Thriving in the post-pandemic marketplace: 3 strategies for multifamily owners
COVID-19 has changed the multifamily rental market in many ways. While some early pandemic trends were short-lived, others have influenced renters’ lifestyles and priorities for the long term.
Multifamily property owners who make strategic improvements to better meet their tenants’ needs can gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, setting them up for future success in the post-pandemic world.
1. Make properties remote-work-ready
Working from home has become a lifestyle priority for many people. A 2021 Gallup study of 9,000 American workers found that "91% of workers in the U.S. working at least some of their hours remotely are hoping their ability to work at home persists after the pandemic."
"People now expect to have enough space in their property to have a dedicated working zone," says Volodymyr Barabakh, co-founder and project director of Chicago-based property development and real estate management firm Fortress Home.
For units with multiple bedrooms, dens, alcoves or sunrooms, you can market and stage the extra space as a "Zoom room" or office space to help potential tenants visualize how the unit can meet their work-from-home needs.
- Adding power outlets, additional lighting and heating/air conditioning to home office spaces
- Installing windows or skylights in home offices where possible
- Providing access to reliable, high-speed internet
- Converting common areas such as lobbies or conference rooms into co-working spaces by adding desks or soundproof pods
2. Widen your applicant pool by allowing pets
Pet ownership reached an all-time high during the first year of the pandemic, with an estimated 70% of all U.S. households owning at least one pet, according to the 2021-22 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey.
In light of this trend, restrictive pet policies might significantly narrow your applicant pool. However, by accommodating pet owners, you might be able to fill vacancies more quickly with quality tenants who are more likely to stay longer.
Benefits of renting to pet owners
If you’re concerned about potential damages pets might cause to your property, you can consider requiring a pet deposit, a pet move-in fee or monthly pet rent. Keep in mind that some cities and states have restrictions on how these funds can be used, so it’s a good idea to first check your local legislation.
3. Use technology to streamline the renter experience
The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of property management technology, known as PropTech. These tools can help property owners meet their tenants’ expectations for efficiency and convenience by providing a seamless way to submit digital rental applications, pay rent online and view properties virtually.
"Now more than ever, tenants want to pay bills online and look at properties online before viewing," says Khari Washington, broker and owner of 1st United Realty & Mortgage. Washington has over a decade of experience as a realtor and real estate investor in Southern California.
"Multifamily property owners should continue to include virtual tours, property layout schematics and online application protocols even after the pandemic," Washington adds. "These systems will not only help attract new tenants, but [digital] bill payment systems can simplify bookkeeping."
Another benefit PropTech offers is the ability to easily monitor property utilities and maintenance, and factor those into your rental strategies.
"PropTech can help monitor tenants' energy consumption, which can allow landlords to easily anticipate the costs of bills and incorporate them into their rent payments, enabling ‘all-inclusive’ rents," Barabakh says.
"Since people now use their homes as their offices, the speed of repairs are becoming increasingly important to renters, as problems can affect their working as well as home life,"" Barabakh adds. "The faster landlords can get things repaired, the happier tenants will be."
Though some of the trends emerging from COVID-19 have thrown curveballs at multifamily property owners, they’ve also revealed opportunities to make strategic improvements. Upgrading your units and amenities to attract remote workers, updating your pet policies to broaden your applicant pool and using PropTech to streamline operations can help you stay competitive in today’s rental market.
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