In this article with guest author Logan Nagel, Content Specialist at Spaceflow, we discuss three benefits coliving owners can derive from strategically using a tenant experience platform. These are: easy access and use of space, increased community engagement, and staying ahead of the game.
Plus, we share bonus tips for how to best leverage such a tech platform as a coliving operator or developer. In addition, we introduce you to Spaceflow, a tenant experience platform serving coliving and BTR operators. Spaceflow has been featured in the Coliving Apps, Software & Tech Guide, and here Logan shares some of their best insights.
So let’s dive in!
Coliving is a Growing and Resilient Trend
The residential rental world has been on fire for a long time. In a decade where traditionally successful property types like retail and office find themselves facing massive demand shocks, people still need a place to live, and with many areas experiencing significant price appreciation, people everywhere are looking for more cost-effective ways to access high-quality rental accommodations.
This is the backdrop to modern coliving. Sure, COVID-era concerns about living with roommates during a pandemic caused disruption, culminating in the partial collapse of leading coliving brands such as The Collective and Quarters. But coliving continues undaunted, a major force in multifamily, with hundreds of beds being developed across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. As testament to this velocity, just last month Australian private equity firm TeamInvest Private Group set up a $50 million fund specifically dedicated to investments in coliving operators and service providers.
According to Susan Tjarksen, managing director with Cushman & Wakefield, “coliving, like class A studios, have done very well during the pandemic. There were some rent discounts and concessions, since denser living was difficult during the pandemic. But coliving didn’t go away. Flexible apartments with flexible lease terms and furniture included, allowing you to move without needing to hire movers, stayed popular. And now there has been a resurgence post-COVID.”
The Strengths of Coliving
The continued strength of the niche through COVID-related disruptions points to a few fundamental strengths coliving has in its corner. When properly implemented and with stakeholders aligned, coliving provides an opportunity to formalise the very common occurrence of roommates banding together to get access to better housing, at a cheaper price point. This keeps rents down for each individual renter, who signs a lease by the bed, while keeping rent per square foot high for the landlord.
The other big benefit of coliving comes by way of community. We discussed in a recent blog article the challenge of loneliness faced by many in the hybrid post-COVID world. By making it easy to share common areas and giving access to a group of potentially like-minded peers, coliving represents an alternative to that loneliness. For young people who want to keep costs down and may be coming out of the buzz and energy of university housing, as well as for Baby Boomers looking to downsize, coliving’s community emphasis presents an attractive option to consider.
The Benefits of Using a Tenant Experience Platform
There are three areas where coliving owners and prospective coliving owners alike can derive significant impacts from strategically leveraging the right tech tools, such as a tenant experience platform. These are easy access and use of space, increased community engagement, and asserting a competitive advantage against other types of housing.
1- Easy access and use of space
First, it is important to consider that coliving properties must have a way to get people with different levels of access privileges into and out of their various rooms and facilities without stress. This is especially the case for shared living operations that offer a range of amenity spaces, like co-working facilities and upscale gym areas.
According to Mark Bryan, director of innovation and research for M+A Architects, access control tools or sensors that tell people whether the gym or lounge room is buzzing with activity can be a great way to help individual coliving renters feel like they are part of an active community, instead of always showing up during off hours when no one else is around.
A tenant experience platform can offer tools for making access easy. These include touchless access systems, guest management technology, and space reservation systems. By combining such tools, coliving managers can make their spaces completely controllable from anywhere, allowing access to residents and verified guests and tracking the use of amenities at all times of the day. For managers and owners, this makes it easier to scale a portfolio, rapidly address risks or maintenance issues that could quickly spiral out of control, and lease units quickly and effectively.
2 - Community engagement
Using a tenant experience platform can also boost community engagement among coliving residents. According to research from Invesco:
Choosing to live in a coliving space implies some amount of self-selection for openness to socialising, and owners should provide tools that make that easier to act on. Mark Bryan added that “Technology is important in coliving in a way that allows people to see what others are doing and form organic bonds.” Seeing that your neighbours are planning a party, or setting up a community garden effort, or volunteering on the weekend has a massive impact toward creating a vibrant community that both attracts and keeps people at the property for the long term.
High-quality tenant experience apps allow space managers and users alike to plan events, invite their building-mates, and communicate about property updates. In fact, providing a friendly-feeling resident platform that is separate from the cold-feeling property management platform many buildings use to collect rent can greatly improve resident experience, giving managers a chance to spread the news about parties, volunteer events, and other activities integral to the coliving experience.
A tenant experience tech platform can also help consolidate communications into one place. This is especially important for larger properties. It’s one thing to coordinate with the three other people living in your suite via post-it notes, but connecting and planning activities with dozens of other suites in the same building is a different story entirely. Each suite may have its own private group text, but that only goes so far.
3- Stay ahead of the game
Leveraging a well-designed tenant experience platform can also help coliving operators stay ahead of the game. While coliving properties offer rental discounts when compared to multifamily housing, renters will nonetheless still cross-shop coliving with small apartments such as micro-units, studios, or one bedroom units.
Susan Tjarksen, of Cushman & Wakefield, explained that many of the companies that built the first wave of coliving properties had a very tech-first mentality when it came to developing their communities, and because they attracted venture capital money they were fairly well advanced with their tech integrations. Technology was not only used for turning the lights on, but was also employed for things such as touchless entry, one-touch rent payment, virtual tours, and more. But, according to Tjarksen, the use of tech has become more widespread: “COVID-19 forced more traditional operators to start using these tech features that coliving operators were using.”
While coliving has lost some of this competitive advantage, Susan added that there is a good side to this increased tech adoption. Coliving providers used to face investors who might not understand how a renter would sign a lease sight unseen, but with more tech being used by more operators, that is changing. More investors and renters are getting used to the prevalence of tech at every step of the multifamily renter user journey. coliving operators should consider whether they can deploy cutting edge tech platforms to unify all of their building systems and amenity offerings, and stay ahead of the curve.
If coliving owners do choose to invest in a tenant experience platform, there is a leasing benefit to be realised as well. Operators can simply share limited access to the app with prospective renters. This lets these potential new residents to have an inside look into the community’s DNA and events, potentially converting prospects that are on the fence about signing a lease.
Advice for Choosing Your Tenant Experience Platform
Below we share a few bonus tips for how to best leverage a tech platform as a coliving operator or developer.
1- Make Sure It is User Friendly
Like an overcomplicated car infotainment system, no one will really adopt a platform that is too challenging to actually use. Susan Tjarksen emphasised that “it’s hyper-important for platforms to be user friendly for the younger generation.”. “Not that they aren’t tech savvy, but they’re very particular about things that are too complicated or too gimmicky. Think about Instagram, which works well because you look at it and instantly know how to use it.”
2- Make Sure it Includes Options for Community Learning and Partnerships
communities. Mark Bryan suggests listening to community needs instead of dictating what amenities and services you think renters need. “How can we engage with our communities so they can tell us what the amenities should be,” he asked, “instead of the ‘flashbang’ top down amenity planning approach? People want a cool factor from coliving but maybe they want other things, too, like mental wellness retreats. I think you’re starting to see more curated amenities around an idea instead of blanket ones.”
A tenant experience platform can enable this through features that allow you to poll your residents, and collect and analyse survey data. Plus, the best platforms will allow you to engage in healthy conversations with your renters at multiple scales: In public on a social wall, in a small group setting, and one-on-one. Once you have this data, you’ll be able to make wiser amenity decisions, maximise the impact of each of your community investments, and save money.
coliving owners can also enhance their projects through community partnerships. As Mark Bryan points out, “maybe you can build a partnership with a community gym, so you don’t need to put one onsite”. Beyond that, think about opportunities to connect your residents with local community events and organisations. Maybe it’s a street fair, a volunteering opportunity, or a local business group with discounts and deals to offer. Community matters, both within your building and your local neighbourhood.
3- Make Sure it Integrates Sustainability Features
Many prospective coliving renters are highly invested in living sustainable lives. According to recent research from predictive analytics company First Insight, 62 percent of Gen Z and Millennial survey respondents would prefer to buy from brands that are environmentally sustainable. In addition, globally, a range of regulations are being passed to reduce energy consumption in buildings by 2030. For instance, according to EU Commission’s Energy Performance Buildings Directive, by 2025, the majority of buildings will be required to monitor energy use and energy efficiency.
Tenant experience platforms can help coliving operators appeal to eco-conscious tenants and stay ahead of the regulatory curve by making it easier to track and visualise things like energy consumption and emissions. In addition, there is also an opportunity for communities to implement sustainability incentive programs that give rewards for hitting certain sustainability milestones. This could be simply cutting energy use or lowering the AC a couple degrees in the summer, but your tenant experience platform could also serve as the communication centre for a new composting project, recycling drive, or zero waste training session.
4- Identify Your Needs from Day One
Finally, before you start to pick a solution, take some time to inventory what you want your community to look like from day one. This will help you identify the perfect tenant experience platform for your unique situation. Here are some sample questions to get started with:
- What should your community highlight? Do you want a theme or a particular vibe to permeate your renters’ experience from day one? How can the platform help you showcase those values or vibes?
- How top-down or user-driven will amenitization and design decisions be? Does the platform offer feedback collection tools?
- How much support does the platform give your staff, to help them get onboarded effectively?
- Do you want to make your coliving property friendly to guests and visitors? Does the platform offer touchless access and visitor management tools?
- Are you going to take steps to help your community plan and execute their own organic events and activities, around their own passions and focus areas? What sort of community event planning tools does the platform have?
Introducing Spaceflow - Tenant Experience Platform
Spaceflow is an all-in-one solution for tenant experience. It offers features for visitor management, space bookings, communication, incident reporting, and more. We invite you to explore Spaceflow and find out more about:
- Its features
- The technology behind it
- Its ESG and sustainability focus
- Case studies and testimonials
Keep learning about technology & community
We hope you have found this exploration of tenant experience platforms and their benefits. As explored in the Coliving Apps, Software & Tech Guide, technology is an essential backbone for successful operations and of course, a thriving community.
You can read about other ways to foster community by exploring the following:
- The Community Facilitation Handbook: a practical guide that discusses the importance of a thriving community for coliving businesses. The Handbook also offers tips on how to facilitate authentic community experiences.
- How to Foster Thriving Community: a keynote summary on how a thriving community is beneficial for both the members and the business side of shared living.
This article has been coauthored for you by:
Logan is Spaceflow’s Content Specialist. He is a widely-cited PropTech expert with a background in multifamily investment and brokerage, and he has written real estate stories on both sides of the Atlantic. When he isn’t talking about buildings or ESG, you can find him headbanging to loud music, riding horses, or hiking in the desert.
Transformational Coach and facilitator. Trainer in mindfulness, sharing circles, and how to live and lead more consciously. Co-author of the Community Facilitation Handbook and the Coliving Apps & Tech Guide. Facilitates community engagement strategies.