It’s become a constant drum beat in the last year: The pandemic has changed everything about our lives. How we learn, work, shop, socialize, and move about our communities has all been affected by our need to keep social distance and reduce the potential for contact with viruses.
As a result, trends in architecture, education, ecommerce, and even civil engineering have emerged to meet the needs of our markedly-changed society.
That includes what residents look for in a home before they sign a lease.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the trends in rental properties that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, including amenities that residents told us made the biggest difference in Buildium and Propertyware’s 2021 Renters’ Report.
After going remote for more than a year, many companies are rethinking how, when, and where their employees work. Some companies are forgoing office space altogether, while others are staggering team members’ presence.
While schools and offices are opening, there’s a good chance residents will still be working and learning from home at least part of the time in the future.
As a result, residents are looking for comfortable, safe spaces to work when they’re not in the office. Property managers can rework common areas for remote work, and reposition extra rooms in units as in-home office space to attract new residents.
In-Unit Office Space for Residents Working From Home
During the pandemic, workers suddenly found themselves typing away from their kitchen tables and living room couches. As the remote work trend continues to pick up steam, residents no longer want to hack their way through the work day.
Home office spaces, where residents can work comfortably and without distraction, are an attractive amenity for workers who will continue to log in from home some or all of the time.
Co-Working Spaces for Part-Time Remote Workers
In a 2021 survey by PwC, 87 percent of employers reported a successful transition to remote work. And while only 13 percent were willing to forgo the office environment all together, most were considering some kind of hybrid office-home situation.
Some property management companies have invested in converting open common areas into co-working spaces with private cubicles, giving residents a place to work without having to dedicate a space in their homes for just a few days of work per week.
High-Speed Internet and Wi-Fi to Give Residents a Consistent Online Experience
You probably upgraded internet service on your properties at some point during the lockdown. With many people working from home and kids learning online, a faster internet connection became an absolute necessity over the past year.
If you haven’t already upgraded to high-speed internet, now is the time to do it. Pre-COVID, high-speed internet was number six in the top ten most desirable amenities in Buildium’s 2019 Renters’ Report. Post-COVID, it moved up to number four on the list.
In addition, schools that were forced to go online are now seeing some of the benefits of online learning, and there are still plans to integrate it into traditional learning models. Even as schools open, remote and online learning is here to stay on some level.
For property managers of multifamily properties, the ability to work anywhere in the building or complex is attractive, as well, especially if you’ve installed co-working spaces. Make sure your Wi-Fi signal is strong throughout the property.
The pandemic has forced us all to think twice about how we interact with the world around us, from how we run errands to how we open doors. Those new habits have inspired a plethora of trends in touchless and zero-touch tech that property managers can integrate into their properties.
Zero-Touch Tech for Common Areas
How many times in the last year have you reached for a doorknob and hesitated? Maybe you’ve been using your elbow to press elevator buttons.
No one wants to touch common surfaces anymore.
Motion sensors, voice activation, and keyless entry via smartphone apps have all seen a surge in popularity over the last year, one that’s expected to continue. In fact, touchless entry made it onto the list of desirable amenities in Buildium’s Renters’ Report for the first time.
Look around your properties and ask yourself what you could replace with zero-touch technology. Just make sure you’re not going overboard. For example, touchless faucets in clubhouse bathrooms may be a more sensible solution than smart faucets.
Package Delivery Lockers to Keep Residents’ Orders Safe
Now that consumers are more comfortable shopping for everything from groceries to clothing online, property managers will have to continue to accommodate for all those deliveries (and boxes).
Delivery lockers are convenient for residents because they offer contactless delivery and security for their packages.
Anti-Microbial Surfaces in Units
Architectural Digest predicts a preference for anti-microbial materials for home building and renovation projects in the coming years. That includes quartz—a composite material that’s less porous than granite or marble for countertops and anti-microbial fabrics—whether they be natural materials such as wool or bamboo or treated textiles.
Copper for fixtures and door handles has also gained popularity, since copper kills bacteria, viruses, and yeasts that come in contact with it.
Antimicrobial wall paint was already popular for bathrooms and other high-moisture areas, where mold can grow. Now, it’s being used all over homes to help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria, as well.
In-Unit Laundry to Attract New Residents
The idea of sharing laundry machines and folding stations in a common laundry room or at the local laundromat is now even less appealing to residents. While it can be expensive to install in-unit laundry, it may make your properties more attractive to those trying to avoid common laundry situations.
In fact, in-unit laundry was number three in the top ten most sought-after amenities in our Renters’ Report.
To really up your game, you could offer contactless drop-off and pick-up for dry cleaning, as well.
Even though life is getting back to something that looks closer to normal, certain solutions to the challenges we faced will remain an important part of our every day. Property managers should continue to impose high cleaning and sanitizing standards and offer amenities that will simply remain convenient for residents.
Sanitizing Stations: What Residents Have Come to Expect
As vaccines become widely available, restrictions are relaxing across the country. But don’t take down those sanitizing stations just yet.
While the CDC acknowledges that the risk of infection from touching a surface is low, they still recommend washing hands and using hand sanitizer to prevent illness.
Keeping sanitizing stations can also reduce the spread of the common cold, the flu, and other illnesses among your residents.
Air Filtration to Keep Residents Healthy in Their Homes
Just like sanitizing stations, good air filtration is here to stay simply because it prevents a variety of illnesses caused by airborne particles. And with more people home, air filtration has to work overtime.
Online Reservations for Convenience
During the pandemic, online reservations ensured indoor spaces didn’t reach state-mandated gathering limits. Post-pandemic, the ability to reserve a grilling space, gym equipment, or conference room will be in demand simply for its convenience.
Virtual Events May or May Not Stick Around
There is such a thing as Zoom fatigue, so the popularity of many virtual events is bound to decrease as people are allowed to intermingle once again. Certain events such as HOA meetings, however, may be here to stay. The convenience of an online meeting means residents who were unable to come to an in-person meeting because of childcare or work conflicts may now be able to participate.
The home has taken on multiple roles as school room, office, and even social space. And amenities to help residents get the most out of their private spaces can help draw in new residents to your properties.
Adaptable Spaces for Living Flexibility
For several years, now, the idea of single-use rooms (think dining rooms and sitting rooms) have taken a backseat to more open, adaptable spaces. As the home becomes a place to work, play, learn, and socialize, its spaces need to be more adaptable, allowing for different configurations to suit the needs of residents.
The same is true for common areas. The ability to create private rooms or separate areas that keep people distanced will make your properties more attractive.
Smart Home Tech to Make Life More Convenient
With people home more often, smart home tech for heating, lighting, security, and appliances provide convenience and save money for residents. Residents can program heating to meet the needs of their new schedules with smart thermostats, for example.
If you really want to get prospective residents’ attention, consider smart appliances, such as fridges that can keep track of and reorder groceries. Smart faucets can turn on and off with voice commands, eliminating yet another surface to touch.
Private Outdoor Spaces to Get Outside But Keep a Safe Distance
During lockdown, if you were fortunate enough to have a private yard, patio, or balcony, you could get outside without risking contact with others.
Private outdoor spaces made number 11 in our list of most sought-after amenities among surveyed residents. Place those amenities high in your property listings to attract prospective residents.
The pandemic has changed the way residents think about the concept of home, and all the corners inside it. They will be looking for more flexible spaces that can adapt for work, school, and living. They want zero-touch and smart tech, as well as once-shared amenities to convert to private use.
This is an opportunity for property managers to help residents adapt their homes to better fit their needs with more efficient, more comfortable properties. Expanding new resident pools and turning current ones into long-time residents.
Read more on COVID-19