By: Demetrios Salpoglou
The final numbers are in: Americans spent a record-breaking $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday, a 16.8% increase over the year before. There’s no doubt about it, more people are shopping online than ever before. By some estimates, more than 25% of people receive at least four packages each month – a number we suspect spikes during the holiday season.
This is great news for online retailers. But for landlords? Well, that’s a different story.
“As online sales continue to skyrocket, package delivery is becoming a growing issue to apartment communities,” says Mercedes Sanchez, who represents a large 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.”
While package deliveries may be exacerbated in large apartment communities, they equally affect owners of small buildings.
In fact, small buildings are less likely to have a publicly-accessible common area for UPS and other carriers to deliver packages. Instead, packages are just left on front doorsteps or wedged between the front and screen doors. These packages can easily be stolen. An estimated 30% of Americans report having had a package stolen from outside their home. Just this week, police released information about a woman who allegedly stole packages off the porches of four different homes in Tewksbury (funny enough, one of the packages she stole included a new home surveillance system!).
While theft is certainly a problem, these deliveries create a bigger issue for landlords: packages, when visible from the street, are an indication that nobody is home—and this can put rental units at greater risk for break in.
As services like BlueApron, StitchFix and Peapod become more popular, the number of deliveries will only continue to grow over time. Landlords are encouraged to be proactive in handling package deliveries. With the holidays upon us, there’s no time like the present (no pun intended!) to get started.
Here are a few ideas for managing package deliveries at your rental properties:
- Relinquish responsibility. Make sure residents know that you will not be responsible for collecting packages, nor will you be responsible for deliveries that are lost, damaged or stolen. A simple email reminder may be warranted this time of year. This email might encourage residents to send packages to other locations (like their office or a family member’s house) or requiring a signature for package deliveries.
- Boost security. The jury is still out as to whether surveillance systems actually thwart package theft, but surveillance systems certainly don’t hurt – for package deliveries or otherwise. Surveillance systems are more affordable than ever, with companies like Nest offering products that connect directly to your smart phone. Cameras will help you monitor any unusual activity at your property (whether related to package deliveries or not).
- Install an over-sized mailbox. If space allows, consider installing an oversized (18- by 18- by 24-inch should do the trick) mailbox that can accommodate packages that are too large to fit in a resident’s mailbox. This won’t solve all of your package delivery challenges, but it will at least help keep a portion of the deliveries hidden from street view.
- Use 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.
Amazon Key is a similar option. For $249.99, Amazon will ship you a bundle of equipment that includes a cloud cam and smart lock, both of which will connect to the resident’s Wi-Fi network. Then, when a courier arrives with a package, they scan a barcode that triggers a request for access to the unit. If everything checks out, the cloud grants access and the camera starts recording. A mobile app allows the courier to unlock the resident’s door, deliver the package, and then lock the door again with the touch of a button. The resident gets a notification that the delivery has arrived, as well as a copy of the security footage showing drop-off was done safely. Amazon rolled out the service exclusively to Prime members in early November.
WalMart is also testing a service that will not only drop packages inside, but will also put groceries away for residents.
- Invest in package lockers. In another recent announcement, Amazon said it would start partnering with apartment buildings to create “Amazon Hubs,” or locker systems that can be used to receive deliveries sold or 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, each 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.
It can be a worthwhile investment 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 still to come, managing deliveries will become increasingly important for landlords.
As technology continues to improve, we expect to see other solutions emerge. Until then, these strategies should at least give you some reprieve as you get through this holiday season!