Kelsey Grady | May 22, 2020
For most of us, we have been living in a COVID-19 world for an average of 2 months now. We’ve moved beyond the shock factor and have started to adapt to the “new normal” as well as beginning to plan for the future…a new future. Even in our current webinar series, Multifamily Amenities in a Post-Covid World, week by week, the questions and answers are continuously changing. Naturally, there has been a progression from conversation focused around reactivity to the crisis, to our most recent session, where there was a clear movement towards proactive solutions. What is being adopted? How are suppliers collaborating? Which innovations will be indefinite? All of these questions were answered by industry leaders who expressed similar attitudes….it’s time to move from bandaids to long-term solutions.
Here were the top 5 takeaways from session #3:
#1 – Create a safe community. As Chris Peifer from hOp stated, “Community is essential.” We all wouldn’t be in this industry if we didn’t agree. With COVID-19 compounding the already-existing isolation problem, focusing on how to create safe social distancing spaces that still allow for a sense of community has become key. For example, Melissa Whirledge with Walton Communities just rolled out hOp’s new amenity reservation system. A project that Peifer says went from their “drawing board to a screaming urgent project.” As phased reopenings have begun, this has become a critical solution to allow apartment communities the ability to restrict the number of residents in a space at a given time in order to practice safe social distancing. Whirledge says, the more they communicate with the residents about the new system, the more they can’t wait to try it. “The value is really 2-fold”, says Whirledge. It shows that you are taking the steps to enforce these social distancing measures and also giving residents an amenity, that with the use of technology, has a more convenient solution for the given times.
#2 – Care for communal spaces. Jonathan Lane from Bozzuto said it best, “You’ve got to show you’re taking care of the space if you’re going to have it open. The most important thing is to keep everyone safe.” Limiting people is just as important as limiting the distance between people. Physically distancing items within the space, whether it be pool furniture or exercise equipment will eliminate the option for close contact. Ensuring cleaning procedures are following jurisdiction guidelines is just one way in which Leonard247 has pivoted its core business to shift with the focus of their clients. “The idea of monitoring what’s happening on site has moved front and center,” says Daniel Cunningham, “And Leo’s being used in ways we didn’t expect either, such as tracing PPE supply and rent relief requests.” Similar to hOp, the shift to support their consumers has been crucial in staying relevant.
*Helpful Tip If you’re a member of the NAA, they released a new product called Click & Comply which can supply you with all the cleaning processes and protocols you need.
#3 – Virtual touring is here to stay. Many would agree that self-guided touring is long overdue. Sunil Seelamsetty from Brookfield Properties says, before COVID, “up to 30% of the typical population wasn’t well-served by regular leasing hours. Virtual touring allows the ability to be more inclusive and widen the scope of individuals you can capture.” Scott Andersen with Latch agrees saying, “This is far and away the number one conversation we’re having with clients. We’ve seen clients that are making huge investments now to put infrastructure in place across their portfolio that’s not just going to help facilitate this for the short-term but it’s a long term investment as well.” Companies like Engrain are also partnering with self-guided touring companies by providing their interactive maps with location awareness. Brent Steiner says, “We see enough large clients moving in this direction, and a lot of these changes will be permanent.”
#4 – Shift to contactless. Since COVID-19, there’s a heightened fear we’re all experiencing in regards to contact. Andersen says, “We’ve seen a meaningful uptick of people using bluetooth on their phones to get into spaces opposed to cards or fobs in the last two months.” He adds, “Delivery is a major enabler for people trying to maintain a contactless experience in the building.” With the idea of an amenity being convenience, it’s important as to how the properties are still providing delivery as a “service.” “We could have never projected what ecommerce was going to do to the size and logistics portion of our packages,” says Seelamsetty. With the pandemic increasing ecommerce by 30-40%, Whirledge adds, “Long term services like Fetch become more interesting. Because it’s helping us raise the bar.”
#5 – Work from home. With a huge shift of employers moving to work from home, and employees successfully maintaining productivity, developers are focusing on the long term impact and planning accordingly. Seelamsetty says they’ve been spending a lot of time on the “work from home” concept, from the physical layouts of units to include desk nooks, to wellness focuses such as lighting, air filtration, and water filtration. Lane added in, “Even something as simple as adding an outlet to a balcony makes a huge difference when you’re working from home.”
#6 – Bonus—Collaboration is key. “As operators are trying to innovate, it’s going to shine a light on the lack of integration between operators and their PMS,” says Steiner. “We’ve heard a lot of situations where companies are trying to test out different self-guided touring platforms and the integrations with Yardi and RealPage are difficult.” With the boost of technological solutions, suppliers and vendors are going to have to start working together to be successful. To move forward, we all must move forward together. And with innovation, the collaboration will be necessary.