By Marcia Charney | MWM Contributing Writer
Stable. Steady. Cautious. Opportunity.
Those are the words Mike McKeen is using these days to describe the state of Kansas City’s apartment market. The principal and president of EPC Real Estate Group, LLC spoke to a record-breaking crowd of more than 150 brokers and real estate professionals at the April meeting of the Kansas City chapter of CCIM.
Areas that will continue to succeed in the multifamily market will have “charm, character and are walkable, with jobs in good proximity,” McKeen said, noting that strong players currently include Lenexa City Center, downtown Overland Park, Olathe, Mission; and downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which leads the area in multifamily development.
The living preferences of Millennials are driving the market. Some of EPC’s current products are Millennial-based, including Avenue 80 in downtown Overland Park, where Millennials comprise 70 percent of the tenant base. Empty nesters, who no longer want to maintain their homes and are seeking to live life a little differently, are another growing tenant segment.
McKeen discussed how e-commerce is changing multifamily development. With the explosion of package delivery, developers are installing electronic parcel delivery systems, which allow tenants to retrieve packages by entering a security code. McKeen said that without these delivery systems, the buildings would need a massive storage room for delivered packages and staff to monitor receipt and storage.
McKeen said that developers now have to consider for the first time the amenities and unit size that Generation Z wants. He stated that studio apartments are the “quickest thing to fly off our lists right now because they hit a certain price point of affordability but they also cater to that lifestyle of people who spend most of their time playing video games.” McKeen added that the amenity most requested by Gen Z is blackout shades for better game screen visibility.
McKeen discussed the challenges currently facing multifamily developers which include a decline in the number of skilled craftsmen; the threat of tariffs, causing suppliers to raise prices to offset the impact of possible future tariffs on costs; future tax treatment; the passage of city ordinances which impact the use of development incentives; aging infrastructure; low supply and high demand, particularly for precast concrete products; and rising operating costs.
McKeen also recognized new opportunities for multifamily developers such as the creation of new inventory to meet the demands of Millennials and empty nesters, affordable housing, and opportunity zones. In addition, new product types like micro-units, which range in size from 350 to 500 square feet, are in high demand with rising rents.
Noting that “site selection is everything now,” McKeen said the average occupancy of multifamily properties in the Kansas City area has remained steady, staying between 93 and 95 percent.