Tech’s Transformative Impact on Property Management

Insights from IREM’s conference on improving operations and the resident experience.

Maria Aiello, Global Head of Private Markets and Real Estate Technology, Manulife Investment Management, and Karen Key, East Division President, Asset Living. Image by Denile Doyle

Technology is a big part of the modern resident’s life. They want instant gratification, easy access and quick resolution to any issue that come up. Meanwhile, property owners and managers want to support their onsite teams, save time and keep their residents happy. Integrating the latest technology into property management operations can lead to more efficient ways of running communities, managing leasing, providing valuable data and improving the resident experience.

At the Institute of Real Estate Management’s conference last week, panelists Maria Aiello of Manulife Investment Management and Karen Key of Asset Living discussed the impact of tech on property operations efficiency, noting that data-driven decision-making is key. Property managers need to use technology to obtain the information they will need to make important decisions. “When looking (at) driving efficiencies, technology supports cost savings, transformation and modernization in the way we run our buildings,” said Aiello.

Before the pandemic, progress had stalled somewhat. Technology was being used for lease applications, rent payments and service requests, but the pandemic pushed property managers to use tech in new ways. “It catapulted us to the next level,” said Key. In office operations, for example, interacting with an AI leasing consultant can make a prospect feel like they are speaking with a human agent.

Making tech work for you

AI is supplementing human capital, not replacing it, said both panelists, who said that property managers should look at how tech can support staff in solving problems for residents, whether that’s taking leasing calls after hours, answering common queries or keeping track of preventive maintenance. It can also help property managers save time, said Key. “If we take the length of delinquency collections of an on-site team, you’re getting back almost 40 hours a month by allowing an AI bot to do your rent collections.” This gives property management teams the time and flexibility to focus more on resident needs.

The most beneficial applications for property managers

According to Aiello, work order applications are gaining momentum for facilitating more reliable equipment servicing and replacement. The data from tracking these systems also informs property managers about the quality of service to let them know the areas where they need to improve. Tracking is also a benefit of using technology to monitor energy consumption—information that investment partners are very interested in.

Harnessing technology to improve the resident experience requires property managers to think like a resident. “Technology allows us to meet people where they are,” said Key. For example, predictive marketing can tell property managers how prospects are shopping for apartments, so the marketing team can deliver a customized experience. “If you’re not giving consumers a personalized marketing experience as they navigate your page, you’re losing their interest,” Key added.

Choosing the right tech

For property managers who want to bring tech into their operations, Key recommends starting with smart home tech because it offers the best return for multifamily residents and service teams. Residents can control their homes and see energy savings, while teams can access diagnostics from HVAC systems even before a service request comes in so they can get ahead of a system failure or interruption.

Property managers should only roll out one new technology at a time and ensure that someone in managing and monitoring how it’s being used and what the impact is on your buildings and on residents, the panelists said. When considering new tech, it’s important to think about how your teams are going to absorb it and how they can manage the transition. “You don’t want your teams to have to go to 30 different platforms to achieve one task because you’ve taken away that efficiency,” said Key.

Partnering with tech providers and being clear about what you need and what your priorities are is key to finding the technology that’s the right fit, Aiello stressed. Whether your ultimate goal is resident experience, making your property stand out to prospects, optimizing rent collections or managing your digital reputation, working closely with a partner can help you figure out which technology will be most beneficial for your property.

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