Senior Vice President, Investment Management at AppFolio, which provides cloud-based property management software solutions.
For an industry that relied heavily on in-person interactions, the property management world had to adapt quickly to remote pandemic realities over the past year. The shift to remote work, virtual leasing and the types of communications needed to relay messages to residents all created an urgency in the property management world to find technology solutions that would best help them navigate business disruption caused by the pandemic.
However, the acceleration of tech adoption in property management is not something that starts and stops with a remote reality. Technology was gaining traction before the pandemic, and the acceleration of tech adoption is going to continue to rise, even when our environment starts to feel a little more “back to normal.”
The reason? Technology does not just support quick business pivots — it is a foundational element for future business resiliency, which is top of mind for companies as they begin to embark on the road to recovery in the coming months.
There is no one simple solution to becoming a resilient company. In property management, while it is easy to pinpoint a multitude of factors that contribute to long-term business success, it is not easy to control those factors. As consumer expectations change and as the world changes, technology serves as a guiding light for businesses in terms of helping them realize longer-term goals and giving them more visibility and control into factors that will be central to their success.
Technology is not the quick-fix band-aid for business problems — its value is so much more extensive than that.
The Convenience Factor
Property management is a very complex business because there are so many moving parts and so many different people involved. While we tend to think of workflow processes as something that might not impact the consumer, in property management that is not the case. There is so much interaction between property management teams and their residents and even prospective residents.
At the end of the day, providing an excellent renter experience is the most important aspect of business resiliency for property management companies. From the business perspective, a positive renter experience reduces turnover and leaves property management teams less at risk for vacancies and low occupancy.
Convenience is everything when it comes to a great renter experience. Property management companies have to understand that it is not just good service that will carry the day with a new generation of renters — uncovering ways to bring more convenience to renters’ lives is paramount. And by convenience, I mean “modern” conveniences.
We all live in an on-demand culture where we have instant access to the things and people we need, like Zoom calls, grocery delivery and digital payments. Why should the renting experience be any different? Technology enables people to pay rent on their mobile devices, do virtual tours of a vacant unit, submit maintenance requests online and more. Mobile capabilities provide more ease of access to renters and ultimately make certain processes just a little easier for them.
The Workforce Factor
A study from IREM a few years ago found that the average age of property managers is 50. Why is that a problem? It signifies that there is a greater portion of the property management workforce that is closer to retirement age than not. With all the talent that might exit the workforce in the coming 10 to 20 years, it is so critical for property management businesses to be actively thinking about how to attract and retain new talent.
Just like renters, young, tech-savvy talent have expectations for what their work environment will look like. They want streamlined processes, less administrative work and ultimately want to feel satisfied in their jobs. Deploying advanced technologies that give property management teams the ability to better communicate, run through tasks and get more visibility into operations, while applying the consumer-like feel of modern technology to day-to-day work, is a great way to elevate the entire working experience, increasing the resilience of the company overall.
The Business Factor
Finally, running a business well is critical to ensuring property management success. However, the best property manager in the world cannot possibly have a real bird’s-eye view of all operations in real-time. Technology can provide an increased level of visibility into operations and business performance. The sheer amount of data it can capture gives property managers a major leg up in terms of making smarter and more informed decisions.
Having tools that provide access to critical business data, built-in workflows, performance insights and more is not just important for uncertain times. It is an evolution of an entire business approach that is ultimately data-led.
With so much data available so readily, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Before this happens, it’s important to determine what your objectives are and what data will matter the most to your business. Once these have been identified, priority should be given to any kind of predictive analytics that can help determine future demand and drive better outcomes at lower costs.
Resiliency is the name of the game looking forward. Property management teams who look at technology as a true business partner will ultimately be in a better and stronger position in the market.