San Francisco—As a resident of downtown San Diego and downtown Los Angeles—while both Southern California cities were in the early stages of revitalizing their urban cores—Rhonda Slavik wanted to know about every new business that was opening up near her home. Even without smartphone guidance while residing in each city in the mid-1990s, she would seek out the latest boutique, coffee shop or wine bar.
So it is fitting that the residential marketing expert is now leading development of a mobile app specifically targeted at development projects for sale and rent in city centers—and aims to streamline the property marketing process with neighborhood information for residents.
“I always loved those sorts of edgier, early adopter environments, so it’s a perfect fit that I work on this side of it and communicate what’s in those neighborhoods that people can find,” says Slavik, the president of San Francisco-based Urban Living Marketing. Before moving to the technology sector, she was a sales and marketing consultant for major urban developer clients and Director of Sales and Marketing for Williams & Dame Development.
The Urban Living Marketing mobile app is now in development for 30 properties, primarily on the West Coast. Clients include major multifamily names such as Laramar, Mill Creek Residential, Alliance Residential, Trumark Urban, Westport Capital and iStar. They’re also delving into the single family, for-sale marketplace.
“Our tenants use the app for everything from reporting maintenance issues, to booking appointments with trainers in our fitness program, to reserving space in the community room club house,” says Heather Wallace, business development director of the West Coast for Alliance Residential Company.
Slavik shared more insight on how the app helps managers and developers in an interview with MHN.
MHN: What was the vision behind this app?
Slavik: Our CEO Bill Fishkin and I started talking about the fact that there was nothing out there that appeals to Millennials and Gen X buyers and renters that combines both marketing and information that allows them to experience the neighborhood.
Residents of that age make up a larger and larger percentage of the renting and buying population. Understanding the neighborhood where they’re going to be living is a huge part of their buying or renting decision. They want to walk from work to home and do things along the way.
This was a way for us to combine that neighborhood element in a novel way, and one that we thought would be very attractive for marketing the project and getting buyers and renters committed. They’re experiencing the neighborhood through the branded lens of the project.
MHN: Where has it been used so far?
Slavik: Pilot use includes two rental lease-ups and two for sale projects. In downtown L.A., EVO South used it to help sell out their condominium project. Even people from L.A. still think of downtown as something from 10 years ago where there’s Skid Row nearby and not a lot going on. But downtown is one of L.A.’s most vibrant neighborhoods with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, the Staples Center, LA Live and more. The app provides recommendations for where to find that good happy hour or where to go to dinner before a show. It really helps facilitate the neighborhood experience, and it brings in local event feeds so that downtown goings-on are automatically pushed to residents.
MHN: What’s the consumer trend that this is targeting?
Slavik: Mobile is the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you put down before you go to bed at night. That consumer behavior really should be driving what we’re doing on the residential marketing side. Residential marketing isn’t as forward thinking with technology as some of the other industries out there. We held onto print advertising a lot longer than a lot of other industries. But now, with such a large percentage of Millennials and Gen Xers as buyers and renters, it only makes sense to be more proactive about their mobile experience and how we communicate with them.
MHN: What are the advantages for multifamily managers?
Slavik: On the rental side, our clients love being able to communicate more directly with their residents. If they have an event on site or if there’s a community maintenance issue, push notifications are a very fast and effective way to let everybody know what’s going on. They can also reserve amenities, like community rooms, personal trainer appointments, dog walking services—all through the app. It also functions as a mobile website. You can showcase amenities, floor plans, specials, and take advantage of the “Around Us” feature.
And we’re currently working on Version 2.0, which will let residents pay rent, submit maintenance requests, take a picture of the problem and send it along with their maintenance request.
MHN: What is the development timeline and price point?
Slavik: Development takes three weeks, assuming we have all the assets we need. They typically already exist—things like good property photos and floor plans. Pricing for the app includes one-time setup fees that range from $1,500-$4,000, and monthly fees are $150-$600 per month, depending on the scope of the project.