Online Payments: Expertise That Pays Off

Online Payments: Expertise That Pays Off

Once considered a convenience, online payments have become an integral part of the resident lifecycle.

This session, led by Matt Davis, SVP Payments for RealPage, focused on navigating the hurdles of online payments, the types of payments currently available to residents and all of the overhead involved.  The panel included Rebekah Kelman from Cortland Partners, Robin Fluharty from Pegasus Residential, Don Miller from Interstate Realty Management and Johanna Sheldon from Greystar.

They started by discussing an NMHC/ Kingsley study that stated: “Over 93 percent of all residents say it’s important to be able to pay rent on the resident portal. However, not all will necessarily do so,” added Davis. He cites the difficulty people have breaking habits and ingrained behaviors as one of the reasons they neglect to pay online.

More specifically, the study pointed out that most prefer to pay online, even those skewing 55 and over. In that older category, 61 percent still preferred to pay online, so it’s no longer a matter of being tech-savvy, but offering online payments as a basic amenity.

Other points mentioned were the benefits of online payments and the time and money it can save, especially for site staff. Members of the panel also shared that their staff appreciated the time they could spend elsewhere, handling more important resident issues.

In order to best accommodate customers, RealPage has advanced their Online Payments platform. “We will process over 3 million payments each and every month.”

A smaller group of residents prefer to pay by money order, although statistics report that 70 percent of all consumers who use money orders actually have a bank account.

The best performer is at 97 percent — they have focused intently on getting people to use the portal.

A good performer would be high 70 percent – 80 percent.

Stories from the trenches

Rebekah Kelman shared the major benefits to residents paying rent online: 24/7 access, reduces processing costs, lowers risk of stolen or lost checks, reduces incidents of mis-keying in the wrong amount, replicates existing financial habits (most people already pay many bills online) and overcomes geographical boundaries.

She also shared her experience that in order to get more buy-in from internal teams on the importance of offering online rent payments, it’s important to incentivize them in some way.

Matt Davis added that you can’t just “turn on” a program like this, you have to communicate what you’re doing well ahead of time in order for this approach to work best.

During a Q&A session, a representative for a Senior Housing PMC asked how this would work for the older age group. Panelist Don Miller said that this group is more tech-savvy than site staff often gives them credit for, while Johanna Sheldon pointed out that it’s the families of the seniors who will often be the ones to pay online.

Don Miller also shared that one of the largest hurdles he’s seen with his company’s Affordable properties is that email campaigns to remind residents they have the option to pay online don’t work—a larger percentage of these residents may not have an email address set up.

In conclusion

Both Matt Davis and the panelists were in agreement that in order to grow the number of residents paying rent online, one has to be patient. Behavior change is challenging, and can take time.

Thanks to Rebekah Kelman from Cortland Partners, Robin Fluharty from Pegasus Residential, Don Miller from Interstate Realty Management and Johanna Sheldon from Greystar for joining our panel!

Get more information on online rental payments.