People are shopping online now more than ever. They’re buying clothes, household supplies, and even groceries online. Amazon, Blue Apron, Peapod, and countless others are making a steady stream of deliveries to residents’ doors. One poll finds that more than 25% of residents receive at least 4 packages each month.
Package delivery management is creating a major headache for some rental owners and HOA communities.
“As online sales continue to skyrocket, package delivery management is becoming a growing issue to apartment communities,” says Mercedes Sanchez of the Houston Apartment Association. “Many simply do not have the storage capacity, so they are trying to figure out how to handle the deluge of packages and are having a second look at their policies regarding this issue.”
A recent survey finds that package carriers will first try to deliver a parcel directly to the resident’s door. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to deliver it to a management office.
An executive with Camden Property Trust says that for his property management company, package delivery management results in 10 minutes of lost productivity per delivery. “Multiply that by the 1 million packages Camden handled in 2014 and you begin to see just how big an issue package management is, especially as online shopping continues to grow,” he says.
While package delivery management issues may be exacerbated in large apartment communities, they affect owners of small buildings equally.
In fact, small buildings are less likely to have a publicly accessible common area for carriers to deliver packages. Instead, packages are just left on the front steps, or wedged between the front and screen doors. These deliveries, when visible from the street, are an indication that nobody is home–and can put the rental unit at greater risk of a break-in.
A typical apartment community receives as many as 100 packages per week–a number that can double during the holidays–and online shopping shows no signs of slowing. This means that landlords, property managers, and HOAs are going to have to get more creative when it comes to package delivery management. There’s no time like the present, particularly with the holidays upon us!
Here are a few strategies for package delivery management at your property:
1. Relinquish responsibility. Unless you have an on-site management office where staff can receive packages for residents, be sure to specify that you’re not responsible for deliveries that are lost, damaged, or stolen. A simple email reminder may be warranted as the holiday season approaches.
2. Install an oversized mailbox. If space allows, consider installing an oversized mailbox that can accommodate packages (18 x 18 x 24 inches should do the trick). This won’t solve all of your package delivery challenges, but it will at least keep a portion of the deliveries hidden from view.
3. Utilize smart locks. As building technology becomes more sophisticated, the number of smart lock solutions has continued to grow. In smaller apartment buildings, you might consider installing a smart lock system on your front door. Carriers could use a special code to unlock the front door, allowing them to leave packages in the foyer or other common area without having access to individual rental units.
4. Invest in package lockers. Amazon announced last month that it would start partnering with apartment buildings to offer Amazon Hubs: locker systems that can receive deliveries fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon will experiment with allowing other carriers to deliver their packages to those hubs as well.
Amazon isn’t the only purveyor of locker systems–there are others with varying degrees of sophistication. Most cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 per locker, but each locker can be shared by five to eight apartments. The most technical locker systems can tell which compartment is empty and will randomly assign the locker so that resident can use a unique code to get their package. Lockers can be accessed any time of the day, which allows for round-the-clock deliveries.
The investment can be worth it, given the growth of online shopping. Residents now view storage lockers as an added amenity that can help your building stand out from the rest. According to a survey by Multifamily Executive, over 28% of renters list package lockers as “very important,” or near the top on a scale of 1-10 in terms of amenities they care about most.
Despite the spike in online shopping, we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg: About 90% of shopping is still conducted in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. If the last few years are any indication of what’s to come, package delivery management will become increasingly important for landlords, property managers, and HOAs in 2018.
As technology continues to improve, we expect to see other solutions emerge. Until then, these package delivery management strategies should at least give you some reprieve as you get through this holiday season!
Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.