Developers and designers in the multifamily building industry often like to think they don’t follow trends they start them. But in truth, trends develop in response to consumers’ wants and needs, and travel like wildfire thanks to technology. So when it comes to selling or renting projects, embracing trends helps us capture market opportunities, diminish risk and spur further innovation as we develop new and better iterations of these concepts.
At a time when the apartment market is slowing, it’s important for savvy multifamily developers, builders and architects to pay attention to trends. According to the Urban Land Institute’s October 2016 Real Estate Consensus Forecast, apartment rental rate growth is expected to moderate in the next three years to drop to 2.9 percent by 2018, and apartment vacancy rates are expected to reverse direction and increase to 5.3 percent by 2018. That means multifamily buildings and developments with the compelling extras consumers want will have the best absorption rates.
But not all trends are equal. Some, such as colors of the year, devotion to specific decorative detailing or the use of specific fixtures and finishes, are short-lived fads. Instead, long-term multifamily housing trends not only reflect buyers or renters current lifestyle realities, they mutate and mature as we create new iterations to meet consumers’ changing demographics and lifestyles. That makes them relevant now and for many years to come.
As a commercial interior design firm that specializes in amenities, public spaces, hospitality areas and model home interiors, we see trends at their inception. We recently reported on the five most important multifamily housing trends builders and developers should embrace right now. These were connectivity, flexibility, durability, functionality and sustainability.
Equally important are the trends we see emerging as major forces for 2017 and beyond. To keep project occupancy rates high, these are the trends multifamily builders, developers and architects will need to integrate into their projects going forward:
Design for your target markets: To spur conversion, it’s critical to understand who you’re designing for and what that means to where and how they live. This allows us to design homes, spaces and communities that elevate quality of life. One size definitely does not fit all. For instance, in a building near a major Ivy League university that attracts a large number of affluent graduate students from China and India, we found it necessary to eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting and use textiles that are impervious to odors. That’s because the pungent oils and strong spices they use in cooking, coupled with the high temperatures that result from certain preparation techniques, caused odors to linger in textiles.
Take work needs into account: For anyone that works at home, which is 100 percent of the market right now since we all devote some time to business concerns in our residences, it’s critical to have spaces that enhance the experience and improve the process. An infrastructure that insures fast internet is critical; slow internet is the number one reason people don’t renew leases. This will also impact condo sales moving forward; Millennials and Gen Z expect technology that doesn’t fail.
Create programming for those well-designed amenities: Thanks to technology, people are isolated and don’t always have the skills to connect with their neighbors in a meaningful, face-to-face way. Now that we’ve built all these incredible, highly marketed amenity spaces in multifamily buildings and residential developments, such as clubhouses, tech lounges, fitness centers, communal gourmet kitchens, outdoor living spaces and even rock climbing walls, residents are looking for programming to foster community and make complexes and neighborhoods come to life. Activities are critical to engage people, create experiences and build the authentic engagement that residents crave today.
Add relevant personal touches: Here’s another trend we can chalk up to technology. Because consumers spend so much time interacting online, they have a yearning for all-things-human. Authenticity, localism, customization, unique details and special services are in-demand and elevate their living experience. In a project built on the grounds of a former steel mill, we’ve recycled building materials (from reclaimed wood planks to steel H-beams) to create furnishings, finishes and wall and ceiling treatments that speak to the history of the property and appeal to these yearnings. This trend should be addressed in every type of residential setting, be it condos or single-family homes.
Services: Concierge-style services (from dog walking, package handing, delivery services, dry cleaning and laundry services to full-blown housekeeping, etc.) make life easier and more convenient for residents and add real value. They are also so important that most new condominium projects have some component of this in their program, and luxury buildings all offer such services (right down to car and shuttle service for residents to run errands or go shopping). More significantly, they are here to stay as technology and the speed it has fostered puts further demands on personal time.