Digital nomads could create more demand for furnished apartments, developer says
Developer Randall Cook and his company Method Co. occupy a niche place in luxury living.
Mr Cook, 46, has founded a number of extended stay apartments on the East Coast – starting with ROOST in Philadelphia and now with his latest project, Whyle, which is opening its doors to residents of Washington, DC. , during the pandemic. Whyle is a concept of luxury furnished apartments, with flexible leases as short as 30 days.
It’s a temporary living solution that almost anyone in transition – whether they’re moving across the country, renovating a home, or moving on a temporary assignment – can imagine they need. But Mr. Cook’s goal was to create an experience that’s better than just a placeholder.
âFrom the start, I wanted to turn that upside down and make the temporary place they stay for a few months better than the apartment or house they came from,â Cook said. The Whyle units include one and two bedroom apartments, bright and decorated with comfortable and practical touches, such as live plants and workstations. There’s also an in-unit laundry room and full kitchen, while building amenities include a gym, weekly housekeeping, and a rooftop terrace with a pool and lounge.
We spoke with Mr. Cook about how the pandemic has affected the business, dumped luxury spots and kitchen of his dreams.
Mansion Global: With business and leisure travel declining, what does the Covid-19 experience look like for the company?
Randall Cook: It was a difficult year to say the least. But I told our team at the very beginning that this was going to be a year that would define us as a company, and it really turned out to be. I think that defines us in a positive way – our apartment operations have been great, and our restaurants have performed very well too, compared to what we could have done.
This starting with the fact that the three ROOST locations have remained open during this time, we have on average nearly 70% occupancy. I think we were like a high occupancy of the sixties in 2020, where our set of purely hotel competitors was in the mid-1920s.
MG: I know we’re here to talk about real estate, but you mentioned the restaurants that you also operate in Philadelphia, and I’m curious if you see the end of alfresco dining and a return to normalcy. at one point?
RC: It’s funny, I see that there is more of a return to normal in people who go back to the office than in people who don’t want to eat out so much. I think working from home will play a much bigger role in our society than ever before, and I think there are a lot of positives to that. But there are also a lot of positives in an office environment.
But I think the alfresco dining is great. I think our country has always – especially in this region – underutilized our outdoor spaces for eating. I have a feeling people will continue to eat out in a little more European style.
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MG: Who is the clientele for short-term furnished rentals?
RC: The biggest segment of the market today, the biggest end users, are people who move. Usually this is a move, it can also be a person on temporary assignment. It takes time to figure out: do you want to buy, do you want to rent, is the job going to work, and you need time to figure it out. We typically see three or four months, or more, for our moving clients.
In addition to offshoring, we do a lot of cinema – films usually last two, three, four months – and medical treatment. Philadelphia and DC have some of the best hospitals so you have people traveling from all over the world for some medical treatment where it is not convenient for them to go home and come back two weeks later for a checkup appointment. .
MG: Do you see any long term effects of the pandemic on the flexible rental market?
RC: I do. What surprised me a bit recently in the real estate market is that there is a bit of this movement towards a nomadic lifestyle. And I think we see it as a merging of working from home and traveling. What has happened over the last year has, I think, accelerated the adaptation of that.
For example, let’s say you always wanted to live in DC because you always dreamed of visiting all the great museums in DC, and you realize it was going to take two months to do that, today you can do it. You can stay awhile, you can work from your apartment, and you don’t even have to take a day off.
MG: Where do you see undervalued areas on the east coast?
RC: I think there are undervalued neighborhoods. For me it was really exciting and interesting to watch. If you look at the area where we located the Whyle in DC, it is in the Shaw neighborhood. And for me, this is where luxury evolvesâ¦ As opposed to living in the central business district of DC, where there is more doorman type housing, I think it’s a shift to luxury living. in the neighborhoods.
If you look at what’s been happening in New York City and condo prices over the past 15 years, and the shift from the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side to the Village and SoHo, there has been this pretty massive change in Manhattan in terms of location. prices have taken off and prices have stagnated.
The corollary to Philly is the move from Rittenhouse Square being the epicenter of high-end condos, where everyone wants to live, to perhaps neighborhoods like Fishtown and Northern Liberties, and now Kensington and Port Richmond.
I think people sort of choose to live in some of the neighborhoods that have all this rich soul, history and culture.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your house?
RC: I live in this old stone house and we have this sunny porch that overlooks this sort of formal French landscaped courtyard. The sunny porch is great as there are no distractions. This is where I go to read in the morning, have a coffee and relax.
MG: What would be your dream home?
RC: Looks like it keeps changing, it’s bouncing a bit. But one thing that doesn’t change at all is my vision of the dream kitchen. It has a really good kitchen island that you can cook your meals in and you can also dine in, and it also has a fireplace and a plush seating area – just create that really fun place that you spend Saturday or Sunday cooking up a big extended meal and you’re sort of bouncing back and forth between cooking and lounging.
This article was originally published on Mansion Global.