While property owners, managers and residents grapple with the ongoing effects of the novel coronavirus, the pandemic is already leading to permanent changes in apartment living.

From technology and design to day-to-day operations, services and amenities, to how community staff interact with residents, there are several trends that have emerged that are probably here to stay.

Accelerating tech developments

Apartment operators are constantly innovating to create a more resident-focused experience that offers comfort and convenience. The coronavirus has accelerated this movement, prompting operators to deploy new technologies and innovative solutions in a matter of weeks, including online lease renewals, schedulers for fitness centers and pools, concierge services integrated into community apps, enhanced virtual and self-guided tour options and more.

As we move forward, we will probably see a continued trend toward contactless tech, including keyless entry options such as smartphone integration and voice recognition. With these updates, we may also see more apartment communities adopt smart-home innovations, such as Bluetooth shower heads, motion-detector lighting and remote-access thermostats. Enhanced community apps that integrate services such as takeout and grocery delivery options, already a growing trend pre-pandemic, will probably become even more common.

Upgrading the leasing process

If you’re searching for a new apartment, expect the process to look different. Virtual leasing and self-guided tours were not widely implemented pre-coronavirus, but the pandemic has pushed these touring tactics to the forefront and turned the leasing process into a no-contact experience.

Many property managers are taking this time to revamp their websites and update their community’s photos and videos while developing comprehensive virtual tour options, including prerecorded and live videos. These tours can go well beyond the standard slide show by showcasing the unit layout, giving you a sense for the overall community atmosphere and facilitating an interactive experience with the community staff.

More communities have also started offering self-guided tours as an alternative to the traditional tour experience.

Adapting amenities and design

As social distancing requirements continue, property owners are looking at how amenity spaces are designed to determine if there is a layout or concept that makes more sense. As with many businesses, owners are looking to the outdoors for solutions.

Outdoor living areas have always been popular with residents — a trend that continues to grow in the wake of the coronavirus. As more Americans take to the outdoors for walks, recreational activities and social gatherings, more individuals are factoring outdoor amenities into their apartment search. Dog parks, gardens, rooftop bars and lounges, tennis courts and more — not to mention access to nearby parks, walking trails and lakes — will become increasingly popular.

Personal outdoor spaces, such as balconies and terraces, also offer an outdoor experience by extending the size and versatility of your living space. In the long term, we may see more units designed with porch or patio areas (even in colder climates), as well as other features that offer natural light and air circulation, such as large windows and high ceilings.

If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it’s that we never know what’s coming. However, owners and property managers continue to remain flexible regarding the needs of residents, whether it’s by implementing new technology, creating new service options or rethinking the physical space.

Robert Pinnegar is president and chief executive of the National Apartment Association.

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