We've been hearing about the changing renter demographic for years. Now, these new faces are showing up in apartment communities across the country. And the panelists of the "Demographics are Destiny" session, held this week at the 2008 Multifamily Executive Conference, said it was vital to the health of a property to attract and retain a diverse resident mix that includes immigrants, Gen Yers, and Baby Boomers.
Moderator Christy Freeland, CEO of Rivestone Residential Group led a discussion with Dan Oltersdorf, vice president of residence life at Campus Advantage; JoAnn Blaylock, president of JPI Property Management; Walt Smith, a divisional president of Riverstone Residential Group; and Deirdre A. Kuring, executive vice president of property operations at BRE Properties. Here are a wide variety of tips they offered to meet the needs of these three demographic groups.
- The 20-something crowd doesn't like to wait around-they want an answer now. Customer service at HSC Real Estate, for instance, has improved because of Gen Y demands, Smith says. Focus on speeding up your response time to maintenance requests and leasing questions.
- Gen Y is consumed by technology, so make sure your buildings are structurally wired to meet their needs. Says Oltersdorf: The first question they ask when they move in is, how do I get HD service for my high-definition, flat-screen TVs?
- This generation doesn't like to talk to people in person. They prefer communicating via text messaging and e-mail, so offer extensive Web sites where residents can pay their rent online, fill out maintenance requests, and e-mail the property manager with any questions.
- Gen Yers are used to being pampered by their parents and don't necessarily know how to do easy tasks such as laundry or changing a light bulb. Campus Advantage distributes a newsletter to its residents with tips on how to perform these easy chores to prevent any mishaps-think soap suds flooding a unit.
- Design features are important to this demographic. Unlike Gen Yers, who tend to eat out, Boomers enjoy cooking and entertaining, so don't skimp on the kitchen finishes and amenities.
- Larger-sized apartments also attract this generation, which tends to spend more time at home than their younger counterparts. Plenty of storage space also is essential, as this demographic is likely to downsize to multifamily living from larger, single-family homes.
- Find sites near colleges and universities. Boomers want to stay active and intellectually and culturally stimulated. "Not everyone wants to go to Leisure World in Arizona," Oltersdorf says.
- The Hispanic population tends to bring multiple family members to leasing offices when they are apartment shopping. BRE has added extra seating to its leasing offices to comfortably accommodate larger groups.
- Provide plenty of places to socialize. "At one of our properties, [Hispanic] men would gather under the carport to talk after dinner," Kuring says. "So we added conversation pits throughout the property." BRE also added spaces to sit and chat in the common area laundry rooms; as a result, the firm's laundry revenue shot up by 30 percent.
- In the Hispanic culture, looking someone directly in the eye is a sign of disrespect. Be sure to inform your leasing staff of this cultural difference so they are not offended.