Gardens for Better Communities!

gardens

In our last blog, we discussed the hottest amenities for 2017. One amenity caught the eyes of our readers: gardens and vegetation. Having greenery around a property is nothing new, but showcasing it as an amenity is. Take Fuse Cambridge for example. This year, they installed a Living Green Wall (seen above) by Cityscapes, which has more benefits than just visual appeal. Content producer Lauren Shanesy writes, “In addition to complementing Fuse’s LEED Silver certification, the plants themselves aid in providing natural air filtration, sound insulation, and thermal regulation within the space while reducing residents’ stress levels, as well”. A wall of vegetation may not work for your community, but a community garden might. With communities competing for new residents, appealing to green thumbs can be a great angle.  Here are three reasons why a community garden is a way to separate your community from others.

Save on produce costs

A community garden is great way to give residents a way to grow their own produce. Health conscience residents will spend top dollar at the grocery store for organic produce. What if you gave residents a way to grow produce that meets their needs? If you can market this interest, it can be a selling point. Residents may love the idea, but may have never had a garden. Nothing a community event can’t solve! Current green thumbs may see interest in leading a few community classes to help. This can help your community get more social while growing healthy produce for all to enjoy! Sounds like a win/win to us.

Low Costs for Gardens

The cost of starting a community garden can vary, but the majority of the cost is up front. This will be in the form of tools, fencing and other gardening staples but the investment is worth the costs. Todd Tibbits, senior vice president of property services for Post Properties states: “Community gardens pay for themselves in the same way a community pool or tennis court does – in resident satisfaction.” Plus, many communities cover costs through plot rental fees. The cost is low since the residents are responsible for the care, but going back to point number one, money for produce goes into the garden and not the grocery store.

Increased Property Values

Studies have shown that high-quality community gardens can increase property values in neighborhoods. The largest increases are in lower-income communities but higher-income communities see a bump too. To keep the garden higher quality, a landscape professional can provide some consultations and advice. This will help everyone in the community understand how to maintain the investment. Higher property values can give a boost to your revenue in the long term so protect your asset!

Community gardens are a great way to engage with residents. With the right marketing, residents find value in knowing where their produce comes from. The cost of starting a garden is upfront and can offset with minor plot rental fees. Finally, the garden can boost property value. Interested in finding out more? Consult with a local landscaping professional to see what’s possible. Never forget that a little green goes a long way!

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2017 Amenities – The Year of the Garden

amenitiesAmenities play a major role for residents joining a community. There are the typical amenities, such as a clubhouse and a gym, but apartment renters expect unique offerings to make a community their home. Amenities are a deciding factor. Like all things, amenities are subject to trends and popularity. While 2017 seems far away, the newest trends in amenities are coming into the spotlight. If you’re responsible for the budget, you should take these amenities into consideration before letting the ink dry.

Gardens

Yep, 2017 is the year of the garden! From living art walls to herb and vegetable gardens, community vegetation is on the rise. Not only do they promote social interactions amongst residents, they provide access to healthy food! Many city communities are adopting these ideas so residents can step out of the urban jungle while they’re home. While they’ve been around for a while, expect to see a significant increase in 2017. Read more about community gardens in our next blog!

Luxury Experiences

When residents come home from a hard day of work, they want to relax. There are a few ways to do this and in 2017, having a taste of the good life will be a selling point. What could be better than grabbing a bottle of your favorite wine from the secure on-site wine cellar? Maybe a massage from the on-call masseuse in a private therapy room is more your speed. There are communities even starting to install commercial grade kitchens for guest chefs and test kitchen events. We bet a few people could get used to that kind of life.

Package Management

Package management has been a hot amenity for the past few years, but the trend will continue to grow since capabilities have expanded. Examples include dry cleaning pickup and outbound shipping from the lockers themselves. The customization levels have also improved; custom colors and even seasonal wraps are available. The peak of innovation hasn’t hit this amenity yet! Expect package management to be a more “standard” amenity starting in 2017.

Amenities of Tomorrow, Today

2017 is just around the corner. Providing amenities that draw residents in has always been important, but the difference today is in the diversity. These three amenities are a good way to stand out from the competition and they could be a deciding factor for new residents and for renewals. Knowing what your community wants is important, but providing what they didn’t know they wanted works wonders. An amenity today can mean happy residents and more profit tomorrow!

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Budget for Amenities!

budget

A Budget Including Amenities Can Help You See and Save Green!

It’s that time of the year again: the preparation of next year’s budget for your community. Your budget is likely to cover a lot of different areas; from marketing and sales to staffing and screening. While these are necessary for the property to keep functioning, make sure to make room for amenities. Amenities can increase occupancy and drive increased revenues. It can also be used in your marketing efforts to generate leads. When budgeting for amenities, there are a few things you need to consider. If you follow these three steps, you’ll be good as gold!

Survey

The best amenity is a wanted amenity. A good way to gauge interest in a potential amenity before purchasing is to survey your community. What do they want? What amenity adds convenience for them? What’s going to make them want to renew their lease? You may think your community desperately needs a guinea pig playroom, but you better check first. An amenity collecting dust is a waste of money and isn’t generating ANY revenue.

ROI

Stemming off of the first point, when you figure out what amenity or amenities your community wants, it’s important to consider the ROI. You don’t want to commit to an amenity with a short lifecycle. You’re looking for an investment with long-term results. This can be challenging, especially when trends can come and go. Doing your due diligence through research will be vital to making sure your addition isn’t a dud. Find industry resources that can provide the data you’re looking for. Numbers don’t lie and they can be a great guide for keeping up with trends in multifamily!

Scout

Ok. You’ve listened to the community and you’re devastated about their lack of concern for the guinea pig playroom. You’ve also taken their suggestions and done some research on your own. Still hesitant about pulling the trigger on a certain amenity? Find a community that has what you’re looking for and go see it! For example, if you’ve been researching package lockers, find a community with a system. When you get there, ask to see the system, but also ask their opinion. Have the lockers made residents happier? Have they seen an ROI yet or expecting to? How do they work? Don’t hesitate to ask questions from an unbiased party before going into a sales process.

No one likes to budget. It’s time-consuming and can be difficult to stick to if problems should arise. But a proper budget can drive additional and recurring revenue if there’s room for an amenity. Then it’s just a matter of researching and selecting the amenity that will have the highest impact on ROI. Finally, go see it in action somewhere! An amenity can be just what your community needs to grow and thrive. Choose wisely and budget appropriately!

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Catch Residents with Pokémon Go!

Pokémon GoPokémon Go Can Help Multifamily

On July 6th, 2016, an event of monumental proportions happened: Pokémon Go was released. The game has already revolutionized mobile gaming and is uniting people across all generations. Niantic Inc. developed the game through a licensing deal with Nintendo, the majority stakeholder of the franchise. The deal has proven to be fruitful; Nintendo’s market value jumped an astounding $7.5 billion since release! The game is simple: “catch” Pokémon with your phone in different areas of cities and towns. The game is a based on “geolocation,” GPS locations and landmarks, so one has to walk around to progress through the game. There are “Pokestops” and “Gyms” where people can get rewards, play against other Pokémon and find new Pokémon. So why should you care? This can be a golden marketing opportunity for multifamily communities. You can actually drive potential residents to your property with the game!

Pokémon Go is a “free to play” style game. This means that one can play for free, but upgrades are purchasable through an online store. One of those items is a “Lure Module,” which draws Pokémon to a certain location for 30 minutes. They cost about 99 cents per lure. The lures need to be set within proximity of a Pokestop (currently). Your community may already be a Pokestop or Gym; you just need to check in the game. Super geeky, right? Well, businesses have caught on and are driving traffic to them because people playing see where lures are and stop to get the free items. So how can a multifamily community benefit?

Marketing With Pokémon Go

If you could set lures or Pokestops at and around your property, you have a lead generation tool at your fingertips. In an interview with the Financial Times, Niantic C.E.O. John Hanke said that “sponsored locations” are coming to Pokémon Go. When this becomes available, why not set Pokestops around key amenities on-site? The pool, the gym, the locker system, the clubhouse, etc.; the list goes on and on! While people of all ages are playing the game, Millennials are playing the game the most (it’s a nostalgia thing). You can put the word out on social media about having a “Pokémon Tour” around the property. When the event starts, have players provide their contact information and walk them around the property to the different stops. They get Pokémon while you’re showing off key amenities and layouts to potential residents! It’s a win/win for everyone!

What about a “Pokémon Go Mixer” for current residents? Provide food and drinks while setting up Pokestops around the property. Have residents team up in groups and send them around the property to collect their goods. This will encourage meeting new neighbors and friends. Right now, you can lead residents around the area and collect Pokémon and items. Pair this with your other marketing initiatives (are you live streaming yet?) and you’ll have current and future residents hooked.

Get Ahead of the Game

In conclusion, this is a huge opportunity to show off your community and gain some new faces. Pokémon Go is still very new and Niantic is working out the bugs and creating more features. The ideas above are just a few examples of how your multifamily community can capitalize on the excitement as new content and features are released. So go out there and “Catch ‘Em All”… residents that is!

To play and learn more, download Pokémon Go from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.

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FHA To Save the Day!

FHA

FHA Helps Save Money

In case you missed it, the FHA has cut insurance premiums for certain multifamily mortgages. The changes took effect on April 1, 2016 and place an emphasis on energy efficiency. The change also impacts affordable and mixed-income communities with reductions for housing affordability. FHA expects the reductions to spur the rehabilitation or production of 12,000 additional apartment units every year and reduce rent and utility costs for residents. It also displays major support from the government for multifamily to get green. So what are the qualifications and details exactly? Could your project be up for a rate reduction? Here are the main details you need to know, provided by housingonline.com‘s magazine, Tax Credit Advisor:

  • FHA is lowering its multifamily insurance premiums to 25 basis points a year for energy-efficient properties. That’s a reduction of 20 or 25 basis points for many existing properties, with even larger savings for new construction deals. These properties must commit to meet an industry-recognized green building standard. Owners must also keep their buildings in the top 25% of multifamily buildings nationwide for energy performance, as determined using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager 100-point score.
  • FHA is also lowering its annual multifamily insurance premiums to 25 basis points for “broadly affordable” housing. That includes properties where at least 90% of the units are covered by a Section 8 contract or the affordability requirements of the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.
  • FHA is lowering its annual multifamily insurance rates to 35 basis points for properties that mix affordable housing with market-rate housing. That’s a reduction of 10 to 35 basis points from current rates. That includes properties that have set aside units based on affordability under programs including LIHTC, Section 8, inclusionary zoning, or other local affordability programs.

Win/Win For All!

Take note that insurance premiums won’t change for properties not meeting any of the criteria. For those that do qualify, the annual savings are substantial and owners and managers should look to see if they can take advantage of this powerful new incentive. The FHA has taken steps to help everyone in multifamily. Property owners can save money and renters have greater access to affordable rents and healthy units.  Plus, going green and competitive pricing are great ways to market your community. With this initiative, everybody wins!

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The Brexit and U.S. Multifamily

BrexitThe Brexit May Impact U.S. Multifamily

Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is one of the biggest shifts in recent history. Known as the Brexit, the British economy took a dive after the 52% – 48% vote and the future remains unclear. That’s because no one has left the EU, ever! Multifamily in the U.S. could stand to gain from the vote. While analysts have differing opinions, there’s a chance the Brexit may give U.S. multifamily a boost. Here’s how:

  • The Pound Has Fallen – The U.S. has one of the most lucrative multifamily markets in the world. If the pound continues to fall, British real estate may follow. Investors may turn their eyes across the pond to invest in various communities and projects. KC Sanjay, leading economist and analyst at Axiometrics, states “The (multifamily) sector accounted for 25%-30% exposure of all commercial real estate portfolios in 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 – meaning multifamily is bringing in more than its share of investment compared to other sectors.” It would make sense to switch focus and with so many diverse offerings in the industry, the U.S. could be a safe bet.
  • An Extension of Low-Interest Rates – The Federal Reserve had planned on raising interest rates this year but has yet to do so. Globally, the impacts of the Brexit have yet to unfold, so there’s good reason to hold off on raising rates out of fear of recession. Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst predicts: “Mortgage rates will tumble following the Brexit vote, possibly hitting new record lows.” This could be big news for multifamily, especially for portfolio expansion and new development.
  • A Chain Reaction – The last two points hint towards a safe and stable invest in U.S. multifamily. If the British start investing, there’s a good chance other foreign investment may follow. For example, the Middle East has a history of investing in London. If they see the British shift towards the U.S., they will more than likely follow suit. A chain reaction of foreign investment may begin, giving the industry a stimulus shot to the arm. On the flip side, the U.S. might see an opportunity to invest in British real estate if the market makes sense.

The previous points made are pure speculation and depends on global markets holding on. But the right factors are in place to make it a reality. So will the Brexit turn into the Brenter for U.S. multifamily? Only time will tell, but be ready for a potential British Invasion!

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Living out of a Box: The Rise of Subcom

subcom

Subcom in a Box

Mail carriers across the globe are feeling the strain of increased package deliveries. If you’ve been keeping up to date on our blog posts, we’ve discussed this online retail boom. There are the obvious contributors such as Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Apple and Staples, but a new category is making waves. It’s not the newest concept, but since 2010, this category has made a huge impact in how people shop. That category is subscription box services or “subcom” for short.

Birchbox. Dollar Shave Club. Plated. These subcom services differ in their products but offer a central idea. They deliver goods to millions of Americans alone on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. A customer simply enters their payment information, and like clockwork, boxes appear at the door. They only stop if the customer cancels or changes the subscription. It allows a “set and forget” type of shopping. Instead of going to the local drug store for razors, why not just pay a flat fee to have them delivered to your door once a month? And the category isn’t only limited to toiletries and food; if you can dream it, there’s a service for it.

Subcom Offers Life in a Box

Ranging from $10 and up, the subcom model was born out of convenience. No longer does one have to spend hours grocery shopping; just sign up for Blue Apron and have 3 meals delivered to your door once a week. Hate shopping for new clothes? Try Trunk Club, where clothing is handpicked by stylists for your size and tastes. Like what’s inside? They just charge your card for what you keep after mailing back the rest. No stores. No lines. No hassle.

So what does this mean for multifamily? We think the subcom model will only gain in popularity, meaning more deliveries to communities. Properties are already seeing 15% to 50% increases in deliveries with no signs of slowing down. Not all subscription box services will last but the idea is here to stay. The Blue Aprons (valued at $500 million) and Birchboxes ($96 million in sales) of the world aren’t going anywhere. Convenience is king and it doesn’t get any easier. A Millennial alone already gets 22 to 24 packages per year and being the most tech-savvy group the world has ever seen, subcom will continue to grow. If you haven’t future proofed your property yet, now might be the best time to do so.

 

 

 

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Package Management Is the New Expectation

Package Management

Package Management More Than an Amenity – It’s Expected

According to a recent National Multi-Housing Council study on renter preferences, package management ranks second in importance after fitness centers and before WiFi, shared Barry Hume, president of Package Concierge.

Hume moderated the Package Management, From Courtesy to Competitive Necessity: Why It Matters session at the 2016 National Apartment Association Education Conference and Exposition in San Francisco.

“NMHC has done study after study on the topic and package management comes up as one of the most important amenities to residents every time,” Hume says. “There’s going to be a point in the not too distant future that it will become the most important amenity.”

The panel shared that Amazon Prime now offers free memberships to college students while its general membership has more than doubled in the last two years. The service now boasts 64 million paid memberships. Further ramping up the package delivery game, the e-commerce juggernaut has launched same day delivery in 27 regions across the country.

“Residents are ordering packages, and their expectation is that the packages will be delivered to their homes,” Hume says. “Residents also believe it is our problem to deal with the packages, not theirs. As an industry, we need to figure out how tackle the problem.”

Package Management No Longer Optional

Fellow panelists Dean Holmes, COO, Madison Apartments and Craig Meddin, COO, The Postal Solutions Companies echoed Hume’s sentiments in that now is the time for apartment owners and operators to shift their view of package management from one of a resident courtesy to being a competitive necessity.

“A proactive and well-evolved package management policy can be a competitive differentiator,” Holmes says. “Most of us are choosing to find solutions to manage packages for our residents.”

But why should an apartment community justify the shift from courtesy to competitive necessity? The answer, according to the panel, is two-fold. First, it improves resident satisfaction and, second, the return on investment can be profound.

It was shared that although the direct impact of package management varies, 30-60 percent of residents indicated that package management solutions/effectiveness have a positive impact on their decision to renew.

“A planned package management solution is definitely impactful,” Hume says. “There’s a real business case for having something in place that will affect the resident.”

If resident satisfaction isn’t enough of a reason to make package management a must-have amenity, the numbers are intriguing.

It is estimated that the time it takes on-site personnel to deal with a single package is five to six minutes, according to the panel. That is roughly one hour for every 10 packages. Data shows that a 250-unit property averages 30 package deliveries per day, which equates to three hours of package management. When processed manually, the average cost to accept and deliver a package is $2.08 per package.

“Package management is an expectation now, an expectation that most of our residents and prospects take for granted,” Holmes says. “It’s not an optional amenity anymore.”

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Future Proofing for Packages

future By Georgianna W. Oliver, Founder & CEO of Package Concierge

The Future Is Just Around The Corner.

To use a term I credit to Jennifer Coogan at Avalon Bay, “future proofing” your community is essential to assure you are not only meeting the resident demands of today but also preparing for future demands. Can you imagine your current holiday-season package rush becoming the year-round norm for your property?

Currently, one of our clients receives over 600 packages per day on one property. They currently have the package situation under control, but will it be enough in future years? Smaller properties with less than 250 units can probably handle the influx of packages more easily, as they currently average 40 package deliveries a day. But larger properties are more complicated and will require a more robust future proofing plan.

For the Package Concierge team, that means arming you with the innovations and technologies to manage the escalation of packages in the future. We accept the challenge of continually innovating our technology to address all of a community’s package-handling needs, now and in the future.

A Solution That Matters

Our high-quality lockers are designed to resist wear and tear. Our advancing technology handles all aspects of delivery and provides a secure method of communication between the locker system and residents. It also features the industry’s only mobile app.

We offer all the tools and reporting needed for the management of packages. Returns and shipping capabilities are coming soon as well. But, it is not enough. Today, we are addressing overflow options and developing a Package Concierge Smart RoomTM solution to meet the needs of tomorrow.

We understand package management solutions are more than locker systems or smart rooms. To that end, we are in constant communication with communities to improve our training for UPS, Fedex, and USPS carriers, discuss data management and advise about how to handle Uber and Lyft drivers showing up on-site to deliver more and more packages.

The solutions for handling packages will continue to evolve and so will the engineers at Package Concierge. We are working to stay ahead of the curve. You can count on that.

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Package Concierge and MTEC 2016

MTEC: Shape Your Future

MTEC Not all conferences are created equal. They come in many different shapes and sizes while staying true to a central idea. Package Concierge tries to attend as many as possible and we’re excited for our next one: The Multifamily Technology and Entrepreneurship Conference (MTEC for short). This exciting event has a lot to offer to those working on a new product or company idea in multifamily.

Held at the InterContinental San Francisco, MTEC is not a technology show despite the name. The conference’s main focus is education and networking for the industry’s entrepreneurs. If you’re a startup in multifamily, this conference is where you need to be. This isn’t just a social hangout; attendees are CEOs and private equity investors alike. On the conference’s website, MTEC states, “Conference speakers and advisors include some of the most successful multifamily entrepreneurs of the last decade.” Anyone has a great chance at making the right connections through MTEC.

The broad range of the conference is also another reason why MTEC is so exciting. From lead generation to energy management solutions, you’re going to learn something new. Panel discussions will be running throughout both days and led by the best of our industry. Our founder and CEO, Georgianna Oliver, will be participating in a panel about the Internet of Things (IoT) and multifamily. New business opportunities are popping up for the industry since connectivity is everything. Others joining the discussion are Felicite Moorman, CEO of StratISDavid Taylor, Senior Vice President and Chief of Operations of WaterSignal; and Ron Reed, SVP, Utility Management of RealPage, Inc. serves as moderator.

MTEC 2016 promises to deliver a networking and educational event to remember. Full of insights and opportunities, everyone in attendance will take away something. Whether it’s a few connections or new ideas, it’s a win either way. Interested in attending? See below for details and we hope to see you in San Francisco.

Register here

MTEC 2016

June 14 & 15

12:00pm – 12:00pm

InterContinental San Francisco

888 Howard Street

San Francisco, CA 94103

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