According to multifamily management software company AppFolio, apartment renters consider having outdoor space in their community to be almost as vital as having on-site laundry. But it’s not enough to just have outdoor areas; as property managers, we must keep outdoor spaces looking fresh, too, to attract—and retain—residents. And that means year-round: Renters want exterior spots to appear as vibrant and inviting in September as they were in May, and equally as modern whether the property is brand new or several years old.
With more than two dozen multifamily communities under our management—both urban and suburban, high-rise and garden-style—in the Midwest, we at RMK Management are well-versed in what a toll the weather can take on outdoor spaces. We also know how important it is for residents to be able to take full advantage of the warm-weather months by spending time outside. As such, maintaining and improving our outdoor grounds is an all-important aspect of RMK’s property management program.
Here are six tips from our award-winning maintenance staff for keeping your properties’ outdoor spaces fresh from month to month and year to year:
1. Use Mature, Well-Tended Landscaping
Established landscaping is key to an appealing outdoor space, no matter the property’s age. That means selecting large, mature plants and trees initially and keeping all trees, bushes, and plants trimmed and neat. Outdoor space should never feel sparse or, conversely, overgrown.
This is important not only in areas where your residents will congregate, but also around property and amenity signage. Signs should be made highly visible, with eye-catching foliage and colorful flowers to draw attention to important property information.
To stay within budget for greenery, create a three-year plan to include a base of perennials, such as hostas, lilies, and flowering bushes, with a mix of colorful annuals, such as impatiens and zinnias, in fresh colors each year. Where the budget allows, change out annuals in the summer and fall to coordinate your selections with seasonal color palettes and climate conditions.
2. Include Hardscape Elements
Large boulders, smooth stones, and multitoned pebbles are a great addition to outdoor space because they’re extremely low maintenance and look attractive regardless of age or season. The same is true of sculptures that can withstand the elements, such as those made of glass, ceramic, or metal.
3. Upgrade the Outdoor Appliances and Furniture
Invest in new, top-of-the-line grills or a sleek fire pit every few years to give your outdoor space a face-lift. Some fire pits offer replaceable fillers, so switching from lava rocks to stones, or even recycled glass, can give them a new look for a small monetary investment.
If new furniture isn’t in the budget, brighten the look of existing outdoor furniture with a fresh coat of paint, and be sure to repair and repaint any rust spots on metal furniture. For wooden furniture, a good scrubbing and a fresh coat of oil can give it new life.
4. Make Small Changes for a Big Impact
Some of the most effective touches outdoors require relatively minor effort and funds. For example, try replacing the fabric on cushions, throw pillows, and umbrellas if they show signs of wear or fading. Consider adding a colorful awning, or drape fresh, bright outdoor fabrics on a pergola. Today’s colorfast, solution-dyed acrylic textiles are as durable as they are beautiful. Adding an outdoor area rug is another easy, inexpensive way to make a space look inviting.
Another small change with a big impact is to swap out the planters seasonally. Use terra-cotta pots or ceramic planters in bright, summer hues during the warmer months; change them to bushel baskets or more-subdued, earthy tones in the fall.
5. Include Water Features
Be sure all water—whether in a fountain or a swimming pool—is sparkling clean. Deep-clean tiles and grout seasonally and remove debris daily. Repair any cracks in the tile or concrete surrounding the water.
If you have water features that are somewhat dated or no longer used by residents, such as a hot tub, consider repurposing the area as a children’s splash zone with a water sprayer instead.
6. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain
The old maxim, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies to a fresh, vibrant, inviting outdoor space. By keeping the space clean, regularly updating the furniture and décor, and maintaining the landscaping, you’ll find your renters will enjoy your outdoor spaces month after month, season after season, year after year.