Sustainable management practices and balancing diverse customer needs are constantly on every property manager’s radar. And for companies that aim to expand their services, these details become incrementally more important.
Recently, CA Ventures launched CA Management Services (CAMS) to oversee operations of the firm’s multifamily properties across the U.S., South America and Europe, but CAMS has plans to expand into the third-party management sector. At the start of the year, Steve Boyack joined CAMS as CEO, bringing 25 years of experience with him. Multi-Housing News connected with Boyack to discuss the company’s expansion plans and how renters’ expectations have changed.
Given CAMS’ plans to hire an additional 100 employees over the next two years, tell us about your expansion strategy.
Boyack: Our staffing growth plan is closely aligned with the development schedule for both CA Student Living and CA Residential portfolios. As a result, we will be hiring across the country for our new communities planned in Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Chicago, Atlanta, Raleigh, N.C., Minneapolis, Alabama, Reno, Nev., and Philadelphia.
What is the most effective way a property manager can improve tenant retention in 2019?
Boyack: Creating exceptional resident experiences through positive daily interactions is the greatest driver of retention. Each touchpoint with a resident should be viewed as an opportunity to make an impression. Even something as simple as using a resident’s name to greet them or taking the time to learn the name of their pet can go a long way in fostering meaningful connections.
What are some additional factors to consider when managing student housing?
Boyack: We have three customers in student housing—the students, the parents and the local university—and we anticipate and cater to their individualized and varied needs to ensure our success in the marketplace. The lease-up happens every year, so our leasing team is always at 100 percent and mindful of reputation management.
Amenities and programming are considered differently for student housing. Contrary to what some might think, students are very concerned with exceptional study areas, both group and private, as well as strong programming and social activities to create (a sense of) community and combat social isolation. Additionally, access, security and guest management … is critical for student safety.
How have the expectations of renters changed in the past five years and how should a management company adapt its strategies?
Boyack: Renters are expecting their buildings and associated management companies to anticipate and deliver on services that remove as much friction as possible from their everyday lives. Most buildings today have programs to manage the receipt of packages and food deliveries, maid service, dog walkers and groomers, personal assistant and concierge services—the list goes on.
Going forward, apartment buildings must become smarter to maintain a competitive edge. Residents want more and more control over their environments and through various smart-home technologies—many of which are app-based—operators can deliver on their expectations, giving them a home that seamlessly adapts to their schedules and preferences.
Residents also want to communicate with management in whatever format they are most comfortable with, whenever they want and they want the response to be timely. At our buildings, residents can text, email or call their management teams and bot technologies and AI, in certain situations, provide immediate responsiveness to a majority of questions, requests and concerns, with in-person follow up if necessary.
Management companies have an opportunity to utilize many of the technologies available today to automate processes and remove as many of the menial tasks as possible from their staff so they can be freed up to focus on more meaningful interactions with residents. These tools must be carefully vetted, however, to ensure they can be adequately scaled and updated as processes change.
Which amenities are less important to renters now than in the past?
Boyack: Tanning beds, golf simulators and movie theaters, to name a few. Amenity spaces are more fluid than in the past, with more open and flowing areas being programmed for different activities.
Boyack: There are many simple ways you can immediately reduce a portfolio’s environmental impact. For example, we implement LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures and recycled and recyclable flooring products across our portfolio. We also avoid using VOC paints. Additionally, programmable thermostats are receiving considerable rebates in many municipalities, making them strong options for retrofit and new construction. Equally effective are smart controls on irrigation systems that limit unnecessary watering of landscaped areas and a practice easily implemented is the transition to a paperless office.
Smart building technology is also playing a greater role in our workflows, providing opportunities to save on gas, electric and water by delivering optimized environments that ensure resident comfort while cutting out waste.
In what ways can a management company add value during the development phase of a new community?
Boyack: Involving your management company as early in the development process as possible is critical, as they understand today’s consumer better than anyone and, therefore, can save a developer from creating an “outdated” new building that requires modifications shortly after opening. Together with data gleaned from residents, their feedback is extremely useful when designing and programming a building.
Developers must also be aware that every detail that is planned and decision that is made during the development process affects the management companies’ ability to meet or exceed the rents in the proforma and operate the building to its maximum efficiency. Each feature has a present and long-term cost in the life of a building and it’s important to be cognizant of that.