Brent Steiner | July 16, 2019
When people talk about impactful technologies, they’re usually envisioning glitzy new products that perform feats worthy of a science fiction novel and achieve solutions beyond anyone’s dreams. But while these radical innovations make their mark in the workplace and beyond, the most significant changes are often less about glamour and more about utility.
Over the past five years, we’ve seen a veritable explosion of real estate technology, with entrepreneurs creating purpose-built tools to enhance a wide range of real estate activities. According to industry organization RE:Tech, the venture capital community’s total investment in real estate technology catapulted from $1.8 billion in 2015 to $12 billion by 2017. But while some of these technologies, such as virtual reality and drones, are decidedly futuristic, and seem poised to radically transform the way the industry operates, for many industry professionals, the most valuable technology tools are actually the ones that improve existing processes.
Even with the major societal changes of the technology age, multifamily property management and asset management have, in their essence, changed relatively little. As was the case 20 years ago, professionals’ responsibilities include things like managing buildings’ energy usage and resident relations and determining pricing for apartments. While these basic requirements will never change, a number of technologies have recently come to market which will – if not transform the way property and asset managers operate – significantly streamline their efforts to reach their goals.
As representatives of building ownership, property managers have always been tasked with monitoring a building’s budget and making sure that there is no extraneous energy usage that could impact the building’s bottom line.
But while this was always their mandate, modern technology has greatly increased the ability to actually monitor energy usage in real time. With IoT sensors, smart thermostats and other tools, technology platforms like Logical Buildings can help property managers assess comprehensively their building’s energy blueprint. With this knowledge, they are better able to identify and fix faulty equipment, or improperly set timers – and are even given suggestions based on “peak energy use” periods (limiting energy use specifically when utility costs are highest).
With technology in place, property managers can gain a better handle on energy expenditures, lower energy costs and make informed decisions based on specific insights unique to their building.
All property managers understand the importance of tenant relations. But from responding to maintenance requests to lease renewals, the processes can easily bog down professionals juggling multiple properties. While tenant relations will always be a major part of a property manager’s job, technology has the ability to improve it.
Case in point: TenantCloud, a cloud service with personal portals for landlords and tenants, which aims to help property managers and landlords improve tenant relations while simultaneously saving time and increasing efficiency. The easy-to-access platform allows users to complete a wide range of daily tasks—like, paying or collecting rent online, sharing direct messages, storing and saving rental info, uploading move-in/out pictures and submitting or managing maintenance requests.
By streamlining so many tasks, tools like TenantCloud simplify tenant relations for property managers, offering a platform which makes it easy to communicate, circulate and sign paperwork, respond to requests and, in general, ensure tenants are receiving the best possible service.
If a property manager is tasked with reducing a building’s expenses, the asset manager is focused on increasing revenues. While finding the perfect pricing to optimize rents and vacancies has always been the job of the asset manager, modern technology has made actually finding that optimal price point a much more viable endeavor.
Historically, asset managers expended significant time making sense of operating data and creating stacking plans in Excel to better understand the asset. Our firm recently rolled out a product, SightMap Asset Intelligence, which streamlines this previously clunky process. Property information is transformed in real time into mapping software, allowing asset managers to measure property performance from the context of a map. For example, it can help identify trends such as amenity premiums that are set too high and are elevating vacancy in certain parts of the building.
Through these maps, users eliminate time wasted searching for information or manually compiling data, allowing them to better direct assets and adjust leasing strategy. With technology, asset managers are empowered to make the same, key pricing decisions they always have – but they’re given the tools to make them more quickly and in a more informed way.
While some parts of the real estate industry may be subject to true disruption by the likes of 3D printing or virtual reality, they are assuredly the exception and not the rule. For most multifamily professionals, technology’s power is that of enabling them to better do the tasks they are already doing, be that monitoring the building’s energy use, maintaining resident relations or determining proper pricing for an apartment building that has just opened its doors. And while the tools that help them do that may lack the glitz and glamour of drone technology, for the property managers and asset managers who use them, the “little things” these technologies solve may not be so little after all.