Technology that has been made for multifamily property management has seen a lot of advancement and innovation in the last few years. With so much new software, is there any harm in trying them out or is it better to just wait, and see?
Lisa Lawrence, Property Manager at Aura at Arbodale, a Bonaventure Property, chatted with Muhammad Yasin on our most recent sofa seminar about the latest in leasing tech. She is known for trying out new and different platforms at her property to see what is the best and what isn’t worth your time.
During this Sofa Seminar, they chatted through a wide range of topics including:
- Leasing AI
- The Importance of Personalization
- Integration within your Tech Stack
As a whole, a lot of us spent quarantine talking about going back to normal and that virtual leasing and leasing AI are fads that aren’t here to last post-pandemic. “There’s no advancement and growth in going back,” explains Lisa. With leasing AI, she knows that herself and her leasing specialists feel more educated and have more confidence when talking to prospects as AI Assistants have empowered them with better and more personalized data on prospects.
“We don’t sound like robots asking all these questions anymore because they have already talked to a robot who’s asked them,” she goes on. By handling prospects’ questions and only handing off qualified leads, leasing AI has saved Lisa and her team hours of work. They are able to talk to personalize the conversation and tour to make the prospect feel more at home. All this new tech has allowed Lisa and her team to make a bigger impact with prospects.
Lisa does note the importance of integration within your tech stack. For her, they use Entrata as their PMS. For any new tech they try out, whether its virtual leasing platforms or AI chatbots, if it doesn’t integrate smoothly, she doesn’t waste her time with it. At the end of the day, all this tech should be making it easier for teams to do their jobs and not create more work.
The multifamily industry has been known to be a little wary of embracing new technology. Within the last two years, the industry has seen how valuable being up to speed is. From virtual leasing and now to leasing AI, there have been a lot of new products to try. To all those who are still unsure, Lisa says “I don’t foresee it hurting, keep an open mind, it’s only going to benefit you.”
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When the pandemic hit, a lot of renters fled cities and urban markets for the suburbs. There are a lot of reasons. Some renters who lost their job moved back in with family, others wanted more space for their new remote lifestyles, and others adopted pets and needed more pet friendly environments.
The thing is young people still want to live in cities. In The New York Times article, “Reverse Migration: Moving to Cities While Others Flee”, they talked to a few renters to get their thoughts on why they are moving back. Let’s take a look into how you can attract renters back to your multifamily properties in the city.
Many jobs and education programs are remote or online now. In the same article, some of the renters they interviewed who fled to the suburbs talked about how in their city apartments, there really wasn’t enough space for them to both work and live there. Many units in urban markets are on the smaller size. It can be tough to live and work practically alone in 500 sq ft for days on end, especially if your building barely has outdoor amenities.
Creating rentable, private office spaces, larger communal work rooms, or offering outside seating near outlets is a great way to convert your property to one where renters can live and work remotely. Having outdoor amenities like a lounge space or grills or a rooftop terrace is attractive to renters as outdoor amenities are the number one thing renters are looking for in 2021.
City apartments used to be just places to sleep in while young renters went out and about in the city. With things shut down, renters attitudes towards space, especially outdoor ones that are easily accessible, changed. Multifamily communities in these areas need to keep up with this change so they can attract renters back to the city.
On top of remote work, many people adopted pets during the pandemic. Nationally, 1 in 3 renters have a pet according to PERQ data. The suburbs offer plenty of spaces to walk dogs, yards with fences, and even more parks. Attracting renters back to the city means attracting their furry friends as well.
You need to take a look at your pet policies and if you are a place that would make a good home for a dog. Charging too much in pet rent and having little to no grass/turf nearby won’t work with today’s renters. Whether it’s finding the space in your own property or advertising nearby parks and trails, you need to have some content on your website or social media that shows you are pet friendly. We have a blog post on how to be more pet friendly with some tips from industry leader Jamin Harkness.
With all of this in mind, you need to evaluate if your property meets these standards. Would it be easy to live and work at your property? Does your property offer enough outdoor spaces? Is it pet friendly? Bringing renters back to the city is going to be a pretty big hill to climb but meeting some of the basic needs that caused renters to move out in the first place is a good place to start.
Resident retention is one of the most important metrics/goals for multifamily properties. A happy resident is a resident who renews and a renewal means that you have one less unit sitting open. Most renters plan on renting one unit for 1 to 2 years. With the new generation of renters planning on renting for most, if not all, their lives, there’s opportunity to keep some residents for longer than just 2 years. Let’s take a look at what can be done during a resident’s lease to keep them happy and ready to renew when the time comes.
The theme among all negative reviews for a multifamily property is maintenance. No one wants to live at a property that handles maintenance requests poorly. There needs to be clear communication between maintenance, the leasing office, and the resident who put in the request.
Once a request is sent, within 24 hours there should be someone who contacts that resident to let them know the request has been seen and give them a timeline of when someone can come fix it. This is becoming more important with people working and learning from home more regularly. They need to know if they should rearrange some meetings or let their own teams know that they will be offline at a certain time.
PETS AND RENEWALS
Offering a discount on a few months rent or giving other incentives is a popular way to encourage residents to renew. Creating a referral program is also another popular way that many multifamily properties use for resident satisfaction in hopes of it leading to a renewal. People love to live in communities where their friends are close by and they know their neighbors. A simple way to get a large group of residents to stay and renew is getting rid of pet rent.
1 in 3 renters nationally have a pet according to data collected by PERQ. That means there are a lot of furry residents out there too. Jamin Harkness at TMG got rid of pet rent last year and found that 80% of his residents who owned a pet renewed their lease. He made up all that “lost” revenue in some of the highest retention rates. Making a community more pet friendly includes getting rid of pet rent.
Residents who feel heard and taken care of will stay at your property longer. High occupancy and low turnover is an ideal situation for any multifamily property. That means ensuring that onsite team members are putting in the time and effort to keep residents satisfied and keep their units running smoothly.
Technology for the multifamily industry has seen a lot of innovation and growth in recent years. From multi-option tour scheduling to virtual leasing, multifamily and property management tech is finally coming up to speed with the rest of the digital world. Leasing agent blogs, apart from discussing resident retention, have also started to talk about the impact of AI on property management.
AI property management has proven to save teams hours of work by handling all the excess leads, mundane tasks, collecting better data, and giving cleaner reporting. It’s important to note that an AI leasing agent doesn’t replace a leasing specialist. Leasing AI is a tool in their tech stack that helps them do their job more efficiently and equip them to get better results.
AI LEASING ASSISTANTS
What can an AI Leasing Assistant do? For starters, AI Assistants live on the property website and depending on which one you have, they have a chatbot to answer prospects questions 24/7, they collect data on the online prospects time on your site, some even handle lead nurture and follow-up, and some even connect offsite links from other marketing channels for a more connected experience.
PERQ’s AI Leasing Assistant does all of this and more. Our chatbot isn’t rule-based, it’s a natural language bot meaning that the prospect can just text with the bot. With rule-based chatbots, the prospect has to answer prompt questions no matter if it is related to what questions they are trying to ask. This means it takes more time for prospects to get their question answered and there is a possibility of the prospect not getting the answer they need before getting annoyed and clicking out.
The natural language chatbot has quicker and more efficient conversations with prospects. Prospects interacting with this kind of chatbot have a more connected and personalized experience as that chatbot can collect better data on that prospect’s wants and needs.
FOLLOW-UP AND MORE
PERQ’s AI Assistant also handles all the follow-up no matter what the lead’s move-in timeline is. This helps the onsite team manage their pipeline and feel secure knowing that leads are being nurtured and they can focus on the qualified leads that are ready to talk, tour, or lease. With the cleaner and better data the leasing ai collects, leasing specialists tailor those first initial conversations with prospects to highlight what the data shows to be their wants and needs.
PERQ’s assistant also can be customized to your property’s brand colors and brand voice. This not only makes your follow-up messages look and sound less automated, it keeps prospects engaged and interested in your property longer. The AI Leasing Assistant also knows when to stop sending messages and pull back. After all this effort, losing a prospect because there are too many automated messages flooding their inbox would be brutal. Luckily, PERQ’s Assistant knows when to stop.
Apart from follow-up, our leasing AI technology also provides offsite links to other marketing channels, like an ILS, for a more connected and personalized experience. Leasing specialists will know the entire prospect’s journey as so many start from an ILS before going to the property website. With an SMS number that prospect’s can text, it takes the chatbot outside of the website and is able to talk to all online prospects including those who never go on a property’s website.
A NEED NOT A WANT
Leasing AI is a need for multifamily. For an industry that is typically really behind on technology upgrades, consumer buyer habits have changed a lot and the new generation of renters are expecting the kind of service that leasing AI gives. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in a digital world with answers to whatever they want to know always at their fingertips.
These two generations are also the groups of people who are renting and trends show they are more likely to be long-term or life long renters. This means that multifamily properties need to stay on top of how they can continue to meet the demands of experienced renters who grew up in a whole new world. AI Leasing Assistants can answer their questions 24/7 and help create that engaging and interactive experience on your website that they seek out when looking at major life financial commitments.
What makes PERQ’s AI Leasing Assistant different from other chatbot or follow-up choices is that our solution is an “all in one” platform. By combining single point solutions, the AI Leasing Assistant platform cohesively addresses all phases of the leasing journey to increase overall results and deliver a better renting experience that is much more cost effective to the community.
Anticipating prospective renters wants and needs gives you a competitive advantage in the multifamily industry. With so many new multifamily communities and properties being built all over the country, focusing on resident retention and meeting the needs of prospective renters has become increasingly important. We have many blog posts about what renters want based on data collected by PERQ from our solutions that live on multifamily websites. In 2021, multifamily trends are showing that outdoor amenities are rising up the ranks in what renters are looking for.
The way we live life has changed a lot in the last few years and with more and more companies and jobs becoming remote or semi-work from home, people are spending more time in their homes. We also all spent a better part of a year mainly inside. It’s no surprise that multifamily trends show that renters want outdoor spaces.
Outdoor Amenity Ideas
If you don’t already have outdoor amenities, we’ve got a few ideas on what you can add or budget for in the next few months to meet these demands and to increase the value of your property. A win-win situation! Some outdoor spaces that you can easily do are:
- Rooftop Terrace
- Grill and Lounge
- Work Space
The rooftop terrace is a great way to add outdoor amenities in an urban setting where you may not have the room to build outward. Everyone loves a good rooftop. From the views to a great aesthetic, rooftop terraces are attractive to renters and add some spice to your property. You can have fire pits, lounging chairs and sofas, dining tables and more! Add some cute lights and greenery and your rooftop is ready to go! It’s also a great place to do resident events from happy hour to a movie night, utilizing your rooftop is going to give your property an edge over competitors.
If you do have the ability/the yard space to add some grills and lounging chairs/sofas or dining tables, then do! As a renter, you can’t have a grill or that classic summer BBQ experience at your home. Providing grills and a space to entertain gives renters the ability to host these kinds of events and bring people to your property!
Lastly, adding outdoor coworking space is also a great outdoor amenity idea that is attractive to remote workers and learners. In order to do this you just need outdoor outlets and tables and chairs set up. Adding some nice landscaping or having a coffee shop do a pop up every now and then is a great way to create an outdoor work space that Millennial and Gen Z renters will love.
The best part is, if you don’t have the space for the last two, they can be incorporated into the rooftop terrace as well! Outdoor amenities are growing in popularity and multifamily properties that don’t meet this demand are going to be left behind. You might think “this is just a trend for 2021” but in reality, the changes that have happened that have led to this demand are lifestyle changes. That means they are here to stay long-term. It’s time to add outdoor amenities to your property if you don’t have any.
Budget season can be nerve racking for marketing and onsite teams. It’s the time where they found out what tools they will continue to use, what tools get cut, and what tools will be added to their daily work routine. There can be a multifamily budget template that your property follows to get the discussion started, presentations from vendors about their products, and more can happen during this season. However, following a template won’t give you a more detailed view of what is going on with your property. To get the best out of your investments, we’ve got 3 ways that can help prepare your property for multifamily budget season.
Budgeting affects a lot of people at your property. It affects how they can do their work responsibilities and depending on what tools they use it could make their lives easier or it could make it harder. Gathering everyone that is involved or has touch points with what is being discussed during budgeting is a simple, yet effective way of getting different perspectives across departments.
Assigning roles to different people, like the property manager and regional manager, for specific parts of the budget to analyze and look at not only spreads the responsibility around but it gives them ownership of specific areas of the multifamily operations. There are a lot of multifamily controllable expenses that can be overlooked during this time but assigning a person will help make sure you have all your bases covered.
Gather all of your KPI’s and other notable metrics and compare them to your region’s market data. How well are you performing when compared to your competition? Gather all the data from each individual tool as well. Compile it all together so you can analyze which multifamily expenses are helping you and what is a waste of money.
If you aren’t measuring up to the competition, multifamily budget season is the time to figure out a game plan to make sure you increase your occupancy or renewals in the upcoming year. Data doesn’t lie and will show you the truth about the different tools in your tech stack.
Also looking at the data of multiple years and not just the last two years will help give you a broader view of what is going on in your region and with your property. 2020 was an abnormal year, comparing the last five years will show you how you’ve been trending and what multifamily expenses you typically have but may not have had because of the pandemic. This is how some important things/tools can get cut when in reality they shouldn’t. Looking at multiple years will give you a better idea of how to go forward.
There has been a lot of innovation in the multifamily tech side of the industry. Virtual leasing really took off and has shown how important virtual options are to the new generation of prospects. Virtual leasing platforms are a great investment and this season is a great time to seriously consider adding virtual touring software as a long-term need and not just something you have to have to combat market challenges of 2020.
On top of virtual leasing, leasing AI has really started to make its mark in multifamily. AI Leasing Assistant’s help save onsite teams time by only handing off the qualified leads that are ready to talk, tour or lease and handling the rest. Budget season lines up with a busy leasing season, talking to onsite team members about AI Leasing Assistants is a must this year.
AI Assistants, like the one at PERQ, gather better data from online prospects, make the online experience more engaging, and provide branded follow-up in your brand’s voice in the preferred method of communication — email, SMS. Virtual leasing and AI Leasing Assistants need to be heavily considered in your multifamily budget for the upcoming years. Both of these kinds of software meet today’s consumer’s needs. How? Consumer buying habits have changed. With places like Carvana, major life purchases and financial investments are happening online and with the help of AI.
Collaborating, using market data, and looking at the new tools in multifamily that are making a huge impact with their performance and the prospect experience are all ways to help prepare your property for this budget season. A big point that we’ve hit on a few times is getting a detailed and big picture of how your property is doing by looking at a lot of data and including a lot of different people in your budget discussions.