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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part II

Multi-Family Renovation: 4 Valuable Questions to Ask Your Team

In our last post, Phyllis shared her insight on a commonly asked question about multi-family renovations: “How much will it cost?” Once the design team has a clear understanding of the project restrictions & goals, they can begin to move forward with planning. Here’s more insight from Phyllis on other commonly asked questions about multi-family renovations.

Question 1: How will you incorporate design & lifestyle trends so that our property is competitive in the marketplace?

Due to social media, generational shifts, and market competition, we have found that design trends are rapidly accelerating. In the past, most owners would contemplate a repositioning when the property or previous renovation was 10 to 12 years old. Today’s residents and prospects shop the competition, are extremely informed and expect the very best for their money. Those properties that are beginning to show wear and suffer from an amenity shortage will most likely see a resident exodus and may have to drop rent pricing to compete. Today’s modern resident wants a lifestyle. As units get smaller, great amenities have become critical. They serve as an extension to the resident’s living space. Buildings that opened 5+ years ago are already behind in the trends. These buildings can be updated by transforming every available space to a resident amenity. Lobbies that were previously designed for visual impact can be turned into a socially active amenity by adding the right kind of furniture and creating intimate seating for groups and singles alike. Adding plug-and-play areas and communal tables will turn a dead lobby into space with a great, active vibe. In today’s rental market, we recommend an evaluation of the common areas after 3 to 4 years. If the design has a timeless appeal, a simple refresh (ie: pillows, accessories, art) may be all that is required. At 6 years, it will most likely be time to deeply evaluate the market trends, the competition, resident expectations, and condition of the finishes.

Question 2: When is the best time to start construction?

March through October is the prime leasing season. To avoid disruption during this time, it is ideal to plan the construction start for the end of October and completed by March or April of the following year.

Question 3: What does the renovation timeline look like?

Whether simple or comprehensive, any kind of refresh or renovation takes time. Every client wants to spend their renovation dollars wisely, so it is important to allow time for the design team to program, design, vet, and budget the renovation. If permits are required, additional time should be allotted. Even a furniture refresh takes time to plan, and in today’s furniture world, it could take from 12 to 16 weeks to procure. For example, HDG designed a renovation on the first floor of Gables Dupont Circle Apartments in Washington, DC. Even though the space was a mere 1,500 square feet, the planning, vetting, budgeting, coordination, permit drawings and construction all took one full year. Capture

Question 4: How to keep residents happy during a renovation?

  • Make it fun! Have the staff wear colorful hard hats.
  • Keep the residents informed of work schedules.
  • Have a kick-off construction party for the residents.
  • Plan for extra services during construction, like coffee and bagels in the morning, then cookies and tea in the afternoon.
  • Display finish boards and renderings to get the residents excited about their new home.
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Q&A with Phyllis: Multi-Family Renovations Part I

Renovation Costs: How to Nail Your Renovation Budget

After over 28 years of business, we’ve found that many of our clients come to us in the beginning stages of a project with many questions about what a multi-family property renovation looks like. To give you a glimpse of our process we sat down with our Hartman Design Group president, Phyllis Hartman, to discuss some of the most commonly asked questions. This will be a multi-part series so stay tuned for part two!

Question 1: How much is the renovation going to cost?

Working within a budget when renovating a space or an entire building is usually the owner’s primary concern, meaning “how much will it cost” is usually the first question we are asked. In order to best help our clients set priorities, as well as create a realistic budget and project structure, our design team must first understand many aspects of the project, asking questions such as:

 

What is ownership expecting to achieve by renovating? For instance, is the building being repositioned from a C to a B, a B to an A, or is the goal to make the property the best B in the marketplace?

Will the renovation involve only finishes and furniture, or will spaces be re-arranged?

How old is the building and what is the current condition? A 5-year-old project may only need a quick furniture refresh, while others that are over 10 years or older may require a complete overhaul to remain competitive in the market.

Can the property compete in the current marketplace?

Are you losing residents or prospects? If so, try to determine if the condition of the interior is a factor. What is being said on social media about the property?

What is the schedule? An accelerated schedule can cost more than following a normal design and construction schedule.

Will the work be phased or completed at one time?  Phasing is usually more costly.

Will building operations need to move to another part of the building during the renovation? It is important to factor this into the budget.

Can the contractors and subs work in the building during normal business hours?

Will there be security concerns during the renovation that may require either additional staffing or cost?

 

In an effort to gain the highest return on investment, we encourage collaborative discussions to determine where the clients can best spend their money. Phasing the design and construction is a great way to spread the budget over several years, though it is important to consider that phasing does add to the total cost, and can be frustrating to residents and prospects. Living or working in a building that is in a state of perpetual construction can be difficult.

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The Meridian at Carlyle located in Alexandria, VA is an example of one of our projects that were finished in phases. Because the building was 12 years old when the repositioning began, the first priorities were the lobby and leasing spaces. The corridors have been phased over four years, and the clubroom was renovated two years after the lobby. This allowed the owner to spread the cost of the renovation over 5 to 6 years.

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