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Give Your Building a Soul

“My building has every convenience. It’s gonna make life easy for me. It's gonna be easy to get things done. I will relax alone with my loved ones.”

- Talking Heads, “Don’t Worry About the Government”


Imagine you’re apartment hunting in a major American city.

You’ve spent all day touring units, pilfering cans of seltzer from their wow fridges, and dutifully taking notes about each building’s offerings. At the end of the day, you take a moment to review your findings. But you can’t tell the properties apart.

All you’ve got to show for your day of polite nodding and smiling is a repetitive list of features and amenities. Stainless steel appliances. Dog spa. Clean little gym where you’ll finally commit to leg day.

But one of the buildings stands out in your memory. And you can’t quite put your finger on why. It had the same components as all of the others, but it also had a certain… atmosphere? Vibe? “Je ne sais quoi?”

What it had was a personality.

While it may feel odd to talk about the personality of an inanimate structure, a carefully considered one can make all the difference in a crowded market. And without one, you may be falling behind your competition.

Over the past decade or so, social media has turned us all into brand connoisseurs. We’ve learned to use brand loyalty to signify our values, establish a sense of belonging, and demonstrate social capital. A running shoe is hardly ever just a running shoe. It’s a declaration of athletic intent, proof of membership in a hip tribe, and evidence of technical discernment.

And so a building can no longer just be a building.

Residential communities have started to take their cues from boutique hotels, incorporating playful wayfinding, lifestyle photography, and charming aesthetic flourishes. Brands for mixed-use properties are starting to resemble their upscale retail tenants, promising prosperity with compelling visual identities and elegant headlines.

There was a time when buildings were marketed by function, square footage, and features. Today, they have a point of view, a design sensibility, and a sense of humor.

Once you understand who your tenant is, you can start tailoring your language accordingly. Instead of a boring list of amenities, paint a picture of the life that those amenities will unlock. “Resident lounge access” becomes “Plenty of space to host your next wine tasting, Bachelor viewing party, or fantasy football draft.”

Even the most basic cliches of real estate benefit from a little personality lift.

“Now leasing” can be replaced with a friendlier “Now seeking neighbors.”
“Dog friendly” becomes a more enthusiastic “We can’t wait to meet your dog!”
“Retail space available” grows into a confident “Make your mark here.”

While creating a compelling personality for your property might feel like a leap, it should be as essential as choosing your finishes. Because at the end of the day, your tenant isn’t going to rigorously compare each and every available property’s amenities. They’re going to remember the one where they felt most at home.