The online shopping boom has created an operational nightmare at multifamily properties. Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items through its Prime program in 2017. That figure doesn’t even begin to account for the number of packages delivered by competing services like Jet, Overstock, Blue Apron — or even Amazon’s non-Prime customers.
For example, at class A fully staffed properties, multifamily owner and operator AvalonBay averaged 1,000 package deliveries per month in 2017 at each of its 288 apartment communities, more than double the amount seen in 2016.
Handling increasing package volume is creating an enormous strain on building staff, forcing them to focus on package logistics at the expense of other property management operations.
Another example is Camden Property Trust, which estimated 10 minutes in lost productivity for each package across its 59,000 units in 2015. At a rate of $20 an hour for employee wages, package management was costing them an estimated $3.3 million annually.
Online shopping habits have made the lifestyle at unstaffed properties problematic for residents, since getting the packages into those buildings is a hit or miss – with a majority of packages ending up undelivered and requiring residents to visit the neighborhood UPS or FedEx office for retrieval. This is unsustainable for residents requiring dependable deliveries for their young children or with more people working from home – for their businesses. The package delivery room or holding area is the second most popular apartment amenity after fitness centers, according to a NMHC and Kingsley Associates survey. Residents want their packages promptly and securely.
So, What Are Available Solutions?
- Locker solutions: For staffed properties, resident operations and communication software such as BuildingLink is crucial for streamlining packaging tracking and notifications to residents. For properties that don’t want to deal with package storage, there’s a plethora of package locker solutions available. After buying the locker system. Properties can charge a one-time fee for registration at move-in. They can also charge for storage if a resident doesn’t pick up the package after a certain amount of time. “These aren’t just gym lockers. These are very robust electronic systems. They need to be looked at and considered as a permanent aspect of the property,” says Georgianna Oliver, CEO and co-founder of Package Concierge, one of the first package locker companies, with some of the largest multifamily users such as Greystar, AvalonBay Communities and Bozzuto. The larger the property – the more space is required for the locker to accommodate hundreds of lockers – making the suburban and garden style communities a better fit since there are less space constraints compared to urban properties where every square foot is premium.
- Designated package room: For large properties in urban areas where every inch of common area is pricey, locker solutions consume a lot of space and might not be a fit. At unstaffed properties – locker hardware systems don’t work well since couriers tend to ignore them and simply drop packages as close as possible to the entrance. A good solution is a package room with a controlled access point (such as Brivo) at its door. In unstaffed properties, digital doorman systems, such as Carson, can remotely let couriers in the front door and the package room and notify residents about their delivery. Using the integrated resident portal app, residents can open the package room door and retrieve their delivery.
- Don’t receive packages: There are solutions that enable property managers to rid themselves of all involvement with packages by having residents send their packages to a 3rd party location (such as co) , paid by the residents directly. The disadvantages are clear – it’s a hassle for residents to collect packages from a different location, especially multiple/heavy deliveries. Since residents typically view receiving packages as a basic right of modern living, these types of services become an unwelcome additional monthly expense.
Ideal solutions also seamlessly integrate with existing resident portal software or apps. Avoid a solution that requires a resident to use a 3rd party website or a dedicated app.
In summary, the modern lifestyle shopping habits are forcing managers to address packages in every aspect of the property operations: starting with showcasing a property’s ability to receive packages as an important amenity during leasing, successfully managing ever increasing delivery volumes, and selecting the continuously evolving technology solutions that best fits the property for the long term.
By Guy Blachman
Guy is a real estate software tech entrepreneur with experience in multi-family and condo/HOA markets. He also serves as an M&A advisor to private equity acquirers of property management software vendors. Guy helped found resident portal SaaS applications companies including MyBuilding in 2004 and co-founded ActiveBuilding in 2008. In 2013, he sold both companies to RealPage after serving as a vice president of the company from 2013 to 2016. In 2017, Guy founded Carson, the property management application for unattended multi-family buildings.