Whether getting out of a big city to find a home with outdoor amenities or more square footage, or moving toward a city to take advantage of pandemic rent price drops, many renters made major changes to their living situations during COVID. But that means a lot of people moved during the pandemic with little opportunity to meet or connect with their neighbors, let alone get to know them.
As a property manager, knowing how to build a community in your multifamily dwelling can keep people in your building longer, reduce vacations and increase your net operating income. One rent.com survey found that renters would pay $225 a month on top of their current rent rates if they could choose their neighbors. The next best thing to actually choosing the people in your community is to build friendships with those already there.
Now that people are beginning to gather in public spaces again, landlords and property managers can help those in their buildings learn to “love thy neighbors.”
Plan Community Events
Pre-pandemic, it wasn’t unusual to see multifamily dwellings host holiday-centered community events. From a holiday party in your recreation center to trunk-or-treating for the kids or a movie night under the stars for the whole family, events were one of the side benefits to living within a rental community.
You can now bring these events back safely, with mask recommendations for participants and social distancing measures in place.
Consider using an app or a community Facebook page to promote the event. Some property management software also has capabilities to send your tenants messages or create group chats for event planning or invites.
Track Attendance and Ensure Security at Your Events With Smart Technology
If your event is held in an outside courtyard or gated area, you can use smart keys to limit access to tenants by providing them with a specific code for entry. That will make it easier to keep your event safe and secure for families in your building.
Smart key technology with pin code or digital key access can also help you track who attended so you can evaluate how well your event did, determine if it appealed to specific demographics, and even gauge what time people arrived. With this information, you can make changes to improve your event for next time.
Create Community Groups Focused on Giving Back
In 2020, millennials made up 31% of renters, the most of any demographic. And millennials’ commitment to causes they believe in is one of the differentiators of their generation. A survey by Fidelity Charity discovered that two-thirds of millennials made purchases from socially responsible businesses, while 87% believe it’s important to work for an organization that engages in socially responsible actions, according to EveryAction.com.
You can leverage the millennial desire to give back by organizing community events around service. Host an event and make the price of entry a donation to a local food bank. Gather a group of volunteers and work on cleaning up a local beach or park or make an effort to beautify Main Street by planting flowers. You might also consider a day-long walk-a-thon for cancer or another cause. If you aren’t sure what events will resonate, ask your tenants what they’d like to do and what is important to them.
Focus on Building a Digital Community
Promote these events through your property management platform, Facebook community, text, email and even traditional flyers posted in common areas. But don’t stop there. Create a chat community that encourages tenants to share ideas with each other and forge deeper connections. That way, when they all get together in person, they will feel like they already know each other.
Hold Town Hall Meetings To Keep Tenants Up to Date
Just as towns and cities hold meetings to keep residents up to date on changes and developments within the community, you should do the same in your multifamily apartment building. But also use the time as an opportunity to let guests mingle and get to know each other. Keep the presentation short and focused on improvements to the community and events tenants should know about. You might share information about amenities that are now open, if they were previously closed due to COVID.
Leave time after your talk for residents to ask questions, voice complaints or recommend improvements. Then, move outdoors to serve refreshments, so people can mingle in a safe environment.
Help Tenants Feel As if They Can Rely on Each Other
Some people are naturally outgoing community leaders. As you get to know the residents in your multifamily dwelling, designate some as ambassadors. These people can take on tasks such as introducing new residents to their neighbors, connecting casually with others in the community and just generally offering a helping hand when needed. You may give these ambassadors a small rent discount or another perk, such as a gift card to a local restaurant.
Your resident ambassadors will likely be the ones other tenants come to if they are going on vacation and need their pets fed, plants watered or mail collected. Smart locks make it easy for tenants to give special access codes to people they trust and even revoke access remotely from their smartphone at any time. These small conveniences within a building, provided by smart home systems, can help tenants feel safer and more secure — which can play a key role in fostering a community atmosphere.
Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content strategist specializing in commercial real estate and smart home technology. Her vast list of writing credits includes Crestron, the Home Technology Association and LoopNET.
Rent.com – The Cost of Having Good Neighbors
EveryAction.com- NonProfit Times: Millennial Giving Prioritizes Lived Values