In today’s competitive market, property managers need to be constantly on the lookout for new ways to both attract new residents and retain the residents you have. This is no easy task. It can be difficult to find the right combination of features and amenities that make your property stand out from the pack. Even more challenging can be finding innovative solutions to persistent problems in the property management industry.
The good news is that there are exciting changes that are just now beginning to be adopted in property management. Like it has in many industries, technology is creating many opportunities and disrupting the way that property managers are doing business. Through innovative technologies, property managers are able to provide better service to their residents, improve the flow of communication, increase property and personal security, and improve marketing to new residents.
In this article, we’ll explore some innovative property management ideas that can be used to both attract new residents and provide better service to your current residents. A central theme to these innovative solutions is greater technological integration into the property management sphere. Through the use of emergent technologies, property managers are able to use a data-driven strategies to open up new avenues of communication between residents and management. At the same time, new technologies, such as the use of parcel lockers, are addressing key security problems for resident property.
Some of the solutions we will discuss in this article have yet to experience widespread adoption within the multifamily property management industry. Although articles abound about the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) or drones into property management, the reality is that these technologies are years away from widespread adoption. However, by being aware of what changes are on the horizon, today’s property managers can prepare for tomorrow’s innovations. Savvy property managers will be able to identify the technologies and solutions that will appeal to their specific residents, and perhaps use these tools as early adopters. One of the keys to innovative property management is identifying the services your residents desire and then finding new ways to address those needs.
Why Is There a Need to Innovate?
You might be wondering why you would need innovative property management solutions. If your operations have been moving along fine, why would you need to look for new ways to serve your residents? One the one hand, demand for rentals is steadily rising in the United States. On the other hand, there’s no easy answer to this question. Some property management teams are more proactive about incorporating emergent technologies into their operations to drive increased efficiencies and become more profitable. Others are not. However, there are reasons that even property managers that fall into this latter camp should consider adopting some of the solutions we’ll go over.
The main reason innovative property management solutions are in demand is because the number of people renting in the United States is rising every year. According to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, demand for rentals has skyrocketed over the past decade. In 2005 roughly 9 million American families or individuals rented. By 2015 that number was over 43 million families or single renters. This explosive growth is attributed to a variety of factors. The economic downturn of 2008 resulted in the loss of over 8 million homes and was accompanied by a large setback in income levels. Additionally, individuals and families that were interested in purchasing a home found it harder to secure mortgages.
In addition to the economic downturn a decade ago, an increasing number of millennials are aging. More millennials in their 20’s have equated to a greater number of individuals seeking and living in apartments. What’s important about this is that it not only equates to an increase in demand for rentals, but this increased demand stems from a generation that is more integrated with technology than ever before. Put another way, a greater proportion of your residents are more likely to appreciate or even expect, you to have integrated technology into your property management operations. Things like online rent paying that was an attraction ten years ago are now a tenant expectation for almost every property management business.
With all of these renters entering the market, property management companies have struggled to keep up. The result has been a tightening of the rental market that seems to only be increasing. While vacancy rates have remained low, the average rent has risen substantially in most urban markets. While this may seem like an ideal situation for property managers, it is also important to keep in mind that one of the reasons so many more people are beginning to rent is because of the convenience that it offers.
Rentals allow individuals and families to move for less money and with less friction. This mobility has given renters greater agency in determining the types of residences that they would like to live in. Also, don’t forget the power of social media. Today’s renters are more likely to make bad experiences known to potential future residents. As such, it is in every property managers best interests to offer the widest range of community services and innovative solutions to their residents.
One area where property managers have tried for years to find improvement is streamlining the management of maintenance requests. Maintenance is a huge headache for most property managers, particularly in older developments with aging systems. A solution that many property managers are now developing is the use of a maintenance management portal. Through a web-based software platform, your residents can submit maintenance requests. Those requests flow directly to maintenance and get triaged in the order of importance. Throughout the process, your residents can view the status of the ticket, from receipt to completion. Key details like access instructions can be included in the service request.
The use of a maintenance portal is a great way for property managers to use technology to drive innovative solutions to existing problems. Maintenance backlogs are a real problem and are a constant source of resident frustration. Poorly maintained dwellings fail to capture new residents as well. In addition to this, a robust maintenance management system will help reduce costly labor hours from your front-office staff. Instead of handling maintenance requests and updating residents, your staff can spend their time reaching out to potential renters and leading outreach for existing residents. At the same time, a maintenance portal is a great way for you to collect data on your residences. Data regarding the frequency of maintenance, types of maintenance, and what equipment or systems most frequently need servicing, can be used to inform operational decisions.
If you could, would you want to have better data about the health of your building’s systems? Of course, you would. If given a choice, every property management firm would prefer to have more data rather than less. Integrating technology into the building itself is one way that property managers can glean more data about their systems and operations. Building automation can be integrated into your building’s HVAC and lighting systems to give you greater flexibility and control. You’ll be able to monitor and adjust systems remotely.
At the same time, you’ll get an early warning if critical systems need maintenance or are beginning to fail. Building automation can also play a role in property security.
“You may be able to remotely monitor and record service entrances, log when access to certain areas has occurred, and ensure public walking areas are well-lit at dusk. Not only will this improve the security of your property, but your residents will also appreciate it.” says Johan Ram, automation manager at Casinot.
One way that some property managers are improving services is through the use of innovative resident relations solutions. These can include social media outreach, the use of automation for customer service tasks, or live chat options that give residents direct access to staff on-demand. This solution is really about streamlining communication between property managers and their residents. It is also important to understand that information flows both ways. Property managers need to be able to hear from their residents, while residents need a reliable way to receive communications from property managers. Through the use of multi-stream communication platforms, property managers can communicate with residents based on their preference. Plus, by leveraging the power of social media, property management teams can improve outreach while staying more connected to the pulse of the properties they manage.
Enhanced Property Security
One challenge that has been facing property managers forever is how to offer better security for their properties. What is unique in today’s world is that we have both the technology available to offer innovative solutions, as well as an emergent problem that demands those solutions. More residents than ever are demanding that property managers find a way to help secure their shipments for pickup.
In today’s world, online shopping is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily lives. Whereas in the past online shopping was reserved for extremely rare or hard to find items, now nearly everything is available online from groceries to clothes and everything in between. The future of grocery retail itself is launching and paving an impressive path. More people prefer to complete their shopping online than ever, and this number is increasing every year.
What does this mean for property managers? For starters, it means handling a lot of packages. Property management teams today are seeing tens of hours every week wasted by staff having to handle packages, store them securely, log them, and notify residents. This represents a large investment in time, and that investment is only going to continue. At the same time, there are other considerations that must be weighed. Securing those deliveries becomes your responsibility as a property manager, which introduces another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation.
On top of the increasingly large amount of time that managing package deliveries have begun to occupy for today’s property managers, your residents are expecting their packages in a short period of time. Online shopping today is characterized by more frequent shipments that are smaller in size and have tighter delivery windows. Like it or not, property management teams are now an integral stakeholder in last mile logistics. So, how can property managers help meet their resident’s expectations while streamlining the package delivery process and improving last mile logistics? Through a parcel locker.
Multifamily parcel lockers are one of the most effective emergent technology systems that property managers can use to meet resident needs, improve the security of their buildings, and reduce the cost associated with package handling. Parcel locker systems allow for streamlined package reception, processing, and notification. This reduces the amount of labor you’ll need to route your resident’s packages. Notifications can go out in real-time, allowing time-sensitive packages to be picked up immediately.
After hours package pickups aren’t a problem either, adding another layer of convenience for residents that want their packages but can’t make it to your front office before closing time. On top of this, parcel lockers greatly enhance security. Your resident’s packages will be securely waiting for them, and you’ll be able to easily monitor access to and from the parcel locker.
The soaring demand for rentals isn’t going anywhere. While both demand and rent remain high, property management teams are looking for innovative solutions that can entice new residents and retain existing residents. Residents themselves are trending younger as more millennials age, enter the workforce, and begin renting. Millennials are renting longer as well, stemming both from a desire to start families at a later age, as well as tightening access to mortgages. The individuals and families renting and leasing today are more concerned than ever with convenience.
Many of the solutions and innovation we have outlined leverage technology to drive increased convenience for residents, while also filling a critical need. Through the use of maintenance management portals, property managers are able to streamline the flow of work orders, making placing a service ticket easier for residents and making it easier for maintenance staff to prioritize tickets and follow-up on existing tickets. The use of building automation gives management and front-office staff a full-field view of building health and creates the opportunity to perform maintenance on problems before they become critical issues.
Through the use of parcel lockers, property managers are better able to cater to resident demands for fast, efficient delivery of online purchases that can be picked up at their convenience. At the same time, parcel lockers enhance security by eliminating package theft. Read more about the benefits of parcel lockers for multifamily homes in our related blog article. These are a few of the exciting and innovative property management ideas your company can use to enhance the services you provide your residents.