Article by David Lowe
I remember the day in 2014 when I moved into a luxury condo (360 Condominiums) in Austin, TX. I felt as if I was moving up in the world.
My startup was the underdog punching well above its weight, things were going well in the US following my move from the UK and this seemed like the right time to try something I had never experienced before.
During the condo tour a few weeks earlier, I was dazzled by the swimming pool, gym, games and movie room and promise of community.
The manager of the building said there were other Founders of companies that he could introduce me to and there were frequent socials to meet people. They even had their own online portal to connect residents.
As “Life’s Too Short”, “FOMO” and “YOLO” flashed before my mind, I signed on the line.
Within a few weeks of living there, the honeymoon period was over. As I stepped through the front doors of the building and into the hallway, people’s heads went down or looked the other way.
Walking into the elevator, there was always a stony silence. People suddenly had to look at their phones when you walked in. It was really creepy. I would say hello to residents and it was as if I was speaking in Arabic.
Here’s what was wrong with apartment living and my ideas on how it can be improved:
1. Screen Residents More Carefully
It is easy to chase the money and “put bodies in beds” but when you don’t screen who lives in your building, you are setting yourself up for failure.
If your applicants are socially awkward and don’t want to be around other people, they would probably be more comfortable in their own house as opposed to an environment where you need to be social.
Use technology to find out more about each resident before they sign a lease.
Match them with like minded people in the building before they move in.
Go out of your way to connect people in your building.
Don’t just do an awkward pizza night for the entire community and then disappear.
Organize socials for like minded people who have things in common.
An increased sense of engagement, a feeling of belonging and the likelihood that the resident wants to live in your complex for longer.
2. Don’t Sell “Community” If You Don’t Nurture One
One of the most overused words you see when viewing condos is “community”. It is marketing. It is a lie.
They are using the buzzword to make money from you. Beware of any apartment complex that uses this word and cannot prove they are going out of their way to nurture one.
Create a true community.
Study existing communities that are successful in the US, Europe and other countries.
Learn why they work.
Then do everything in your power to make it flourish.
Happy people = positive brand association = word of mouth marketing.
You spend less money on marketing and your people want to stay in your community for longer therefore you spend less on trying to recruit new tenants.
3. Don’t Sell The What. Sell The Why
Amenities are nice. But eventually you will get tired of going to the gym on your own, playing pool solo and feeling isolated in your apartment.
Talk to your prospective residents about why your community is different to the other tower blocks.
Why will they feel happier and more connected there?
Why are you doing what you are doing?
What is your mission and story?
People are more connected to your company and community.
4. Sharing Is Caring
When was the last time your apartment complex invited you to their events space to sample food cooked by a Michelin star chef?
When did your community give you a way to connect with like minded people in your building to organize a mezcal tasting session because of your shared love for Mexican culture?
When was their yoga session where you were paired with people in the session based on your interests?
The sharing economy has meant that people care less about material goods and instead favor experiences. In a few years, coliving will be the dominant form of living.
A feeling of connectedness, togetherness and happiness.
Replace the “I’ with “We” every so often and the world becomes a fun place to be.
5. Use Mobile Technology To Enhance Community
When I joined my luxury condo, I was given a login to a web portal to connect with fellow residents.
Imagine something from the early 90s that resembled Craigslist but was slow, cold and colorless. That’s what I had to use. And guess what? When you hate the user experience and interface, you walk. I hardly used the app which meant their technological umbilical cord had been cut.
The creation of a simple free app (expensive) or partnership with a company that offers this service (cheap) will allow your community members to be constantly connected to like minded people.
They are already embracing mobile apps and social media so why not use this platform to allow them to embrace your community?
If you have friends where you live, you are 95% more likely to stay there.