Common Area Guide: Low-Maintenance Ideas + Tips
Common areas that are shared by residents in condominium and apartment complexes are there to serve a purpose – or multiple purposes – and add value to your property.
Community spaces of this sort might include parking lots, walkways, children’s playgrounds, tennis courts, swimming pool areas, basketball courts or barbecue areas.
While some of these outdoor spaces are necessary, such as walkways and parking lots, and must be incorporated into the development of the property, including additional common areas with attractive amenities is also an essential part of attracting new residents and ensuring that you can maximize profits by getting higher rents or sale prices.
The rental market will fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including current home prices, companies moving into or leaving the area, and the general health of the economy.
At times, the demand will far outweigh the supply, and a landlord’s market will prevail, making it easy to keep your complex at capacity with little effort on your part.
However, there is always competition that is vying for these same renters or condominium buyers, and a market that strongly favors property owners is sure to change at some point.
One way you can make sure your property remains a popular choice in your area is to invest in landscaping and design appealing common areas that expand your renters’ living space and entertainment options.
7 Reasons You Should Add Attractive Common Areas to Your Rental Properties
1. Attractive common areas provide spacious outdoor living areas to complement your renters’ indoor living spaces.
2. Outdoor spaces where neighbors can meet and be social foster a sense of community, which creates a more appealing neighborhood, and promotes positive interactions and relationships between neighbors.
3. Appealing common spaces with well-manicured landscaping increase curb appeal and attract more potential renters.
4. Community spaces with amenities increase the overall appeal of your complex and help you stay ahead of your nearby competition by offering a higher-value living experience to your residents. Adding character to your community spaces, such as walkways with distinct patterns, also sets your multifamily property apart from others.
5. Inviting outdoor living spaces can be designed to attract the type of renters you want or to appeal to the market in your area. For example, playgrounds and barbecue areas generally appeal more to families, while tennis courts or a putting green will likely be more appealing to single professionals or older couples.
6. Well-kept grounds encourage renters to keep their personal areas cleaner and free of clutter, including patios, balconies and their apartment’s interior.
7. Renters and condo owners are more likely to invite guests over if the property has upscale landscaping and attractive outdoor entertaining spaces. This means free marketing for you as they bring potential future renters or home buyers to your property.
What Residents Want from Outdoor Spaces
People want to live in safe, clean complexes that provide a good value for their money and feel like home.
They want to be able to invite guests over and not worry about the embarrassment of having them walk past overgrown lawns, low-hanging branches or trash as they make their way to their apartment or condo.
Performing regular building maintenance, keeping appliances and plumbing in good repair, and updating apartment interiors as necessary is all an important part of this.
However, exterior spaces are the first things people see and form their first impression, and they let guests and potential residents know important information about the complex, including how active and responsive management is, and whether or not it is a clean, nice place to live that is worth the cost of the rent.
Essentially, how outdoor spaces are landscaped and maintained sets the tone for multifamily properties while also providing an extended living space to residents, which means more value for their money.
Here are 6 things residents look for in common areas:
1. Residents want to have attractive outdoor areas where they can bring guests and enjoy spending time with their family.
2. Residents want safe, clean places for their children to play outdoors.
3. Residents with pets want safe places to walk their dogs and use as pet relief areas.
4. Residents want to be welcomed home by well-maintained walkways bordered by attractive landscape features.
5. Residents want to be able to use outdoor spaces much like they would use the backyard of a single-family home, such as hosting family barbecues, playing outdoor games with their children, reading a book by the pool or playing fetch with their dog.
6. Residents want outdoor common areas that contribute to a sense of pride in their home and that set where they live apart from other complexes in the area.
Safety, cleanliness and functionality are the basic requirements of community spaces; however, to truly set your complex above your competition or attract a higher-end clientele, you should consider adding features that go above and beyond basic concrete walkways, a playground and a few grassy areas here and there.
Here are a few examples of distinctive features you can add to your outdoor living areas:
— A community vegetable garden where residents can grow some of their own food
— A sand volleyball court
— Tennis courts
— A basketball court
— A putting green
— A miniature golf course
— A space for lawn bowling or bocci ball
— A dog park with areas to run and playground equipment designed for dogs
— An outdoor fitness center with gym equipment
— Patterned paving stone walkways
— A covered patio area for outdoor entertaining throughout the year
— A gazebo
— A low-maintenance rock garden
— Bridges, water features or other unique landscaping options that increase visual appeal
Whether you choose to stick to basic landscaping or create a spectacular outdoor oasis, you will want to be sure to include plenty of picnic tables, benches and other seating options that are easily accessible to residents.
Creating appealing outdoor sitting and entertaining areas makes it clear that the outdoor areas in your complex are an extension of your residents’ living spaces and invites them to use these common areas.
Keeping Maintenance a Priority
Creating attractive community spaces is just the first step and must be followed up with a plan to keep the grounds clean and well maintained.
After all, fantastic landscaping will usually only stay looking fantastic if you perform regular maintenance, including cleaning, planting, pruning and mowing.
A lawn that looks the slightest bit overgrown detracts from your property and will make potential renters think they might not be able to depend on you to properly maintain their apartments, respond quickly to maintenance requests or to stay on top of things around the complex.
The same goes for overgrown bushes, untrimmed trees, bare patches of dirt and fallen leaves littering the ground.
In order to keep up your curb appeal and keep your current residents pleased, you will need to install landscape that is easy to maintain within your budget and come up with a maintenance plan that will work for your staff.
If you do not plan to use an outside landscaping company to maintain your grounds, you will also need to make sure your on-site maintenance staff is trained in how to care for the plants, trees and water features you choose.
Watering, fertilizing, mowing, pruning and tree-trimming schedules should be set up to ensure proper and timely upkeep to keep your grounds looking their best.
Choosing low-maintenance landscape options is often the best choice for multifamily complexes, which can help the property owner or management company save on future water and maintenance costs.
Opting for low-maintenance landscaping also helps to ensure that your common areas will maintain their visual appeal, even if your staff is too busy to perform daily or weekly maintenance.
Here are five low-maintenance landscaping options for multifamily housing communities that can help you save time and money while keeping your complex looking clean and well kept:
1. Consider xeriscape for some or all of your common areas. This low-water, low-maintenance landscaping option uses native plants that thrive in your area and require less pruning and maintenance.
2. Use low-maintenance ground covers to cover bare patches of earth, help the soil retain water around plants and limit weed growth, such as mulch, bark or gravel.
3. Install artificial grass instead of natural grass lawns, which can significantly reduce water usage and requires little maintenance to keep your grounds looking green, lush and inviting.
4. Include plants that naturally repel pests to reduce the need to apply pesticides to your common areas. Some options include marigolds, ageratum, pennyroyals or petunias.
5. Include abundant hardscape features that provide outdoor sitting and entertaining areas that are low maintenance, such as paving stone patios, sitting walls and meandering pathways that lead to decks or rock gardens.
To ensure that residents also help to maintain clean grounds, provide pet waste cleanup stations and institute policies that require residents to clean up after themselves, their children, their guests and their pets.
The Appeal of Eco-Friendly Landscape
Low-maintenance landscape options that conserve water, limit the need for pesticides and require less mowing, fertilizing and care are also eco-friendly choices.
Not only does this mean lower water bills and maintenance costs, which could allow you to charge more appealing rental prices or homeowners’ association dues, but it also means you can use these eco-friendly features as part of marketing your property to potential renters and buyers.
This is particularly true if you have also incorporated other earth-friendly features, such as low-flow toilets, tankless water heaters or community recycling.
More and more people are moving towards greener lifestyles and are interested in lowering their carbon footprint, which makes environmentally responsible housing complexes more appealing to this growing market.
Because eco-friendly, low-maintenance landscaping is also good for your budget and takes less staff time to maintain, choosing this type of landscape is a great way to make your life easier and appeal to potential residents.
Safety Considerations for Outdoor Spaces
Accidents happen and cannot always be avoided, but it is a property owner’s responsibility to make sure outdoor common areas are as safe as possible.
This is not only important when attracting new residents and to ensure the safety of current residents, but it is also an important part of trying to avoid potential lawsuits.
This includes making sure parking lots and walkways are well lit, using only high-quality benches and picnic tables throughout your property, keeping walkways and common areas free of debris, trimming trees and bushes to avoid low-hanging branches and tripping hazards, and instituting safety policies that must be followed by residents.
To further ensure the safety of your residents, you may want to consider synthetic turf lawns that provide even surfaces for play areas, as opposed to natural lawns that tend to be uneven and can have small holes and clumps of dirt.
Playground equipment should be kept clean and in good repair to ensure the safety of children playing in your common areas, and a regular maintenance schedule should be implemented to make sure all playground equipment is safe and in working order.
Inviting common areas are an important part of increasing your property’s curb appeal and attracting residents.
By creating appealing outdoor living spaces, you also provide a better value to your renters and create a sense of community that fosters positive neighbor relations and a more welcoming neighborhood.
By choosing low-maintenance landscape options to create these community spaces in your multifamily complex, you can also save money and time each month, while providing a more inviting atmosphere that will appeal to residents who value eco-friendly features or who simply want a clean, safe, beautiful place to call home.
For all of these reasons and more, rental property owners, property managers and condominium homeowners’ associations should consider the cost-effective, low-maintenance, attractive options included in this article when they work with a landscape designer to install new landscaping or when renovating their property’s grounds.
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