By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorDallas–The RealPage User Conference kicked off this morning in Dallas with an opening session presented by president and CEO Steve Winn. With football as an analogy for running an apartment business, Winn explained how the company’s new products and upgrades can result in a winning game for their customers.“Football is the perfect metaphor for where we are in the multifamily industry today,” he said. “Challenges we face in the apartment arena can be likened to butting heads in a football game. But by using our new technologies, companies can overcome and beat their competition.” “We are battling two forces right now. The market is in decline and competition is meaner, hungrier and nastier than it’s ever been before. Sometimes companies are not playing fair. People in the industry are fighting competition to keep residents, they are fighting banks to produce enough NOI to service debt and they’re fighting their bosses to reduce costs, even though they think they should spend more money in order to increase traffic. Our objective is to provide you with secret weapons to fight,” said Winn. RealPage has been making a number of investments to improve its suite of products, which Winn and his colleagues outlined this morning.As part of its OneSite system, the company has introduced UDS Direct. With UDS Direct, apartment owners and managers can directly access their data in real time anytime anywhere without having to download it. It is available online and the system eliminates the need to log on through the FTP network. There is also no need to wait overnight or to save it on an external hard drive.The company has also introduced new products for special markets including student living, military housing and affordable housing. While Dave Mckenna is now appointed as the full-time marketing manager for military housing, the affordable housing product TRACS 202 will be launched in 2010. In a slow economy, where companies are evaluating their spending ever more closely, Winn asked, “How well do you manage spending on site?” Ops Technology, which RealPage acquired last year and has been making several improvements to since, is a spend management system. It helps companies achieve average savings of $74 per unit annually to the NOI, assuming that a manager/owner pushed only half its operation spending and maintenance repair cost. This is achieved by forcing purchases through preferred vendors for discounts of up to 20 percent. While this has always been possible for large companies, small to medium-sized companies haven’t been able to use the system up until now. With the new Ops advantage, however, small and mid-sized companies can reap the same advantages. “Members will save up to 20 percent on every purchase from contracts we negotiate with suppliers through group buying. Savings of up to $16,000 a site are possible through this system and the system also offers an online market place for purchasing,” Dirk Wakeham, executive vice president at RealPage, explained.LeasingDesk’s new Credit Optimizer helps keep bad renters away and stabilizes and increases occupancy when credit scores are falling. RealPage is also introducing pet insurance and involuntary unemployment insurance. Involuntary unemployment insurance provides short-term protection for those who find themselves without a job in this economy. “Rent will be partially paid while they search for a new job,” explains Wakeham.Another product, Price Optimizer, which is part of YieldStar, looks at local pricing, future expirations, competition’s pricing and other factors to come up with the ideal rent for each unit in a property. “In a bad market, there is a tendency to overreact and push prices too far down and this could be worse than high occupancy. It is important to have the right balance between occupancy and price,” said Wakeham. Price Optimizer benchmarks rents, makes recommendations on a daily basis and replaces those flimsy concessions with solid price options carefully calculated so that they are all equally profitable. It provides the renter with the best price upfront. As the industry faces one of its biggest challenges in a long time, there is a cloud of pessimism based on inaccurate data and rumors, said Winn introducing YieldStar’s new product called Peer Watch. It provides real time data from 13,000 properties and provides a real picture about what’s going on in the apartment market. It is also available at the market and sub-market levels.RealPage has also made upgrades to its sales and marketing system called CrossFire.Ashley Glover, executive vice president, said, “The average company is wasting 30-40 percent of its marketing budget, which can be eliminated with the help of CrossFire.” Upgrades to the system include improved call monitoring, call quality and call routing. “The contact center reports let you know how well your ad sources are performing,” she added. The system offers website portals at silver, gold and platinum levels. While silver is the most basic, gold allows execution of lease online and platinum provides animated 3D floor plans and ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
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