Instead of asking what types of amenities residents want, we need to understand what fundamental problems they face and work to solve them.
We’ve all heard about the “amenities arms race”—developers and property managers looking to get ahead of one another by offering increasingly modern and creative amenities packages in their buildings. Some are still just checking off boxes: bike room, check; gym, check; pool, check; while others are really stretching to be different: personal cabanas at rooftop pools, doggie day care centers and private spa service rooms. However, if we don’t assess whether these amenities are truly delivering long-term satisfaction to residents, we run the risk of installing expensive facilities that may be in vogue today, but do not drive leasing, resident retention, or rent expansion.
To deliver a customized experience for the luxury multifamily dweller, owners and managers have the opportunity to position onsite services as amenities of the future. With construction costs increasing, and space at a premium, the days of movie rooms and basketball courts are—I believe—coming to an end. These spaces with fixed functions that appeal to a small population of residents are increasingly hard to justify financially, and, more importantly, do not address most fundamental resident needs. Instead, consider how multipurpose spaces that are programmed to maximize impact and resident utilization in partnership with service partners—such as Baroo, Apartment Butler or Hello Alfred—can provide the most impact for developers and operators. A property can offer a multitude of services through strategic partnerships without committing fixed costs—and in some cases, generate additional revenue.
Instead of asking what types of amenities residents want, we need to understand what fundamental problems they face and work to solve them. The following five fundamental needs underpin the most compelling needs residents are seeking to have met.
First, when we conceptualize home what we are most looking for is the feeling of being cared for. We feel most comfortable and relaxed at home when we feel as though we are being taken care of, and equipped to be successful and productive each day. Services that can surround residents with the sense that they are cared for will resonate with overextended Millennials and Boomers alike.
Secondly, residents place a high value on their time. There is a willingness to pay for products and services that eliminate mundane daily tasks so that you can pursue passion projects and experiences. A product or service that saves residents’ time waiting, working, or participating in anything that is not enjoyable is guaranteed to drive resident satisfaction.
The third fundamental need is community. Renters moving from one place to another often find that they have few hyper-local social ties and a weak understanding of the surrounding area. Property managers should focus on building amenities that facilitate meaningful connections between residents, and help them feel like they are part of a larger community within the building and neighborhood.
Fourth is unique experiences. Particularly among millennials, experiences are valued far more highly than material things. Resident satisfaction is driven by experiences that are distinctive and unexpected. For example, when the maintenance team leaves a chocolate on the table with your repair report, or when your packages are dropped off in your unit rather than being held for you to pick up. These experiences don’t need to be extravagant or expensive, but should be delightfully unexpected.
The final core need is for “technology magic.” Residents are no longer willing to accept slow internet or spotty cellphone service. This specific notion has evolved from a want to a need, as the concept of working remotely has become increasingly popular, and connectivity from any place at any time has become an expectation rather than a convenience. Residents need their technology to work, and property managers want it to work seamlessly for them as well. This is arguably the most important need, as it is one of the first things residents consider in a potential home.
With the rise of the convenience economy and the infusion of venture capital funding in this space, multifamily owners and operators have found themselves at a pivotal moment in time, where they can jumpstart this new age of service amenities through partnerships that create a robust benefits package for residents without having to own, operate, or build a thing. These services can make up the core of the modern amenities package, and offer a seamless and meaningful resident experience while allowing your on-site management team to focus on building and resident operations. The race is on, and I think what will soon become clear is that the developers who will come out on top are those that will partner up and then take a step back to let those service partners focus on what they do best: delivering excellent service to your residents.