Those that fled congested cities during the COVID-19 lockdowns are beginning to find their way back to luxury multifamily buildings. GDP forecasts indicate apartment occupancy rates will return to 2019 levels by the end of the year. Now, however, many people’s criteria for apartment living looks different in a post-pandemic world.

Amenities that once drew prospective tenants, such as coworking spaces and gyms, are less likely to entice due to concerns around crowding and possible exposure.

Redefining Community
Renters were once seeking communities that provided just that — community. In the pre-pandemic “amenities arms race” among luxury apartments, the emphasis was on providing opportunity to connect with neighbors through yoga classes, coworking spaces and common areas that were lifestyle oriented.

Instead, renters in 2021 will place a higher value on apartments that offer spacious lobbies and common areas to allow for social distancing, as well as an increase in private workspaces and study rooms over community worktables.

One aspect that will carry over from pre-pandemic is the premium on outdoor space. Renters before the pandemic desired community gardens, rooftops and balconies — and after a year inside, that will likely be even more important.

Catering to the New Normal
Before the pandemic, a 2015 study showed prospective tenants were leaning toward walkable, transit-orientedprojects with their commute in mind. Office proximity will no longer be a deciding factor for the 41.8 percent of the U.S.  population that now works fully remote. Instead, having a spacious, light-filled home office will be a non-negotiable for many.

Remote work is not going away anytime soon. A recent survey from UpWork shows that through 2025, 22 percent of the workforce will be remote (an 87 percent increase in remote workers from pre-pandemic numbers).

Introducing New Technology
While technology was already a large focus for property managers — offering car charging stations, smart thermostats and more — the pandemic will usher in new kinds of tech.

Contactless technology will be implemented for more high-touch zones, such as elevator buttons and door handles. Virtual tours will continue for many that want to minimize their social interaction. And incorporating biocidal surfaces for common areas will help minimize the spread of germs.

The National Apartment Association reports that more than 403,000 units are expected to become available in 2021, with top-ranking markets including New York, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles and Dallas. As the multifamily market looks to find more stable footing, it’s crucial to understand what renters value in a post-pandemic setting.

According to a 2019 NMHC survey, convenience was king for renters. Convenience will continue to be an important factor of apartment living, from package lockers to dog washing stations, but there will be a larger emphasis on safety. In 2021, apartment dwellers will seek spaces that make them feel safe at home.