6 Ways Property Management Software Makes Multifamily Management Easier
- Jun 02, 2020
From finding quality renters to making smart business decisions, managing residential real estate involves numerous operational tasks and delivering a range of services to customers every day. The difference between working slowly with manual processes and working quickly with automation could be the difference between success and failure in a competitive or changing marketplace. But successful property management is about much more than performing tasks. It’s also about having insight and tools to drive performance in all market conditions. That’s where property management software comes in.
How do you choose the best software for your business? Some systems offer disconnected databases for each property and interfaces for third-party solutions that require working with different vendors. The most effective property management software features a single cloud-hosted database for your entire portfolio and includes suites of seamless solutions for your front office and back office. A fully integrated platform that performs end-to-end management of the entire real estate lifecycle can help companies operate successfully in any market.
A powerful property management system can also minimize staff turnover and optimize time management by improving processes with easy workflows. Streamlining the leads-to-leases process is a big win and reduces repetitive tasks like data entry and follow-up phone calls. And when your staff is empowered to better serve your customers, you’ll likely see less turnover and a more solid bottom line. That’s what the right software can do for you.
Plus, a secure mobile platform lets your staff work anywhere at any time from tablets and smartphones while enabling your customers to enjoy services around the clock, even when your office is closed. Anytime access to key performance indicators and reporting gives managers and executives a real competitive advantage, considering the market never sleeps.
Keep reading to discover six ways the most innovative property management software can make multifamily management easier for both your team and your customers.
- Bringing everything together
As technology has changed the way the whole world works, so has software revolutionized the real estate industry. Gone are the days when site teams did everything manually, from advertising and leasing units to maintaining account ledgers and collecting rent checks. With disparate databases to manage, communities were disconnected from corporate offices and operational errors were common. So were missed opportunities. Traditional spreadsheets couldn’t provide portfolio insight to promote agility and the right business decisions. Thanks to technology advances that solve the problem of data disconnects, multifamily operators can now work faster, smarter and more cost-effectively.
For the best results, all property management information should be centralized in one database—that’s how you get good, clean data to drive your business. Property managers across the global industry have discovered that a single connected system offers myriad benefits, including built-in accounting and real-time performance analytics. By centralizing portfolio-wide financial, operations, leasing, maintenance management and more in one cloud-hosted database, you needn’t worry about data accuracy or security.
Once that foundation is established, adding ancillary services for your market will provide a complete solution. Ancillary services typically include online marketing, screening and leasing; resident portals for online payments and maintenance requests; procurement and invoice processing; energy management and revenue management; as well as budgeting and forecasting tools.
For your customers, your property management platform should include online apartment tours, applications, leasing and payments, among other conveniences that make them happy. For property management staff, automated workflows and electronic transactions save time for high-value tasks. With an integrated revenue management solution, there’s less stress for your leasing staff and no more guesswork when it comes to rental pricing and planning.
For real estate executives, innovative solutions for asset management that incorporate AI and machine learning work with your property management platform to leverage portfolio-wide data. This full-business insight enables managers to be proactive and make smart moves in any market conditions.
And don’t forget about customer service. You’ll want to choose an established property management software provider with a proven reputation for product support. As for the benefits of a cloud-based solution, they often include updates for the latest enhancements and changes in compliance so you can focus on managing your business, not your technology.
2. Ditching manual methods
If you’re still using a lot of paper in your business, it’s time to stop. Processing paper rental applications that require manual background checks, keying in and depositing rent checks via bank runs, processing paper invoices and mailing checks—these are error-prone, costly and time-consuming ways to work. And it’s likely your competition is already doing these things online with automated workflows.
With a complete real estate management platform, you can bring your business processes online and digitize transactions. Let prospects enjoy virtual unit tours and apply online with self-screening at their convenience. Allow your residents to make payments online or by text and enter maintenance requests anytime. Free your staff from digging through paper applications and a monthly pile of rent checks so they can focus on leasing and providing excellent service to your customers.
- Automating marketing
When you move away from manual marketing tasks, you save time and reduce human error with automatic updates using data from your property management system. Marketing automation creates efficiency for marketers and leasing managers by streamlining repetitive tasks, tracking user behavior and delivering targeted content to guide prospects into your leasing pipeline. It also creates a more personalized experience and helps keep residents loyal once they’ve moved in.
When it comes to attracting leads, you need to promote your vacancies where prospects can find them. That’s what internet listing services (ILS) are all about. Syndication is a big time saver and is one of the best-known forms of marketing automation. Using current information from your property management software, ILS automation updates your listings daily across multiple online rental sites. Vacancies and pricing are accurate, so you don’t need to worry about inquiries from apartment hunters who stumbled across incorrect or out-of-date information. And best of all, once you set it up, it runs by itself, so your team doesn’t waste time with recurring data entry.
Another great marketing automation tool is nudge marketing. Nudge marketing appears on your property websites and delivers a targeted message to specific prospects based on their actions. You can set it up to nudge website visitors to take the next step after viewing one page for a certain amount of time or after visiting a certain number of pages. You can also use it to share a promotion or pop up an appointment card.
While you need well-designed property websites with digital curb appeal, you also need a social media presence—where you’ll connect with many potential renters. If you don’t currently have a social media team, you can still leverage social media. Bulk posting is the best way to make sure your important updates get seen. You can schedule posts once and allow them to appear on multiple channels at a time that work well for your targeted audience. Consider the traffic and conversions you could get when you do the following:
- Post to Facebook, where 1.28 billion users check in every day (source: Facebook Newsroom)
- Tweet on Twitter, the microblogging site with 100 million daily users (source: Omnicore Agency)
- Share news on your website and in your app so prospects and residents can’t miss it
Don’t have an app? That’s another thing you can fix with the right property management software provider. Having a company or community app puts your brand and self-service tools in the hands of your renters, automatically increasing engagement and encouraging them to do more online.
- Doing more online
Online services for prospects and residents have been rising in demand. Many properties are experiencing less foot traffic, and the industry is seeing an increasing number of people applying for units and leasing online—even sight unseen. Property marketing websites that are optimized for SEO and connected to your property management software will deliver the best results. First, they will help your properties be discovered by more renters searching the internet for availabilities in their chosen area. Then, they will help you convert website visitors into renters by providing a great user experience, including real-time unit availability, virtual tours and around-the-clock leasing with online applications, self-screening and automated approvals. Self-guided tours that prospects can schedule online at their convenience have also become very popular and can boost conversions as well as increase marketing ROI.
Once a prospect has become a lead and initiates an interaction, you’ll also want to use an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) solution to automate lead management and communication with prospects and residents. The right technology can help you make sure your team follows up with both leads and residents, every time.
According to the 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Associates Apartment Resident Preferences Report, which includes responses from 372,944 apartment residents across the U.S., the No. 2 reason residents move out is unsatisfactory property management. When you offer online services 24/7/365 including applications and renewals, rent payments and trackable maintenance requests, you are likely to sign more leases and retain happier renters who will stay longer. Email communication with property managers and community bulletin boards with updates and events are also valuable tools that enhance the resident experience.
For NALS Apartment Homes, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., online prospect and resident services combine with marketing automation to save the company a great deal of time and reduce costs.
Through electronic applications, work orders, payment processing and other property management software tools that eliminate manual data entry, NALS estimated a time savings of 1,008 hours across its portfolio (in April 2018). Here are some highlights:
- Online applications: 18 minutes per application x 1,023 applications = 306.9 hours
- Online payments: 4 hours per month x 48 properties = 192 hours
- Online work orders: 2 minutes per work order x 2,330 work orders – 77.6 hours
- Resident emails: 6 hours per month x 48 properties = 288 hours
- Craigslist posts: 1 hour per month x 48 properties = 48 hours
- ILS listings: 2 hours per month x 48 properties = 96 hours
Verified online reviews from prospects and residents confirm that NALS’ customers enjoy the speed and ease of online applications and leasing. They also report a good experience with online maintenance requests once they’ve moved in.
- Reducing risk
If you’re worried about apartment fraud, here’s some great news. Identity document capture and verification built right into your online screening and leasing workflow will ensure your applicants are who they say they are. You can also add prequalification to your application process to stop renters who don’t meet your requirements from moving forward, which saves you money by reducing unnecessary screenings. Plus, your staff can save time and effort by focusing on your strongest prospects, who are likely to become quality residents.
Another great way to reduce risk is already an industry best practice: required renters insurance that protects properties from resident-caused loss. With a required renters insurance program built into your leasing workflow, you gain easy online signups for new renters and automatic compliance monitoring within your property management system so policies don’t lapse and expose you to unpredicted out-of-pocket costs. For example, Los Angeles-based property manager Moss & Company saved big bucks thanks to its required renters insurance program. A resident-caused fire at one of its properties resulted in $70,000 worth of damage—which was covered by the renter’s policy.
When it comes to mitigating risk associated with making decisions for your business, asset intelligence integrated with your property management platform is key. The most advanced asset intelligence solution available today includes machine learning and AI. It can bring together historic unit-level performance data with market outlooks and deep business intelligence measures to provide holistic portfolio insight. Some solutions even let you benchmark operating income and expenses against the competition. With the right tech, you’ll be able to reduce costs with prescriptive recommendations and just-in-time marketing.
And never forget the importance of data protection and reliable hosting for your property management solutions. Ensure your cloud-based services include data recovery, encryption and around-the-clock server operation monitoring for optimal security and the assurance of business continuity. Choose an industry leader with multiple data centers that enable faster deployment and adequate back-up resources. With the right property management software, you’ll be relieved of the worry of managing your applications and maintaining an IT infrastructure while you reduce your overhead and capital costs.
- Getting big results with big data
Not long ago, most real estate companies made important decisions based on guesswork and backward-looking data aggregated into finicky spreadsheets. Today, new technology automates data collection and collaboration with advanced analytics to show a complete picture of a portfolio’s opportunities and future risks. That’s big data, and it can take your company beyond business intelligence when combined with your property management platform.
Wondering how big data is different from your basic operational data? Big data typically refers to large data sets that can be analyzed by computers to reveal patterns, trends and associations. The volume of data is usually both structured and unstructured and is too large for a traditional database to process into useful information.
Big data analytics are important because they help organizations harness their portfolio data and use it to identify new opportunities that promote smart business moves, more efficient operations, higher revenue and more satisfied customers. When big data includes comprehensive information from your property management system, you have the best possible competitive advantage.
Big data delivers analytics that help companies drive performance. For example, prescriptive analytics can show how much to potentially spend on marketing to generate the traffic needed to overcome upcoming vacancy or exposure. Instead of reducing pricing, sometimes adjusting marketing spend is the better choice. Big data will guide you to make the right decision.
Benchmarking is another valuable tool powered by big data. When a company can compare its actual leasing, financial and operational data to a defined peer set, it can be more proactive and identify opportunities to reduce costs.
When it comes to forecasting, a software engine driven by big data will deliver optimal results by enabling financial teams to calculate budgets using a property’s actual data, along with assumptions applied such as occupancy rate, renewal rate and rent increases. With accurate projections based on the real portfolio data housed in your property management system, you can see a clearer picture of future revenue performance.
Getting ready for what’s next
The benefits outlined above are just the beginning. As real estate software matures to incorporate advanced technology including AI and machine learning, property managers and executives have unlimited portfolio insight to successfully navigate market conditions and take advantage of opportunities to elevate asset performance. Companies are also able to offer more services to customers and investors than ever before possible. And in unusual circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, property management software can be a lifeline for businesses by bringing operations and services online.
Digitization in the real estate industry has seen steady movement. Some industry leaders predict that the desire for personal contact-less marketing and leasing will continue well after social distancing is no longer a mandate. But that doesn’t mean your customers won’t want to feel connected to your business and each other. Your corporate and property websites should be dynamic and responsive, and your online brand must be strong. This includes an active presence on apartment review sites and a well-managed social media presence. According to the 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences Report, 45 percent of renters explored communities’ social media in their most recent apartment search. Make sure you’re there to meet them and your company’s message is strong.
Lee Ann Stiff supports multifamily sales and marketing initiatives as a senior writer for Yardi Systems Inc. She has contributed to numerous publications and websites as a writer and editor and has also worked as a marketing writer for Marvel Comics and creative services writer for Warner Bros. Records. Lee Ann earned a master’s degree from Yale University. Learn more about industry-leading property management solutions that can help take your business forward and shape favorable outcomes in any market.