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How Investors Can Embrace the Work From Home (WFH) Trend

[Updated: Aug 26, 2020] Jul 28, 2020 by Brad Cartier
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We're all used to the standard rental advertisement language: "Beautiful 3-bedroom apartment in heart of city -- A MUST SEE!" But, what if you put something like this instead: "Quiet 1-bedroom apartment with 2 dedicated home offices -- WORK FROM HOME!"

New data suggests that the work-from-home trend isn't going away anytime soon, so investors need to find creative ways to optimize for this monumental lifestyle shift. Here's an overview of new work-from-home data as well as strategies investors can leverage to improve their marketing and spaces to minimize vacancy and optimize rents.

New work-from-home data

According to a new survey from Gartner (NYSE: IT), 82% of company leaders intend to allow remote working "some of the time" as employees slowly return to offices. What's even more consequential is that almost half (47%) said that they will allow employees to work remotely full time indefinitely.

According to Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice, "The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working."

Joyce continues, "The question now facing many organizations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce. While remote work isn't new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done."

Remote work is often equated with negative productivity, but that doesn't seem to concern business leaders. Only 13% of Gartner survey respondents had concerns over productivity, and a full 29% note they are not taking any measures to track productivity for remote workers.

Clearly times are changing, and investors need to come up with unique ways to market their existing properties to capture this new market for work-from-home living.

Marketing strategies for investors

To begin, start thinking about new ways to talk about your properties. As noted above, whether you have four, three, or even just two bedrooms, it might be wise to begin shifting one bedroom to a permanent office space. You can include a brand-new desk and set up the office space to accommodate a work-from-home model. You can even consider doing this for two bedrooms as well.

Now, your property is no longer a two- or three-bedroom apartment or house but a one- or two-bedroom that includes a dedicated office or two. Perhaps one room has its own ingress and egress to the outside, which would be perfect for a home-based business or remote worker.

Dens or underutilized hallway space may also be able to be converted into dedicated office space. If you have a nook, a larger hallway, or a corner in your rental property that could accommodate an office desk and chair, you may want to consider labeling this as a permanent and dedicated office space. Keep in mind you want about 100 to 300 square feet available for any home office space.

Once you have your office space set up, now it's time to look to your local market. Outside of your standard online listings, you can now advertise your home office suites to local employers. Here's a blueprint to attract work-from-home tenants:

  1. Create a list of all businesses within a couple of miles of your rental that have 50+ employees.
  2. Create marketing flyers to print out that advertise your properties as optimized for work-from-home employees.
  3. Go to those businesses, drop off the flyers, and explain to them that you offer flexible work-from-home and remote-work apartments that may be good for new or incoming employees.
  4. If you aren't comfortable going in person to these businesses, try and find contact information for their administrative or HR staff on their website.

Now you will have sensitized employers in your area as to the value of your rentals over others given the optimized office space for working from home.

The bottom line

Clearly work and lifestyles are changing. Although this may not be permanent, it will be with us for the foreseeable future. It's time for investors to start thinking differently about their rental spaces and optimizing and marketing them for the work-from-home trend.

When your next property comes up for rent, consider tweaking your marketing to focus less on bedroom count and more on dedicated office space.

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bradcartier has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Gartner. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.