via Rebusiness Online : Being part of a community is an important factor when renters choose a building to call home. According to a National Apartment Association’s report entitled “Adding Value in the Age of Amenities Wars,” a sense of community is what’s behind five of the top 10 amenities added or upgraded in apartments since 2014. Including clubhouses, common areas for socializing and fitness and business centers — the community aspect of apartment living is a huge draw.
As property managers, we are constantly challenged to ‘Keep up with the Joneses’ when it comes to offering the latest and greatest amenities. So much so that figuring out how to creatively “add” space to make room for new amenities when updating older buildings has become a top priority. However, while extensive amenities are considered basic requirements for today’s renters, it doesn’t matter how great the amenities are if the building doesn’t have a heart and soul that resonates with residents.
To foster that sense of community, there are three best practices in property management to keep in mind: communication, connection and comradery.
Make Communication Easy
Technology has provided residents the ability to communicate with property management at their convenience. Gone are the days of visiting the office to drop off a rent check, pick up a package or fill out a service request. Today there are a multitude of apps that handle these tasks. Knowing that the community manager is a phone call, email or text away brings additional comfort to residents and provides them with the ability to communicate with management on their time schedule. This leads to happier residents who feel confident that their needs are being heard and met by the building.
The goal as property managers is to create stress-free living for residents, which these communication strategies do. But, with decreased face-to-face interactions due to technology advancement, it does challenge community managers to be more creative in how they develop relationships with and among residents.
Build a Connection with Residents
Building a strong connection with residents is vital to the success of any property. It’s our responsibility to ensure the rental experience is more emotional than transactional. The good news is that having so many of the management tasks taken care of through the use of technology actually allows community managers more time to engage with residents one-on-one.
Historically, property management best practices tend to follow right behind the hospitality industry in management trends. Think about the last hotel you went to. In many cases, guests check in at a kiosk with assistance from staff who are likely mingling in the lobby. By getting out from “behind the desk,” community managers, too, can engage with residents as they come and go. They can relax or work in common spaces together or even meet up in the fitness center.
Community managers are tasked with knowing the residents and ensuring they are enjoying the lifestyle the building offers. But in order to do that, community managers must know what the residents like, which leads to the third best practice in property management: comradery.
Host Events to Foster Comradery
As noted earlier, understanding what is of interest to residents is most important when it comes to fostering a sense of community. By knowing what makes residents tick, community managers can plan events and celebrations that residents want to attend. Whether it’s fitness classes, cooking classes or sports viewing parties — hosting activities that draw residents out of their apartments to interact with each other leads to community building and better friendships.
Establishing an ongoing cycle of social events that resonate with residents creates opportunity for them to meet other like-minded residents. Not only do events foster the sense of comradery residents crave (and seek out when choosing where to live), but they also provide natural opportunities for community managers to get to know residents personally in an informal environment.
There’s no guarantee what events, technology or even amenities will resonate most with residents. That’s why it’s vital for management to make getting to know residents, the city and surrounding neighborhood a priority. Applying the best practices of communication, connection and comradery will lead to the creation of a strong, vibrant community that reaches beyond the walls of the building, increasing the demand for units from new potential residents.
— By Sheila Byrne, executive vice president of property management, The Habitat Co. The Chicago-based company is a multifamily property developer and manager.