This year has put the multifamily sector through its paces. Site staff was left scrambling trying to manage a pandemic that was keeping renters home and rent payments late. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The trials the multifamily sector has been put through this year was a crash course in management and adaptability. Multifamily landlords and site staff can enter the new year with the confidence of knowing they’ve been through the worst and made it through to the other side. Here are the biggest stories from 2020 when it comes to the multifamily industry that will likely change the way these properties are managed for years to come.
Working from home has changed the day-to-day operations of nearly all multifamily operators. For the first time, units were not emptying during the day. Instead, tenants were forced to stay home. Many found workspaces in their own units, but others looking for a less distracting setup or a change in scenery have been using office common spaces in multifamily properties more. Properly stocked printers, reliable wifi and workspace dividers have become essential in multifamily common spaces. Once seen as an amenity, the ability to work from home at your multifamily complex is now a necessity.
Apartment leasing has fundamentally changed this year. Self-service and other socially distanced means of engagement are becoming commonplace. Self-guided and virtual tours became the standard for most multifamily properties. All marketing has focused on online methods. This past year was an opportunity to reinvent the leasing experience. Smart property teams will incorporate hard lessons learned during 2020to make a lasting impact on leasing.
Meeting the challenges of the pandemic head-on required multifamily staff to work smarter, not harder. Developers have learned the importance of in-unit flexibility to meet the demands of working from home. New cleaning regimens and social distance spacing plans were implemented in gyms. Outdoor spaces, out of vogue, are now making a comeback. By thinking smarter, multifamily owners can leverage opportunities presented by the pandemic to increase their ROI.
Financial struggles wrought by the pandemic have made the landlord-tenant relationship more contentious than ever. One many are fighting back against is the growing leverage landlords have over tenants. Author James Nelson argues that landlords using software to access each other’s data has created a cartel that is pushing rents up faster than in areas where such practices don’t exist. If trends continue, the same type of regulatory actions aimed at the tech industry could be targeted at property owners.
Activists have been ringing the alarm that America’s affordable housing problem could cripple our economy. This year has never been closer to the truth. With millions of Americans struggling to pay rent during a recession, the question of how best to build affordable housing has become a pressing issue. Financing and incentives to build affordable housing have gotten easier to land since the sector now has a proven track record. For the work of affordability to be realized, landlords must start looking at their properties through a new people-focused paradigm.