To attract residents, apartment managers are mixing amenities like swimming pools with activities like fitness classes.
“It isn’t enough to have the fitness center, clubhouse, pool mix… Instead, provide these as services that busy millennials and active boomers want,” says Tara Jeffcoat, senior research analyst for research firm Yardi Matrix, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.
To get the right combination of apartment amenities, services and features, developers and property managers need to look at research on what their residents want, so that they can tailor the properties to their local apartment markets.
Providing services rather than spaces
Overall, apartments residents are especially interested in swimming pools—in both warm and cold climates. Swimming pools were among the most preferred amenities for renters surveyed for recent survey of resident preferences by multifamily operator Greystar. Even if renters can’t use their community’s swimming pool all year round, "you appreciate it more when you can,” says Quinn Eddins, assistant director of research at Greystar. He presented the firm’s survey at the 2019 NMHC Research Forum, held by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) on April 2 in Denver.
Developers make these amenity spaces more attractive by scheduling programs that activate the spaces. “Especially in high density areas, new construction increasingly features more programmatic and active amenities… approaching amenities as a service instead of a space,” says Jeffcoat.
Apartment developers are now focusing more on incorporating multi-use common spaces into their buildings—for example, by combining the leasing and business area with a rideshare pick-up and drop-off zone, says Greg Willett, chief economist with RealPage Inc., a provider of property management software and services. “Developers realize they need to build common area spaces with flexibility, so that it won’t be a big deal to repurpose an area as a property’s resident base evolves or renter interests shift.”
When it comes to choosing which types of amenities to include, different groups of renters may have different preferences. For example, as a group, renters have neutral feelings about the inclusion of dog parks in their apartment communities, according to Greystar’s survey. But certain renters place a high value on pet-friendly features. “In many places, especially in the upscale communities, it’s very important to pamper the pets,” say Willett. “Renters who care about pet-focused amenities at all usually place lots of value on those features.”
And some renters might prefer to have fewer amenities if it cuts the cost of their rent.
“Rent savings are becoming increasingly important in the class-B product sector, where budgets are becoming more stretched,” say Willett. As a result, sometimes a building with fewer amenities and a lower rent will have fewer vacancies. “Apartment owners sometimes can boost revenues by leaving out amenities that would drive up rents.”
Inside the apartments, renters want quiet
Soundproofing is the most valuable apartment feature that renters consider when they decide whether or not to sign a lease, according to Greystar.
“Soundproofing has universal appeal,” says Willett.
Other top features included in-unit washers and dryers, balconies, hardwood floors and stainless-steel appliances, according to Greystar’s survey. Other experts note the attraction of a place to eat—though not necessarily a full dining room.
“An eating area/breakfast bar also universally holds strong appeal,” say Willett.
Renters don’t seem to care as much about features like gas stoves, mudrooms and Bluetooth sound systems, which scored much lower on Greystar’s list. However, there was some geographic variation. For example, gas stoves were more popular in the West, Midwest and Northeast. Floor-to-ceiling windows were more popular in the Northeast and major Midwest cities.
Air conditioning can also be a required feature in places with hot summer weather. “Air conditioning really moves the needle on performance in markets where some properties have AC and others don’t,” say Willett.