Ari Rastegar is CEO of Rastegar Property Company, a vertically integrated real estate company with a focus on value-oriented real estate.
The pandemic has driven an immediate switch from a traditional office structure to the new, virtual model of working from home. With Covid-19 cases continuing to spike in regions across the U.S., this trend is likely to continue. As the workforce in America adjusts to the “new normal” of working from home, residents’ needs have also changed. Property managers, owners and investors face a tough choice when it comes to meeting new demand while balancing the long-term practicality of changes to residential buildings.
Out With The Old
In the not-so-distant past, it was all about luxury amenities, but now with fears of germs and the need for social distancing, those communal spaces are often seen more as a liability than a benefit. In addition to – or instead of – a pool and attendants, luxury renters are now looking for expanded living space and contactless entry.
Some of these changes in taste were already becoming popular. For example, some buildings already have a virtual doorman system. The pandemic has also only ramped up the adoption of technology-enabled features that help with sanitization while reducing high-contact areas like doorknobs and elevator buttons.
Even the traditional lobby may be forced out in favor of more open-air spaces to reduce the potential for contact with other residents. However, by no means will all buildings be making such a drastic change. Many are focusing their cleaning efforts on the lobby (paywall) as the first line of defense against the spread of the pandemic within their residential communities.
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Meeting New Expectations
Without question, the future of development for luxury rental units will consist of creative and innovative work-from-home features. We’ll likely see high-speed Wi-Fi become a staple offering in multifamily buildings. We’ll begin to see a slimming down of community amenities space, as well as the conversion of existing areas into custom work-from-home spaces. One feature we’re likely to see roll out is private call boxes. Already available in many offices, these enclosed cubicles – often equipped with a video display, camera, Bluetooth speaker and other wireless features – give residents a private soundproofed space to take their work conference calls. Others may even opt to develop private office suites for residents’ use.
It’s important to pay attention to this shift in sentiment, as many renters will likely no longer be attracted by solely communal pools and gyms. Across the country, many of these group amenities have been shut down due to Covid-19 concerns, leaving renters frustrated. After all, many residents won’t want to pay for fancy amenities they can’t use, especially if the amenities don’t address health and safety.
Given the pandemic, it is certain that sanitization and filtration are hot ticket staple offerings for buildings looking to attract luxury residents. Because people are thinking more consciously about their health and overall cleanliness, they will be looking to see that reflected in the space they ultimately choose to live in. While not all areas will see the more dramatic changes in their buildings, even in far-flung places across the U.S. there will be an increased demand for changes – like more stringent cleaning regimens – from renters concerned for their health.
Balancing The Demands Of Now With The Needs Of Tomorrow
This pandemic has overhauled previously popular attractions for renters, creating an inevitable shift driven by technology. However, developers and investors should proceed with caution before dramatically overhauling a property. It’s important to strike the right balance between what renters are eager for now and what they’ll really need in the long run. Right now, it seems as if the pandemic will last forever, but we will get through this and return to some semblance of normal life, which means pools and gyms may return.
In the meantime, several great adjustments will address the lasting health and well-being concerns brought on by the pandemic without being too costly, such as swapping out surfaces in common areas with antimicrobial materials, like copper. Additionally, entrances, exits and elevator controls – where some of the most bacteria-ridden touch points exist – can be made touchless or activated using toe-touch controls instead of hands and fingers.
Going beyond the surface, adjustments can also be made to air filtration systems to increase the quality of air and reduce the number of germs lingering in the air, especially in shared spaces. Furthermore, the addition of operable windows and sliding doors can promote increased air quality. Finally, adding UV lights to air ducts can help safely disinfect the air.
Converting amenities and changing floor plans are expensive decisions and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Imagine the immense costs of these changes if developers and building managers had to overhaul their properties frequently. The key takeaway from this pandemic is to listen to popular demand so you’re able to attract the renters you need while making changes that prove practical in the long-term.