Multifamily Midwest

NMHC: Developers already planning the apartments of the future

NMHC: Developers already planning tomorrow's apartment units,ph01

Officials with the National Multifamily Housing Council know that technology is changing everything. The company points at success stories such as Uber. It’s the largest taxi service on the globe, but the company doesn’t own a single vehicle. It looks, too, at Airbnb, a major player in the hospitality industry that doesn’t own a single property.

No industry, then, is immune to the impact of tech. And the apartment business? That’s no exception.

The National Multifamily Housing Council addresses the impact that technology will have on apartment living in its recently released 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey. It’s an important report because apartments remain an ever more popular housing option. The Multifamily Housing Council reports that developers will have to add at least 4.6 million apartment units across the globe by 2030 just to keep up with demand.

To create its Consumer Housing Insights Survey, the National Multifamily Housing Council teamed up with national architecture and design firm KTGY. What do KTGY and the council’s researchers believe the apartment of the future will look like?

First, apartment spaces will become more flexible. Think movable walls that can turn living rooms into offices or bedrooms. Think, too, of pop-up amenities. Maybe your dinner table is hidden until it’s needed. Then renters can pull it out of a hidden area in the wall when it’s time to eat.

Such flexible spaces can make even small apartment spaces seem more spacious. This is important in urban areas, where space might be limited.

According to the Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 83 percent of surveyed renters said that it is important to have a living space that evolves with different stages of life. The survey found, too, that 78 percent believe it is important to have a space that can transform to meet different needs.

The Internet of Things – better known by its acronym IoT – will play a bigger role in apartment living, too. The IoT of things simply refers to devices that are all connected to the Internet and then talk to each other. This could mean a smart light bulb that sends a message to renters’ cell phones telling them when the light bulb is about to run out, or a refrigerator that warns consumers when that carton of milk might be nearing its expiration date.

Technology research firm Gartner says that 26 billion devices will be connected through the cloud-based IoT by the year 2020. This means that apartment dwellers could control their lighting, appliances and home security devices remotely.

But the Consumer Housing Insights Survey says that the biggest advancements associated with IoT technology will be on the owner side of the multifamily industry. As Shawn Mahoney, chief information officer at Boston-based GID, says in the report, smart tech will allow building engineers to monitor, control and constantly analyze all aspects of an apartment building. Armed with so much data, building managers will be able to correct problems before they turn into bigger, more expensive ones.

This is just a hint of what the report includes. The research also found a generational divide among renters, one that looks to have important ramifications for apartment building owners and developers in the future.

According to the report, a majority of younger renters think that the amenities and features offered by younger renters should be accessible to the larger community surrounding a building. A majority of Baby Boomers, though, feel the opposite.

According to the survey, 58 percent of Millennials say that apartments should provide helpful services and amenities to the surrounding community. Only 38 percent of Baby Boomers agreed with that same statement.

In the future, then, will developers have to include services in their apartments that could benefit the surrounding community, such as park space, public dog walks or meeting rooms open to the community? Maybe. Or maybe Millennials, as they age, will change their minds and feel more like their Baby Boomer peers.

Then there’s the trend toward healthier living. Fitness centers continue to rank as the most desirable of apartment amenities. But these onsite exercise centers are now longer enough for a growing number of renters who prefer a more holistic approach to health.

These renters want space dedicated to mental health as well as physical health in their apartment buildings, the Consumer Housing Insights Survey said.

According to the report, 93 percent of respondents said that it is important to have a transquil space in apartment buildings to unwind and unplug. The survey found that 76 percent of respondents said they are already working to achieve a healthy lifestyle, while 57 percent said they wish they had an environment that would promote better sleep.

Developers, then, might have to focus more on providing not just high-end wellness centers, but green space around their apartments, yoga studios, places for residents to store their bicycles and soothing, quiet areas in their apartments. And those sound-proof windows and walls might become more important to sleep-hungry renters.

The Consumer Housing Insights Survey also cites what some researchers refer to as the “age of the consumer.” What does this mean? High-speed Internet and micro-computers – such as powerful smartphones – are giving consumers immediate access to more information that is not controlled, filtered or distributed by sellers. Thanks to the cloud, mobile devices and social media, consumers have more information and choices than ever, and they are not shy about going elsewhere to seek better customer service.

Renters are customers, of course. And they will expect even better, more immediate, service from their landlords in the future. The survey found that 72 percent of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 66 percent of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they feel that they are being treated like a number. A total of 70 percent of respondents said that technology makes it easier than ever to switch brands.

Landlords and owners, then, have to provide their renters with what they want – whether that’s high-speed Internet, high-end community spaces or state-of-the-art fitness studios – or risk higher vacancies.

And what do renters want today? According to the survey, renters ranked amenities such as parking, pools and fitness centers behind reliable cell reception and high-speed Internet. Apartment owners, then, better make sure it’s easy for renters to get online and stream.