How Important is Your Pool? Other Amenities Take Over!

When I was 19 years old, and my title was Leasing Consultant, I wondered why the people who built the property I was charged with leasing up did not load it with amenities.  This was “back in the day” when racquetball was still popular and I wanted a court!  About five years later, as my career hit the fast track, I found myself on the Board of Trustees for the National Association of Home Builders.  I had a front row seat to the work of the best research body in our industry.  One of the many facts I learned was that only 17% of our residents actually use the pool. I started to see amenities in a whole new light.

So, why do we even build a pool?  This is when my leasing and marketing hat appears and I know that it is one of the highlights of the leasing tour.  The pool is one of those checklist items that create the feeling of a lifestyle that most people desire: “On my days off, I’m going to lounge on a chair poolside, sipping a cold drink, reading my Kindle, wearing the same bathing suit I wore in college (it’s a dream so we can dream that it is still looks hot on us!), meeting fabulous people!”. We know this lifestyle offering helps to lease apartments, but is it your best tool for selling renewals?

If you ask people why they stay at an apartment community year after year, you will hear key points such as; I like my apartment, it is a fun place to live, my life is easy here, this is a great location, my dog loves the pet park, I have made friends here.  Rarely do we hear “I can’t move away from that pool!”. People stay because of the real lifestyle they create for themselves, not their perception of the life they will have when they are looking at your pool on the leasing tour. 

No matter what the age of your community, there are a number of amenities which you have, or can add, that will create that day to day life that your residents will enjoy.  Here are a few of my favorites and some new ones to consider.

1. Valet Trash Removal – Residents report that at first they do not like the fee’s associated with trash removal but then they see how nice it is to no longer have to hold your breath when walking to the stinky dumpster and risking goo on your hands from lifting the lid.  One apartment resident tweeted this picture of her dumpster and called it scary and creepy. Valet trash removal is something you miss when you buy a home!

2. Pet Parks – We know that 63% of apartment residents have four legged family members in their home. Pet Playland, Parks and Potty areas are some of the most commented on amenities in social media.  Not only are they great for exercising a dog but they have become a social area for neighbors to meet.  One resident reports that she rushes home to get to the pet park at 7:15pm because of a hot guy, and his Jack Russell Terrier, who are always there at this time.  Here are a few things to make your pet park fun, memorable and luxurious.

Keep pets healthy and cool.  Provide outdoor pets with plenty of fresh water and shade. We love this watering hole that bubbles fresh water for pets.

Another option is to create a fun play area. Take a hint from landscapers and create artful dog play courses using plants and hardscaping to create obstacles to weave through, balance beams to walk on or tunnels to roam through. The one shown here is also people size, but you can always create one that’s just dog size. It can be your pet’s hiding spot. Even dogs sometimes need to get away from it all.

When building the ultimate Fort Whoof, add some agility pieces for the pooch who has been lounging in the residents bed all day while their Momma or Daddy was hard at work.

 Create fun seating for pet parents to gather and stay a while.

3. Add on to existing amenity areas such as your business center or resident clubhouse.  We find that many people come down to this common area to utilize the Wi-Fi and socialize.  We see people reading and working on their iPads and laptops.  Try creating a reading nook for the little residents too.  This special space is inviting and encourages quiet activity.

4. It’s time to revive the sandbox! Remember the hours you spent as a kid hanging in the backyard building a city made out of toys and sand? Apartment kids need these outdoor experiences too.  Create a large sandbox and watch the creativity roll for the hands of a 4 year old.  This is another space where you will want to build in seating for the parents.  My landscapers tell me to have the area sprayed for ants on a regular basis and close off the sandbox for 8 hours following. 

5. Take book sharing to another level. Little Free Library is a nonprofit that seeks to place small, accessible book exchange boxes in neighborhoods around the world. Place one of these fun book exchange boxes next to your mailbox kiosk and create the place for community sharing. Little Free Library locations may purchase a charter for $35 that puts their library in the organization’s database and affords them discounts and information about keeping, maintaining and promoting their libraries.

6. In 1991 I moved into Steward’s Glen Apartments in Willowbrook, IL and was blown away by the huge sand volleyball society the residents had created.  One person propped speakers from their apartment to blast tunes (of course I dated and later married him!), another rolled in a keg and everyone came down with their sun chairs for a good time. The residents supplied the ball and fun so all the apartment community needed to install was the sand court.  I know for certain there were plenty of resident referrals due to the fact that everyone wanted to live at this property and have a great summer.  Check out this fun volleyball court which will keep the ball from wondering off and does not require inside the court.  It’s like a bounce house for volleyball! Could this be the new volleyball court?  Buy one for your region and it can travel from property to property.  Pretty soon, each property will want their own.

7.  Urban vegetable gardens are making a comeback.  We saw a lot of them in the early ’90’s and then the trend seemed to drop off.  Today, there are lotteries to determine which residents will get the coveted gardening space. 

What new amenities are you offering your residents?  Email me at and with your permission I will share them in a blog post (and give you all the credit!).