This week, the city of Orlando swapped out its Mickey Mouse ears for blazers and name cards, as the 2018 NMHC Annual Meeting took on Florida to discuss the state of the apartment industry, and the outlook for the upcoming year.

While the conference’s topics ranged from hot & cold markets, to the overall stabilization of the apartment market as a whole, one topic dominated much of the chatter throughout Orlando: Change. A change in demographics. A change in technology. A change in design.

A change in approach.

Experts in the field made it clear that the players in the industry must buckle-in as these coming years will arrive fast, bringing with them unprecedented changes to the way properties are managed, built and lived-in. 

We examine a few key takeaways from the week that was:

1.) A divergence in demographics

In a study commissioned by NMHC and conducted by Beck Research, the 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey found that the U.S. rental market is undergoing a shift in its target market. What once was dominated by the under-34’s seeking one-bedroom apartments, is starting now to see a change in demand. Owning a 47% slice of the rental market in the 90’s, the former near-majority stakeholder is projected to dip under a 35% portion of the market by the end of the coming decade, according to Current Population Survey microdata from the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

With this in mind, developers & property managers will need to refocus traditional processes to cater to the needs of a wider, more diverse audience.

2.) Unrestrained accessibility and the importance of mobile apartment management

According to industry forecasts, 90% of the U.S. population will connect to the grid via smartphones by 2023, and with that, they expect companies - and their buildings - to meet them wherever, whenever, and however their evolving tastes are accustomed.

That means remaining nimble and digitally connected with residents will only grow in importance, according to Robert Lathan of the Cornell Real Estate Review. “If the current trends are any indication of the future, it’s clear that the service offerings of connectivity and flexibility through technology will continue to develop.”

3.) The rise of the lifestyle-focused apartment

The 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey affirmed the core benefits of rental apartments remain “convenience, flexibility and the ability to move. Rental apartments are a space that evolves with different stages of your life.”

This week, the National Multifamily Housing Council presented its 2018 report on the industry, aptly named 

DISRUPTION: HOW DEMOGRAPHICS, PSYCHOGRAPHICS AND TECHNOLOGY ARE BRINGING MULTIFAMILY TO THE BRINK OF A DESIGN REVOLUTION. Within the report, surveyors found that 92% of respondents agreed convenience was important to them. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds agreed that “My life is so hectic that I look for ways to make it easier for me.” 

Catering to the lifestyle-driven needs of residents is currently a must for any multifamily community - and there’s no change in sight.

4.) A retail revolution

Coming as no surprise, retail - and its brisk evolution from shopping-mall-focus to online-demand - was another hot topic at the conference. 

“As exponential technologies and disruptive movements reshape all things shopping, brick-and-mortar retail’s dizzying free fall presents both challenges and opportunities for apartments,” read this week’s DISRUPTION study.

With the fall of traditional retail, embracing innovative ways to bring retail to residents, such as streamlined package handling/notifications, online marketplaces and pop-up shops will prove successful for forward-thinking apartment communities.

5.) Digitally connected. Rooted in community.

The phasing out of antiquated property management techniques and the rise of digital management shouldn’t be confused with turning a blind eye towards building community between residents and staff. Quite the contrary, in fact. 

The 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey found that millennials are becoming more social and more attached to urban centers, leading to an affinity for things such as listening to live music, and placing added value on face-to-face communication.

Property designers and building managers should cater to these desires, instead of breeding an insular culture.  “You see this in many new mixed-use developments, where there are public greens for farmers markets, outdoor exercise, movie nights, or spaces for pop-up stores and community gatherings. Creating a sense of greater community may be a meaningful point of differentiation valued by many renters,” says Karen Hollinger, vice president of corporate initiatives at AvalonBay Communities.

Key Takeaway

In summation of this week’s findings, NMHC’s Vice President for Industry Technology Initiatives Rick Haughey explains it best:

“The multifamily industry needs to catch up with the revolutions that are already well underway in everything from transportation and retail to demographics and psychographics,”

“With a population that is aging and growing more diverse, which is impacting household composition, now is the time for our industry to adapt and build to meet the needs of the future.”

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