It’s no news that the multifamily market has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years. But with a glut of product in some areas of the country and demand expected to be more moderate in 2018, home builders and developers will be pressed to initiate and execute more aggressive strategies to achieve occupancy goals. Enhanced, targeted marketing including digital efforts are key. Adaptations on the bricks-and-mortar front will be equally instrumental. At Mary Cook Associates, we have seen substantial Return On Environment (R.O.E) that smartly-designed spaces can have on occupancy rates through our design for model home interiors, amenities and recreational spaces for multifamily buildings. Here are three key elements that should be top-of-mind for builders, developer and architects throughout the design process in 2018.
1. Make it Social
Unlike McMansions, which took essential public spaces such as the gym and movie theater, and transformed them into private spaces, successful designed multifamily housing recognizes the getting out-and-about aspect of these amenities. So, when it comes to attracting and retaining tenants, it’s more than a matter of designing interiors; it’s about community. We may all be doing our shopping online and ordering take-out with an app, but for residents in multifamily housing with less square feet to live in and no yard for the kids to play in (and no garage for puttering about), the space outside the individual units plays a big role in quality of life. Residents not only demand fully equipped exercise rooms, for example, but stylishly outfitted lobbies that can function as attractive meeting places. Even basic functional spaces can be re-imagined as generators of community. For a recent project in Texas, we developed a Social Mail Lounge which combines package lockers with various work stations for impromptu connections and small gatherings.
2. Inspire a Culture
For as much as we love our high-tech gadgets, surfing the web, and posting on Instagram, we still crave the singular, non-digital experience. You only have to look at the popularity of artisanal foods and eco-vacations, for example, to appreciate the yearning people have for a counterbalance to the fast-paced, information driven, virtual reality that defines life in the 21st century. Interior design schemes for multifamily housing can help satisfy this desire. But good design isn’t one-size fits all. Understanding your target market is key. For example, the lobby tailored for our project in academic-heavy Princeton, New Jersey won’t fly in another one of our projects in fast-growing Frisco, Texas, headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys. Getting a grasp of local history, the surrounding urban fabric, and current lifestyles in the target market go a long way when it comes to creating spaces that generate an all-embracing culture, a distinct sense of place. Color, shape, and texture all play a role in creating an aura of something special, a sense-satisfying authenticity that offers relief from the relentlessness of the day-to-day. Carefully curated, locally sourced furniture, decorative objects, and artwork afford the multifamily community a unique identity, a physical presence and ambiance that sets it apart from other developments in the same market.
3. Quantitative Technology
One of the biggest reasons tenants opt not to renew a lease is unreliable internet connectivity. But assuring high-speed access along with smart home automation technologies is just the start. We recently attended Bisnow’s BMAC Midwest conference where IOTAS founder Scé Pike noted that solid tech implementation can lead to $45 rent bumps at Class-B assets for every $500 to $600 in investment. IOTIS software, for instance, can simplify the resident turn or make new buildings appear more fully occupied by turning lights on in vacant units. What it all comes down to is this: if you can measure something, you can improve it. By monitoring tenant’s behavior, such as gym usage, IOTIS and similar programs allow owners and managers to realize better functionality within a multifamily development, but also save on property management costs over time. This insight is crucial for us as interior designers as we must not only tailor our designs around current tech trends but the anticipation of what is to come.