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Bringing Multifamily Property Management Into the 21st Century

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Managing a multifamily building isn’t easy, even on a good day. This already tricky job is made even harder by the current situation. Already buried in cardboard boxes, strained leasing agents and property managers are now dealing with a historic level of delinquent rent payments while fighting off the viral spread of a pandemic among residents. Owners know procedures need to be followed to reduce their liability. Savvy managers understand that how they treat their tenants during this uncertain time will reflect on their brand for years to come. That’s why landlords are turning to technology to manage what can often seem unmanageable. 

Decades ago the multifamily sector wasn’t even really considered commercial real estate. Filled with ne’er-do wells and slumlords, it’s taken hard work and plenty of policy changes to turn the multifamily sector into the commercial real estate powerhouse it is today. With that has come a mountain of new codes, permits and inspections, ratcheting up the sector’s discipline and diligence to turn the asset class into something of a star in the investment world. Now developers and investors are pouring billions into multifamily development, acquisitions and management. Still, despite a few marquee deals, margins remain low compared to other commercial real estate sectors. After decades of evolution, management is still the name of the game. How properties are managed on-site can make or break an investment portfolio. 

An Apt Apartment App

“When managing properties, especially smaller properties, standard operating procedures and established processes are extremely important because margins are so low,” Oculus Realty Principal K. David Meit said. Meit leads Oculus Realty, which owns and operates thousands of units along the East Coast, focusing on advisory services for owners, managers and developers. He’s been in the business for three decades, his expertise often being called upon to testify in legal disputes. Meit has seen firsthand how the multifamily sector has evolved. When he first started, apartment managers were subscribing to manager checklists, big bound books containing hundreds of pages of instructions for practically any situation. Now the mountain of paperwork has been reduced to an app. 

“How do you deal with deliveries, renewals, maintenance. All these types of things can’t happen by accident because it would be overwhelming,” Meit said.  

Meit’s team is leveraging technology to streamline compliance, establishing standard operating procedures amid the chaos along every step of the process. Software like SiteCompli helps make sure that the things that need to get done each day at each property get done the right way, checking to make sure property staff are following company standard operating procedures, completing work in a timely manner, and know exactly what the next steps are for things like routine inspections and incidents. Automating routine follow-ups and check-ins frees on-site staff to focus on solving more difficult issues. Empowering building staff to get more done with the help of technology helps multifamily operators increase thin margins.

Going digital with your standard operating procedures also makes them easier to update. Updating a process is as easy as changing a file, which will then be automatically distributed to on-site managers across an entire portfolio next time they open the app. Overnight, COVID sanitation compliance can be implemented, tracked and analyzed. “You need to have dynamic software to make those kinds of changes,” Meit said. 

Long Term Hospitality 

“A lot of what we’re doing is adopted from hospitality, but it isn’t exactly the same because you deal with people for a long period of time,” Meit explained. “In a hotel, you have a guest for a few nights. In multifamily, you have a guest for a year. You have to understand people are emotional about their residence. In a hotel, people might get emotional but they leave. In a residential building, those people stay and it creates a terrible environment.” 

That’s why it’s even more important that things on-site are being handled properly. Addressing a complaint before it becomes an issue can have a serious impact on a multifamily asset’s bottom line. That’s the power of automation, reducing risk and cost while saving time.

Improving net operating income at your multifamily property often means managing better on a daily basis. Using automated management technology ensures that whatever needs to be done is done the right way every time, protecting the value of the asset. Every staff member knows what needs to be done and how to do it. 

“With automation, training becomes ingrained in the organization,” Meit said. “It’s about ground up management, not top down. On-site employees love these tools because they help them provide good results. There’s pride in that.” 

With every new measure, multifamily owners and operators have an opportunity to distinguish themselves. The multifamily sector of the future is focused on efficiency and transparency in operations. Using technology to automate on-site management and standard operating procedures will help more Americans secure and maintain quality housing. 

Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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