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A Competition of the Coolest: Have Multifamily Amenities 'Gone Wild?'

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In today's rental market, amenities can help elevate you above the competition. Renters want more amenities at their fingertips—such as higher-end appliances and washer-dryers in their units and community features like outdoor spaces and gyms, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council's (NMHC) 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey. But not just any gym will do—users also want spa-like features with saunas, meditation rooms and state-of-the-art equipment.

And while a high-speed Internet connection is a must for many renters, places to socialize with friends and family also rank highly, the NHMC found. As a result, developers may want to consider how an amenity will help create an experience and sense of community.

Adapting to an Amenity Evolution

Over the past decade, amenities have evolved beyond the typical exercise room, pool and lobby lounge. The new wave includes everything from interactive game rooms, storage lockers for packages and communal kitchens to pet grooming stations, multifunctional spaces for pottery or playing music and dog-walking services.

Multifamily buildings are also starting to adapt to the new workforce demographic by building common and private work areas to accommodate residents who work from home. Projections show that by 2020, 43 percent of the workforce will be freelancers who work from home.

Technology Playing Bigger Role

However, when it comes to value-added amenities, some developers view technology and service-oriented amenities as the way to go. The NMHC survey shows that renters ranked common amenities such as parking, pools and fitness centers behind tech features such as high-speed internet and reliable cell phone reception.

Some buildings have community apps and pre-installed smart home assistants, while others have added lobby transit screens that provide information on train and bus schedules, the availability of bikes and scooters at nearby docks, and wait times for Uber and Lyft requests.

Multifamily concierge services such as Hello Alfred are partnering up with property developers to offer real-time access to pet care, laundry and groceries at the touch of a button to meet residents' needs.

Have Amenities Gone Wild?

In a recent trends report, Price Waterhouse Cooper explores whether there can be too much of a good thing with community features and services, dubbing them “amenities gone wild." The challenge for developers is that, "in a competitive market, once a level of amenity is provided, it is hard to withdraw," the report notes.

Another potential concern is when a misalignment of amenities occurs. For example, an estimated 53 percent of renters want an in-unit washing machine, but only 13 percent of units have one, according to an Apartment List analysis. In other cases, a renter may be paying for amenities they don't plan to use, while lacking a certain feature they want.

While amenities seem key to attracting tenants, identifying the right mix of technology and community features will depend on your specific market and target demographic.

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