Holly McQueen knows how important it is to keep up in the multifamily amenities race today.
As vice president and regional property manager in Jacksonville, Fla., for Newtown Square, Pa.-based GMH Capital Partners, which operates 6,000 student and conventional units, she’s constantly probing to make sure her properties have the latest remote access systems, on-demand exercise apps, and best connected co-working spaces in her market.
But sometimes she needs to make sure her residents and prospects understand the value they’re getting from those amenities, too.
“Our residents want to control their costs and have convenience, which is what all of these amenities do,” McQueen says. “But sometimes, they don’t realize it.”
For example, while some of her competitors may offer cheaper rent, McQueen makes sure her prospects consider the total cost of renting when she’s closing a lease.
“We always want them to compare apples to apples,” McQueen says. “The rent down the street might be a little less, but do they know what the average utility bill is? And is it metered or submetered? Because that makes a big difference. Smart home technology can really help them keep their costs down.”
Highlighting the Value of Amenities
McQueen’s focus on the total cost of renting is just one example of how leading multifamily operators are emphasizing the value that residents get out of the increasing array of amenities packed into today’s apartment buildings. Beyond in-unit savings, these pros say it’s critical today to highlight the value of common area amenities, such as the gym or co-working spaces, as well as neighborhood location to put the dollar figure that’s on the rent check in context with what they would have to pay otherwise to maintain their lifestyle.
Cutting Expenses out of Residents’ Monthly Budgets
“If they live in a building with a gym, that’s $135 a month that goes away,” says Randy Fifield, chairwoman of Chicago-based Fifield Cos., which owns 1,900 units in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Illinois and has developed 8,500 units throughout its history. “If they live in the urban core and can Uber everywhere, they don’t have a car and an insurance payment. That could be another $1,000.”
The Opportunity in Co-Working Spaces
Co-working spaces can also be a huge sell and cost savings for residents. “That’s a great amenity for us to emphasize,” says Jim Sullivan, managing partner at Washington, D.C.-based Fore Property, which has developed, built, and managed more than 25,000 apartment units in 40 markets nationwide. “If you sign up with WeWork, you might spend $800 or $1,000 a month for your office. So we try to put that type of amenity within the apartment community itself.”
Not only does Fore provide co-working spaces, at some properties it offers private offices for residents to rent out for around $400 a month, a big cost savings over comparable co-working spaces in its markets.
“They have their own little office where they can move in and leave all their stuff within the community, but it’s not within their unit,” Sullivan says. “That provides a lot of our residents with an extra benefit on site.”
Pet Amenities: A No-Brainer for Emphasizing Value
One area that’s particularly effective in showcasing value to residents? Pet grooming stations.
“For a lot of our residents, the No. 1 ‘person’ in their lives is the dog,” Sullivan says. “If you take your golden retriever to a professional groomer, that’s $120 to get them trimmed. But even if you go to the pet store and do it yourself, that’s $15 a pop. So the dog wash stations are a great sell for the residents, but they’re also good for us because we know residents aren’t clogging up the drains within the units themselves.”
Indeed, while McQueen has free electric car chargers at some of her properties, and even an indoor basketball court at one, she makes sure she has pet grooming stations at every location she runs. “I have them at all my properties,” McQueen says. “It’s a no-brainer for residents. No grooming fees.”
For Fifield, the appeal of pet-oriented amenities helps residents connect, on an emotional level, with their community. “People are just crazy about their dogs and what kind of services you have on site, whether it’s dog washing, dog walking, or a doggie play area,” says Fifield. Indeed, at The Sinclair, a luxury 390-unit tower on Chicago’s Gold Coast, Fifield says residents have actually moved into the building because of the full-service dog park at the property.
“When you can come right downstairs and take the elevator in and out of your dog park, that makes a big difference, especially in the urban core,” Fifield says. “They know that somebody’s maintaining that dog park, making sure there are balls to play with, fresh water to drink, and plenty of doggie bags. It's a seamless experience. Their pets know where they’re going and get excited about it.”
Sounds like an amenity at today’s apartments that sells itself.