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.

"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

Adding smart-home features is just one way to differentiate your multifamily building in a tight market. In McInerney’s other rental properties, he has also installed bike racks, implemented online rental payments and built 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 apartment building, many of these updates can be a cost-effective investment to help you attract and retain tenants. 

1. Digital upgrades and online rent collection

Smart-home technology—including locks, thermostats and lighting—is an especially attractive feature in higher-end rental properties, and installation requirements are often minimal. Educating your tenants about these less visible 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 property management 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: A website can be an affordable way to show off your property. 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.

2. Community perks, policies and building events

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. For example, you can implement smoke-free and pet-friendly apartment policies. The latter may involve extra tenant fees, such as pet deposits, pet inspection charges and monthly pet rent.

3. Physical amenities and services

Smaller buildings, like the ones 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 for your apartment building: McInerney has found success by adding unique design elements to his properties. These include luxury finishes and eye-catching light fixtures—and even 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 location 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.

Get in touch