Amenities continue to rank among one of the most important considerations for prospective buyers at both active adult and multi-generational lifestyle communities across the country. Amenities are highly influential in motivating a homebuyer’s decision about where they ultimately choose to live and also contribute to the overall level of satisfaction among current homeowners. Communities that fall short in meeting buyer expectations or that fail to plan amenities around consumer interests can be negatively impacted in terms of sales, referrals, profitability and reputation of their brand. Homeowner associations, tasked with planning for new amenities and implementation of supporting programming, will have influence on these important variables.
The specific types and level of amenities available in a community will vary from one property to the next. Overall community size, planned scope of infrastructure and available resources for funding typically have the most significant impact. New or emerging trends in programming, interests unique to a specific geographic region and natural features of the land also can influence amenity planning and design. Although the developer or builder of a new community will usually drive amenity planning efforts early on, responsibility for updating or adding new amenities as a community grows and evolves will eventually fall to the HOA. Information on trends and buyer interests that should be considered in planning for amenity additions or renovations can be derived from a variety of sources.
Larger-scale communities may plan dedicated amenity space for a broad base of program functions, while smaller properties are likely to rely on multi-use space that can be used for a variety of activities. Whether the community is planned for active adults or homeowners of all ages also influences the overall community and amenity design. We sat down with lifestyle expert Judy Julison to talk about what’s trending for 2017 in both active adult communities and those designed for residents of all ages.

1. What are the trends in amenities shaping active adult communities in 2017?

As active adult buyer demographics and lifestyle programming trends evolve, age-targeted residential properties are now offering a host of new amenities and incorporating unique design components geared toward an increasingly active, health-conscious and youthful generation of older adults. In addition to traditional indoor amenities like meeting spaces, arts and crafts rooms and multi-purpose rooms, more contemporary offerings at active adult communities often now feature amenity-rich clubhouses with upscale resort-style components: state-of-the-art fitness centers, full-service spas with massage, skin care, hair and nail salons, indoor walking tracks and demonstration kitchens.
Alluring gathering spots that promote social interaction, such as lounges, full-service restaurants and bars, wireless Internet cafes and coffee or juice bars are also trending and can help build a greater sense of community. Woodshops and art studios, movie or performance theatres, lecture halls, lifelong learning classrooms, indoor greenhouses, indoor walking tracks and hospital-affiliated wellness centers can also be found at some of the larger-scale properties across the country.
In some instances, dedicated amenities and supporting programs are offered through partnerships with third-party providers such as colleges and universities, local golf courses or hospital-affiliated health and wellness centers. The partner may pay to outfit the space and maintain it, enhancing the level of lifestyle offerings and benefits for homeowners while minimizing up-front costs for the association.   
Outdoors, more contemporary offerings may include zero-depth swimming pools, infinity edge hot tubs, resistance pools, sand entry beach areas, bocce and pickleball complexes and lake facilities with canoeing, kayaking and small boating options. Outdoor kitchens, bars, fire pit gathering areas, dog parks, meditation and healing gardens, farms, vineyards and even playgrounds specifically designed for older adults might also be planned. Preserving meaningful open space to serve as a functional community amenity is also trending.

2. What about multi-generational and family communities?

Across multi-generational lifestyle communities, buyers may be looking for many of the same amenity components being included at active adult properties today. The community, however, must naturally include offerings that appeal to children, teens, families and adults of all ages.
Larger-scale communities might offer indoor amenities such as performance theaters or auditoriums, gymnasiums, on-site food and beverage venues, demonstration kitchens or childcare facilities. Outdoors, bike trails and walking and jogging paths, community parks with outdoor picnic areas or concert pavilions, barbeque areas, children’s playgrounds, sport courts and ball fields are also typical on the menu of amenity offerings at these communities.
More contemporary amenity offerings found in some multi-generational communities today include indoor climbing walls, teen centers, birthday party rooms, skateboarding parks, nature preserves, golf courses, putting courses, dog parks and even zip lines. Large-scale aquatic complexes with water slides, water playground features, lazy rivers or resistance pools might also be available to residents.

3. Do amenities trends and offerings vary by region?

Yes. Although many of the trends and interests in amenities and programs we see across the lifestyle communities we manage today seem to be fairly universal, others may be unique to a specific community or geographic region. Regardless of community location, when planning for new amenities or programs, it’s important to understand the interests and opportunities that may differentiate your consumers or the property itself. For example, communities with interior lakes or other waterfront areas may naturally attract homebuyers who enjoy their aesthetic appeal or are looking for waterfront activities. Leverage those opportunities by incorporating swimming beaches, canoe and kayak facilities and fishing venues, as well as supporting programming. One of our properties, located in the mountains, includes both a ski hill and sledding venue. In other parts of the country, on-site farms, vineyards and natural areas have also been integrated in community planning, theming and amenity programming and design.

4. What strategies can help a community deliver five-star amenities?

  • Offer amenities that make the lives of residents easier and more enjoyable. Consider how they enhance property values, promote quality of life and nurture social interaction between homeowners.
  • Ensure amenities are planned to meet the unique needs and interests of your current homeowners and potential buyers.
  • Use amenities to help showcase the community’s lifestyle. Locate them in visible areas and design them to make a strong marketing impact.
  • Leverage natural features such as lakes, parks, woodlands or other dramatic views in the design of the community and its functional outdoor amenity components. Preserve open space for aesthetic enjoyment and play where you can!
  • Ensure amenities are right-sized and economically feasible for the community. Needs and interests must be balanced with overall return on capital investment.
  • Understand the concept, strategy and importance of adequately funding for reserves. Position your community to have access to funding for future repair and replacement of amenity assets to minimize adverse impact on your homeowners.
  • Keep in mind that amenities are not just about what’s available internally to a community. Don’t forget about lifestyle offerings that may be available close by. Easy access to museums, theatres, restaurants, sports complexes, walking trails and shopping venues, for example, can all have favorable impact on the resident experience. They can also help motivate interest in your community among prospective homebuyers. Off-site amenities close to your community might also be leveraged to support programming for residents. Near a lovely park? Have everyone meet there and use it to conduct outdoor fitness or meditation classes. There’s a vineyard close by? Plan a wine tasting there or invite a representative to sponsor a program on-site. Group dinners out or day trips to theatre performances, sporting events, local fairs, expos or cultural events are other examples of activities that might be planned for homeowners.
The right amenities can make all the difference in keeping your community marketable in a competitive environment, as well as keeping your current residents happy. A quality property management company can be an invaluable partner in helping your community identify and plan for needed upgrades and implement the supporting programming that nurtures relationships and enhances quality of life for your homeowners. For more information, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company.
Wednesday December 07, 2016