Patrick is Founder and CEO of CARROLL, a national real estate firm combining institutional investment capacity with real estate operations.
For decades, the most important word in the multifamily real estate market has been “location.” Proximity to public transportation, closeness to local hot spots or distance to the office are often some of the biggest considerations for residents looking for their next apartment community.
Now that the “office” looks more like a living room, and commutes are all but extinct, what does the importance of location mean to residents? In lieu of location, today’s residents are focused on access and the amenities that make their new reality possible.
A recent study by the freelancing platform Upwork found that an estimated 14–23 million Americans are planning to move as a result of remote work. At CARROLL, we have seen this directly, with approximately 25% of our residents working from home before Covid-19 compared to 60% now. The key for apartment owners now becomes attracting this newly liberated workforce to their communities.
Make the right accommodations.
It might be a no-brainer, but the most critical step you can take toward attracting potential work-from-home residents is offering fast, reliable Wi-Fi. So, it’s no surprise that properties with built-in wireless internet are a big selling point for remote workers — and any tenant, for that matter.
Furthermore, clubhouses that provide conference rooms and workspaces with public Wi-Fi access offer remote workers an additional area to supplement their apartment workspaces. These common areas should include more than just a desk, with access to additional screens and HDMI connectors, printers, copiers and even quiet rooms, when possible. We have seen an increasing demand for these large workspaces in our communities. These amenities provide an extension of home for residents to get up from their everyday desks, take conference calls in a quiet place or simply experience a change of scenery for a spark of motivation.
Think beyond the remote worker’s desk space.
Getting a true understanding of who your remote workers are might be even more essential than providing reliable Wi-Fi.
According to a Gallup survey, the majority of remote workers today are millennials, aged between 25 and 44 today, and 74% do not want to go back to the office full time, reporting that they are more engaged while working from home. Almost 70% of remote workers have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. These are relatively young, educated workers looking to support themselves, pets and families from the comfort of their homes.
With this in mind, offering a pet-friendly lease is a minimum requirement. Properties should also look into providing on-site amenities, like dog parks, playgrounds and natural spaces. These amenities can provide remote workers a quick way to take care of their family or pets, even during the workday. Some of our properties have even started partnering with local vendors, like dog-walking services and dry-cleaning pick-up, to allow remote workers to continue their workday with minimal interruptions.
Be adaptable in this modern era.
This group of workers prioritizes flexibility. If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that many things can change at a moment’s notice and with little or no forewarning. The information we’ve gathered firsthand from residents reinforces their attraction to an apartment community that is flexible in addressing real-life situations.
Residents want to have confidence that they are in a community with a property management team open to finding one-on-one solutions in the event that they experience an unforeseen circumstance or new opportunity. Offering lease flexibility can make residents more likely to choose your community over another, from unit transfer options to minimizing penalties. Ultimately, it comes down to being open to offering your residents a personalized approach that will make them feel more comfortable signing a lease with you, while allowing them to continue their work-from-anywhere lifestyle.
The New Frontier
It is clear that the pandemic has forced many industries to implement remote work for employees. The work-from-anywhere lifestyle is a trend that property management teams need to keep a pulse on. As many industries will likely continue to offer work flexibility options, even after the pandemic, residents’ everyday lives and expectations will continue to change.
Similar to how amenity preferences among residents have changed over time, attracting this specific resident base will only continue to transform as consumer behavior evolves and technology advances. The implementation of Google Fiber, for example, and transforming package rooms to include secure lockers, designated dog areas and even offering dog-walking services are just a few of the many amenities that are worth consideration. These innovative amenities were not commonly provided by apartment communities nor expected by residents a decade ago. Apartment amenities will only continue to evolve as more and more people work, live and play from home around the clock.
With the many different communities and amenities available for residents, the key to attracting the remote worker resident base to your communities is to not only make the right accommodations, but also to be adaptable and understand these residents’ needs and priorities beyond their work-from-home office desk. Looking forward, apartment owners and operators will need to rethink amenities — or in today’s case, necessities — to make current and future remote workers’ new reality possible and enjoyable.
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