Commercial Real Estate

Simple Upgrades to Attract Renters in a Competitive Market

In a renter’s market, landlords can keep tenants happy and vacancies low by adding relatively simple amenities that make apartment living more comfortable and tech-enabled.


Residents commuting home to one recently updated apartment building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC, can now easily unlock their doors, turn on the lights and crank up the heat before they even step foot inside.

“We’re at a big inflection point right now. In the last few years, we’ve gone from a landlord’s market to a renter’s market in a big way,” said Jim McInerney, property manager and landlord at Watassa Management, a Chase Commercial Term Lending client.

He understands that the nearly 100-year-old midrise is one of many charming older buildings in the area, so it’s important for the building to stand out.

Adding smart home features is just one way to differentiate your multifamily building in a tight market. In McInerney’s other properties, he has also installed bike racks, implemented online rental payments and constructed outdoor spaces. McInerney said his properties with dining and grilling areas have better retention rates.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade an older high-rise or a five-unit market-rate building, many simple property updates can be a cost-effective—and often one-time—investment to help you attract and retain tenants in competitive markets across the US.

We have to do as much as possible to amenitize our small buildings to compete with the new, bigger buildings.

Jim McInerney, property manager and landlord at Watassa Management

Digital Upgrades

Smart home technology—including locks, thermostats and lighting—is an especially attractive feature in higher-end properties, and installation requirements are often minimal. Educating your tenants on the availability of less visible or common features can often be just as important as the enhancements themselves.

Even less sophisticated tech updates can help distinguish your property, such as providing free Wi-Fi in common areas or updating laundry rooms to accept credit cards and mobile payments.

Other quick wins:

  • Establish an online tenant portal: The multipurpose platform may allow residents to pay rent online by credit card or with a payment app. It can also be a place they submit non-urgent maintenance requests or post about lost and found items, local events and onsite babysitters—like a virtual bulletin board.
  • Develop a web presence: Creating a website to show off your property can help your building gain visibility online. Social media platforms cost even less—there is often no cost involved—and can also help you make ongoing connections with current and future tenants. Just be sure to keep your accounts up to date and check them regularly for messages.

 

Community Perks

Tenants often don’t know their neighbors, but may want to meet them. Consider introducing policies and events that help create a sense of community.

  • Implement smoke-free and pet-friendly policies: The latter may involve extra tenant fees, such as pet deposits, pet inspection charges and monthly pet rent.
  • Host social and community gatherings: Give tenants an opportunity to socialize with events such as monthly potlucks, holiday parties, aldermanic meetings, summer barbecues and movie nights.
bike rack storage area

 

Physical Amenities and Services

Smaller buildings, like the ones that McInerney owns in DC, don’t always have extra space for certain perks, but there are ways to make every square inch count.

  • Develop a distinct look: McInerney has found success by adding unique design elements to his properties, including luxury finishes, eye-catching light fixtures and walls covered floor-to-ceiling in pennies.
  • Install energy-efficient washers and dryers: The appliances often have a larger capacity and may cut down on your water and energy bills.
  • Offer concierge-inspired services: These can range from valet trash and recycling services to laundry drop-off and meal delivery services with local businesses.
  • Establish a private package delivery space: Cubbies or lockers can be a secure option for tenants to receive larger packages during the day.

Keep in mind that top amenities vary based on your building’s geography and price point, and not all upgrades are successful, even from property to property. Rather, implementing amenities is a process of trial and error. What’s most important is differentiating your property so it stands out from the pack.

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