Multifamily has never exactly lived on the bleeding edge of technology. Historically, the apartment industry has preferred to let other sectors play the role of guinea pig and only adopt innovations once they have been tried and tested.
The pandemic, however, forced owners and operators out of that comfort zone. Contact restrictions, leasing office closures, staffing limitations, the economic recession, and the countless other impacts of COVID-19 demanded a change to the status quo. Property managers had to seek out and embrace technology solutions just to maintain operations and continue leasing apartment homes.
While their hand was forced, apartment operators quickly learned that the myriad of technology solutions they deployed not only kept them afloat during the pandemic but introduced efficiencies and optimized the native workflow. Business practices improved, time savings were introduced for team members, and overall operations were enhanced in lasting, meaningful ways. The pandemic served to modernize multifamily and provide a more up-to-date experience for renters, and those advances in technology won’t be repealed when COVID-19 becomes a thing of the past.
Embraced out of necessity
Innovation is born out of necessity, and the pandemic presented plenty of new problems to address.
At the property level, leasing teams had to transition away from in-person prospect tours to mitigate health risks. Community managers had to find ways to facilitate access throughout the community with minimal shared-surface contact. Maintenance teams needed a paperless means to receive and track service requests. Renters facing uncertain financial situations needed fewer up-front monetary obstacles to leasing a home.
Associates at all levels required new platforms to provide transparency and remote oversight of operations, and new methods of communication – both internally and with residents.
Apartment operators couldn’t just throw more manpower at the problem. Technology solutions were tapped en masse, really for the first time in multifamily history, converting an industry that had lagged in innovation into a modern machine.
Out with the old, in with the new
The new model deployed during the pandemic has included additions and integrations with existing platforms, as well as completely new ways of conducting business. COVID-19 changed the landscape for renters, as well, and property managers have needed to cater to the evolving needs of their clientele.
1. Security Deposits
The wide scale unemployment that has accompanied COVID-19 related business closures left many renters with fewer resources to satisfy traditional security deposit requirements. This led operators to revisit their antiquated deposit practices and many have since transitioned to AI-driven deposit replacement solutions such as lease insurance, through which residents pay a small monthly fee to replace the upfront deposit. Lease insurance, which differs from surety bonds and other deposit alternatives, creates an affordable move-in process for renters while still providing operators $5,000 in rent loss and damage coverage. Companies can even market their low-cost move-in process to generate leads and accelerate leasing.
2. Virtual & Self-Guided Tours
Virtual and self-guided tours were rapidly deployed as the only touring options for prospective renters early on in the pandemic, and are now entrenched among the several tour options available to prospects.
The success of self-guided touring has led to a domino-effect in terms of additional tech adoptions to help bolster self-guided systems. Enhanced property mapping and tour tracking capabilities now enable prospective residents to seamlessly guide themselves throughout the property and also allows leasing teams to pinpoint the precise location of prospects during their tours. Bluetooth access controls were developed to enable prospects to access select homes and amenities during their tours via smartphones, and also to facilitate hands-free access for residents. The tour technology gives prospective residents the freedom to tour on their own terms, which has boosted lease conversion rates.
3. Mobile Maintenance
Mobile maintenance workflow platforms also became mainstays during the pandemic. Technicians, residents, property managers, and executive leadership can now view and track the status of service requests, and replace inefficient paper forms and calls to the leasing office. The result has been better response times, a more efficient workflow, and improved resident satisfaction.
The pandemic exposed the fact that the old way of doing things, and the reluctance to adopt new technology, had truly been a disservice to multifamily.
Renter expectations have permanently changed
While multifamily may not have felt ready for the changes, the industry’s embrace of technology was long overdue for renters.
Renters expect to be able to engage with their communities through their mobile devices and manage their living experiences remotely. They also expect the ability to choose how often they directly interact with their property management teams. Prospects appreciate the ability to choose their method of touring, and they expect the option to tour with a leasing agent, visit the property on their own pace and schedule, or conduct a tour from the comfort of their couch. They want flexibility in the way they pay their rent and cover security deposits. Today’s renters are tech savvy, and they expect to be able to reach their property teams through their preferred medium. They expect options.
It took a pandemic to change the way multifamily approaches technology, but the industry finally offers more of what renters demand.