“Buildings need a better sense of community.” This is an issue we have heard over and over from residents and managers alike. In our multi-family and condo resident survey, for example, 80% of respondents said the current sense of community in their building was “average” or worse. Property managers at luxury buildings around the country have told us on a number of occasions that fostering a better community is one of their biggest challenges.
To date one of the biggest pieces of a strong residential community is the bulletin board. Resident-to-resident (R2R) communication leads to better connections and a better living environment. Selling a couch? Need a trusted dog-sitter? The board is the cornerstone of the community. Unfortunately, the board as we know it is becoming antiquated. Most people now walk right past it while tapping out a text on their way to the elevator.
The phone, however, doesn’t spell doom and gloom for the community board and R2R communication; rather it’s an opportunity to modernize it. Buildings should bring the board into the digital age and provide a way for residents to access it on their mobile phones. With a virtual community board residents can buy, sell, lend, borrow, recommend, and problem-solve amongst each other in real time without cluttering the lobby walls. The resident benefits and the manager doesn’t even have to lift a finger.
A recent example illustrates this point. Recently, we launched one student housing building on a Friday. Two days later, one particular resident was in search of a Philips head screwdriver and posted this to the virtual Community Board in her building’s customized smartphone app. Within just a few hours, multiple residents had sent replies offering to lend their screwdrivers to the resident in need.
After two weeks residents at this building had posted 36 messages to the virtual community board that generated 293 responses. In addition to the screwdriver, the residents has planned a party, pooled together to buy a vacuum cleaner, and sold extra tickets to a One Direction concert, among other things. In this property, R2R communication is alive, well, and meaningful.
For property managers the virtual board has provided unique insights into how they can better serve residents’ needs. For example, the manager now knows that his residents are in need of a vacuum cleaner; supplying one would be a nice new amenity.
Technology that puts residents first will create stronger communities. Many communities outside of the real estate world have embraced technology to enhance the “hyper local” experience. In doing so, consumers and businesses alike have reaped significant benefits. People want to be connected with what’s immediately around them.
Residential buildings, of course, are, quite literally, what’s immediately around people. Buildings aren’t just hyper local, they’re hyper-er local. Allowing residents to connect on their terms on the mobile devices they use encourages participation, which, in turn, leads to more problems being solved and a better overall resident experience.