What to do with all those Packages?

For properties that do not have a solution for handling packages, it feels like all 11 billion packages delivered annually in the US are sitting in your leasing office, waiting for the tenant to finally come pick them up.

When we asked the senior management staff of our partner, the Laramar Group, to name their top problems facing operators in the multifamily industry, the one item nearly every person mentioned was packages. Laramar manages all different types of properties: urban and suburban, small and large, low-rise and high-rise. And unfortunately, one size does not fit all.

In larger properties with onsite management, packages become a processing and storage problem. How many hours per day does your management team spend logging packages and finding them for residents when they come into the office to pick them up? When your resident works late and cannot make it the office during business hours, well, that package is going to sit there another day. Another day for UPS, Fedex, USPS, Amazon, and others to arrive to add more packages to your office.

However, smaller buildings (less than 50 units) sometimes do not require an onsite staff. So packages are usually left in lobbies or placed by the resident’s door. Just sitting there, waiting for the resident to pick them up, or unfortunately, sitting there ripe for theft.

So again, what do you do with all these packages? Today, I am seeing five main solutions to this problem, all with their own pro’s and con’s.

1. Lockers

I think everyone has heard of package lockers by now. I lived in a building with a package locker system, and it was great. The second an item is placed in a locker, you receive an email and/or text notifying you to pick it up. Lockers keep packages away from the property management team, which allows them to focus on managing the property, and not the 11 billion packages sitting in the leasing office. However, in order to have package lockers, your property needs the space (do you have a game room that nobody uses or do you have the ability to take away a precious parking space?), capital budget (some systems cost as low as $5k and as high as $20k-$40k or more depending on the size of your community), and the operating budget (some systems require a monthly fee of about $2/unit/month, which sometimes can be passed on to the resident). Another drawback is that not every package fits in a locker. No locker is going to fit that area rug that you ordered online.

2. Package Rooms

Like lockers, in order to have a package room, you need to have the space. However, you not only need the space, but you need a secure, access-controlled space. The delivery person enters an access code to receive permission to open the room, they place the package in the room, and the tenant receives a text with a one-time code to open the room and retrieve their package. The rooms are monitored with video, hopefully reducing the number of instances where a resident walks off with a package that is not their package. These access-controlled rooms can cost less than installing lockers (with a similar monthly fee), but you need to build out the room with video monitoring, access controls, shelving, etc.

3. Locker/Room Combo

The best of both worlds! A secure access room with package lockers. Those oversized and/or funky packages, they can go in the designated area in the package room. However, how many communities have a room for the size of this system? Do you take away the fitness center or resident lounge for this combo room? And what is the cost of doing that? Definitely not an easy solution. We are starting to see solutions like this in newly constructed buildings, which area able to design and budget for these rooms. But what about the older and/or smaller buildings that do not have the space?

4. Delivery Service

These services allow the residents to ship items to a centralized location for temporary storage, then have the packages delivered during a window that works for the resident. One company that is working directly with property owners is Fetch. When you live at a Fetch property, you are signed up to the service and asked to send your packages to a Fetch address, with a personalized code. When Fetch receives a package, they notify the resident and the resident sets up a two hour delivery window to accept the package. However, the main drawback to services like this are the cost, which can be in the $10/unit/month range. What is the cost of your property staff handling packages, and can this cost be passed on to your residents?

5. Home Entry

A resident would provide a delivery service (or the property management staff) with approval to directly place a package in their unit, almost entirely eliminating the risk of package theft. However, residents need to trust in the service and trust opening their home to someone they may not know. Still quite the barrier. Then to complicate matters, how does this person open the door in the first place? Providing a master key is not an ideal solution. This is where I see an opening for technology to provide the solution. If a property had smart locks and a camera system facing the door, it would allow the delivery person to open the door (with a one-time code and an activity log tracking who opened the door), and then the camera would turn on while the door is open to oversee the delivery person placing the package inside the unit. There will be cost to add the smart locks and cameras, but if you are already installing smart locks, what better way to kill two birds with one stone? An additional barrier will be coordinating directly with UPS/FedEx/etc. or hiring a delivery service to collect and place the packages in the units.

As you can see, some of these solutions will require the property owner to implement other types of technologies (smart locks, cameras, intercoms/access controls). I believe that the solution to packages will vary by property and ultimately be constrained by available space and budget. Packages are not going away, so the PropTech community needs to continue to address this problem and find more solutions that are best for the resident, the manager, and the budget.

If you have any thoughts and ideas about the ever-growing package problem, Nine Four Ventures would like to hear from you! Write us here.

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