Apartment Managers Experimenting With New Solutions To Growing Package Problem
Many apartment owners have grown the size of their storage rooms to try to keep up with the rapidly increasing volume of packages delivered to their buildings, but some see that as an unsustainable approach and are beginning to turn to new solutions.
"The real estate industry as a whole is struggling with how to deal with this issue, and we need to look at how to redefine how to deal with packages going forward," Bozzuto Vice President Stephanie Rath said. "We can’t continue to grow storage spaces."
A developer and manager of apartments along the East Coast, Bozzuto has either implemented large package storage rooms or automated locker systems in all of its buildings. But at some of its busier projects, Rath said those storage areas overflow before residents pick up their items.
To combat the spillover of packages into lobby space, Bozzuto has tasked individual staff members with delivering packages directly into units for entire eight-hour shifts at a time.
"We're exploring alternative solutions because we don't want to continue to carve out large chunks of valuable amenity spaces and strictly devote it to back-of-house storage," Rath said. "Delivery [into units] does seem to be one that is working quite well for now."
One real estate tech company sees delivery into units as the model all apartment managers will be forced to adopt and has created a system to help them. MRI Real Estate Software developed an application for mobile devices and tablets that scans a package before it is put on a cart.
Building staff then wheel the cart to the correct unit, unlock its door and place the package inside, while the software tracks the package to ensure it reaches its destination and notifies the resident when it arrives.
"Nobody wants to rush home and try to get to the office in time where the package is in a room, or forget to stop at the locker and pick up their package," MRI principal Brian Zrimsek said. "The optimal solution is to have it waiting for them when they want it."
The software launched in late 2017 and has a handful of clients currently implementing it, Zrimsek said. The building managers would charge residents a small fee, about 50 cents a day, for the convenience of having packages show up in their unit.
For building owners, Zrimsek said the solution saves valuable space that could be used for amenities and other services, and it brings in some ancillary revenue. He said the volume of deliveries is increasing so exponentially that any storage or locker system an owner creates will eventually not be large enough.
“Any time you have fixed capacity in any situation, there’s always going to be a time where the capacity you have isn’t available,” Zrimsek said. “Whether it's a holiday, a negligent resident, a set of new tires, the lockers are not big enough. It’s going to work 80% of the time, but 20% you still have to deal with it.”
Rath said Bozzuto has considered shifting to exclusively delivering packages into units, but the cost of having staff constantly dealing with packages has proven too burdensome.
"Payroll is an expensive cost," Rath said. "It’s a large item on the balance sheet, so you don’t want to have an imbalance and instead of spending on other things you’re strictly spending on delivering packages."
In D.C.'s 69-unit The Shaw condo project, Monument Realty is implementing a package storage system that represents a middle ground between a centralized locker storage system and delivery directly into the units.
The developer is creating individual boxes at the door of each unit that have a code to unlock them. Since the building is too small to hire full-time concierge staff, delivery workers will bring the packages directly to the unit, type in the code and place it inside. Residents can then type in the code before entering the unit to grab their package, giving them the convenience of having the package on their doorstep without worrying about it getting stolen or having a stranger entering their home.
While the boxes may not be large enough for some oversized packages, residents would then have to arrange to be there for a delivery, which Monument founder and principal Michael Darby said is not uncommon for having large items sent to their homes. The boxes will also have an insulated section for people who have fresh food delivered. Monument is exploring implementing automatic notification systems that will let the resident know as soon as their package has arrived.
"To us, the question is, why keep mucking around with the problem at the first-floor level when you can solve it at the upper level?" Darby said.
Instead of fighting a constant battle with the growing package volumes, Rath said Bozzuto is looking at ways to reduce the amount of items residents need to have delivered. Just as services like Uber and Zipcar have changed the calculation around car ownership for many people, she said a similar revolution needs to take place for ownership of household items.
Rath said the company is exploring sharing economy-style programs where residents could rent out items like vacuums, cooking appliances and other large products that they pay to get delivered but then let sit around the majority of the time.
"We really need to start thinking about how the concept around package management can be redefined," Rath said. "Looking at sharing items is top of mind for us as we think of how to solve for the volume of packages that we're seeing, because it is continuing to grow."