As we approach 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down. There is no denying that adjustments have had to be made for the real estate industry and the multifamily housing industry.
Still, the reality is that online services, virtual apartment tour showings, and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces are not enough to make our everyday world a less contagious place.
Unfortunately, this is more than evident as cases continue to rise, and states and businesses continue to open and close to safety concerns.
With only two months left in 2020, it is not too surprising that many real estate developers and property managers are looking for more long-term solutions to ensure that their tenants or occupants are safe. This is especially true when it comes to things like multifamily-housing amenities.
For the last couple of months, many have noticed a shift in how things are being designed and what measures property managers are putting in place to ensure that people can still use rent apartments, use gym facilities, and still enjoy some of the features that brought many of their tenants to multifamily housing in the first place.
The truth is that apartment amenities have changed during the pandemic, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
That said, many property-management teams and landlords are asking themselves what they can do to make their buildings in complexes safer for everyone and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
No. 1- Changes in Apartment Gathering Places
One of the very first things that many landlords and property managers did during the onset of COVID-19 is turn gathering places into multi-purpose spaces that people could be in and safely social distance.
For instance, lounges and other areas are now being repurposed for homeschooling and remote work. Furthermore, landlords are investing in more movable furniture, which allows them to set seating, dining, and studying/work areas six or more feet apart.
No. 2- Converting Clubhouses and Game Rooms into Co-Working Spaces
Similarly, game rooms are also being converted into more practical spaces for residents who are now essentially homebound.
Moreover, outdoor spaces have been heavily used this summer and fall, as CDC guidelines have indicated that being outdoors is less of a health risk. In warmer places, property managers are still relying on rooftop decks and other outdoor spaces to facilitate social distancing and add some ventilation.
In contrast, in cities or areas where it is quickly getting colder, management teams are looking into outdoor heaters and enclosures that will allow residents to safely socialize while still being in a similar or almost comparable outdoor setting.
No. 3- Rethinking Living Spaces inside Apartment Units
In an effort to showcase apartments for rent, property managers have been rethinking living spaces inside their apartment homes.
For example, multi-bedroom units are now being advertised as one-bedroom apartments with home offices or remote learning spaces, instead of the traditional marketing for 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom apartments. Single-bedroom apartments are showcasing a creative space/working area where residents can earn a living in the comfort of their own home, since a significant number of people are now working from home.
No. 4- Creating Co-Working Spaces with Dividers As Apartment Amenities
Property managers also turned to coworking spaces that already existed in their apartment buildings and added dividers so their residents could still use the spaces but have an additional layer or barrier between them and the next person due to COVID-19. Note, residents are still required to wear masks in such settings and observe social distancing.
No. 5- New Spacing Requirements
What’s more, landlords and property managers are having to get creative with spacing out everything and observing social-distancing protocols. As previously mentioned, this is evident with new lounge spaces and so on.
No. 6- Better Ventilation and Ionization Systems
In addition to new spacing requirements, landlords have found unique and creative ways to increase ventilation throughout their apartment buildings.
In fact, some have gone so far as to invest in hospital-grade ventilation systems. For instance, MERV 13 filters have been integrated into units, amenity rooms, and common areas. Plus, high-end apartment communities are also adding an extra safeguard with special ionization systems in various building ducts. These unique ionization systems zap viruses that may have snuck through building ventilation systems.
No. 7- Fewer Touch Surfaces and Frequent Cleaning
Moreover, if you walk into an apartment complex or building these days, you will notice that there are fewer touch surfaces, which means now there are more key fobs to unlock lobby doors, motion-triggered faucets, and automated toilets.
High-touch areas that cannot be motion-triggered are required to be cleaned every hour—or there are automated mists that disinfect small, poorly ventilated spaces.
No. 8- More Copper or Antimicrobial Surfaces
Similarly, there has been an increase in copper and antimicrobial surfaces.
Anything that can now be made out of copper, even some workout equipment, is now showing up in multifamily housing developments throughout the country.
No. 9- Fitness Facilities and Half-Capacity
Speaking of fitness facilities, many apartment communities are imposing half-capacity rules for gyms and other common areas.
To deal with high-demand, fitness facilities that used to be open during the day or as long as the leasing office was open have now become 24-hour gyms so that all residents can use the facilities. Gym equipment is also being spaced out to ensure social distancing. That said, since many tenants or residents barely use fitness facilities in general, these types of accommodations have not necessarily been widespread.
No. 10- More Assistance via Apps
There has also been a major shift to apps.
For example, some property managers have created apps for residents that allow them to schedule time in common areas. Plus, apartment communities that once upon a time only had in-person or mail-in rent policies have now embraced online rent portals. There has been an increase in virtual/electronic communication as well between landlords, staff, and residents—more email newsletters, online forums, etc.
Common Post-Pandemic Apartment Amenities Renters Will Seek
Landlords will need to embrace post-pandemic apartment amenities if they want to continue to attract new or prospective tenants. This means you should expect to see more contactless methods of paying rent and dedicated personal outdoor space (like balconies/patios) on renters’ must-have lists.
Other coveted items will likely be included—a second bedroom/bathroom (for office space or in case a member of the household is ill), more closet/pantry space (for stock buying), kitchens with room for in-home cooking, plus an in-unit washer/dryer. Besides offering these in-unit features, property managers should invest in smart locks to avoid touching keys for building entrances as well as for apartment homes.
And as a direct response to the previous moratorium on evictions, many landlords are expected to offer longer leases with a controlled rent rate to avoid rent raises when employment may be affected. Likewise, there is talk of including most, if not all, utilities in the monthly rent rate. This is also in case employment is affected.
Finally, post-pandemic renters are expected to seek out pet-friendly units more than ever before. as stay-at-home orders have significantly increased pet adoption over the last 10 to 11 months.
COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic will definitely have a lasting impact on how people interact with one another in multifamily housing. Moreover, there is no denying that certain apartment amenities will need to get with the times or be left behind. That said, any way you slice it, the overall goal here remains the same—to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 being transmitted.