In-unit deliveries. Smart access control. Virtual tours. Proptech has enabled all sorts of valuable conveniences in recent years.
But 2023 proptech? That’s going to be all about automation.
As Shawaun Alexander, vice president of operations software and systems at property management company Bozzuto, puts it, “It’s about doing more with less.”
“Multifamily has done things the same way for a very long time, so to me, it's all about automation and trying to achieve efficiency,” Alexander says. “We’re kind of wiping the slate clean and reimagining how our teams work.”
What will that reimagined environment look like, though, and which automation technologies should be on owners’ radars to make it a reality? Here are the top proptech automation trends pros say are on the come-up this year.
Leasing and Operational Support Automation
Leveraging proptech to automate time-consuming operational tasks—like leasing or fielding inquiries from prospects—is goal No. 1 for many properties this year.
“The pandemic brought productivity and self-service into the limelight for operators and tenants, and this theme will continue to play out in 2023,” says Stephen Baker, president and general manager at Zego, a resident experience platform. “Operators are focused on boosting efficiency by adopting solutions that scale operations, create more bandwidth, alleviate stress for management staff, and, ultimately, curb employee turnover.”
One popular tool is the AI leasing agent, which interacts with potential tenants, answering questions and providing information regarding rent, floor plans, directions, and other details that prospects might be wondering about. These tools also can guide leads through the application process and, when paired with self-guided touring solutions, increase on-site efficiency even more.
“Some of our on-site teams are running very thin, and I know all of us in multifamily are facing some staffing constraints,” Alexander says. “AI leasing is a good way to get answers to customers and alleviate some pressure from our teams.”
According to Alexander, Bozzuto’s AI leasing saves its team members about 12 hours a week.
“That’s 12 hours they have to really focus on following up and creating relationships with tenants,” she says.
Technology that automates the maintenance process is another one high on properties’ lists this year, particularly for those dealing with contractor and vendor shortages.
“Once residents are in the door, maintenance can have a huge impact on their overall experience,” says Stacy Holden, senior director of property management solution AppFolio. “By automating maintenance workflows, property managers can ensure that all work orders receive the appropriate follow-up and that any bottlenecks in the process are surfaced.”
These technologies can also be integrated with smart access systems and AI bots to streamline the process even further.
“By layering conversational AI onto the process, it’s also possible to dynamically collect critical information from residents about the nature of a reported problem via real-time chat,” Holden says. “This accelerates the time to resolution by deploying pre-approved vendors or a properly equipped internal maintenance tech—no matter the time of day or night or level of urgency.”
Technologies that automate various financial processes are another area experts predict we’ll see growth in this year. Flexible payment technologies are one such example. These allow residents to pay rent and security deposits digitally and, many times, even via spaced-out installments.
Solutions that streamline the insurance process — and, in particular, the compliance portion of it—are emerging, too.
“Some of the most interesting products available to property owners in this category are tools that reenvision the rental payment dynamic through either flexible rents or rental rewards—i.e., cash back,” says Christopher Yip, partner at technology investment firm RET Ventures. “Another new entrant to the market, GetCovered, streamlines the insurance workflow for property managers, allowing them to more easily track resident compliance with a community’s minimum required policy.”
Centralization Is the Key
All these automation technologies are available as one-off products, but pros say solutions that centralize these disparate tools will be the true winners this year.
“We’ll see more and more shared services and products that make it easier than ever before to centralize all of these needs,” says Virginia Love, industry principal at property management platform Entrata.
Entrata and AppFolio are two examples of just that sort of centralization. AppFolio launched its Stack feature—a centralized marketplace for various property technologies—last year. The hub started with six tech integrations and has since expanded to 16, with five more in the works.
“Every property management business is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Holden says.