There are many questions as to what the post-COVID “new normal” will look like for multifamily operations. I would submit that the “new normal” has already begun in the sense that the recent pandemic has opened our eyes to what is possible utilizing multifamily technologies, such as remote work, “touchless” operations, etc.
In fact, I was hesitant to use the term “Post-COVID” in the title of this blog as many leading multifamily operators are already utilizing these multifamily technologies today.
However, in the Post-COVID world, the implementation of many of these products will go from “nice to have” to mandatory as our day-to-day routines conform to the “new normal”.
Historically, the multifamily industry has been slow to adopt new technology; however, that will be forced to change. Failure to implement these products could very well lead to the failure of your company.
The multifamily PropTech industry has exploded recently, so much so that I will be dividing my analysis into multiple parts:
- The first will be focusing on the products that will assist in increasing (or at least maintaining) revenue.
- The following installments will focus on the products that aim to reduce expenses as well as potential deeper dives into specific segments.
1. Internet of Things (IoT)
The first area, and one seeing significant growth, is the IoT (Internet of Things) space.
More commonly referred to as “smart apartments” this goes beyond simply having an Echo or Alexa speaker to play Spotify or turn off the lights on demand.
Smart apartments have expanded to smart buildings, and things such as smart locks for the common areas and individual units will be necessary to transition to a ‘touchless’ environment.
We are seeing many of the best operators embrace self-guided property tours, and this would not be possible without the use of smart technology throughout the property.
Operators that have implemented “smart” multifamily technologies have reported rental increases ranging from $20 to $30 or more.
Some of the prominent vendors in multifamily IoT with an overview of their differentiators are:
Their first property-wide, smart apartment rollout was installed in 2015 and still operates today. Dwelo solutions are property-wide, maximizing NOI with solutions that save money and increase revenue. They do all of this with an integration-first architecture, that keeps owners future-proof by not asking them to buy into proprietary hardware or software solutions that will tie them down.
As the pioneer of an amenity as a service and founder of Valet Waste (now Valet Living), CEO Dave Magrisso is using his innovative, market-disrupting experience to build the iApartments playbook. iApartments was built on market feedback and is already a ‘next-gen’ product filling in gaps that other products still have. Their revolutionary Smart Hub combines the latest smart home protocols, sensors aimed at asset protection, WiFi, and utilizes LTE eliminating the need for costly network infrastructure. iApartments’ focus is on future-proofing and providing a fully scalable and reliable product.
IOTAS differentiates itself by focusing on delivering a best-in-industry, stand-out experience for resident and property management users alike. They provide wide integration with access entry and elevator control partners such as Salto, Braxos, Butterfly MX, and soon Brivo. IOTAS provides a reliable, flexible, fully integrated smart apartment ecosystem able to meet smart property demands of today and tomorrow.
SmartRent is an enterprise home automation company developing software and hardware to help owners, property managers and renters in multifamily communities. They create multifamily technology solutions that provide property owners and managers a platform to better monitor and protect their assets and create operational efficiencies all while driving ancillary revenue.
Prior to launching in the multifamily apartment space, they built a home automation platform for single-family rentals. From 2014-16, they successfully launched in over 25,000 homes spanning across 15 different states.
They were able to test the performance of many different smart locks, thermostats, lighting and sensors, as well as tweak and perfect the platform to properly handle the concept of dual ownership: where a resident directly controls the smart devices within their home, but the property manager can still monitor system health and administer access credentials.
After three years of iteration and product innovation, we re-launched our platform in early 2017 with a heightened focus on multifamily communities. SmartRent was recently in the news for securing an additional $60M in funding.
STRATIS is differentiated from others providing revenue-enhancing multifamily technologies by choice and modularity.
Hundreds of device and platform integrations allow you to choose the right devices and platforms, whatever your property type, market, and class, for the fastest return on investment and increase in net operating income in the industry.
Additionally, STRATIS addresses the Four Foundational Pillars: Security, Scalability, Future-Proofing, and truly Intelligent Building-wide Controls, meaning that your technology investment with STRATIS is an investment for life.
2. Virtual / Self-Guided Leasing
I personally have a difficult time wrapping my head around virtual leasing.
Unless I’m making a long-distance move, I’m the type of person who wants to see and touch my future home before committing to a lease.
However, we are definitely seeing an increase in the number of operators who are embracing virtual leasing software.
This software provides very detailed 2D and 3D floor plan renderings. Prospects can arrange their virtual furniture to get a pretty accurate idea of what the units look like.
One virtual leasing vendor to check out is atHUM, a product that uses AI to provide 3D unit renderings.
Along with predicting your individual interior design taste, atHUMallows prospects to view the unit floor plan and arrange their virtual furniture.
Many operators have been forced to forego in-person guided tours while offices were shut down.
The ability to provide self-guided tours to prospects during this time is rapidly becoming a must-have amenity.
As I mentioned above, In order to accommodate self-guided tours, the property must be able to give access to common areas and vacant units utilizing smart lock technology.
Some of the vendors to check out are the aforementioned IoT providers who make self-guided tours possible with their smart building services.
Many operators are using a hybrid approach to self-guided tours. These tours utilize video conferencing tools such as Facetime, Zoom, etc. to engage with the prospects while they are conducting the self-guided tours.
atHUM has a powerful tool that provides operators with a custom-built platform for their community. In an effort to simplify the use of FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, etc. their solution provides a web-based option to have video meetings with prospects. This platform comes pre-loaded with all existing marketing collateral.
Analytics provide agent performance insights, as well as what each prospect is most interested in. This information helps with transfer between agents, integrating with existing CRMs.
This allows the leasing team to guide them, answer questions, point out items of interest, and bridge the gap between ‘bots’ and leasing agents.
3. Machine Learning and AI
Machine learning isn’t something new to the multifamily industry.
However, it will most certainly help multifamily asset managers and operators maximize revenue during these difficult times.
I realize that some people are skeptical of the ‘black box’. However, if you’re not properly using a revenue management system (meaning you’re actually using the revenue management tools and not second-guessing and overriding the recommendations!), you’re most likely leaving money on the table.
We are now seeing machine learning and artificial intelligence (“AI”) expand into other areas of multifamily operations such as asset management, renewals, and marketing.
One new vendor in this sector is Beekin, a London-based provider of AI-driven asset optimization products.
Beekin’s resident-driven approach is particularly relevant post-COVID, for better screening, retention optimization and resident prospecting. You can use this link to learn more about their Asset Management products.
While not an exhaustive list (although you may be tired of reading this by now), these are some of the multifamily technologies that have proven their value during this pandemic. They will continue to do so well after this becomes a distant memory.
Oh, and one more – plexiglass. It’s going to be everywhere.
Internet of Things:
- Get Smart: Top Tech Trends for Better NOI
- The Biggest Threat (and Opportunity) Facing the Commercial Real Estate Industry
Virtual / Self-Guided Leasing
- Tech Tools Could Spur Quick Economic Recovery for Multifamily
- Self-Guided Tours: The New Frontier of Apartment Property Management
- Self-Guided Tours Come of Age
Machine Learning & AI
- Machine Learning Creates 250 Happy Homes
- How AI and Machine Learning Help to Power Multifamily Websites
- 5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Transform the Apartment Industry
I am a creative innovator that specializes in Asset Management, Real Estate Technology, & Product Management.
I have been recognized as an entrepreneurial leader in the development and implementation of a variety of strategic multifamily technologies. These include business intelligence, analytics, reporting, and utility management products for the multifamily industry.
I am a highly collaborative servant leader, manager, and problem solver who works with all facets of the organization to ensure the success of the product. I have served organizations such as InfoTycoon, Rentlytics, RealPage, NWP, AUM, Bell Partners, Lakewood Management, and others.