How Multifamily Real Estate is Adapting to a New Normal

Photo by Jason Barone

As cities around the country continue their respective step-by-step reopening processes, many residents are left theorizing what our “new normal” will be, but one thing is for certain: it’s more important than ever to adapt the home environment. For multifamily real estate communities, large, overarching changes may come in time, but it’s the smaller, more immediate adjustments and new programs that have made a meaningful difference for the residents within.

Responding to New Demands

Since the onset of COVID-19’s spread in the United States, instituting comprehensive health and safety measures have been a top priority amongst multi-family communities. To meet demand, some developers and property managers have created comprehensive Virtual Tour programs that allow for showings and appointments to be held via Zoom, Skype or other video conference apps. Prospective residents schedule and take their virtual tour, then receive a digital packet of information and assets related to their specific unit.

Other communities are investing in technologies like Matterport, which afford prospective residents 3D tours without connecting with the leasing or sales office. Some communities are now offering one-on-one in-person tours, but most seem to be keeping virtual touring options for the foreseeable future.

Keeping Communities Engaged from a Distance

Keeping residents informed—on what amenities are operational, what remains closed, and updates on general cleaning and hygiene protocols—is just the beginning for owners and operators of multi-family residences. For example, Maximus created a Community Care initiative, which among other benefits, features a full-fledged content portal that aggregates everything from partnerships with local businesses and COVID-related news to streaming fitness classes. 

Physically distanced activations like photo contests, scavenger hunts, and virtual cooking classes are highlighted in an online event calendar that keeps residents informed of all community activities. Some communities—Maximus included—are even picking up the tab for residents to take part in online financial seminars or receive remote counseling from health providers, recognizing the importance of both financial and mental well-being during this challenging time. The Assistance Task Force—one of six Maximus working groups developed to handle all the unique challenges presented by COVID-19—was specifically created to focus on residents who need financial assistance and rent relief.

Photo by EggBank

Redefining Business as Usual

In the last four months, we have seen sweeping changes to the way individuals and families are going about their business—whether that’s with work, education or social life. “The needs of the home have changed,” says Maximus COO Fred Knapp. “The rental environment needs to predict and model greater in-unit autonomy and services creating increased independence from high touch amenities.”

Nowhere are these changes more evident than within the leasing process itself. Using a sophisticated remote leasing workflow—which supports distributed teams overseeing multiple properties—Maximus agents are able to work from home and still function efficiently across the entire leasing lifecycle, from Virtual Tours to signing paperwork.

With many businesses still instituting work from home policies for their employees and schools hosting classes online, workspace within the home is at a premium, and this is impacting rental decisions. Some residents are looking for new living space with dedicated offices; others have even expressed interest in apartments being made available for single-day rental use so that families can have more space and privacy for conference calls, studying, or online test taking. To keep residents active but socially distanced, Maximus properties have also implemented fitness amenity reservations, where equipment can be safely delivered directly to units. The Cove at Tiburon even has kayaks on their amenity reservation schedule, ensuring that its residents get fresh air and exercise safely and on their own time.

The multifamily real estate industry has been challenged to find innovative ways to keep individuals, families and communities safe, comfortable and connected. While Maximus communities’ staff continue to listen to resident needs and adapt on the daily, it’s clear that many of the changes and new practices that have been implemented industry-wide are here for the long haul. It is our belief and hope that many of these changes will have lasting benefits for residents and operators alike.