6 Insights from the NAA Education Conference

Grooming the next generation of property managers, answering the data needs of owners and residents and combatting the nation's affordability problem were top-of-mind issues at the apartment industry meeting.
Cindy Clare, 2017 chairman of the board of NAA and president of Kettler Management

Cindy Clare, 2017 chairman of the board of NAA and president of Kettler Management

Held this year in Atlanta, the National Apartment Association’s Education Conference & Exposition invited multifamily housing professionals to discuss and learn more about the tools and best practices aimed to simplify training, investment, operations and network safety. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the panel discussions and education sessions.

When training the exemplary property manager, one size does not fit all.

Property management firms can address the shortage of outstanding candidates by revising their recruitment and pre-screening techniques to identify competencies and find and develop better managers. According to survey results, a sample of multifamily companies managing more than 7,500 units ranked emotional intelligence and a focus of teamwork as critical components for a successful property manager. Among smaller firms, with fewer than 1,000 units under management, efficiency was the most coveted skill among candidates. Given the disparity in responses, the survey conductors—Milhaus Management President Alexandra Jackiw and APM Services Co-Founder Christine Jubelt—concluded that training programs need to differ based on the size of the firm, in order to best suit the organization’s culture and serve its customers.

By 2030, the U.S. will need 4.6 million new apartment units to meet demand.

An aging population, softened homeownership rate in gateway cities and lack of affordable housing for working families continues to feed demand for rental housing, according to a recent study by NAA. 

Micro-units offer private developers a point of entry to high-cost gateway cities. 

Amid soaring construction and land acquisition costs, some private developers such as McLean, Va.-based Kettler have experimented with building smaller units, particularly in costly core markets such as Washington, D.C. For developers willing to downsize even further, tiny apartments offer a cost-effective way to maximize costs per square foot, while still accommodating first-rate finishes that support higher rents and, consequently, more attractive returns for investors. 

Exterior upgrades add value for independent owners.

Independent apartment owners tend to hold communities of older vintage, which tend to feature outdated exteriors marred by years of wear and tear. Luckily, there are several fixes that can revamp these portfolios, such as repainting fences and facades or converting unused space into highly coveted outdoor amenities, such as dog parks or entertainment areas.

Innovative products are leveraging data to streamline multifamily operations.

As NAA’s 2017 Chairman of the Board and Kettler President Cindy Clare observed, “The expectations and demands from both owners and residents continue to evolve. All of our clients and our owners want more data. And because of technology, residents expect things more quickly, to be able to lease faster and get quicker responses.” 

The exhibitor floor at the NAA conference reflected the tech-savvy preferences of the multifamily industry, on both the owner/operator and tenant side, as exemplified by companies offering next-generation multifamily solutions, including community text messaging services, unit- and property-level smart technology integration and augmented reality interior design.

Even large property management firms struggle with network visibility.

Given the potentially crippling costs of rebounding from a cyberattack, it should come as a surprise that so many firms have little insight into their cyber health. According to cybersecurity experts from private companies, law firms and the FBI, active threats can go unnoticed for up to 270 days, and the liability to an organization could exceed $158 per customer. Undervaluing secure data and the costs to recover it—as well as mismanaging a firmwide network safety program—could have devastating repercussions.

Image courtesy of Kettler Management

Keep up with our 2017 NAA Conference coverage.