Keeping a Multi-Family Property Competitive with Updated Amenity Spaces

Renters by choice are seeking to experience a community that feels like a luxury resort

Over the last three years, urban and suburban neighborhoods have seen a boom in multi-family new construction. While there is strong absorption in many markets, properties must remain competitive to attract the discerning individuals that make up today’s “renter by choice.”

Looming student debt, concern about home value fluctuation and a desire for a lifestyle free from the burdens of home ownership have created a significant increase in the number of individuals and families who view renting as a desired alternative to owning.

While this demographic shift has greatly increased the number of renters in the marketplace, most markets are still facing an oversupply of apartments and competition is intense. Renters have choices that they did not have in the past, which has forced developers and owners to out-do the competition with highly designed apartment homes as well as over the top amenities.

A basic amenity package (clubroom, business center, and fitness center) will no longer impress today’s prospect. When teaming with our clients, we have found that it is a challenge to find a balance between ROI and providing an upgraded amenity package. It is expensive to build out and maintain these highly detailed, furnished spaces, yet without them the property will not be competitive.

Lobbies are no longer designed to be quiet pass-through spaces. They set the tone and vibe of the property. Today’s renter is drawn to energized, social activity. Rather than designing a “space,” we have found that creating a sense of “place” is a far more successful approach. Social pods that include communal tables, cafes, and coffee bars as well as multiple seating areas are now a part of the lobby experience.

Fitness centers still remain the number one desired amenity. No longer will a fitness center with cardio and weight equipment impress the prospect. Trending are massive, fully equipped fitness centers, which may include: dedicated yoga and spin rooms (complete with owner provided instructors), fitness on demand and smart technology, up to date cardio and weight equipment with dedicated screens, TRX systems, and areas dedicated to working with a personal trainer. Part of the total fitness experience is biking, so if possible, provide a great bike storage space and consider a bike maintenance station as well.

Outdoor living experiences with fire places, water features, and beautiful plantings are quickly becoming the number one amenity in apartment living. According to a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the more exposed you are to nature, the healthier you’re likely to be. Finding green space in close proximity to urban environments is not always realistic. Roof decks, terraces and courtyards provide this experience for the urban and suburban renter.

Pet-friendly: many of our clients have pondered the increase of pets, especially dogs, in their developments. In urban locations, the percentage of pet owners can be 40 percent. Pet friendly multi-family communities are now the norm. Features such as pet wash or spa rooms as well as dog runs and play areas are a highly marketable, especially if they are themed and memorable.

Business centers and cyber lounges: technology integration in common spaces is a must. It is important to provide plug and play areas. Is a separate business center important? If the building has the space, a quiet room dedicated to work and study is a plus. Conference rooms (with video conferencing and teaming technology) are highly used and sought out, especially if located near universities and government facilities.

Clubrooms with multiple gathering spaces, gaming, as well as intimate areas are expected by residents. To help blur the indoor/outdoor experience, we recommend placing them next to a terrace, courtyard, or pool area. If budget allows, a garage door or a Nana type wall is a wonderful way to bring the outdoors in. Whenever possible, a separate pub or game room will fill out the amenity package. The younger resident will desire more active games such as billiards, foosball, and shuffleboard, while empty nesters will be drawn to more sedate games. If the resident mix spans generations, consider a room with active and quiet pods.

The expectations of the “renter by choice” have created an interesting challenge for developers, owners, and design professionals, all of whom must continually strive to out-do the competition. Regardless of age, today’s renter is looking for more than just an apartment; they want lifestyle, which translates to sustainable buildings, amazing designs, a multitude of amenities, easy access to public transportation, vibrant communities and exceptional service.

• Renters are looking for a lifestyle, not just an apartment

• Outdoor living area is the most sought out amenity

Phyllis Hartman, ASID, LEED AP is the founder and president of Hartman Design Group, an award-winning interior design firm specializing in the multifamily industry. She may be reached at

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