Last year, Eller Capital Partners acquired three apartment communities in Chapel Hill, N.C., that needed considerable renovation, including Midtown 501 (above, after renovation).
Courtesy Eller Capital Partners Last year, Eller Capital Partners acquired three apartment communities in Chapel Hill, N.C., that needed considerable renovation, including Midtown 501 (above, after renovation).

Renovations create nicer homes, better community amenities, and more-comfortable living spaces for your residents—all without having to endure a costly and lengthy entitlement process or a ground-up construction project—but the road to get there isn’t always free of obstacles. 

Midtown 501 before renovation. 
Courtesy Eller Capital Partners Midtown 501 before renovation. 
Though, in many cases, submarket supply and demand conditions may mean renovations are a very solid investment strategy for multifamily owners, your residents may not share your positive outlook. While you appreciate how such improvements help boost your community’s position in the rental market, attract new residents, and increase property revenue, what your current tenants care about is how the remodel will affect them on a daily basis as they live through the renovation period.

From a resident’s perspective, renovations often mean loud noises, construction debris, a temporary loss of access to amenities, and other unwanted or unexpected inconveniences. Of course, despite being disruptive and resulting in higher rental rates, major renovations do ultimately benefit residents by providing them with a higher-quality home, community, and quality of life. During the often chaotic transition period, however, communication with tenants is critical.

Last year, Eller Capital Partners acquired three multifamily communities in Chapel Hill, N.C., that were desperately in need of major renovations. With aging interiors, major exterior deferred maintenance, inadequate amenities, and a lack of resident services, these developments failed to meet the needs and expectations of modern residents.

Today, these three assets have been transformed into high-quality, luxury apartment homes, but there were plenty of growing pains along the way. Constant communication between property management and residents proved to be a crucial part of these major renovation projects.

To keep your occupied properties running smoothly during major renovations, here are four things you should do for your residents before the first hammer is lifted:

1. Set expectations. Be transparent with residents about what they can expect throughout the renovation process. Explain that the renovations will be disruptive at times, but that, ultimately, the goal is to make the community a more-pleasant, more-comfortable place to live. 

Let tenants know that renovations are often done in part to address significant, deferred maintenance and potential safety hazards, but also to make the units more energy efficient and better able to meet the desires of all residents.

2. Listen. It’s is easy to understand why some residents might not be on board with major renovation plans at first. So, property managers should have an open-door policy and make themselves available to residents who have questions and complaints. There may not be a solution for every resident complaint, but it’s still very important to make residents feel they’re being heard. Take time to personally acknowledge each concern.

3. Keep residents updated throughout the renovation process. If the renovation time line changes, update residents as quickly as possible. Renovations rarely go exactly as planned, but don’t leave residents completely in the dark. If the community pool was supposed to open in time for the hot summer months but will be delayed, keep residents informed of when it will open, and try to make other accommodations to replace the pool or any other amenity that’s temporarily out of service. 

4. Be proactive about media coverage. A proactive media campaign can help create positive buzz about an apartment community undergoing major changes. 

How is the improved community affecting the local housing market? Our renovations to three aging multifamily communities in Chapel Hill, N.C., created an entirely new product in the area housing market. 

Redeveloping existing, well-located communities instead of tearing them down and rebuilding from the ground up allowed us to offer high-end, luxury apartments at a price point that local renters—primarily young professionals and graduate students—could actually afford. 

Determine how renovations have made your community the best in town, and tell your story.