With a couple clicks of a mouse, cost comparisons of green building standards, increased Internet lead conversions, and a leasing agent sales commission compensation system are all within grasp, said multifamily executives on a recent technology panel profiling tech systems developed in-house at their respective firms.

At the "Tricks of the Tech Trade" session at the 2008 Multifamily Executive Conference this week, Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone group vice president of strategic systems Donald Davidoff; Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Laramar Group president and CEO Dave Woodward; and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Wood Partners director Rick Mercer all stressed productivity, functionality, and profitability when designing new systems and programs.

Although Davidoff admitted that the lead management system his firm developed was greatly inspired by a similar effort at AMLI Residential, he pointed to advancements in the Archstone program that funnel XML-fed Internet leads from every ILS as well as ArchstoneApartments.com into the company's MRI property management software. In particular, the system offers generated auto responses, prompts for an immediate human email or phone follow-up within one day, and offers associates real-time, hyperlinked leads with a time stamp and all of the free-field information entered by the lead. The system has increased Archstone's live response rate to Internet leads from 50 percent to 90 percent.

"A leap of faith" was how Woodward described his company's effort to computerize a commissions system for leasing consultants that has resulted in higher lease renewals and initial signings. The system organizes monthly lease conversions and renewals into four tiers. Leasing agents are offered increasing amounts of commission-based pay as their sales volume advances them to the fourth tier. "The concept here is to create a career in leasing and hopefully get the best performers in the market and keep them with Laramar," Woodward said.

Likewise, Mercer of Wood Partners said creating the Green Evaluation Model (GEM) was, at first, tenuous. The system allows multifamily builders and developers to enter construction specs into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that computes a cost analysis for the project comparing standards development by LEED, EarthCraft Homes, and the NAHB National Green Building Standard. "It was amazing, though, once we started working on the project, how quickly our 'cement-headed' builders and 'crunchie' green-oriented strategists began speaking a similar language," Mercer said.

While Davidoff said several off-the shelf products exist now that could compare with Archstone's lead management system, he agreed with Mercer that some of the profits lay in the development process. "I would probably buy instead of build, if I had the opportunity, but the process itself created a corporate culture focused on this type of lead follow-up?and conversions that far outpace the industry averages," Davidoff said.