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Apartment Industry Reassesses Data-Sharing Processes

Economic downturn prods historically private industry to loosen the reins

The apartment industry has operated on old-school principles for quite some time. Even with a concerted shift to tech-based processes over the past half-decade, the industry often refuses to share data, thinking proprietary information provides a competitive edge. 

But if the pandemic has driven home a primary point, it’s that being more collaborative will increase chances for success. As such, apartment owners and operators are beginning to shift their views on data as more and more are experiencing the benefits of sharing data to help optimize their technology and aid their decision-making. 

“It becomes a competitive advantage for us, because most of our competitors in the space aren’t gathering and aggregating nearly as much data as we are,” said Brent Schackmann, Vice President of Analytics for Roscoe Property Management. “They are sharing data with some of their clients, but not across as many resources as we are. We’ve adopted a pretty open approach to sharing information with clients we work with, and we also share with some of our vendors.”

Roscoe, which is aiming to double in size over the next year, is in the process of building a full-stack data warehouse. Because the data streams both ways for Roscoe—to and from providers—it’s becoming an increasingly relevant priority for the company to partner with vendors that have open API access, meaning it has data-sharing capabilities. 

As Roscoe builds the data warehouse, the company can collect data from any system it uses and utilize the metrics to empower better decisions. “We used to have to have our own people on property sites open up market survey tools and enter data themselves related to what the market demographics and dynamics look like,” Schackmann said. “Now we have partnerships with third parties that can automatically grab that data for us and do that analysis without having folks get in there and manually search for information.”

Cutting-edge apartment operators are already vetting supplier partners and making data-sharing capabilities an urgent priority. This can help apartment operators automate processes, such as creating user licenses in different systems based on an associate’s human resources file. Vendor partners connected to an organization’s property management software system can retrieve pricing data and perform a submarket analysis on an automated basis. 

Thankfully, many startups have exhibited this forward thinking approach and many of the industry’s supplier partners build their platforms with an open API construct.  “Open APIs allow rental-housing operators to integrate with tech providers and other vendors to make pertinent data mutually available,” said Brent Steiner, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Engrain, a real estate technology company. “It’s the gateway to integrate your property and resident data with other applications. The future of multifamily PropTech is rooted in the ability to integrate and share data. And to facilitate that future, open APIs are a must.” 

To Steiner’s point, vendor-to-vendor data sharing also can leave a significant imprint on the apartment industry. For instance, if an interactive map provider shares data with a delivery service, delivery drivers can quickly find locations within an apartment community and better service residents. Better yet, if the map provider’s data is available to first responders, the first responders can access particular areas within the community and more rapidly respond to emergencies. 

Another benefit of data sharing is a basic one: data integrity. Automated processes significantly improve the reliability of the data because they remove the human element. Granted, it’s true across all industries that data integrity improves when manual processes are removed. But operating a manual data stack has been a legacy problem in the apartment industry.

Roscoe leadership is acutely aware that its ambitions of doubling in size are partly dependent on automating some of the onboarding process for new associates.

The company recently evaluated how much time regional managers and community managers were dedicating to data collation—meaning only assembling datasets, not performing data analysis. 

“What we found is that regional managers were averaging between three and five hours a week just assembling data,” Schackmann said. “Our new system allows them to take those three to five hours away, have fewer mistakes in the data-aggregation process and focus instead on the analysis and recommendation set that comes from the data. That’s a super valuable proposition when you start to stack that up across 40 to 50 regional managers and 150 community managers.” 

Through data sharing, Roscoe has been able to process thousands of data points every day and call out areas that need specific attention for particular assets. The company can tailor the data analysis to correlate to metrics it cares about.  “Data is power, and the more we have the better our predictions become,” Schackmann said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about taking the massive amount of data that we have and the super complicated system that we have and making the output really, really simple.” 

Apartment operators are private with their information by nature, but doing so no longer gives them a competitive edge. Instead, it prevents opportunities for collaboration and limits the industry’s potential to grow. Fortunately, the transformation to a data-sharing mindset is well underway among the industry’s operators and supplier partners. 

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