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Is Denver’s New-Construction Apartment Inventory Going to Crap?

Surface parking lots are a hot commodity for developers with their eyes on the Denver real estate market. Nearly every downtown neighborhood has a tower crane erected, hurriedly working to build another cookie-cutter residential rental property. While many local developers make a conscience effort to incorporate aesthetically pleasing architecture and design into residential building and neighborhood enhancement, “alpha investor-developers” are leaving an unwelcome eyesore in the neighborhood by erecting quick, “FUGLY,” tricky-tacky new rental properties.

What’s FUGLY?

“Denver FUGLY is dedicated to celebrating the stupid crap that’s being built, thought of, and done in Denver. Currently one of Denver’s hottest Facebook Group pages, the goal is to create an opportunity to discuss the stark differences between what is GOOD and what is FUGLY. What FUGLY is, and what FUGLY is not, is entirely subjective – the range of what will be featured as FUGLY – will be open to interpretation. Their passion is to create a place to explore this concept on every possible level – from badly designed developments to poorly executed ideas. It won’t become a conversation where personal attacks will be made, instead it will be about the juxtaposition of what could have been (with just a wee bit more effort) and what corners were cut to arrive at whatever it is that has been selected to be bashed. No matter what the intention was, if it’s FUGLY we’re going to expose it for what it is, because ignorance or bad taste certainly isn’t a sufficient excuse for why the FUGLY was allowed to come into being in the first place.”

The most common feedback (and objections) I hear when touring clients through many new developments versus private-owner inventory is “how they all tend to the look the same.” Unfortunately for Denver there is absolutely no shortage of stick-frame, cookie-cutter rental apartment inventory dressed with a cheap building envelope and offering lackluster curb appeal. Denver’s thriving real estate market and economy offers an attractive landscape for alpha investor-developers, whose only goal in mind is to quickly book profits and move on, often leaving a thoughtless, poorly constructed FUGLY apartments for the community and a cramp in resident lifestyle.

Not surprisingly, some new rental properties continue to struggle with occupancy and leasing efforts into their second and third year of receiving their Certificate of Occupancy. For discerning renters, functional interiors and amenities are as equally important as the exterior aesthetic appeal of the property. Examples of developer oversight and lack of forethought in some of the new construction properties includes poor quality design and materials leading to sound attenuation issues (between floors and walls), mechanical failures, building facade and color choice, and less than desirable amenities. Consider the quality of life factor before being lured in by lucrative concessions. Properties with inflated rental prices or poorly designed elements are commonly offering rental concessions.

Searching on your own? Once you find a pretty building, here’s the due diligence I recommend you do…

  1. Gather and evaluate building reviews online from current and past residents.
  2. Find out if the developer has other local projects or prior successful projects.
  3. Question the concession! Only desperate owners offer concessions, figure out why and you’ll figure out their weakness. Lease-ups frequently offer concessions when amenities are not available at the time of occupancy – beware of new construction promises.
  4. Consider your amenity usage and whether the functionality will fit your lifestyle needs and is realistic for the rent you’re paying.
  5. Don’t hesitate to chat up a passing resident on your tour to see how they feel about the property. If they’re currently unhappy, it’s likely they’ve already voiced their concerns with management and aren’t afraid to speak freely about it in the open with management there. If the issue is realistic and hasn’t been addressed properly, it looks bad on management’s part.

Denver deserves better quality construction efforts from developers. The city’s construction defects issues continue to keep more long-term focused and better quality housing development opportunities at bay. Overbuilding of cookie-cutter and “institutional-looking” inventory should be a real concern for Denver’s rental market future and current concessions need to be replaced with price adjustments. Private owners who have a more unique property offering will continue to experience a strong applicant pool and command more competitive rental rates.

Let’s highlight some of downtown Denver’s most unique and successful rental building offerings next! Send me your suggestions and favorite buildings!

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