Scottsdale, Ariz.-based VaultWare Online Apartment Marketing & Leasing has teamed up with Santa Monica, Calif.-based ILS Rent.com to launch Market Comps, an automated, dashboard-enabled comp reporting system for on-site apartment professionals to track competitive rents in their submarket. VaultWare marketing director Kevan Humphrey gave Multifamily Executive senior editor Chris Wood a test-drive of the system this week, and shared his thoughts on how the service compares to revenue optimization systems and how it can help to further maximize leasing office productivity and efficiency.
MFE: So how does the auto comp system work?
Humphrey: For the VaultWare Reservation System or Rent.com customer, the Market Comps shows a dashboard view of your current rent versus an aggregate rent of all other VaultWare and Rent.com clients within a selected distance from the property. Users can customize that aggregate view by selecting which of the properties they want to comp based on the name, the location, and specific unit and floorplan features, such as whether a property has studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, or three-bedroom units.
MFE: How accurate is the data?
Humphrey: That’s a good question. All of the rent data here is provided directly from Rent.com and VaultWare clients, so typically that data is being reported out of a property management system. Auto comp updates rent changes in weekly increments, and the user can see how old the data is, basically whether rents are changing, whether new rents are being reported, or whether the rent has remained unchanged for some time. But since the data is coming directly from the clients, it eliminates the guesswork involved in phone comps. Whether you comp by impersonating a renter or simply calling a competing company to ask for the comp, you never know if you are getting the real asking rent.
MFE: How does the system respond to revenue management?
Humphrey: Well, you can basically see which of your comps are using revenue optimization software because you’ll see the variations and volatility in the rents, whereas non-RO users tend to remain fairly flat. In it’s own way, auto comp is almost a very basic revenue optimization system. [Although it is not computing off of a demand algorithm], it enables users to respond quickly to rent changes and unit demand among their comps in the marketplace. [VaultWare CEO] Mike Mueller has even talked about the system as a “poor man’s” revenue management option.
MFE: Wow, so you could use the system to monitor comps and determine if a market is revenue-management friendly?
Humphrey: Ha, I don’t know that it goes that far. Certainly you can make a well-educated guess about which comps are using RO systems just by looking at how the data trends, but we wouldn’t say this is a tool that was designed to determine the suitability for using revenue optimization in any given market. The intent here is to provide a streamlined and efficient way for on-site professionals to conduct market comps and alleviate them of the hours-long task of calling comps and pulling together reports.
MFE: That certainly seems to be the name of the game in technology right now.
Humphrey: That’s right. Anything that can help leasing staffs focus on converting prospects is a real plus.
VaultWare’s not the only company touting new technology news this month.
Newport Beach, Calif.-based Irvine Company Apartment Communities (ICAC) made news on the mobile app front. Originally launched in June 2010, the ICAC iPhone application allows residents to make maintenance requests, access up-to-date community news postings, get exclusive coupons from local businesses, and access the ICAC portal MyRental-Living.com for online rent payments. ICAC added a similar Android app in March, and announced two weeks ago that the firm won the Best Real Estate Application award in the West Simsbury, Conn.-based Web Marketing Association’s 9th Internet Advertising Competition.
Santa Barbara-Calif.-based Yardi isn’t wasting any time building out its ILS platform: The firm announced in mid-April the availability of an iPhone application for its RENTCafé ILS. Available at Cupertino, Calif.- based Apple’s App Store since the end of March, the RENTCafé app saw nearly 4,500 downloads in the first two weeks, with particularly heavy usage in the Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., markets. The app gives prospects access to listings with instant GPS-enabled local search capability. Searches can also be filtered by city, zip code, and radius, as well as by the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, amenities, pets, and other features. “The iPhone app expands RENTCafé's mobile reach to a rental demographic that's increasingly reliant on mobile technology,” says Yardi senior vice president of sales Terri Dowen. “We are pleased with the app's immediate success, and with it, we look forward to helping our clients market their apartments.”
Atlanta-based ILS Apartment Guide announced this week the deployment of a “Search with Friends” website functionality, allowing apartment prospects searching on ApartmentGuide.com to invite their Facebook friends to join them in their apartment search, which the company says could help roommates, in particular, in their apartment search. “The majority of people who are using Facebook are ages 18 to 34, and we aim to provide them with an easier apartment search process both on our site and in social media forums,” says Apartment Guide president Arlene Mayfield. “By offering consumers this online community to discuss apartment options through a communication tool they are already embracing, we are enhancing the online renter experience and increasing engagement."