Credit: Dave Plunkert

Multifamily technology is finally moving at record speeds, but keeping tabs on the ROI of emerging applications is still an exercise in tuning out the buzz to find the benefits.  Here's a look at the myths and realities behind social media, mobile mania, and resident portals. Not long ago, in the summer of 2007, the buzz in the multifamily industry centered on a then-emerging technology known as resident portals. Some envisioned portals as a cross-promotional cornucopia where residents could engage with their management company, while simultaneously arranging for dry cleaning pick-up, shopping for groceries online, even getting a pizza delivered to their door.

Reality hasn’t lived up to the hype.

“I remember people talking about the pizza,” jokes Donald Davidoff, group vice president at Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone, which owns 83,000 units nationally. “I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now.” Yet there is a lesson to learn from the pizza that never came: Like most cutting-edge innovations, portals didn’t deliver the functionality that was originally imagined, but they have become a cornerstone technology for multifamily.

Today, just as in 2007, several new technologies are creating a stir. Social media, mobile search, and augmented reality are the hot topics in 2010. These bleeding-edge technologies seemingly come with myths and realities that the multifamily operator constantly needs to parse. Statistical analysis of social media within the apartment industry suggests low resident usage even while property managers say it’s a must-have item. Likewise, the use of mobile search and augmented reality apps continues to proliferate but still seriously lag traditional lead-to-lease categories such as Internet listing services (ILSs). And of course, portals have morphed into something other than their revolutionary promises.

The bottom line for multifamily tech pros? They must consistently evaluate how new technologies maximize efficiencies and create tangible ROI today—while effectively managing expectations to spare the disappointment of waiting for a pizza that’s never going to come.

If you’re growing your social circle …