Saturday, January 9, 2016

Keeping Up on Technology Can Benefit Multifamily Owners


by Matt Reynolds, Research Analyst 

There is an explosion of new technology available today, disrupting all industries. Multifamily real estate is no exception. After many years of resisting change, many multifamily professionals appear to be welcoming and adopting new technology. With this comes an increasing need to use technology to successfully compete in the multifamily world.

We have recently seen the emergence of a plethora of new technologies relating to all aspects of multifamily real estate. It remains unclear which ones will become ubiquitous, which will remain moderately well adopted or quickly forgotten. Adopting effective concepts early — and ignoring unsuccessful ones — can often be the key to giving you an edge over your competition.

The nature of marketing, in particular, has undergone a revolution. Social media has seemingly made potential clients or renters more reachable. The advantages to Internet mass-marketing seem obvious at first, while the downsides are harder to recognize. For starters, the competition for a potential renter’s or clients’ attention is greater. People are also increasingly able to deal with information on their own terms. Thirty years ago physical mail and telephones encompassed almost all remote communication. These days we have the added complexity of email, text messages, web conferences, social media and increasingly mobile applications. Choosing which information sources to view — and which to ignore — is much easier for people living in an age of diminished standardization. In short, there is more information and advertising out there, but people can view it on their own terms. So what, then, are good ways to reach customers?

The answer: make them come to you. Customers seek out the services they need on the Internet. If you happen to have the easiest interface, the most convenient service or the most engaging website features, you can be successful. Netflix and Amazon are perfect examples of website-based companies that dominate their competition following these principals. For property managers, attractive websites for apartment properties — with online services and features — can be a real boost. Matterport, for example, has developed a relatively inexpensive ($4,500) 3D camera that can create virtual, dimensionally-accurate tours of apartment units. With this technology, potential renters are able to seriously consider your property from the comfort of their bedroom — and at their own convenience. It also saves property managers a ton of time because it eliminates disinterested parties scheduling in-person tours.

Property management companies and developers are generally under the most pressure to adopt new technologies and amenities, because they are most exposed to renter demands. However, it is still useful for owners and investors to understand the demand for new technological conveniences so they can choose effective management companies — or know why they are having trouble renting their units for as much as other area properties that might have more conveniences and technology-based amenities. So ask yourself: are you aware of the latest space-age amenities benefiting renters in your area?

Currently, owners and property management companies in the Portland Metro Area have been somewhat insulated from the negative effects of slow technological adoption, due to the local housing crisis. When the vacancy rate is below 3%, potential renters are not likely to kick up a fuss over not being able to pay rent online from their phone. This might not be the case in a few years, when housing supply catches up with renter demand. Don’t wait to start learning more now.

Matt Reynolds is a research analyst and database manager for HFO. He can be reached at (503) 241-5541 or by e-mail at matt@hfore.com