Efficient Use Of Technology Will Set Residential Property Managers Apart
In a world where face-to-face contact has plummeted, technology is not a benefit but a necessity. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, use of digital tools for resident communication, virtual meetings, online learning and socialising have skyrocketed and many innovators have turned their minds to what aspects of human interaction can be digitalised.
Despite the ‘raison d’etre’ of the residential sector being to physically put people in homes, technology has leapt to the top of property managers' and residents' minds, particularly in the build-to-rent sector.
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore that technology is not an option but is essential,” Yardi Regional Director Justin Harley said. “We can see from our statistics that in the last two months, managers’ and residents’ reliance on technology has increased twofold. And the way managers provide a technological experience to residents and how they support them through this time will create a lasting brand impression.”
Human Interaction Goes Online
When referring to technology, Harley meant the variety of technologies available to help property managers operate their buildings and communicate with tenants. Technology can be installed along every step of the process, from finding residents, to helping them move in and ensuring their home is maintained to everyone’s standards.
Yardi manages about 12 million residential units around the world and tracks trends and usage each month through its technology. Harley said the company has seen a huge increase in property managers’ use of tools since lockdown, such as increased communication via resident apps, virtual tours for home viewings, online residential applications and tools that provide a seamless, hands-off check-in experience.
Virtual tours remain popular even though the UK government now permits in-person viewings again. The number of listings on Rightmove that include a virtual tour has increased by 44% from mid-April to mid-May. Sales to UK companies of Matterport’s Pro2 camera, used to create virtual tours, have increased by 630% since March.
“The current environment has emphasised the need to use technology,” Harley said. “Customers will now expect property managers to have the technology that goes hand in hand with the human element.”
Focus On Getting One Thing Absolutely Right
The speed of technological adoption has unsurprisingly increased in the last few months, Harley said. Property managers often previously took 12 to 18 months to integrate a new software platform or tool into their operations, but this is now a priority. The wisest property managers, however, are not trying to offer everything at once.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, people have focused their time on essential needs, not on nice-to-haves,” Harley said. “They’ve cut out the noise. Does an app function as it needs to for residents? Yes. So often we are seduced by bells and whistles and forget about the needs of the user.”
For example, Yardi has an app called RENTCafé Resident, which is rated highly by thousands of residents worldwide with a 4.8 rating on the app store. The company uses it to pick up communication from the property management team, to report issues and work orders and to pay for services. It does many more things, but the other functions are all secondary.
It can take time for a manager to evolve a software platform to offer what’s really needed and, of course, software will always take time to implement. Harley argued that by having the technological building blocks in place when the property was first brought to market puts certain properties ahead of others in the race to secure tenants.
“With technology in place, a brand will become synonymous with helping residents,” he said. “It will show that the property management company was prepared and organised when the crisis hit. We all have a lot to learn about how to shift operations to different ways, but providers that start off using technology will be in a better place from day one to direct people to digital operations.”
It doesn’t mean that it’s now too late for a property manager to start implementing technology. The software world changes every day and the industry is likely to see a huge increase in the use of healthtech, for example. As technology and human service excellence become increasingly intertwined, technology should now be at the top of every property manager’s mind.
This feature was produced by the Bisnow Branded Content Studio in collaboration with Yardi. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.