The Times are a Changing.
If you think multifamily is going to be the same after this pandemic, think again. Major tech companies say they are open to their staff working from home permanently. And employees are realizing that remote working is pretty awesome. They’re getting their lives back. And with some work-home-life calibration, this could be a game-changer when it comes to their quality of life. Employees are no longer stuck in a commuting, cubicle, and campus drama hell.
Statistically, productivity has not lagged due to remote working and employers are catching on that they can save a fortune in cutting office costs. Trend specialists predict that, at the very least, some sort work-from-home-and-the-office-as-needed hybrid will not only emerge, but increase. It makes a lot of health, economic, and quality-of-life sense.
And if we are spending more time working where we live, in what kind of place do we want to live and work? And guess what? Those employees who prefer working from home are your multifamily renters. And if you have not guessed it, be certain that your competitors already have. And they’re planning for it. The question you should be asking is, “What are they planning?”
Almost all of their planning has to do with multifamily amenities. Most of that change is going to revolve moving the needle from a focus on social amenities to far more personal space amenities designed around individual lifestyles, quality of life, and newfound spatial needs. To be honest, the social-distancing norms of the Covid-19 epidemic is certainly hastening the process, but we think it’s a trend that’s been a long time coming. The gig economy and more people being able and preferring to work from home has been driving this shift well before the pandemic.
So what does the future of amenities look like?
Extra space: Your renters will be spending more time than ever in their apartments. This means more space – especially a dedicated workspace signaling the return of the home office. Notice how many Zoom calls have been happening in kitchens? But it could also mean more generous living rooms for relaxation and activities and hobbies. Enough space to swing a cat in so renters can do yoga, yodeling, or have a sewing machine in the comfort of their apartment. Laundry facilities may no longer be shared, but apartments will have their own whisper-quiet washer and dryer setups.
Cooking is in: And certainly larger, better-equipped kitchens geared towards home-cooking and the storage of ingredients and food will be in demand. Think great stoves, farmhouse kitchen sinks, and generous, also-whisper-quiet dishwashers. The return of the pantry cupboard, double-door fridge, dining table, and freezer may be on our doorsteps. Trawling social media, it seems that everyone is now baking artisan sour bread at home. Maybe larger closets for all that toilet paper hoarding. Maybe larger windows or al-fresco dining balconies to stare wistfully from for mealtime inspiration.
Great tech: How well and meaningfully we connect to the outside world is becoming more important than ever. In practical terms, this really means fantastic broadband and Wi-Fi for every apartment and also building-wide allowing people to connect wherever they are. If they are home working all day, more lights are going to be on and more stuff like kettles and laptops and heaters are going to be used meaning their energy bills will go up. So energy-efficient multifamily apartments are going to be more attractive.
Safe recreation: People’s social vulnerability will probably last much longer or even be normalized. Yoga rooms and gyms with enough space and clear, enforced protocols for social distancing and psychological comfort levels might be desired and looked for. Barbeque areas and communal lounges may have much stricter routines and disinfection schedules. Or they may be used far less than they were in their heyday. And last but not least, access to green spaces and dining either on-site or in the neighborhood will be valued as renters want to get out for some fresh air and exercise.
Pet heaven: Pets are big business and during the pandemic pet adoptions have soared. And if people are spending more time in their apartments, building, and area – amenities that help make their pet-reality easier and more fun will help draw renters. We’ve already seen that in non-pandemic times and that need has only intensified. Whether it’s an indoor, outdoor, or rooftop dog park – a dog washing station – extra storage space for pet stuff – or allowing large or multiple pets. They all help.
Transportation options: If commuting becomes a one or twice a week affair, owning cars and the space they require might be lessened dramatically. Fewer millennials and GenY-ers are buying cars. In fact, fewer are getting driver’s licenses than ever before. They Uber, Lyft, use busses, or subways. And they scooter or cycle so plan for storage racks and spaces. So multifamily that is close to great public transport hubs and walkable to where they like to socialize, shop, dine, and have fun will do well. And for those that do have cars, electric charging stations will become the norm fast.
Shared work spaces: Perhaps you need to get out of the apartment and away from the kids to a quieter, neutral environment. There are always cavernous meeting rooms, but they are likely to be used less and take up a lot of space. The modern phonebooth-like workpods seen at Microsoft might become a more effective, more easily disinfected alternative. Speaking of easily disinfected, Vital Vio offers disinfection lighting which uses ultra violet light mixed with white light to kills some bacteria on surfaces especially in social spaces.
Circulation matters: Think doors that can be opened by voice command or an app. And cameras that can see how many people are on a floor and with a software update they are also able to measure how far people are away from each other and can send a warning to people’s phones if they are too close to each other. Also better air quality using filters and apps that monitor, ensure, and assure that fresh air is circulating. Does all this sound strange? It’s not –they already are in use in office buildings. To push that to the extreme – Flir, for example, uses a camera that measures a tiny square area near a person’s tear duct which has been judged to be the best place to record a person’s temperature. And then lets you know to stay away.
In conclusion – The Better Normal
All of this may herald a future where we will not think of all this as a bizarre anomaly or even a new normal. But a better normal where progressive multifamily developers be renters first choice by offering them a way to work better, live better, and be better, healthier, environmentally responsible citizens.
BRANDING FOR AMENITY SPACES
Residents aren’t just looking for an apartment, they’re looking for a community. With remote working increasing, now more than ever amenity spaces should be more than just a place to work out or plug in. They need to be an experience.
A past project we worked on was creating an amenity branding system for BRE. We named and branded their fitness center, lounge and game room, and also installed wall graphics, lit signage, and labeled move-in gifts.
Most competitors will have similar offers, like a well-equipped fitness studio, or an upscale clubhouse. But giving your amenity spaces a unique branding system helps elevate the perception of them. By standing out from the crowd, these spaces become memorable, more inviting, and more of an experience for residents and those looking for a new place to call home.