Master-planned communities:

Modular units, virtual reality, rental homes, data-driven marketing—and even autonomous flying passenger vehicles—will transform master-planned communities in the coming years. New technologies like autonomous vehicles will innovative business models that are more focused on building communities for renters.

Here we will go through a few of the coming trends expected to affect developments:

Build to Rent

Data has shown the increasing proportion of population is looking to rent homes rather than buy them. This goes beyond apartment rentals. This means that single-family rentals as a product type are coming to master-planned communities.

A project by BB Living in Arizona offers three- and four-bedroom rental homes in a master-planned community and reported that 30 percent of the community’s renters end up buying into the community. Renting can be a great incubator to get full time home owners in the future, after they fall in love with a community and are more willing and able to make a large investment.

Another company, Nexmetro, is building higher-density planned communities targeted exclusively to renters. The company has already seen some success in Arizona and Texas, and are looking to grow nationwide and develop the model into additional communities.

Data-Driven Marketing

The marketing information behind creating master-planned communities is not in the same realm as other industries. When it comes to using consumer data to support marketing and sales, the commercial real estate sector is lagging behind. The challenge is not to acquire the data, but to interpret the data in an intelligent and productive way that is supportive to ongoing sales and marketing efforts.

Master-planned companies should be more aggressively hiring data experts that will more effectively leverage information about consumers, and use that information to drive marketing campaigns. By using this kind of data to direct campaigns, it is more likely to make the campaigns intelligent and nimble. Marketing plans today should be easily adaptable to quick adjustments based on what is learned.

Modular Homes

Manufactured or prefabricated housing is typically not utilized in master-planned communities in the U.S. They tend to be written off as cheap or inadequate options when in fact they offer quite a bit of value. But manufactured housing seems to be gaining steam. Prefabricated housing is used in the rest of the world, and may become the norm in community developments in the future. Prefabricated housing embodies function, quality, sustainability and value. Blu Homes is a California company producing modern premium prefab homes that can be built in half the time of traditional custom homes, transforming both the building and buying process for the consumer.

Virtual Reality

The marketing side of the real estate industry has already affected the way that companies design and market homes. This is even more specific for master planned communities. With huge increases in technology, VR seems almost indispensable for the development community. It is used to model different scenarios for planning departments and companies, representing differences in traffic and density within communities and specific areas. VR allows for greater adaptation of predictability within developments.

Reimagined Transportation

More extreme changes lie in transportation. Uber Elevate is working to bring autonomous flying vehicles to communities in the next 3 years. As a concept, this allows passengers to take the driverless flying vehicles that would ride above traffic and connect with land-based Uber vehicles when necessary. While these VTOLs are expected to be most effective, efficient and useful for people attempting long commutes during heavy traffic periods, there are competing developments looking to be involved in the implementation of the flight tech. Within communities, there will be ‘verti-ports’ built that allow the vehicles to land. While these are an expensive investment, especially in developing communities there is a validity to this investment.

Another highlight is Olli, an autonomous electric bus designed to transport neighborhood residents throughout various points in a community. At its core, the self-driving bus is made to combine artificial intelligence, augmented reality and apps to assist people with vision, hearing, physical and cognitive disabilities. They travel at below 35 miles per hour and work to transport around neighborhoods, selling especially in planned developments, airports, and universities.

This solves a big issue. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates only that “key” train and subway stations be accessible, which means that people with wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters often have to travel several stops out of their way to get home or to a destination.

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