No matter where your multifamily property is located, whether it’s Texas, California, Florida or smack dab in the middle of Iowa, you have to differentiate your property in order to give it a unique identity. There are many ways to do set your property apart that would give prospective tenants a sense that your property is special.
Why is this necessary? If you’re in a market that has competing properties, you have the answer. Every property offers the same key draw: a place to live. The property may be a little newer, or the apartments are a little larger, or one has a pool while another one doesn’t - but no matter what the unique feature is, the property has to offer something that’s different.
I’ve put together what I feel are unique amenities that you could offer to help set your property apart. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you just have to be creative and implement them properly.
Amenity #1: Adding a Co-Working Space
Since more and more Millennials are renting apartments instead of buying single-family homes, it stands to reason that offering an amenity that appeals to that target market would make sense. Many Millennials are tech-oriented or they’re professionals that have the opportunity to work from home or telecommute several days each week.
Instead of working out of their apartment, many find a co-working space a lot more enjoyable. Co-working spaces are simply areas set aside where there are desks, chairs, couches, conference tables and usually an espresso machine, where individuals come together to work, yet they generally have nothing professionally connected to one another.
It doesn’t take much to set up a co-working space at a multifamily property. Many owners are taking a portion of the clubhouse and putting in the required desks, chairs and tables. Some provide a fax machine, copier and printer, but the cost has dropped so low it’s now less than $100 for an all-in-one machine. The only other addition is Wi-Fi. Tenants bring in their own computers and go to work.
At some properties, the co-working space is free to tenants, while others charge tenants for using the space. Still other property owners open the space to non-tenants and charge a small fee to use it. There are apps available to schedule space/time in the co-working space, and users are encouraged to reserve a spot so that nobody is disappointed when they get there. Properties that allow outsiders or charge their tenants have a new ancillary revenue stream that was initially unexpected.
Amenity #2: Smart Home Technology
Millennials and other renters who are environmentally conscious are looking more and more to “green” apartment communities as well as technologically advanced spaces. They want all the smart home technology that’s available and are willing to pay for having it.
What is smart technology? Simply stated, it’s using available technology to make the living space more safe, more secure and often more economical. For environmentally conscious tenants, it also provides an opportunity to use less energy.
The place to start is usually on the wall, with a smart thermostat. The biggest selling one is from Nest, called the Nest Learning Thermostat, and it has been around since 2011. Using it controls the temperature in the living areas using an integrated app, as well as Amazon Echo or Google Home devices.
Over time, the Nest thermostat learns preferences. For example, if a tenant cranks up the heat in the evening and want it cooler during the day, Nest will build a schedule around that particular lifestyle. It is called “machine learning,” a type of artificial intelligence that learns as it goes by following your input.
As for saving energy, the Nest thermostat features a guide that displays a temperature that saves energy. When you click on it, the heater or air conditioning is operating at optimal energy efficiency.
Another hot home technology item is the Ring Video doorbell. When the Ring Doorbell is connected to its camera, it allows tenants to see whoever is outside their door on a smartphone or tablet. That’s just for starters. It also features 1080 HD Video, so they can check on their apartment at anytime using the Live View on-demand video and audio.
Tenants can also receive motion-activated alerts on their phone, tablet or computer when anyone rings their doorbell or triggers the built-in motion sensor. In addition, they can talk and listen to visitors using their smartphone or mobile device. The Ring Doorbell also records video, so users can save, review and share their videos with anyone.
Other smart home products include keyless digital locks for the door, smart lighting technology that can be connected with smartphone apps, and smart Blinds that raise and lower blinds and shades as desired. There is also a Bluetooth home security system that one can install using smart home security sensors for windows and doors.
The smart lighting automation helps save energy by managing the lighting on a smartphone or tablet. It allows tenants to schedule their lights, lamps and appliances remotely with smart dimmers, switches and plug-in outlets. Using smartphone apps they can schedule various lights to turn on and off, whether they’re using incandescent or LED bulbs. They can also schedule their oven or other appliances to turn on at specific times so dinner will be heated and ready when they arrive home. There are many other products coming on board that use WiFi technology and help tenants save both money and energy, all built around providing comfort and convenience.
Amenity #3: Car Sharing
What started as an experiment at several multifamily properties is now being adopted all across the country - which is car sharing. In many cities, renters don’t need to own a vehicle, as public transportation is readily available and easy to use. Or perhaps the property is located near the city center or close to all the restaurants and entertainment areas, where tenants can walk to in order to enjoy what the city has to offer.
However, there are times when tenants will require the use of a car. It might be work-related or they have to drive to an area that’s not adequately served by public transit. For those few times owning a car doesn’t make sense, but renting one certainly does. That’s where car sharing comes in to play.
In Sacramento, California for example, an electric car sharing program was started. Envoy and Electrify America has deployed over 140 Volkswagen e-Golf electric cars to various locations, including multifamily apartment complexes. Unlike traditional car rental operations that usually require a 24-hour rental agreement, tenants are able to rent a vehicle by the minute, hour or day.
Sacramento was chosen because it’s one of the top fastest growing cities in the country, and it provided an ideal setting in which to evaluate new mobility solutions while provide an example for other California cities and cities across the country that are wanting to add an electric vehicle infrastructure.
Tenants can download a free Envoy smartphone app and are than provided access to their electric vehicles. There aren’t any startup or membership fees to use the service. The driver can sign up to use a vehicle immediately or schedule one for a future date and book it by the minute, hour or day. All that’s required is to return the vehicle to the pick-up point at the property.
Benefits of the program include insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance if required. This helps to eliminate many driving-related expenses including car payments, auto insurance, parking fees and service charges. In addition to the Volkswagens, the company also features Fiat 500e’s, Nissan Leafs and Tesla, depending on the property and the demographics of the tenants.
The company installs level 2 chargers for each vehicle deployed at the property, and has dedicated parking spaces for the Envoy vehicles. Charging and parking are free to the tenants, who can also use thousands of public chargers located in every major metro area.
By offering this unique service to its tenants, the multifamily property benefits greatly. They can offer it as a complementary service to its tenants or they can use it as an ancillary revenue stream and charge for it. It all depends on where the property is located and the demographics of its tenants. There is little or no cost to the property owners to deploy the vehicles, other than dedicating parking spaces for the vehicles and making space available for the chargers to be installed on the property. If there is a problem with a vehicle or the tenant has had an accident, Envoy will dispatch a team to inspect the vehicle and arrange for a replacement vehicle at no cost to the apartment complex.
The multifamily property landscape is changing rapidly, and owners need to outsmart their competitors by providing unique amenities that help to set their properties apart. The key is having something that no other multifamily property offers. We’ve discussed co-working spaces that have a minimal cost to implement, smart technology that is in high demand by Millennial renters and car sharing services that cost the property little to nothing to offer, as it’s all handled by the company providing the service. The more unique amenities that you can offer, the more you can attract the type of tenants you’re looking for.
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About the Author
Ellie is the founder of Blue Lake Capital, a real estate company specializes is multifamily investing throughout the United States. At Blue Lake Capital, Ellie helps investors grow their wealth and achieve double-digit returns by investing alongside her in exclusive multifamily deals they usually don't have access to.
Ellie is the host of Unbelievable Real Estate Stories, a podcast that shares true stories from within the industry, and the critical lessons learned, from the most successful real estate investors, innovators, developers, and more from around the globe!
She started her career as a commercial real estate lawyer, leading real estate transactions for one of Israel’s leading development companies. Later, as a property manager for Israel’s largest energy company, she oversaw properties worth over $100MM. Additionally, Ellie is an experienced entrepreneur who helped build and scale companies by improving their business operations.
Ellie holds a Masters in Law from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.