For real estate developers and operators like Tampa’s M. Patrick Carroll, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new reality for renters and buyers. The increasing trend in working from home means that more workers are looking for specialized, unique, and purposeful amenities.
These evolving needs go beyond having enough light for a makeshift home office or that there’s an electrical outlet close enough to the kitchen table that’s suddenly become the work desk. It’s about understanding the trends and needs for workers who will continue to seek out remote work situations.
The key to success is to provide residents with the amenities they will need to be successful in work-from-home arrangements. That equates to reliable technology, private work spaces and locations that have the right businesses nearby to support remote workers.
“This group of workers prioritizes flexibility,” noted Michael Patrick Carroll, entrepreneur and Founder of CARROLL, a Atlanta-headquartered real estate investment company. “If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that many things can change at a moment’s notice and with little or no forewarning.”
The Statistics on Working from Home
During the pandemic, businesses began to come to some realizations about the possibilities and realities of remote work. With improved technology options and adaptable workforces, companies were able to continue operating successfully.
A Gartner survey, completed in July 2020, showed that 82 percent of respondents expected to allow remote working as a possible option for at least some of its workforce. Nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) would allow workers to work from home full-time once the pandemic was over, while 43 percent were expected to offer flex days and 42 percent would allow flex hours.
In December 2020, Upwork released its Future of Workforce Pulse Report, which noted that 1 in 4 Americans would be working remotely in 2021. The survey queried 1,000 CEOs, HR executives and small business owners. It predicted that 36.2 Americans will be working remotely by 2025, a staggering increase of 87 percent from pre-pandemic levels.
For real-estate companies like Tampa’s CARROLL, which owns more than 30,000 commercial and residential properties in the United States, the opportunity is now.
The Changing Demands of Today’s Workforce
As worker preferences evolve, the real estate industry must be poised to respond. The migration will not be the same as in the last economic upheaval, notes real estate executive M. Patrick Carroll.
After the Great Recession, there was a mass migration into urban areas, as workers sought out the convenience and amenities afforded by living in cities. That has changed now, as the need to be close to public transportation and urban office complexes dissipates with the rise of more permissive work-from-home policies.
“Now that the office looks more like a living room, and commutes are all but extinct, what does the importance of location mean to tenants?,” business leader Michael Patrick Carroll pondered. “In lieu of location, today’s residents are focused on access and the amenities that make their new reality possible.”
What, exactly, are the amenities likely to be in demand? Here is a closer look.
Reliable connectivity, both wired and wireless, is essential for employees working from home. Fast, connected Wi-Fi built into the home or apartment is already becoming a must-have feature of real estate transactions.
In addition, consider clubhouses that are equipped with free public Wi-Fi to give homebound employees a convenient change of scenery that’s equipped with all of the conveniences of their apartment or condo.
In-wall USB ports are another feature that is becoming a necessity more than convenience, allowing employees working from home to connect and charge all of their devices, including phones, laptops, monitors, printers and other peripherals.
Strong Cell Reception
Your Wi-Fi network is the most important part of connectivity needs for workers at home. However, being able to hear and to be heard on a smartphone is almost as crucial. Fishing to find that perfect spot in a house with inadequate cell reception is incredibly frustrating for all parties looking to connect over the phone.
Dedicated Work Space
Working from home during the pandemic has meant getting creative. Kitchen and dining room tables, living room sofas and beds have all become “the office” in times of need. However, that’s not a viable long-term option, as many people have experienced. You do not want to take that Zoom call while lying in bed or with lunch being made feet away.
Dedicated space for home workers is a must. While some living communities do offer business centers, they have not been regularly used during the pandemic and will likely only be a source of space of last resort as life returns to normal. There are no guarantees of availability or privacy in those spaces, so in-unit space is ideal.
Common areas should be equipped with more than just a desk. Consider co-working spaces with access to additional larger screens, HDMI connectors, printers, copiers and quiet workspace options. Having a new spot close by for an important conference call or when you need to get away from the home office will be increasingly important.
This trend may appear counterintuitive, but consider the rationale for this trend. Many work-from-home people are young and either single or married with no children. The desire for large domiciles and the upkeep that comes with them may not be appealing to those who are looking for convenience.
Studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units and small single-family homes are going to appeal to those looking for comfort but used to living in smaller spaces in urban locales.
Why three bedrooms? Because those couples who are both working from home may both want their own home office that can be used in a pinch when visitors (or a first child) arrives.
With the need for public transportation likely to lessen in the years after the pandemic, tenants and owners will still need a way to get around. Having parking available will be necessary and may require, or have available, two spaces per living unit to accommodate working couples.
With workers living and working from the same space, companionship is more important than ever. Many pet-loving people choose not to get a cat or dog because of the lack of time they have at home.
As people spend more time at home, the inclination to have a furry friend around increases. That’s why you may want to loosen the restrictions on pets in your housing units in order to attract more tenants and buyers.
Properties should also consider adding on-site amenities, like dog parks, playgrounds and natural spaces. These can help remote workers care for both pets and young family members during the workday.
At CARROLL, the company has also begun partnering with nearby businesses, such as dog-walking companies or dry-cleaning delivery services, to ease the burden on those working from home. According to Michael Patrick Carroll, access to these amenities creates a “live-work-play” micro community that many remote workers are looking for.
The uncertainties of the past year have caused massive disruptions. Job losses, children forced to learn from home, working from home, fears about the health of oneself and loved ones have all taken their toll.
Tenants today want to be sure they work with a property manager who is open to handling disruptions during these tumultuous times with care. If your property offers lease flexibility, you’re more likely to find tenants drawn to your holdings.
“Ultimately, it comes down to being open to offering your tenants a personalized approach that will make them feel more comfortable signing a lease with you, while allowing them to continue their ‘work from anywhere’ lifestyle,” said M. Patrick Carroll of Atlanta-based CARROLL.
Listening to Demand Key to Post-Pandemic Success
For Michael Patrick Carroll, the strategy at CARROLL has been similar to what he used to grow the company a decade ago in a post-recession economy.
He noted another recent Upwork study showing that about 14-23 million Americans were planning to move because of the shift to remote work.
CARROLL has seen this shift directly, with about 60 percent of its residents working from home during the pandemic, compared to about 25 percent of residents working from home previously.
Real estate thought leader M. Patrick Carroll believes that single-family homes will continue to be a good investment coming out of the pandemic, due to squeezes on price related to owners’ ability to pay mortgages during the crisis. He also sees multifamily residential apartment complexes as an opportunity, too.
Commercial real estate will evolve coming out of the pandemic, as consumers are wary about returning to previously popular spots, like movie theaters and shopping malls. As people become accustomed to living in smaller spaces and staying away from crowded spots, those destinations may be poised for redevelopment.
“With the many different communities and amenities available for tenants, the key to attracting the remote worker resident base to your communities is to not only make the right accommodations, but be adaptable and understand these residents’ needs and priorities beyond their work-from-home office desk,” M. Patrick Carroll said.
About Real Estate Mogul Michael Patrick Carroll
As a nationally recognized leader in real estate, CARROLL Founder and CEO M. Patrick Carroll knows something about hard work, dedication, and what it takes to be successful in the real estate industry. A hands-on CEO, Michael Patrick Carroll works with his team of professionals to define, design, and implement plans and strategic ideas that will expand the CARROLL portfolio. The success of the CARROLL brand is based on the dedication that comes from its team.
Entrepreneur Michael Patrick Carroll is disciplined as an investor, and maintains a careful balance between acquisitions and dispositions in order to increase sales proceeds and improve IRR. He has led the successful exit of over 88 properties from the CARROLL portfolio, which has resulted in sales proceeds of $4.2 billion. With an average gross revenue of ~26%, M. Patrick Carroll is well-positioned to continue building the CARROLL brand and increasing its value and strength in the real estate industry.
The creation and development of CARROLL is among the greatest successes for M Patrick Carroll, and he continues to remain highly involved as the CEO. He works diligently on the relationships he has with lenders and brokers, as well as on-site teams all over the country. Additionally, Michael Patrick Carroll focuses his relationship efforts on institutional investors, who are an important part of his efforts to continue building a strong and valuable portfolio.
Along with all he does for the real estate industry, philanthropist M Patrick Carroll is incredibly committed to giving, and dedicated to helping causes that are important to him. Serving on the Jesuit High School Foundation and the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa Bay, Michael Patrick Carroll is also a member of other industry affiliates and donates to over 50 charities around the world. These charities are specifically focused on wellness, health, and early childhood development.