It doesn’t take an experienced property manager to see that technological advancement has had a profound impact on the apartment business, but the specifics of how exactly to utilize new technologies in the multifamily environment aren’t so obvious. In a recent Propmodo Live talk, Mark Smukler, co-founder and CEO at property management software firm Bixby, shared his front-line insights on tech in tenant attraction and retention.
Smukler began by establishing that although the millennial demographic is unique in some ways, other characteristics are shared with previous generations. While today, 50% of apartment renters are under the age of 30, Smukler explained that the statistic was similar back when those 30-year olds were infants. By the same token, around a third of millennials feel that work-life balance is inaccessible – also true decades ago, according to Smukler.
However, unlike older individuals, “75% of millennials prefer to communicate via digital platforms,” Smukler said.
With the digital focus of modern renters in mind, Smukler advocated for a three-pronged approach to tech-enabled tenant attraction.
“You need content,” Smukler said. Particularly, eye-catching displays of information that stand out on a webpage, such as 360-degree video.
However, simply having strong content isn’t enough to sell a building to prospective renters.
A well-developed distribution channel is also critical to successful marketing. Such a channel might rely on a website, posts on listing services, or roommate-sharing sites.
The final component of the tenant attraction strategy is streamlining the leasing process. Minimizing the time between a potential renter applying and being accepted at an apartment building could mean the difference between filling a unit and continuing to lose income due to vacancy.
After discussing technology in the tenant attraction process, Smukler addressed the retention side of the question.
“Overwhelmingly, to the tune of about 67% exactly, tenants say they leave an apartment due to bad service,” Smukler said, explaining that even minor increases in service quality can have very positive impacts on tenant retention.
The first of Smukler’s retention suggestions is to provide good communication. In his experience, tenants in general prove more understanding of inconveniences such as utility outages when advance warning is given. The second guideline is to offer preventative maintenance around the property, in order to decrease downtime due to critical repairs. Finally, Smukler suggested adding value in impactful ways, such as providing community-building events or keyless entry capabilities – niceties that serve to set a building apart from its competitors.
Through the entire tenant attraction and retention process, keeping watchful measurement of data and performance indicators can reinforce a building’s strengths by serving as useful advertising points, particularly on social media. While high retention rates and quick application processing periods separate the mediocre from the outstanding in the apartment world, data points such as these also make great sound bites on Tumblr or Facebook.
Like most things in the world of investment real estate, tech in tenant relations is a process – an iterative cycle that can reinforce or chip away at a strong brand identity. Harnessing its power is a crucial tool in the arsenal of the modern multifamily manager.