The pandemic put package deliveries front and center for multifamily owners and property managers.

“There are lots of challenges with packages,” says Julie Tatom, senior vice president of operations for San Antonio-based Kairoi Residential, which owns and manages 20,000 units across three states. Thanks to the boom in online shopping during the social-distancing days, “there are hundreds of packages being delivered each week, and space is always a challenge.” Even with the virus fading, “we haven’t really seen any decline,” she adds.

“Post-COVID, we saw package deliveries increase by around 30%,” says Paul MacKnight Jr., vice president of Northeast region operations for Charlotte, North Carolina-headquartered Quarterra, which has 21,000 units owned and managed nationwide. “Everything is delivered now, from mattresses to tires and full-sized furniture.” He adds that “at a typical 350-home Quarterra community, we track and manage 5,500 packages a week on average.”

For MacKnight and Quarterra, “the primary challenge is getting residents their packages and maintaining customer experience levels without burdening teams with the delivery process.” That’s a sentiment that many multifamily property managers would second. They’re addressing the challenges of package proliferation through various combinations of space, staff, and technology.

Putting Packages in Their Place

Volume isn’t the only pain point that package deliveries inflict. “We’re seeing more frequently that there are a lot of couriers that are using temporary help, so there’s an inconsistency with the delivery personnel,” Tatom notes. “That results in packages just being dumped. Instead of taking the time to put every package up, they’re just putting them in a pile.

“That leads to theft, obviously, as well as not really knowing what packages are there,” she adds. “And that leads to resident frustration.”

To handle challenges like these, many property companies have introduced package lockers and larger package rooms that have plenty of space to neatly and efficiently handle larger volumes and larger items. Most Kairoi package rooms have security features including code access and cameras. Some Kairoi communities also use a proptech system that allows staff to scan in packages and then notify residents digitally. Residents then can come and sign for their deliveries.

And with residents increasingly ordering food items, certain pharmaceuticals, and flowers for delivery, “we’ve been seeing the need for refrigerated spaces,” Tatom says. “We’re introducing these refrigerated spaces inside package rooms into our newer developments.”

One strategy that Quarterra has tried for managing the package challenge is using third-party, technology-centric services that receive, store, and manage packages in an off-site warehouse. It’s an approach that can work for many properties. But “it wasn’t a popular solution with our residents,” MacKnight says. “Residents want their packages available and waiting for them, with 24/7 access to the facilities where they are stored, and immediate notification of their arrival.”

The best strategy Quarterra has found so far “is a combination of lockers and a connected package room, where packages can be placed in lockers and oversized or overflow packages can be signed in through an adjacent package room,” MacKnight says. “We deploy package notification software to alert residents as soon as their packages arrive, so residents can retrieve them as quickly as possible, in an effort to create enough space for the next arrivals.”

During the extra-busy holiday season, “we provide additional services to deliver packages directly to residents and prevent our package lockers and storage rooms from becoming inundated,” MacKnight says. In addition, “we typically add team members or concierge staff to manage the increased volume over the holidays, as well. It requires around 80 hours a week—two full-time positions—for the month of December.”

Properties not able to add staff are looking for proptech solutions, such as package notification software, that can help handle the load. MacKnight, for one, would like to see the type of technology currently being developed for supermarkets that scans items when shoppers pull them from the shelf. “Using this technology, packages could theoretically be automatically scanned in when they enter a package room,” he says. That way, “we aren’t dependent on the courier to scan in everything individually.”

Whatever the future may bring, one thing’s certain: Package volumes won’t decrease. While a challenge, this also provides another opportunity for property management companies to deliver value to their residents.