New technologies and innovations are creating smart apartments, reducing costs, and improving ROI for multifamily developers, owners, and operators. Multifamily Executive spoke with Virginia Love, industry principal at Entrata, to understand how technology is affecting multifamily today and how it will continue to revolutionize the industry.
MFE: How is technology disrupting multifamily as a whole?
Love: Technology has really opened the eyes of multifamily. Our prospects and residents now see smart home technologies as an expectation and not a perk. As our residents become more and more savvy, our multifamily technology has to transform in pace. It is refreshing to see the industry embrace the chaos and see how each company determines how they are going to make a splash.
MFE: How should multifamily organizations use technology to gather information and improve services?
Love: There is not one facet of multifamily operations that technology can’t make easier, faster, and more efficient. Mobile technologies empower maintenance teams to complete maintenance requests faster and communicate with residents more efficiently. We can use technology during the leasing process to increase engagement and create a streamlined leasing experience for prospects. We can also leverage quick and easy surveys using mobile technology to gather prospect, resident, and employee information and feedback.
MFE: Can you talk about how technology is helping create automation and efficiencies and how it is helping create a more human touch?
Love: Automating current tasks gives on-site teams more time to interact and engage with customers. Tasks such as prospect nurturing or offering a chatbot to answer Facebook direct messages are low-cost options that free up valuable time but keep the property in the path of the customer. With automation technologies in place designed to reduce the amount of time our teams spend on monotonous tasks, we then position our teams to create high-touch and high-impact moments of truth for our prospects and residents. This is what will truly propel our operations.
MFE: How are new technologies helping cut expenses?
Love: Technology can be used to cut expenses in every area of operations. There are technology applications available to improve efficiencies in the leasing office, reduce energy usage, digitally monitor our communities for leaks, integrate marketing spend with channel performance so we can quickly adjust strategy, and cut cost for vacant apartments—all of which are opportunities to save money and increase ROI. Evaluating a new technology’s worth, not just the cost, is key to finding what brings the most to the bottom line.
MFE: What types of technologies are the most relevant in multifamily at the moment?
Love: The first thing that comes to mind are technologies that assist the on-site teams with performance. Yes, residents expect technology, but we should keep those driving income for the community at the top of our minds when deciding where and what technologies to invest in. If we continue to invest in our teams with technology and create efficiencies at that level, a streamlined experience will carry over to our prospects and residents.
MFE: Is there a technology that is not getting enough attention?
Love: Personally, I do not think we can talk about artificial intelligence (AI) enough. It has been years since a specific topic has been able to dominate each aspect of the multifamily industry. It is fascinating to think how AI will transform the apartment business. From the service side of the business to determining where to spend marketing dollars, AI cannot get enough hype.
MFE: Are there technologies that are more suited to Class B/C? Why?
Love: Technology is a valuable amenity and is versatile, no matter the community class. While some fitness centers and pools are nicer than others, most customers want physical amenities and technology amenities in their apartment homes. I do not think product type, even location, is a concern. Each apartment class needs to remain competitive, and they need to strategically leverage technology in order to do that.
MFE: Are there best practices on how to solicit and analyze feedback from residents on new technologies?
Love: It is important to remember that residents are bombarded by technology in all aspects of their lives, not just at their apartment communities. Paperless payments, voice-controlled smart speakers, portal access to personal information, constant connectivity, etc., are not limited to multifamily. Through avenues such as social media, review sites, and surveys, residents are sharing their pain points on a regular basis. Apartment operators should pay attention to these channels, as it’s often the most convenient way for residents to leave feedback, and they are very transparent on these platforms.