Technology Could Help Apartment Operators Navigate a Changing Market
After a long run of better-than-expected performance, the apartment industry seems to be on a precipice of difficulty.
RealPage CEO Dana Jones during this week’s company RealWorld “The Pursuit of Excellence” users conference in Las Vegas, described the concerns she’s seeing and hearing, having spent about a year on the job, and after meeting with dozens of apartment operators.
She spoke optimistically about how RealPage technology is leading the multifamily housing industry today and how it will provide the support onsite teams need during a potential slowdown in growth.
“It’s a hot market everywhere you look right now, but uncertainty hovers over us in many ways,” Jones said.
“Market-rate renters’ incomes are rising at pretty much the same rate as rent increases and they are paying on time, but worries are building based on inflation and economic uncertainty, even despite signs of full employment.”
Budgeting for 2023 is a Challenge
Jones said other anxieties could be related to past eviction moratoriums and the continuing conversation about rent control and resident screening at the local and federal levels.
Meanwhile, companies continue to struggle to find workers, and this, “while their customers’ expectations for service are through the roof.”
For owners, rising payroll expenses, insurance costs and property taxes are making them all focused on budgeting for 2023, and Jones said, “…they are struggling with tighter margins.
“The apartment industry, including RealPage, is leaning on providing market-driven solutions, mostly through advancements and innovation in property management software.”
Here, technology is leading to efficiencies and convenience so that onsite staff can focus on attracting prospects and engaging residents.”
Automation With a Purpose
“Making things easier is never easy, but RealPage is doing all it can to make that happen,” she said.
It is technology, namely in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that is removing many mundane, day-to-day tasks, which can be automated. This is leading to the rethinking of staffing models and puts more focus on centralized operations, Jones said.
“There’s no more ‘jack-of-all-trades’ property managers for communities using centralized leasing and operations,” Jones said. “Besides, nothing drains these extrovert employees more than having to deal with back-office administrative tasks.”
Centralized leasing is enabling companies to take two lower-paying onsite positions and combine them into one higher-level, career position that pays more. It helps communities improve their 100:1 staffing ratio to about 150:1 and add a person with more experience.
“AI is providing predictive and prescriptive solutions rather than properties having to be reactive when running their business,” Jones said.
Connected intelligence is about leveraging data and insights across the RealPage ecosystem to optimize the prospect to resident journey while improving employee satisfaction.
RealPage’s ILM helps marketers dynamically direct their spend in the most efficient ways. This comprehensive lead management solution helps multifamily organizations increase revenue by focusing on leasing activities that produce the most value.
It is specifically designed to help marketers make the most of their time by organizing and prioritizing the sales funnel, keeping leads more manageable, and converting more leads to prospects.
Jones said by using AI and machine learning, “products can be created and then customized based on a community’s given strategy, rather than just a ‘rule-of-thumb.’ ”
Companies are working toward the “Amazon-ization” of their services, where residents can do so much through one platform such as paying the rent, communicating with the property, and entering maintenance work orders.
Green Not Just for Green’s Sake
RealPage technology is also helping operators not just be green, but “make green” through their use of best practices and tools related to water and waste management.
An apartment community’s trash enclosure is the most visited area by residents with 1 to 5 trips per week (on average nationwide). It’s even more popular than the gym.
Trash expense is 10x greater than recycling expense. A RealPage AI-driven camera inside the dumpster helps control costs and can identify 11 types of waste to help communities manage these costs.
Taking Risk Out of Risk Management
Given that fake IDs are costing our industry tens of thousands of dollars, keeping ahead of fraud is something apartment operators must do.
“It takes innovation,” Jones said, “because after all, fraudsters are innovators, too.
“RealPage tools help with this and we’re working on developing better income verification technology.
“As I said, making things easier isn’t easy to do, but at RealPage, these are things we love to do. This is why we’re here. We’ve done this before and we’re going to keep doing it now.”