The Emperors New Clothes

If a lion’s mouth is open then it seems only reasonable to put your head inside and see what happens!  What on earth is he talking about with this one?  Well the wonderful world of multifamily is growing and new entrants are appearing each week.  New experts pontificate in the arena and thought leaders pronounce guru like on the complexities and the nuances of capturing the essence of multifamily.  Do we slavishly follow the American model? How do we force community? How do we monetise our amenities? The list goes on.  All the while renters rent and live in their homes.

And that last sentence is the quay, the rub, the code!  The renters live in their homes.  What we are dealing with in multifamily is not a brave new world; is not some paradigm shift, but it is giving renters the best possible experience for their lives in their homes.  So, everything you do and everything you create should keep front and centre how do we make the renters experience better?

It is entirely possible that you can’t make the experience better, in which case stop wasting money and pretending there is a Holy Grail and just get on with renting out the flats.  If you want to build community, this has to come from the bottom up.  You can facilitate, suggest, influence but you cannot force renters to join in or engage.  It is impossible to say “tomorrow we will have a community and everyone will have fun and join in our new fun run route around the park!”  Seriously?  Would you sign up to that?


You can achieve engagement but it is organic and it is slowly, slowly in approach.  How many people have you ever forced to be your friend?

It is time we stripped back to basics and built up our models slowly and surely with care and caution.  At the end of the day we are renting homes.  Focus on that and build from there.  In style and presentation, take pride, have the staff clean tidy and presentable; keep the building clean and tidy; be the catalyst for community not the Fuhrer of fun!  This is about doing the right things and doing them well.

How many of you live in a flat or have gone and stayed in your flats you are renting out for an extended spell of a month or more?  Only by doing that do you see the challenges or the problems.  Throughout my career I have been staggered how many people in property do not enjoy or experience the products they are producing and managing.  I never ceased to be amazed that shopping centres abound with people who don’t love shopping!  If you design or manage flats and live in a house how can you really know the issues or the opportunities?

I would advocate getting yourself into community spirit and experience your products first hand.  Then let’s have debate on what needs changing, what can be improved and how we build community.  I bet you will be surprised what you find.


Roger Southam, Multifamily Innovator & Advisor (& flat dweller)

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