Property managers must also nurture communities where residents have a sense of belonging
The property management industry has suffered from tunnel vision with its sole focus on the management of infrastructure. And while excellence in maintenance of infrastructure is certainly a key success factor, we believe it needs to be complemented with the development and nurturing of “soft assets.” Today, that means delivering not just beautiful, well-maintained homes, but also nurturing communities where residents can live aspirational lifestyles and have a complete sense of belonging.
Developers invest millions in adopting the latest technologies, improving available amenities – pools, spas, share concierge services, etc., and then have to plough more into marketing them in a bid to stand out in a highly competitive market. Yet, all too often, they forget the emotional link to their tenants and residents – a key factor that could ensure that once they’ve rented or sold a home, they must hold on to their client for as long as possible. That’s where the community spirit comes into its own.
People want to feel they belong – even more so in the Gulf where the expatriate population means people are not just moving home – they are moving countries, cultures and often starting life again from a blank canvas. They want a place that makes them feel valued and at home while being abroad. And the answer is to create communities which address the holistic needs of the individuals we are targeting. Successful communities keep tenants and residents engaged and increase loyalty – a scarce commodity these days.
For too long, most tenants have only ever come into contact with their building’s management when something went wrong – the elevator didn’t work or there was a water leak, for instance. We believe that being in close contact with our tenants and residents through social events where they get to know us and each other means they enjoy their homes much more and form greater bonds with their local community. We have found that tenants love to be engaged and involved in our communications. We involve them, engage them, ask them what they like and try to meet their needs. When tenants have a say in the experiences they want, we build social capital, which gives life and energy to the property.
The creation and fostering of communities that bring projects to life can also be leveraged for corporate social responsibility initiatives. This can mean, for instance, organising events which are packed with fun for the kids – Halloween parties, Eid celebrations and the like. Events can be health or environment-focused and fun for adults, with the kids cheering them on. Yoga coaching sessions, sponsored jogging and swimathons could find their way into the mix. Management companies can also team up with leading nationwide initiatives, such as cancer screening services, making residents feel involved in the overall wellbeing of their country of residence. Through these get-togethers, property management staff get to know their tenants and residents very well and vice-versa and together build a solid bank of mutual trust.
And all this has a huge impact – you can feel the friendliness and the community spirit as soon as you enter one of our managed properties. These are places people enjoy living in, places they’ll be happy to stay in – and encourage others to move into.
Amenities make a big difference to the sense of community and help to make new places immediately feel like home. Developers need to take in the community factor and incorporate them right from the design phase, recognising that it will greatly impact their residents’ well-being and living experience and consequently reflect very positively on their brand. The more engagement and enjoyment that people get out of their living environment, the greater the community identity and sense of belonging.
Amenities such as gyms, community lounges, landscaped communal terraces or gardens and cinema screening rooms are great to get residents immersed into a shared lifestyle. In these spaces, residents get to know their neighbours and the community spirit development gains further momentum.
Going forward, our industry must realise that ‘Build it and they will come’ is no longer relevant – competitive market forces have seen to that. We must manage homes that are not just built for today, but which nurture and enhance the neighbourhoods they are in today and for tomorrow. We will achieve this by addressing the everyday needs of our customers, their neighbours and the broader community of which they are a part. We must create exceptional places for people to live, work and relax in, and build communities that will thrive today and for years to come.
This article was published as part of the fourth edition of Property Finder Qatar’s Trends Report