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Effectiveness Of Technology Is Now A Deciding Factor For Multifamily Tenants

Keeping commercial real estate assets competitive after the coronavirus outbreak will require a stronger commitment to technology that connects tenants and owners while integrating with existing software to ensure processing efficiencies, experts said while speaking at Bisnow's Protecting Your Assets & Creating a Competitive Advantage webinar.


In the past year, more tenants living inside multifamily complexes have turned their residences and community common areas into makeshift workspaces, while retail and office destinations have focused more on keeping staff protected through the addition of remote tech solutions like automatic doors and touchless, app-operated elevators.

"The working-from-home phenomenon will continue, but I don't think it's going to be the end-all-be-all," Hillwood Urban Senior Vice President Walt Zartman said. "Technology developments will certainly play a role in how successful that is for individuals' ability to connect within the network of their company and collaborate and work with other people."

But to get this level of connectivity, whether managing an apartment community or an office, CRE professionals say landlords cannot just pick the latest tech gadgets or apps for their systems. Instead, they have to choose tools that integrate property-wide with their existing systems to make sure all communications are made efficiently and effectively.

"For me, it is [about] streamlining efficiencies and creating efficiencies; and obviously, you have to have cost savings on the back side," Weitzman Director of Property Management Sandi Scott said. "In turn, mitigating risk is up there also, as far as you don't want to give misinformation, so the accuracy and the integration with existing systems is important."

Property managers and CRE proptech experts say tech tools that allow tenants and landlords to communicate online about everything from rent to property damage and community events grew even more critical to operations during the pandemic. 

For example, maintenance teams began asking tenants to email photos of on-site property damage, so the teams could order repair parts before visiting the apartment. Handling rental payments online became a critical component of tenant communications in 2020 after the pandemic made in-person contact more difficult. 

"I think getting away from paper in the mail will also help us streamline and be more effective and efficient for ownership," Scott said.

Tech solutions also played a role in helping landlords and tenants communicate through the toughest parts of the pandemic, whether they were working on rent abatements, rent delays or renegotiations. 

Landlords that invested in the tech tools and strategies to keep communication flowing with tenants are likely to see the benefits of it in the latter part of this year when everything is opened up, the speakers said. 

"Those landlords that were proactive and not waiting for tenants to come to them are the ones that probably will find it is going to pay back with dividends — it's just smart business," BDO Managing Director Ross Forman said.