Why did you choose your high-rise? Location? Convenience? How about amenities? In the last several years, amenities have become a driving force in buyers’ decisions when they purchase a condo.

Amazon just announced that their new HQ2 project is going be divided between Long Island City, New York, and Arlington County, Virginia. Even before the announcement was made formally, property values in both areas were responding. Amazon’s HQ2 will bring thousands of employees to the area and those employees are going to be largely high-earning millennials. Expect other companies to follow in Amazon’s wake, bringing more buyers to the area.

“We are already receiving calls from investors around the world looking to purchase units they can rent,” explains Ken Martin, business development manager, FirstService Residential. “I expect the market to only get busier. It may be a year or more before HQ2 is open, but Amazon employees who will be moving are going to start shopping long before that.”

So how can your high-rise compete in this brave new world? It may be easier than you think to update your amenities without busting your budget or embarking on a lengthy capital improvement project. Read on for some ideas that you can implement in no time, with little investment. Your current residents will benefit (and love you for it!) while you become more attractive to new buyers at the same time.

Look at Your Existing Amenities First  

Does your high-rise have a fitness room? A pool? Of course it does. Some buildings are updating these spaces with smart tech or creating designated spaces for Pilate, yoga and tai chi. If you have a locker room, take a look at it. Can it be made more luxurious with some simple interior d├ęcor updates, maybe a higher-end countertop, better lighting or upgraded showerheads?

If you have a spa, look at incorporating trendy features like aromatherapy options.
Pools and fitness centers can be found in almost every high-rise building these days. How they are interpreted can vary from building to building, however. New buildings are making these spaces larger and more high-tech, while older buildings are expanding these fitness centers to include designated space for activities like Pilates and yoga.  

Updating your fitness center does not have to break the bank. Convert unused space into a studio for Pilates and yoga by removing furniture from the room, painting the space in a soothing color and installing proper lighting. Contract with a local massage therapist to provide onsite services a few times a week and use the same space for that! Instantly, you have in-demand amenities without a big investment. Add dispensers of plain and infused water to add a welcoming touch without spending a lot. (It’s also more environmentally conscious than giving out bottled water!)
Another easy upgrade to consider is adding a juice bar to your pool deck. This can be as simple as adding a counter-style table that is staffed a few hours a day or it can be more elaborate and include a built-in bar. You can also start a towel service, complete with monogrammed towels and stock a glass-fronted fridge with cool hand towels, snacks and beverages for residents to enjoy while at the pool. Both are easy to implement and easier on the budget than a lot of options.

Understand What Your Residents and Buyers Want

“Determining what high-rise amenities will attract and retain residents starts with understanding your residents and buyers,” says Trent Harrison, president, FirstService Residential.  “If you don’t know what that is, survey your residents. Talk to local realtors – no one knows better than realtors what buyers are looking for. Then start planning.”

If your building attracts a lot of dog lovers, you may want to think about adding a pet spa. This can be as simple as adding a washing station to clean off puppy paws after a walk. If you want to go the extra mile, add a full grooming salon and offer dog-walking services for a fee. Again, you can bring in an outside contractor who will happily pay for the privilege of accessing a new market, offsetting your expenses over time.

Many millennials have made it clear that they don’t want to leave the convenience of a high-rise just because they have a family. Cater to that! Convert an unused room into a playroom for children, complete with comfy couches, toys and gaming systems. If you have a lot of sports enthusiasts in the building, turn your parking garage roof into a sports area that offers basketball, soccer or volleyball.

Bring in the Experts 

Another great way to offer exceptional service without spending a lot of money is to make life easier through vendor relationships. You can easily convert unused space into a valet station for packages. Simply lease the space to a vendor and that business will serve as package valet for residents, delivering packages to resident units or holding them for pickup. 
Some buildings are able to take it even further by offering retail stores on the lower floor(s). From grocery stores to dry cleaners, and restaurants to bank branches, residents can enjoy the convenience of picking up their dinner and dry cleaning on the way up to their unit.

Offer Concierge-Level Service 

Always remember that good service, especially the attentiveness of your high-rise staff, can be your best amenity. A professional property management company will be able to assist your association with the hiring and training process to ensure that your high-rise has the best staff suited to meet the needs of your residents. 
Your front desk staff should have a wealth of knowledge on the surrounding area and use this to assist residents – from recommending a nice restaurant to making reservations and securing personal trainers to meet their fitness needs. A well-informed staff that knows the surrounding area will be a true asset to your building because they help residents make the most of their neighborhood. This is especially important for buyers who are relocating to the area! A recommendation for a great local lunch spot after a tour of the building is the kind of thing prospective buyers remember.

Before embarking on these projects, discuss any changes to the property that may be material alterations or additions with your association attorney. Make sure you are in line with any requirements or limits under the association documents or governing law. Involve the attorney in any discussion regarding expenditures on amenities or services to be sure that such expenditures do not run afoul of any provisions of the documents or applicable law. Finally, be sure to get input from your insurance agent on any changes in use that may impact the association’s coverage.

“It’s absolutely critical to make sure your insurance agent or broker is informed of any changes that may need new coverage or change the value of the policy you need,” says Drew Ahrensdorf, vice president, FirstService Financial, the financial services affiliate of FirstService Residential. “For most the projects described here, odds are your coverage limits are fine. But never assume!”
The tastes and interests of high-rise residents seem to be constantly evolving and your high-rise needs to adapt to them. Adding the next generation of amenities to your high-rise does not need to be an overwhelming task and it doesn’t have to mean big bucks for your building. Simply stay on top of these trends and update your amenities from time to time, and you are sure to keep your residents happy while attracting new buyers – a win-win.
Monday November 19, 2018