Top 3 Tips to Budgeting in a Pandemic

By: Ibby Ahmed

Recent grad from Indiana University with a passion for content creation, an adorable pup named Suki, and a newfound love of creating multifamily TikToks.

Budget season is coming to a close and we are still in the midst of a pandemic. In March, the world shut down and everything was at a stand still. Many communities had to act quickly in order to survive. This year has been full of surprises and challenges that old budgeting strategies don’t have room for. So what are some ways to help you in creating an annual operating budget for your multifamily property?


1. Invest in what you need


Focus less on what you want and more on what you need. It’s time to invest in tools and products that help you reach your customers where they are – online. More prospects are opting for virtual tours/virtual leasing and ways to schedule viewings from a safer distance. Towards the end of summer, as some properties began allowing for in person tours to happen again, we see that many prospects are still choosing to look virtually instead. Virtual options are still important because it helps out of town prospects tour your property and it keeps the casual online visitor more engaged.


Angie Lombardi, VP of Marketing at The Franklin Johnston Group, said “Video gets more interactions and engagement than a static photo and we have the metrics to show it!” Adding virtual leasing was a must in 2020 in order to have some sort of business. In 2021, virtual leasing is here to stay. Along with virtual touring softwares, leasing AI needs to be considered in your multifamily budget for the upcoming years.


AI Leasing Assistants help save onsite teams time by handling all the leads that come through your website and only handing off qualified prospects who are ready to tour or speak to a leasing specialist. AI Assistants collect better data so the onsite team can be more prepared for that first initial conversation. On top of that, leasing AI automates the follow-up and lead nurture process with branded messaging in your company’s voice and stays on top of all the follow-up no matter how far down the pipeline. AI Leasing Agents make sure that no lead is missed and that all leads are being taken care of.


2. Collaborate


Collaborating across all departments is key to making sure your budget works for everyone. Pandemic or not, you will get the best ROI when every department is taken into consideration and is part of the strategizing. From property managers to regional managers, having people in the room who work with your tech stack on a day to day basis will have great input on whether or not to keep certain tools or vendors.


They can report on the data and KPI’s that they’ve been seeing for the property and how the tools have contributed or gotten in the way. Having multiple perspectives will make your budgeting mindful of everyone and it will help create a multifamily budget that is working for your property. When people are left out of the conversation, that is when things get overlooked and money either gets cut where it shouldn’t or added where it’s not needed.


3. Expanding Your View


Instead of looking at 2020’s budget up against 2019’s budget, Marcella Eppsteiner, VP of Marketing for Mission Rock Residential, says that it’s important to look at more years to better understand just how out of the norm 2020 is. By looking at a broader viewpoint, you can use the data to your advantage and see what needs to be prioritized and what can take a back seat. It also helps to see if the investments you’ve made have done any good long term or if they produce stagnant results.


When we think about budget property management companies that don’t look at their multifamily operations from the last five or so years are getting a very narrow view of what their multifamily expenses should look like for the coming year. This year has brought a lot of challenges but it has given us the opportunity to adapt and grow. The things we learn from this year will make us better equipped in the years to come.


Budgeting can be a lot. It’s not easy to make everyone happy, but making cuts where cuts don’t need to be made will only hurt your properties and how they perform. Taking advice from marketing teams and onsite teams on where they think the property should invest more or less into will make it a lot easier to enter budget discussions with a concrete idea of what direction to go.


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