The future of amenities: Where should property managers focus post-COVID-19?

Laurie Mega
| 8 min. read
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Published on July 24, 2020

We are living in strange times, when the entirety of the country has had to adapt to a life lived inside and without social contact for months. As some parts of the country begin to lift their strict lockdowns and others backpedal, it’s clear that the pandemic has left an indelible mark on our conception of space.

That change is reflected in the amenities looked after by property management companies. While some are in high demand due to social distancing and other restrictions, other common areas and amenities are far less popular.

From pool patios to shared work spaces, we offer a look at the amenities residents are most interested in and the amenities where property managers should shift their focus.

Property Amenities In High Demand

Since March, many residents have been more at home than they’d like to admit. And with this seismic shift in virtually every aspect of their lives, certain amenities have become more popular, and even essential, for getting through the day-to-day.

Here are some of the apartment, single-family, and multi-family amenities that are taking off right now.

#1: Delivery and Food Services

Since the rise of the pandemic, delivery services have exploded. Food delivery apps such as UberEats are more popular than ever, while grocery delivery services have been booked for weeks in advance. Meanwhile, pharmacies such as CVS offer prescription delivery for at-risk customers, and even liquor stores are taking part.

Making sure that processes and systems are set up to handle this influx of deliveries is crucial, as residents try to limit their contact with others.

#2: Internet Bandwidth

Before the pandemic even began, Americans were cutting the proverbial cord, opting out of cable and switching to streaming services. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), just 73% of American households had cable or satellite. And of the 27% that didn’t, 40% had switched from cable to streaming, while the other 60% never signed up.

In Buildium’s 2020 Renters’ Report, where we polled residents of single-family, multi-family, apartment, and other properties, residents in every type of housing situation ranked high-speed internet high on their wishlist, with between 41 and 61% of residents looking for it in a property.

As more people work from home and schools consider remote learning, bandwidth will be an even more valuable commodity. In the first weeks of March alone, average GB use during working hours increased 41.4% per household from January.

Whether or not it’s managing a single-family, multi-family, or apartment building, bandwidth will be on residents’ radar. Reevaluating the internet services and technology already in place makes a lot of sense—including if any mesh networks are needed to make high-speed wifi work better in common areas.

#3: Patios and Roof Decks

In areas where weather permits, there is an increased interest in outdoor spaces, particularly in apartment buildings. They allow residents to get outside and get together while still maintaining social distance, and there is no need for expensive air filtration systems.

Of course, as with other common areas, property managers will have to consider capacity restrictions per state guidelines. Consider an app-based amenity reservation system that will give the ability to restrict areas to a certain number at a time.

#4: Backyards and Playgrounds

When managing single- or multi-family properties, a backyard is already a desirable feature. In Buildium’s survey, nearly 47% of single-family residents and more than 50% of multi-family residents responded that a backyard was important in their rental decision.

As families remain in lockdown, a backyard becomes an essential outlet for keeping kids active and are becoming even hotter commodities than ever before.

Meanwhile, playgrounds held little interest across properties in Buildium’s survey. That trend could continue as parents practice social distancing and keep children home.

#5: Hands-Free Everything

Tech was already a rising trend in property amenities before the pandemic. Online and app-based services have been steadily on the rise as digital natives of the millennial and Gen Z groups rent more and more properties.

Now, property management companies are looking to make as much of the resident experience hands-free and socially distanced as possible. Here are some examples:

  • Virtual and Automated Self Showings: The unsurprising desire to keep contact at a minimum has also led to a rapid adoption of technologies that make the entire showings process more efficient for property managers on the whole. Self-showings can be completely automated through Tenant Turner and virtual tours can be set up online through 360-degree camera technology like Matterport.
  • Online Rental Applications and Lease Signing: From the very beginning, property managers can make the resident experience easy by providing online applications, leasing, and document storage. Residents can access important documents via mobile, and avoid the hassle of printing, signing, and scanning or fussing with PDF document.
  • Rent and Fee Payment: Online payments remove the need for a trip to the post office or the management office, which can put residents and staff at risk. Payments can be made on the go, so the risk of a late payment is reduced, as well.
  • Maintenance Requests: Many residents are now used to interacting with services online, so making maintenance requests the same way will come naturally to them. It will also make tracking work orders easier and more efficient, speeding up the time it takes to fill a request.
  • Keyless Entry: From mailboxes to front doors to apartments, keyless entry using smart locks eliminates a host of surfaces that residents will have to touch. Pro tip: Some companies are redesigning doors to include toe or arm openers that don’t need to be opened by hand!
  • Smart Tech in Common Areas: Other touchless tech to consider includes voice- or motion-activated lights and motion-activated faucets and toilets in public restrooms.

Amenities That Will Have to Change

Much of what the industry has dubbed “the amenities war” has focused on common spaces where residents can come together to socialize around shared interests. As the pandemic continues to force residents away from public spaces, property managers will have to creatively rethink those areas.

Here are some examples.

#1: Pools and Fitness Centers

Subscription-based gyms and fitness centers are beginning to open again, albeit slowly. And not everyone is so quick to re-up their membership.

Still, with remote work becoming more permanent, residents will be looking for an in-home solution for their fitness needs, according to FitnessDesignGroup founder Brian Green, who spoke to Multi-Housing News.

According to Green, property managers should consider larger spaces with multi-use equipment that eliminates the need to travel between separate machines. A good air filtration system and plenty of sanitizing wipes at each station will be key.

Property managers in areas with good weather should look at outdoor fitness solutions. And, Green suggests, they can repurpose the now-less-popular lounging areas into stretch or meditation zones.

At the same time, pools at HOAs and apartment complexes are beginning to reopen, but with restrictions. The CDC provides guidance on keeping residents safe, including staggered seating and lane use, good ventilation for indoor pools, frequent cleaning, and the use of masks when not in the water.

#2: Family and Adult Play Spaces

Play and hobby spaces were a hot trend last year, particularly in apartment buildings with young professionals. Some property managers had even incorporated arts and crafts workshops and maker spaces into their services, according to CBRE.

But as people shy away from social gatherings, these types of amenities could fade. Shared tools would have to be cleaned frequently or replaced with a BYO policy, as well.

#3: Laundry Rooms and Mail Rooms

Laundry Rooms are a pretty common amenity that prospective residents desire. According to Buildium’s 2020 Renters’ Report, between 50 and 58% of residents in apartment buildings looked for a laundry room, while nearly 50% of multi-family residents listed it as an amenity in demand.

But high-touch common areas that are difficult to keep clean are now becoming less popular. Instead, residents are looking for amenities in their homes, and that could include laundry.

Meanwhile, building managers could expect to add on package delivery lockers to accommodate the sharp rise in online shopping. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, Americans spent $153 billion dollars online in April and May, outpacing holiday shopping in 2019 by 7%. It stands to reason residents will be looking for a secure place to have all those packages delivered.

And with all those boxes coming in, many property managers are considering adding or upgrading their recycling services.

#4: Shared Work Spaces

Coworking spaces been splashed all over the news as one of the major casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the outbreak, use of co-working spaces was decreasing across the country, according to Marketplace.

But just because coworking spaces are taking a hit doesn’t mean shared working spaces will, too. In fact, with everyone working from home, residents may be looking for a place other than their kitchen table to get work done away from distractions.

The key will be how to manage those spaces. The giant table everyone sits at won’t be so appealing anymore. But semi-private, single-person areas in a space that is well-ventilated and stocked with wipes and disinfectant may just do the trick.

When it comes to amenity spaces, the key takeaways are flexibility and change. No matter what, property managers will continue to rethink amenities to accommodate social distancing, remote work, and learning from home. Now is the time to get creative with amenities to best serve a resident population that is home and in need of services that keep them safe.

 

Read more on COVID-19
Laurie Mega
Laurie Mega

Laurie Mega has planned, written, and edited content on a variety of subjects. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Philips Lifeline, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.

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