Top 5 Tips For Property Management In A Digital Era
Multifamily properties, tenant expectations and property managers’ responsibilities have all rapidly evolved in the last decade with the advent of new technologies.
These five key pieces of advice, generated with the help of MG Properties Group CEO Mark Gleiberman, who has 25 years of multifamily experience and new insights, can help property managers adapt.
1. Go Paperless
Eliminating unnecessary paperwork wherever possible is an important step. It propels a property's operational efficiency and image toward the future. Tenants are frustrated by hard copies of documents, which seem like vestiges of the past. Many of today’s most admired companies rely almost exclusively on electronic media. A paperless approach makes organization easier, reduces physical space needs and streamlines tasks like leasing.
According to Gleiberman, online leasing in particular has boosted conversions and lessened headaches on both sides of the transaction. He said almost everyone now pays rent through the online system.
“Also, internally, automating things like accounting, bank deposits and so many management processes has freed up time for employees. Rather than shuffle papers, they work on marketing campaigns and enhancing customer service,” he said.
This gets prospective tenants in the door and keeps them there.
2. Cultivate Your Property’s Virtual Reputation
Word-of-mouth is the most powerful influencer of purchase decision-making. Although text viewed on a screen is slightly less potent than words heard in person, social media expands the reach and number of opinionated reviewers’ voices that reach stakeholders. Ensuring the social buzz remains positive has become a pressing concern for property managers.
“We actively look into reputation management with Yelp and other social sites now more than ever,” Gleiberman said.“Our portfolio has grown to 14,000 units, so we now have a full-time person who maintains our website and trains local [property managers] to encourage reviews of properties.”
Making reviewing as easy as possible is integral to building an online presence, so Gleiberman’s team sends tenants direct links to target sites along with intermittent reminders. When he and his team receive a negative review, they seek to understand why, and determine what is actionable. Addressing broad criticism can be tough, but often he finds implementing a pointed fix is inexpensive and easy.
He also uses gamification to motivate property managers. “We rank properties and incentivize our PMs with a reputation management reward each month,” he said.
3. Consider How Your Audience Accesses Your Assets
Property managers should expand their definition of assets beyond the physical property to include things like their digital marketing suite.
Adding text and subtitles to property marketing videos, for example, represents one way to hone market penetration tools. Many potential tenants are surreptitiously viewing these at work, with the sound muted or in noisy public areas.
“Internet is everything now,” Gleiberman said. “Print ads are totally dead.”
He has turned his team’s attention and efforts to Craigslist, apartments.com and forRent.com.
4. Invest In Software Your Team Will Actually Use
Software developers have found CRE to be a lucrative market, and a flood of tools tailored specifically to pros in the sector has followed this discovery. Sometimes the platforms, subscriptions and software property managers adopt are underutilized or neglected entirely. The fact that multifamily workers have become so familiar with stalwart, sticky CRE platforms has rendered adoption uncomfortable for teams. Careful research, trials and looking at competitors can help property managers avoid unnecessary tech expenditures.
“We recently implemented the Yardi investment management module after some time,” Gleiberman said. “And it was a long and painful process, but we expect it to pay dividends. We’ve outgrown Excel, but we use Yardi with price optimization software.”
Technology is always becoming cheaper, more portable and more durable, leading to new applications in repair and maintenance. Tenants are accustomed to live updates. They crave the ability to access everything at their fingertips.
“All maintenance people have been given iPads, and this allows them to give and get updates,” Gleiberman said.
Tablets and mobile apps also permit them to more effectively manage workflow and need to check-in with the front desk less frequently.
“They can mark completed tasks on-site, or take pictures if they have an issue fixing something before engaging the appropriate people,” Gleiberman said.
5. Meet Tenants’ Current Needs While Anticipating Future Ones
High-speed internet access is no longer reserved for the upper echelon.
“It’s become commonplace even at B properties,” Gleiberman said.
He also reports seeing growing interest in green initiatives, and is investigating how best to integrate technology that marries sustainability with operational efficiency.
He is now leveraging tech, sometimes viewed as having an isolating effect, as a force of cohesion, combating tech-induced loneliness by using it to bring people together and build community. This is accomplished at some properties by simply adding a discussion board-type forum to the lease payment management portal. There, residents can do things like plan get-togethers based on common interests or arrange for neighbors to babysit.
Gleiberman is also adding electric vehicle charging stations to parking lots and exploring innovative options that allow staff to handle ever-increasing package volume.
“We have adopted new systems like package lockers at some properties, but retrofitting is difficult,” Gleiberman said. “As we consider buying new properties, we carefully consider what we'd have to do to make them current.”
Despite the challenges it presents, technology has rendered multifamily property management more efficient and exciting.