Like any industry, residential building operators saw their entire work lives change in a matter of weeks at the onset of the pandemic. There were obstacles aplenty. Managers had to adjust to working with smaller property management teams—or in some cases, with teams almost exclusively offsite—while dealing with higher occupancy levels than ever. There was also a lot of turnover to deal with. A recent survey by Entrata, a multifamily property management software provider, found that COVID-19 had a significant impact on nearly half (42 percent) of renter’s short-term housing plans, including the need to pursue cheaper rental accommodations or move in with relatives or friends.
To help overcome these new challenges property companies found ways to adopt technology into their workflow and maintain their operations. These same investments that are helping building managers get through the pandemic will also pay dividends in the new normal that we will eventually be entering into—whatever that might be.
“Pivot” became a regular part of the vernacular in the rental-housing world, as property teams clamored to find new ways to offer tours without the benefit of an accompanying leasing agent. Pegasus Residential, a third-party apartment operator, fast-tracked several new processes, including the utilization of self-guided tours. They were able to help keep both the residents and the leasing agents properly distancedsafe by using apps to verify IDs upon arriving at the community and receive a code to open a lockbox with a key inside.
“Thankfully we started investing in technology pre-COVID,” said Yakov Belousov, executive director of operations for Pegasus Residential. “We saw an opportunity to show apartments at times when our onsite team was super busy, or during times when the office was not open.” This new ability became invaluable once the world locked down.
Shortly after deploying virtual tours Pegasus realized it was closing more leases with the new tech than without. One of the keys for adoption, the Pegasus team realized, was the ability for their platform to be flexible to how the user wanted to access the tours. They needed to be able to support desktop, mobile, Apple, Andriod, even Facebook. Now their leasing strategy post-COVID will have virtual and self-guided tours as a central part of it.
With apartment hunters often arriving at the property solo and performing a remote check-in process for a self-guided tour, the onus on ID verification became amplified. Pegasus Residential relied on a quick-scan platform to verify identity, income, and other pertinent background information.
The company also leveraged automated application processing in a forensic-type analysis of the applicant. When a prospect provides proof of employment, the platform can verify whether it’s legitimate. Pegasus used both of these products pre-pandemic, as well, and then rolled them out at a large portion of the portfolio afterward.
It was part of an industry-wide effort to expedite the verification process. Several additional apartment operators—including Greystar and RangeWater Real Estate—have made use of verification technologies which combine screening and data-collection measures into the application process for quicker results.