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Futurecasting: How Advanced Technologies Will Impact Apartment Operations

"The robots are coming!"

For years, this line, or some variation of it, has been a quick and easy joke about how – one day far in the future – technology may take over our lives and throw many of us out of work.

But the age of automated technologies and artificial intelligence truly appears to be at hand – and that's making many people nervous, including onsite associates in the apartment industry.

However, their worries are unfounded, as there are ample reasons to be optimistic about the impact of AI and automation in multifamily.  In fact, according to an Anyone Home study of more than 70,000 leases that were signed over the past 12 months, 52 percent of prospects used a phone call to initially reach out to a community, indicating that human interaction still matters.

Furthermore, a World Economic Forum study in 2018 found that the growth of AI could create 58 million net new jobs by 2022. The report doesn't shy away from acknowledging the challenges posed by the rise of technology and machines in the workplace but it also notes "these transformations, if managed wisely, could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all."

In the apartment industry, the implementation of automation and artificial intelligence will enhance the work of leasing agents by freeing them from mundane responsibilities and giving them the bandwidth to concentrate on tasks that drive the financial performance of a community.

But the benefits of these emerging technologies won't be limited to onsite operations. AI will help executive teams make better business decisions, such as when to acquire or sell a community.

 

At the Communities

Automated technologies such as self-scheduled tours, self-guided tours, automated responses to emails and text messages, and online maintenance requests can be powerful enhancements to a leasing program. These tools will never replace leasing associates, but they can allow them to focus on tasks most likely to convert prospects, compel existing residents to renew and ultimately drive NOI. Consider that, according to Anyone Home data, 50 percent of emails from prospective residents are about scheduling a property tour. That means agents are spending a lot of time on a task that can easily be automated through a self-scheduling tool. Automated technologies also can provide invaluable help to staffs that are short-handed.

In the end, of course, operators can't go overboard with automation. Operators should know that automation technologies work best when combined with human interaction. And many prospects – despite the rapid proliferation of other technologies – still prefer talking on the phone with an associate at some point during the sales process.

The bottom line is smart companies realize the powerful effect automated technologies can have in increasing associate efficiency and in improving a community's financial performance. Moving forward they will seek to incorporate automation where it makes sense, but they also provide the whole range of communication options for prospects – and that includes having humans able to talk with them over the phone or through a chatting function.

 

More Benefits

The benefits of AI won't stop at the site level. Forward-thinking operators also look to employ technology to help with advanced business decisions.

Some apartment companies already are using AI to analyze vast amounts of data without human bias or error. They are using this level of analysis to determine the right time to sell or acquire a property, comb through year-to-date financial performance to see how much a community should push rent to maximize revenue and meet financial goals and more accurately assess and predict market trends. AI also can bring a whole other level of analysis to the performance of marketing channels.

Automation and AI are poised to serve as powerful boosts to the performance of apartment associates, communities and companies. They are used best when combined with human creativity and will empower our associates to do their jobs more effectively and make better business decisions.

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