors. Successful multifamily properties focus on enhancing the resident experience, and designing the right package area helps foster community. Per Building Design + Construction, “Many rental and condominium communities integrate package centers into high-traffic areas. Not only does this make it easier for couriers to find the center and deliver packages, it also makes receiving a package a neighborly event. If planned and designed appropriately, package centers can strengthen community ties among residents. The inclusion of communal tables and recycling bins gives residents the option to open their packages immediately while socializing with their neighbors.”
Renovating package centers and investing in new technology is essential for meeting the demands of today’s delivery volume and tenant needs. The best package-management systems provide secure, 24-hour access, keep package areas neat and clean, and free up time and energy of building staff.
The multifamily housing market has been growing steadily in recent years. According to Housing Wire, sales increased by 44% in 2018, accounting for 31% of the total U.S. real estate investment sales. A primary factor is that apartment building owners and managers recognize that they can increase value by upgrading and renovating functionality and the overall aesthetic appeal of common areas, amenity spaces, and unit rooms.
Particularly in urban areas, Building Design and Construction says apartment sizes are shrinking while common areas are expanding. Tenants, especially Millennials, are willing to sacrifice living space for larger common areas that provide functional spaces for social activities and ad hoc work environments. Buildings are equipping common areas with more robust technology like USB ports, reliable WiFi connections, iCafes, and other web-access. Common areas are also being renovated with more durable furniture and flooring to handle increased usage.
The National Apartment Association’s Adding Value in the Age of Amenities Wars report notes that rooftop decks are the most valued outdoor amenity. In mid and high-rise buildings, rooftop decks and terraces are in high-demand with desired features like outdoor kitchens, grills, sound systems, big-screen televisions, and comfortable seating. The report also reveals that fitness centers rank at the top of the list for community-wide amenities. Fitness centers have evolved in only the past few years from workout rooms to including space for classes like yoga, resistance training, and wellness.
Multifamily housing sales increased by 44% in 2018, accounting for 31% of the total U.S. real estate investment sales.
Building owners are accommodating the needs of bike and pet-owners, as well. The high cost of parking spaces means more bike-usage, and multifamily owners have responded by providing bike stations for parking, storage, and in some cases, parts and repairs. Pet-owners represent a large demographic of residents, and they expect amenities such as grooming, sitting and walking services, parks, and sometimes spas. “Many apartment communities today are going above and beyond for their residents and pets by offering awesome accommodations,” according to Apartments.com.
Kitchens renovated for style and functionality are a value-add for multifamily living. Kitchens are trending toward incorporating mixed materials like wood, metal, stone, and glass. In larger units, multifunctional islands are used for dining, entertaining, and workspaces. Additionally, multi-use countertops feature butcher blocks, wireless charging areas, and food scales.
If the upward trends hold, and as municipalities continue to swell in population, multifamily housing construction must keep pace with demand. Building owners and managers will gain a competitive advantage and realize better return on their investment by creating the upgrades that attract prospective tenants.
Read more about How to Attract Tenants With Your Lobby Design.
Step into a college dormitory in 2019, and it may seem more like the lobby of a downtown apartment with its modern lounge, higher-end furniture, and recreational space. Student housing today has a new look and feel. According to U.S. Department of Education, higher education enrollment is on the rise, which means there are more students attending college and requiring housing. The needs of today’s college students–greater comfort, privacy, technology, and sustainability–are influencing student-housing design.
College and universities are increasingly accommodating the privacy preferences of incoming students. Many of the communal elements of student housing are changing. With more emphasis on privacy, colleges and universities are decreasing the number of students to a room, as well as students sharing a bathroom. It’s more the rule than the exception for new residence halls to feature private bathrooms and the suite layout for more living space.
Modern Common Areas
With more privacy in student housing living quarters, common areas have transformed into modern, functional spaces. Student housing operators are moving toward maximizing common spaces to encourage student activity. For example, layouts feature lounges, study spaces, kitchens, and laundries that are equipped with comfortable furniture that can be easily re-configured or moved to accommodate different types of events. Green screens, pool and ping pong tables, maker spaces, innovation incubators, and faculty-in-residence present a stark difference from dorms of yesteryear.
Environmental sustainability is a significant factor for today’s college student, and he or she prefers student housing that promotes a greener approach. “Today’s students grew up with sustainable behavior as a norm,” says Jason Wills of the National Apartment Association. “They recycle, expect water and energy efficiency and are comfortable living in buildings that are designed to be sustainable.”
“Environmental responsibility is a priority, and contemporary students seek out eco-friendly living spaces.”
As a result, many residential areas are displaying their sustainable accomplishments and features, such water conservation, efficient appliances energy and sustainable certifications. They want to communicate environmental accountability to prospective residents.
Purpose-Built Student Housing
Purpose-built student housing is a customized program for students who choose to live off-campus, offering unique features like individual leases, study areas, fully furnished units, and roommate matching. These apartment communities are tailored to the needs of students with a hybrid of on and off-campus amenities such as: pools, hot tubs, outdoor living areas, computer labs, study rooms, and coffee shops.
Colleges and universities love to preserve traditions, but it’s clear that some, like student housing, are meant to change. As the social, technological, privacy, and studying behaviors of students develop, student housing operators are responding with more attractive facilities that meet their needs.
Winter is here.
Whether or not the North Carolina Blizzard of 2018 is a harbinger of snow storms throughout the country, you can never prepare your building enough for the season ahead. It starts with fully inspecting the building exteriors, including the roof, walls, and door and window frames, and paying special attention to other parts of the building, including:
Fortifying the Roof
Winter weather can wreak havoc on roofs, making building exteriors and interiors vulnerable to damage from leaks. Snow or ice accumulation, even as it melts, disrupts normal drainage paths, and blocked gutters can redirect it to parts of the building ill-equipped for drainage.
Blocked drains create further problems like concealing standing water which can cause a collapse if the water gets too deep. Adding slope to a roof can help drainage and prevent overload caused by the weight of snow and ice. Take precautionary measures by sealing the edges of high slope roofs to mitigate the risk of ice damming, and installing snow guards to prevent heavy snow layers from migrating to the gutters.
Keeping Lobby Entrances Clean
As the face of your building, it’s important to protect lobby entrances. The foot-traffic in lobbies creates wear and tear on its floors, especially when salt and sand used to treat pavement are tracked in. The answer is laying down safety mats and rugs with efficient spacing. Matting best practices advise 5 to 10 feet of coarse matting outside a building, 5 to 10 feet of matting directly inside the building and another 5 to 10 feet of matting directly behind it.
Protecting Your HVAC System
Your building’s HVAC system is pivotal to the comfort and safety of tenants and guests. In addition to maintaining temperature and air quality, an HVAC system serves as the first line of defense against inclement weather.
In an interview with Buildings, Kevin Miskewicz, Director of Commercial Product Planning at Mitsubishi Electric, notes that “Properly protecting your HVAC system from extreme weather conditions can improve its performance and lifespan. Investing in snow hoods, wind baffles and outdoor unit stands prevents snow and ice from getting inside the equipment and potentially causing damage.”
Thinking Through the Entire Process
Optimizing the conditions of roofs, lobby entrances, and HVAC systems are measures that will help protect exterior areas of buildings. More importantly, they will contribute to the safety of building occupants. To that end, here is a concluding safety tip:
Have a rock-solid snow removal plan. Leftover snow can freeze into ice, increasing the chances of slip-and-fall injuries. Snow drifts obstruct important signage and can conceal fire hydrants and handicap parking spaces.
First impressions are everything.
When prospective tenants enter a residential or commercial building, they walk through the lobby first, formulating opinions quickly. A unit or office may be beautiful, but the lobby serves as the face of your property and should accurately depict your company’s brand and culture.
Follow these best practices to attract tenants with your lobby design:
Create an Inviting and Clean Space
Every lobby should have a welcoming vibe that is felt from outside and inside its doors. Appealing to the senses, especially sight and smell, seems like stating the obvious but is often overlooked. Hiring the right maintenance, cleaning, and landscaping companies is key to upholding the image of your property. It starts with the outside. Similar to the curb appeal of a house, maintaining the building’s exterior with improvements to the green areas, for example, can enhance the appearance of your property. Keep sidewalks, walkways, and steps swept of debris as well. Inside, floors, surfaces, and walls should be spotless. In addition, designing the interior with indoor plants and art can create a more aesthetically pleasing environment for tenants.
Make Your Lobby an Extension of the Community
Knowing your neighborhood goes a long way with tenants. When you adapt your lobby to your neighborhood, be it an urban or suburban environment, you foster community, according to Building Design + Construction. they write,
“Create a brand and a place that amplifies the unique qualities of your neighborhood.”
A property located in an urban environment with a wide variety of entertainment, dining and socializing opportunities should feature a lobby that complements those easily accessible amenities, while providing options that will benefit the larger community and bring visitors, commerce and new interest to your building.
Host Lobby Events
People are attracted to a crowd, and when they see others gathering in a space, it piques their curiosity. Whether for an office or condo building, lobby events provide an opportunity for face-to-face interactions with current and prospective tenants. Kirk Layton, President & Founder of the Canadian-based Eservus Online Concierge Services, says this personal touch is much stronger than a building newsletter or tweet. “You only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention in the building lobby…after all, tenants in the lobby are always on their way to somewhere else – to work, to lunch or to a meeting – which makes it difficult to capture their attention,” he writes. “Lobby events are an indispensable part of a property manager’s tenant engagement strategy.”
The Bottom Line
The design of your lobby presents an ongoing opportunity to attract and retain tenants. In today’s ultra-competitive market, demonstrating that you care about tenant comfort and their needs through strategic design is a significant differentiator.