By Meghan Hall
Over the course of the past market cycle, landlords of both commercial and residential properties have been looking for new ways to secure and maintain tenants. One of those tactics has been to incorporate a wide array of high-end amenities into the offering. Noting this change, TFLiving, a tech-enabled platform that provides fitness and amenities services, was formed. According to TFLiving’s founder and CEO Devin Wirt, amenities are now a must-have in many commercial properties, and mobile platforms can be key to enhancing property services.
Please tell The Registry a little bit about the fitness/amenity-based gig economy. In your opinion, how is this changing the way that commercial landlords—of both office and residential properties—are viewing their assets?
Regardless of what sector they operate in, real estate owners and property managers today are under immense pressure to differentiate their properties from their competition. This is particularly true in the apartment market, where the shift toward renting has resulted in a huge amount of supply, especially in and around major cities.
One of the most common ways for landlords to accomplish that is to create fitness programming and other amenities at their properties. In many cases, however, that can be a significant undertaking – requiring both dedicated space and significant time and resources to manage the programs themselves. Our platform addresses these needs for them by not only making it easy and efficient to manage their amenities, but allowing them to tap into the large and growing network of fitness instructors, dog walkers, massage therapists, event hosts and other independent providers who can supply their tenants and residents with the services they need.
What are residential tenants looking for when it comes to amenities today? Office tenants?
There is no one answer to what residential or office tenants are looking for – the needs of a particular community depend on geography, demographics, the kind of building and many other factors. In all cases, however, tenants are looking for curated experiences that foster a sense of community. This often comes via fitness programming or communal events, but it can also take many other forms – all of which we are able to accommodate due to both the flexibility offered by our platform, and our ability to gather first-hand data and feedback to determine the right mix of amenities for a given building.
At office properties, many companies are searching for ways to offer fitness and wellness programming that can help keep their employees healthy. That can often be difficult for them to manage with their own on-site staff, but our platform provides them with a path to achieve their goal without taking on unnecessary operational costs.
What amenities are absolutely necessary in order for landlords to secure tenants?
Again, there is no “one size fits all” solution for today’s marketplace. There are many factors that might require different sets of amenities at different communities. Of course, there are some offerings that are seen as traditional, such as fitness programming or dry-cleaning services – that are very common at residential and some commercial properties. However, the range of possibilities is quickly expanding to include planned gatherings such as resident happy hours, dog walking and other pet care services, in-home massage therapy and other offerings.
Rather than focuson the “perfect playbook” of amenities, we have found our biggest value to be in our ability to use data to customize the services being offered at a given community. Based on tenant activity and preference, we can fine tune not just the kinds of programming available, but also the days and times they can be accessed. All of that ensures that each community is successfully engaging their tenants and getting the most out of our platform.
Given these conditions, what pain points in the industry led you to establish TFLiving?
In recent years, amenities have gone from a luxury to a virtual must-have at residential communities and many office buildings. However, the significant time and resources necessary to effectively implement them has historically made them almost exclusively available to residents at super-luxury buildings, or to those residents who are willing to bear the majority of the cost for customized programming. Our platform reduces not only the cost of bringing amenities to any property, it takes unnecessary stress off landlords and property managers – allowing them to concentrate on their core competencies while still engaging their residents at a budget that works for them.
Why do you believe the market is well-poised for a platform such as TFLiving?
In today’s real estate market, every owner and property manager is looking for new ways to drive engagement and create a sense of community at their properties. That is one of the biggest things tenants are looking for, and will help these assets differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market. In order to help them achieve those goals, TFLiving offers a solution that is not only more cost-effective and efficient than hiring a lifestyle director to curate amenities and in-home experiences, but can also be customized to the needs of their individual tenant base and create revenue sharing opportunities that drive NOI.
Are there certain cities throughout the United States where TFLiving operates widely? If so, why do you believe TFLiving’s platform is popular in these areas?
The TFLiving platform currently serves more than 100,000 units of apartment and condominium developments and active adult communities, as well as millions of square feet of office buildings and other venues in 29 states across the U.S. We also have active agreements in place that will also more than double their current unit count & square footage served. Our users live in residential and commercial communities in both urban and suburban areas across the country, although we have particularly high rates of adoption on the East Coast in metropolitan areas around Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City.
While amenities are often associated with those kinds of large urban markets, one of the things that makes our platform unique is that we can create customized programming at any property, regardless of sector, size or geography. We look forward to expanding across markets of all kinds in the near future.
TFLiving recently raised $4.8 million in series seed funding. How will the company use these funds to grow?
The new funding round will be used to support and scale a number of Master Service Agreements TFLiving has reached with a number of major U.S. residential and commercial real estate owners. We will also use it to add to the company’s executive staff to support our continued growth.
In the future, how will TFLiving work to differentiate itself from similar platforms coming to market?
What sets TFLiving apart from its competitors, both now and in the future, is the flexibility and accessibility of our platform. We have the ability to create a fully customized set of amenities that fits the needs and budgets of each community we partner with – whether that be fitness classes, dog walking, resident events or other programming.
Additionally, we have a deep commitment to ensuring our pricing remains accessible for all types of communities – not just those with large dedicated budgets for amenities. Our pricing is based purely on the specific service provided rather than the number of units or other factors that could lead to higher cost for buildings or residents, as we limit the markup that communities can place on classes or individual amenity services. All of this is part of our commitment to ensuring our services are available to all communities regardless of their size or budget, which is what will continue to separate us from other providers in the future.
What is TFLiving most excited about in 2020? Why?
This year is very important for us as we continue to expand our staff, grow our list of partners and continue to scale Master Service Agreements with a number of major U.S. residential and commercial real estate owners.
However, what we are most excited about is to continue learning from our customers. As our platform reaches further across the country, we are gathering more and more insight and data from our properties about what amenities are providing the most value to our users, and what new experiences we may be able to add to strengthen our business even further. As shifts in consumer behavior continue to transform the retail industry and other parts of the built environment, we believe in-home experiences are poised to grow substantially in the years to come. We are extremely excited to see how that plays out this year and in the future, and what we can learn that will help us improve our platform for our users.