4 Key Management Trends for 2024

Tech and centralization can vastly improve operational efficiency, says Fogelman Properties’ Debi Wherry.

Debi Wherry
Debi Wherry

Staying ahead of the curve in an ever-changing multifamily landscape requires a keen understanding of emerging trends and a proactive approach to addressing shifting market dynamics. As the industry continues to evolve, it brings both challenges and opportunities for property managers.

The uncertain economic climate, a rise in fraudulent renter applications and accelerating rent costs have spurred multifamily pros to lean on new technologies like third-party security check programs and artificial intelligence capabilities to level up operations efforts, prevent delinquency and increase resident retention.

Alongside these challenges, new centralization practices provide new ways to further elevate the resident experience while creating specialized job roles within property management. As we step into the second half of the year, here are four key trends shaping multifamily property management:

Technology integrations: Enhancing efficiency for employees and residents

In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, such as the evolution of artificial intelligence, piloting and implementing cutting-edge tools is key for staying ahead of the curve in any industry. Multifamily technology has come a long way from the integration of chatbots, and with advancements continuously emerging, property managers now have an entire toolbox of next-gen solutions at their disposal.

This year, tools such as AI and third-party verification programs to vet renter applications have become game-changers for protecting against fraud and optimizing property management operations for on- and off-site teams. Leveraging this new wave of technological advancements has streamlined various processes, from maintenance scheduling to resident communication. The results have been astounding in helping to vet qualified leads, improve resident satisfaction and set communities apart in the leasing and retention process.

Harnessing the power of AI-driven predictive analytics is becoming essential for property managers, providing insights that help to foresee resident needs and related expenses, such as maintenance issues, before they arise. Using predictive tools can result in cost savings, rightsizing workloads for on-site employees and improving the quality of life for residents, another way to seamlessly improve retention rates.

Smart-home, tech-boosted appliances are no longer a luxury, with renters increasingly seeking units equipped with smart thermostats, keyless entry systems and voice-activated assistants. Property managers should prioritize implementing these in-unit innovations to enhance operational efficiency and attract ideal renters.

Accommodations for remote workers: Design that entices digital nomads

The shift toward remote work in the past few years has fundamentally altered renters’ preferences, with many now prioritizing properties that offer environments conducive to remote work. Home office spaces, high-speed internet connectivity and communal areas designed for collaboration have become key selling points for multifamily communities.

While remote work provides a flexible schedule that many enjoy, working and living in the same area can become mundane. Property managers must adapt to the demands of work-from-home residents by reimagining communal spaces to accommodate remote needs. For example, at some of Fogelman’s new developments, we’re seeing private workspaces that can be rented on a monthly basis, or open areas with Wi-Fi and access to printers that allow remote workers a change of scenery and the ability to work outside their apartments.

Additional amenities and services that accommodate remote workers, like pet daycare, are an added benefit for enticing current and prospective residents. Not only do pet-friendly amenities and services appeal to those who work outside their home, they also help reduce noise and interruption for those at home navigating important presentations and long meeting days.

Another option for property managers looking to accommodate remote workers is to provide flexible lease options, like six- or nine-month leases, to better cater to residents’ evolving work arrangements.

Vigilance and prevention of renter fraud

In 2020 we began to see delinquency increase – four years later, the issue has yet to stabilize. As the cost of living rises, the industry continues to see an uptick in fraudulent renter applications. For property managers, spotting red flags early in the application process is crucial for mitigating financial losses and safeguarding the integrity of communities long-term.

Although there is currently no end-all solution, implementing a stringent screening process, including credit checks, employment verification and rental history analysis, can help identify high-risk applicants. Moreover, leveraging technology-enabled solutions, such as identity verification software and fraud detection algorithms, can bolster security measures and enhance the credibility of resident screening procedures.

At Fogelman, we are integrating a third-party program to verify the validity of required documents like pay stubs, bank statements and employment letters. Our process has yielded tangible results, preventing fraudulent applications for 12 percent of all applicants. We’ve also been adamant about communicating our verification process – posting notices in our offices, models and on our community websites – which has deterred fraud on the front end and led applicants to abandon the online process when more information is requested. We’ve also outsourced fraud prevention tasks to credible third-party solution providers, saving countless hours per month per community.

Economic factors and market landscape: Navigating uncertain terrain

The multifamily property market is not immune to the broader economic landscape, characterized by high interest rates, soaring living costs and a turbulent job market. As we face a cost-of-living crisis, many Americans fear the ability to pay for housing. In such challenging times, property management firms must adopt proactive strategies to mitigate risks and safeguard investment returns.

Conducting thorough market research to identify areas of growth and diversifying investment portfolios to minimize exposure to economic volatility are some strategies multifamily players can implement internally. On-site, property management companies can offer competitive rental rates and flexible leasing options to help attract and retain residents amid economic uncertainties. Referral programs can also be a useful way to attract prospective residents and reward current residents. Additionally, incentive programs for those who renew their lease is a great way to encourage retention and show appreciation to residents for their loyalty to the community.

Debi Wherry is senior vice president of property operations at Fogelman Properties. Fogelman is one of the country’s largest and most experienced privately owned multifamily investment and property management companies. As a fully integrated company, Fogelman specializes in multifamily acquisitions, property management, construction management, and asset management. Founded in 1963, Fogelman operates 88 multifamily communities totaling 28,000 apartment homes spread across 10 states in the Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest. For more information about Fogelman, please visit www.fogelman.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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