The pandemic introduced several new trends of note to apartment developers. At the time it was unclear whether these trends would be permanent and while the jury is still out on that, it is clear, though, that these trends have become a key part of renters’ expectations.
Carol Enoch, CEO, Enoch & Company; Lynn Bora, EVP, WinnResidential; Wende Marshburn Smith, EVP, Bell Partners; were panelists who spoke on this topic on Wednesday during National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize Conference in Atlanta.
Bora said space became much more desirable during the pandemic with renters being confined to their homes. That carried further into the recovery, and with the remote work environment that normalized for many renters.
Operators and developers then looked to create more “office” space in their apartments and common areas.
She said the Boston market has been slow to recover and return to pre-pandemic performance. Enoch said prior to the pandemic, a trend had emerged where developers no longer aimed to build smaller units with more than ample amenity space and instead looked to make the apartment homes’ square footage greater.
Raleigh and Austin were markets where this was taking place and these delivered new homes fit renters’ desire to live in areas with greater quality of life, including more space.
Single-family rentals and built-to-rent communities also emerged. Marshburn said that about 12 to 18 months ago, these homes are now considered a true comp because they were homes to small-sized families and younger adults wanting a yard.
Enoch said there’s been a reset in customer service and the most desired amenities today are Wi-Fi and resident package management.
“Keep in mind, good customer service doesn’t necessarily mean spending a ton to hire onsite concierges,” Enoch said. “It’s more about setting expectations and meeting them.”
As for operational changes that have stuck, Enoch spoke of operators, who relied on remote workers to perform administrative and even onsite-related tasks, and are trying to stay with the efficiencies that those steps made, by centralizing more of the work.
Centralization is having one team be responsible for working on the administrative tasks of multiple properties, rather than each community handling it themselves.