Apartment buildings in Washington are renting up so quickly that
developers are building new apartments and renovating old ones as fast as they can.
Not all of these new and newly renovated apartments will be successful however (there are already early signs a local apartment bubble), and some lessons are beginning to emerge about what apartment renters today are looking for and what they can do without.
What’s hot and what’s not?
Consider the advice that Kevin Sheehan, a managing director for real estate at Greystar, the country’s largest manager of apartments, offers to real estate developers when they ask how best to develop or redevelop apartment buildings.
As Sheehan put it, “These are the things that work almost everywhere.”
1. Build the biggest and best gym possible
Real estate developers have long considered gyms one of the few uses that can be stuffed into basement levels, but Sheehan said building a nice big gym, ideally with some windows, is always worth the money. A small gym might push renters to exercise elsewhere, creating an extra trip they don’t want to make.
2. Have a cyber café
Sheehan argues that pseudo-coffee shops within apartment buildings, sort of akin to hotel lounges, can transform an apartment building into a community. Even if the people mingling there don’t actually speak to one another.
“They want an area — we call it a cyber lounge or resident lounge area — with soft, comfortable chairs, WiFi, coffee and beverage services,” he said. “They want a place where they can sit and not necessarily meet people, but be around people.”
3. If the appliances aren’t stainless steel, make them look that way.
As a result of the housing bust, there are a number of buildings in Washington featuring very nice apartments that were built to be condos, and the fine appliances and finishes in those units have raised the bar for everyone else. “Certainly in the Washington, D.C. area, condo-finish apartments are very common and that’s what people have grown to expect,” Sheehan said.
Appliances don’t have to be stainless, he added, but having a “stainless look” sure helps. “Sleek, sophisticated ultra modern interiors are getting better rents,” he said.
4. Don’t bother with a movie room
You know how everyone seems to have purchased big flat screen televisions in recent years? Well, that’s made the movie rooms with stadium seating that many apartment owners used to tout obsolete.
“It’s a complete waste of money now because people already have a big screen in their house,” Sheehan said.