Part one of my community design trends blog covered changing consumer preferences and strategies for 2021 and beyond in for-sale communities. Many of those same forward-thinking design considerations also apply to rental communities. In particular, single family built for rent communities have grown in popularity in the last few years, and interest seems to have spiked even more since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Young families, empty nesters and many in between are loving the lock-and-leave and low-maintenance lifestyle that for-rent single family homes offer.
A Happy Medium Density
Designing for-rent communities is a great way to reach a growing segment of the market that fills the gap between higher and lower density development. Mixing densities within one community, especially a smaller “surban” ™ (a term coined by John Burns meaning the urban-suburban blend) infill site in the 15-25 acre range, is a great way to reach a larger market. Higher-density areas within the development will generate typical, stable rental revenues that can offset the perceived risk of introducing lower-density, outside the box product solutions elsewhere in the neighborhood. By varying unit and product types, the community creates maximum marketability to captivate a wide range of possible renters. This might potentially include one-story small cottages or patio homes to appeal to seniors and young families alike, who are both seeking affordability and urban connectivity in a perfect blend.
Ideal rental communities offer a suburban feel infused with urban benefits. Location is critical to these renters, especially when it gives them an opportunity to live in areas where they cannot afford to purchase a home. These renters expect walkability above all else, with reduced distances to amenity spaces, parks, and even direct connection to restaurants and other entertainment options outside of their development.
From the Outside
For-rent communities should be visibly pleasing to passersby, with focal signage and amenity features that set the stage for the entire community. Amenities should be visible from the main entrance, centrally located, and multi-functional to foster more engagement among residents. A walking trail along the edge of the community can provide a biking/walking/dog space, and a centralized but smaller clubhouse/combination leasing center will connect these amenities through walking trails leading to other elements of the development.
Built for rent single family homes still need curb appeal (like these small but highly authentic for sale homes, above), but most renters are less concerned about architectural style and detail than they are about a great dog park and competitive rental rates. Instead of excess trim and finish, express detail through subtle design cues, like recesses, projections and rooflines, units should still feel like thoughtfully designed homes. But simplified exteriors will greatly benefit your long-term maintenance costs. Each unit should complement the next, and as a whole, every building in a built for rent community should help generate a cohesive, lifestyle-focused, established neighborhood feel.
Varied Renter Type = Varied Amenities
Because built for rent communities can include multiple product types from duplexes to townhomes and small cottages, they will attract a variety of renters and varied renter age groups. Amenities should be varied as well, and amenity areas that are multi-modal will appeal to young singles, to Gen-X families and even senior move-down couples who want to “lock and leave” for travel and not worry about the typical home maintenance duties. Instead of super-specific amenities, think smaller amenities for small groups to enjoy in a more intimate setting that will enable the end user to determine how they want to use the space. For example, a small green area can serve as a play spot for children, exercise space for pets, or the perfect place to gather with friends and family.
Designs should also attempt to address the new era of co-working and co-living. More and more renters are unlocking the value of the sharing economy, so extending that opportunity to wifi-connected exterior amenities can really help your project stand out among the rest. Typical “play” amenities can come alongside work-focused spaces – sometimes even flexing from one function to the next.
Great community design should even consider the spaces that don’t usually come to mind for renters as they consider their “must have” list. This includes hugely beneficial amenities such as ease of loading/unloading during move-in, convenient mail kiosks or a great package delivery system that ensures every shipment can be easily and safely retrieved by the recipient.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn. View that version here.