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Reflections & Predictions: COVID-19’s impact on the build-to-rent industry

In early 2020, most of the world withdrew into their homes in an effort to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. As residents were forced into lockdown via mandatory decree or by a voluntary quarantine, everyday life became more restrictive with people working from home and day-to-day activities, such as purchasing necessities and shopping, were moved online.

Over the past year, consumers have quickly become accustomed to online ordering, effectively increasing parcel deliveries to peak-season numbers at build-to-rent properties. Below we look at how the pandemic affected BTR residences, our predictions for this industry, and the role parcel lockers will play in delivering differently at multifamily properties.

Delivery gone wild

Over the course of 2020, online buying spiked as people began to buy not only essential items, but entertainment, clothing, workout equipment, and more. Package volumes reached unprecedented levels with Canada Post delivering more than 1.8 million parcels on a single day in April, a number similar to the biggest delivery days of the Christmas season. In this US, the Washington Post reported that packages typically accounted for 5% of postal volumes. During 2020, they said that volume surged to 70%.

Multifamily dwellings saw similar increases in package delivery, with year-over-year increases of more than 60%. Even before COVID, managing package delivery was difficult. In a published report on this issue, John Falco, principal at Kingsley Associates, in conjunction with the National Multifamily Housing Council, reported that “In higher-density, urban areas, space is often at a premium, so package storage solutions are important.” The pandemic exasperated this already challenging situation. For example, the Navana Property Group in the UK saw a 133% increase in deliveries [across] one London site last year.

Juggling social distancing guidelines and resident satisfaction

Social distancing remains a cardinal rule of the pandemic, which means multifamily communities have had to rethink the way they manage their buildings. Eliminating as much face-to-face contact as possible was key and led to leasing offices closing or operating with limited hours. This created a delivery fiasco as packages sometimes sat unattended and were stolen, or they were kept behind locked doors, making them inaccessible. In some situations, packages were delivered to individual’s doors. However, as Colleen Lambros, CMO, Parcel Pending by Quadient points out “Packages left at the doors of residents creates an unnecessary theft risk, and as package volume increases, so do reports of package theft. Theft of personal property is one of the most significant contributors to resident dissatisfaction.”

Innovations that are here to stay 

In looking at the long-term picture, many managers have changed how they interact with residents and prospective residents. RET Ventures partner, John Helms told Forbes, “A prospective resident should never even have to go into a leasing office, but rather should be able to register to view remotely, self-tour, and transact their lease online.” Checkpoint ID CEO Terry Slattery said, “Prior to COVID, 3% of our traffic was being verified remotely with our product set. That increased to more than 40% during the height of the pandemic.

Sheri Druckman, VP of SRG Residential, said they have had to accommodate a wave of new resident demands. “Renters have placed a priority on high-speed internet, home office space, private outdoor spaces, valet trash and recycling services, touchless systems, soundproof walls, in-unit laundry, delivery, and food services, and package storage capacity.” In keeping with customer demands for contactless options, parcel lockers have become the go-to solution as they enable multifamily properties to offer touch-free services outside of parcel delivery.

Colleen Lambros predicts the value of parcel lockers will continue to expand beyond being a repository for package delivery. They provide a solution for distributing all kinds of things, giving users the ability to avoid unnecessary face-to-face contact. Lambros says, “You’re already seeing maintenance requests fulfilled through parcel lockers. For instance, a resident needs a light bulb, it’s put inside a locker to be picked up. Staff no longer need to deliver directly. Management can leave keys for touring, leasing documentation, almost anything in lockers. They become the place, and the way, to move items within an apartment community.” She goes on to say, “The services that management provides that actually enhance the experience are the ones that will stick.”

Lambros’s final prediction for 2021? “Lockers are going to become the central hub within apartment communities since they can accommodate delivery of so much more than packages.”

Why choose a Parcel Pending by Quadient parcel locker?

Parcel lockers offer a cost-effective solution for building management, and a convenient, automated process for residents.

Carriers scan a package and select a door size, a locker door opens automatically, the package goes into the locker and the door locks securely when it is closed. A notice is then sent via email, text message, or mobile app to the resident to inform them their package has been delivered.

The recipient goes to the locker at their convenience. There they enter their one-time PIN or scan the unique barcode, which was sent to them via email, SMS, or mobile app notification, and the door pops open. Residents can also use the mobile app with barcode or Bluetooth to open the lockers without using the kiosk touchscreen. Once the resident has retrieved their package, the locker space is now available for a new delivery.

Everyone in the delivery process saves time, and the property receives a significant return on investment (ROI) in the form of staff time gained back – as much as 24 hours previously spent each week on package management.

Looking towards a brighter future

Build-to-rent communities need parcel lockers to minimise contact for their residents. And, as we’ve seen, they can serve as more than a place for packages to be delivered. Parcel lockers are not just an amenity for the times; they’re a solution for the future.

For more information on what a Quadient Parcel Locker can do for your property, contact us today.

Download a complimentary copy of our white paper “Year in Review: COVID-19’s Impact on the Future of the Multifamily Industry”