Ninety-four percent of respondents in the NMHC Consumer Housing Insights Survey said having the freedom to personalize their living space was important. At first glance, this might seem to mean that property owners have to let residents remodel their entire unit for it to feel like home. But there is a lot more to the idea of personalization of living space than the actual physical space itself. Connected renters are increasingly being lured to communities equipped with smart technology, which gives them the ability to customize several aspects of their living experience. This trend will continue as more and more people start to experience the benefits of personalization.
One example of personalization is smart locks. They let residents customize the control who can enter their unit while they are away without relying on property staff. House cleaners, dog walkers, maintenance workers, and visiting friends or family can be issued a temporary digital key that allows them access to the unit. Programming lights, controlling the unit temperature, even paying rent can be done with voice command or any time. “Residents love the smart technology packages we installed in our units,” said Manny Vega, property manager at Weston Apartment in Houston, TX. “It’s a high-tech amenity that makes their day-to-day lives easier and isn’t found in a lot of competing properties.”
Renters also seek to customize the administrative parts about their living experience. Flexibility over how they can pay their rent, communicate with their property manager or interact with other residents in their community can also help them customize day-to-day living.The ability to customize the “workflow” around renting appeals to the modern renter. Residents lead busy lives, which means they can’t always come into the community office when they need something resolved. Giving them the means to conduct their business outside of the community office (and its limited operating hours), is essential. Self-service allows residents to resolve all of the common tasks related to apartment living when it’s convenient for them—all without having to burden the building staff. Package lockers, registering guests, issuing access codes to service workers, are all areas where residents can self-serve and fulfill their needs on demand.
Probably the most important thing for a renter to be able to customize is community. Management companies who make a concerted effort to build a sense of community see their renewal rates increase as renters hesitate to move out of an apartment that is near their friends. A study by Apartment Life found that residents with at least one friend in the community are 38% more likely to renew their lease than those with no friends. If a resident has seven or more friends, that makes them 47% more likely to renew their lease. These connections can only be made with if residents are able to find others like them. Most on-site building staff probably already organizes regular social events, which help residents build friendships within the community. But to really connect the community there needs to be ways for residents who want to organize their own community events to do so. Perhaps they want to start a book club or are having a summer BBQ. The ability to start and promote events and clubs creates a sense of ownership in the community that could never happen with organized events alone.
By reshaping day-to-day operations to cater to connected residents, buildings can personalize their service. This will be the key when it comes to differentiation in today’s saturated market. This means allowing renters to communicate through the channels of their liking or giving them a say in what kinds of services are being offered. It is never easy to give up control of a building’s community, but it is essential to allow people to choose the direction of the building and community they live it. Besides, it is much easier and less costly than letting them remodel their living spaces. We all know too well how those units tend to look when it comes time to relist.