These are strange times for all of us. In six weeks, multifamily property managers have had to completely reinvent their everyday operations in the face of an uncertain future. Suppliers have had to pivot as well as ramp-up models of their existing platforms. There is a range of possible outcomes to our current crisis and all of us, collectively, are in full motion trying to set the best strategies.
So, what’s next for resident amenities and services post COVID-19?
That’s the question that our first of four webinar sessions held on April 23rd focused on. During this webinar, suppliers and management companies doing great things in the multifamily space, discussed the new COVID normal, what they are doing to mitigate on-site challenges, how they are pivoting, executing on new endeavors, and communicating with customers.
Our top 11 takeaways from session 1
- Work From Home Impact: The number one ‘work from home’ challenge is a lack of dedicated workspace, followed by loneliness, lack of social interaction, and everyday household interruptions. Panelists believe that building designs will be impacted and that WiFi and related connectivity will be a huge premium moving forward. In the meantime, providing personal connectivity during these times is the focus. As April Syria shared, “Thrive-by’s,” or delivering treats to residents have been incredibly important. PrintWithMe’s Bluetooth printing and door delivery has helped residents efficiently work on homework or work materials, shared Joe Summers.
- Community Cleanliness: Community and amenity space sanitation, are at the top of all communities’ to-do lists, shared Ash Bell of Spruce. Residents are concerned with the level of community sanitation and the need for sanitation will likely be ongoing for lobby spaces, new tenant spaces, and common areas. Procuring PPE for staff and residents is important.
- Virtual World Gets The Push: Platforms used to adapt now will become a staple of pivoting business models well beyond COVID-19. Virtual leasing offices, self-check-in and self-guided tours, plus community Apps like Mobile Doorman and hOp provide a virtual community and amenity stack. Virtual cooking, art, and fitness classes provided by TFLiving have come to the forefront.
- White-Glove – High Touch Service Pivots: Understanding and delivering data to residents and managers about how people are leveraging amenities and spaces such as when a cleaning person was last in a building, as well as the request for added technology to support smart home systems has been a high-demand according to Demetrios Barnes with SmartRent. Engagement is more important than high touch. Amenities that provide this in addition to data analysis on return will be a focus in the foreseeable future.
- Empathetic Communication: Wendy Dorchester of Pegasus Residential stressed the significance of leading and communicating with empathy. By paying true attention when you are in the virtual world or by sending a video rather than a long email, is a way to provide personalization and are great examples of how managers and leaders can add value through every touchpoint.
- Space Flexibility: Heather Moore of Greystar shared that the interim step for operations is to keep things clean, limit occupants in the gym and to explore a variety of solutions like personal training rooms, virtual training in apartments, etc. “Properties can’t create more space so getting creative is more important than ever. Communal spaces and fitness centers may go to reservation-only services.” Joe Melton added the significance of leveraging flexibility in buildings by transforming spaces whenever possible.
- Financial Impact: April Syria of Thrive Communities shared that the state of Washington has frozen rents from a moratorium issued by the Governor without an estimated end date. Thus, implementing new and/or additional services have become burdensome as times are more difficult for residents and staff. Management groups are taking a more microscopic evaluation of amenity value versus necessity.
- Package Management: The exponential increase in package deliveries to the home has placed the microscope on operational efficiencies. Property managers are removing their staff from the process of managing the excess deliveries by bringing on-demand, direct-to-door delivery services like Fetch, which eliminates high-touch lockers or package rooms from the community.
- Resident Experience: Leveraging relationships with virtual content, like live DJ’s is forcing property groups to think beyond what’s been done in the past, shared Heather Moore with Greystar. The current scenario will only impact the gig economy in a positive manner, proclaimed Devin Wirt with TFLiving. He added that suppliers will be focused on gross margins and customer experience more, thus potentially driving prices higher to the end consumer.
- Renters Future Expectations: Residents will expect flexible lease structures and responsiveness across all platforms. They’ll trend towards technology (like no-touch faucets), bluetooth printers, low touch amenities, enhanced and reliable Wi-Fi. We will likely see large business centers become we-work micro offices with upgraded technology for Zoom and video conferencing.
- Moving Away From Micro-Units: Assessing the value for all these changes will be the top challenge for developers, management groups, owners and suppliers alike. With construction averaging 18 months out, how much will immediate concerns influence consideration of the new adaptations? Girish Gehani with Trilogy Real Estate Partners believes there will be a move away from micro-units.
Save your spot now for our upcoming webinar sessions happening on May 7th, May 21st and May 28th at 11am CST. Hear from suppliers that work with many of the largest Property Management Companies in the nation as well as Property Management and Ownership Companies as they share their experiences navigating through the new COVID normal.