Thanks to COVID 19, unemployment is rising, and millions of tenants nationwide may need to rethink their living arrangements. As a private real estate manager, we have thousands of multifamily residents living in our buildings, many of which who are currently quarantined at home. It’s essential to our investors and our business that we create an environment where people are happy to live in order to maintain and grow a sense of community. Today, we are tasked with even more responsibility: helping our residents stay as positive and calm as they can be in their living spaces during this time.
At Origin, we hire onsite property managers at our multifamily buildings to recession-proof our multifamily rentals with exceptional customer service to target and attract tenants. During business-as-usual times, these property managers provide local knowledge and expertise, and we hold them to high standards on everything from the quality of their tours and the speed of their follow-up to prospective tenants, to their ability to make residents feel at home and engaged with community activities and gatherings.
Right now, social interaction is more important than ever, yet it is also extremely more difficult to execute. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, we worked with our property managers not only to keep residents safe, but also to put them at ease with more frequent communications that kept them apprised of necessary measures to ensure their safety, and to bring our communities together during this time. Below are seven tactics we’ve been using—a list that continues to grow as our team comes up with creative new ideas:
- 1. Helping Heroes Among Us. Healthcare workers, emergency medical technicians and first responders live at many of our properties. When we find that a resident works at a hospital, for example, onsite property managers will take their whole department to lunch by delivering meals and homemade thank you cards during their shift. We sent relaxation gift baskets to our essential workers, including face masks, candles, scented bath salts and bottled beverages. We delivered materials to residents to make home-sewn face masks and then distributed their work to the first responders. We also welcome them home with banners reading “Heroes Live Here” and tenants decorate hearts to fill common areas as extra encouragement.
- 2. Celebrating Essential Workers. We don’t just honor our first responders individually; we also bring our rental communities together to celebrate them publicly. Onsite property managers replaced weekly community room mixers with virtual happy hours: From 5 to 7 p.m., tenants were encouraged to come out onto their patios to toast first responders; neighbors not only cheer each other but also create messages that we pass along to essential workers.
- 3. Giving Tenants on Demand Entertainment. When COVID-19 lockdowns began, at many Origin properties we bought new tenants an Amazon Prime membership for a month, giving them free delivery as they worked from home and a wider choice of entertainment options when they unwound afterward. This let us give them as many options as possible to buy, watch or listen to and learn new things during their confinement.
- 4. Creating Virtual Amenities. With common spaces closed under shelter-in-place orders, our onsite property managers took steps to replace the value of these missing amenities. Group exercise classes moved from fitness centers to Zoom meetings. Health and wellness center managers continued onsite coaching online, with guided workouts or yoga routines that required no special equipment. Or they set up fitness communities on Fitbit, Nike Training Club or other personal fitness apps, allowing tenants to motivate each other to reach exercise benchmarks. As fitness centers reopen, we will communicate sanitary and social distancing procedures to put residents at ease about returning to the facilities.
- 5. Serving Food Specials. When restaurants were limited to takeout orders, managers promoted free restaurant deliveries to our buildings’ lobbies or tenants’ doors, keeping them connected to the neighborhood dining scene even as entertainment venues shut down. Restaurant Bingo with gift cards as prizes encouraged them to patronize local restaurant options. These efforts remind residents that the local food scene is one reason why they chose to live there, and that the onsite property managers care about them too.
- 6. Connecting via Social Media. Origin properties have long used Facebook and Instagram to communicate neighborhood events and share the multifamily rental lifestyle. Residents would form their own running groups, dog-walking meetups and book clubs on Facebook, and we were happy to support them with T-shirts, towels, dog treats and refreshments. Encouraging community engagement through social media, online clubs or support groups became even more vital during the COVID-19 lockdown. We’ve been posting more frequently to share tips and updates, and the communities were especially useful when residents needed help getting groceries and other essential items.
- 7. Getting the Party Started. With community rooms closed and in-person events canceled, our properties held online trivia nights. Team trivia games grouped tenants by floor, combining multiplayer games with Zoom meetings to compete for prizes and bragging rights. One simple idea to get people moving was to create special music playlists of music to work by, exercise to and relax. We also welcome in the weekend with a Mixologist-lead cocktail making class, including signature cocktails for the community. We provide the ingredients and residents tune into a live video to watch, learn and enjoy.
Many of our resident service ideas started long before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 crisis gave them new urgency. Real estate asset managers are not just collecting rent but trying to create an environment where residents truly enjoy living. Strategic property management activities reinforce the message that we are there for our residents during this time, which will count when lease renewal time arrives.