With daily tasks ranging from managing work orders, to showing properties, the property manager’s to-do list is never ending. Compound this with outdated or underutilized technology and the job can be downright exhausting. To look for solutions to these property management conundrums, last week Propmodo organized a half-day seminar at a Midtown Manhattan Knotel space.
Amenify founder and CEO Everett Lynn was joined by Storefront Chief Creative Officer Joy Fan, and Knotel Co-Founder and Chairman Edward Shenderovich for a PropTech Coffee Chat about the future of property management. Lynn, whose startup Amenify connects multifamily building residents to amenity providers like pet care and apartment cleaning, said that, “Maybe in the future we have no (real estate) verticals. It could be that someone just owns the asset — it’s basically infrastructure — but then management companies and software are able to optimize space in different ways.”
Shenderovich added: “If you look at how European cities developed, most of the buildings had the first floor as common space and the most prestigious floor was the second. Electricity changed all that with the elevator and I think technology is starting to change how we see the value of each part of a building.”
Fan explained that her PropTech platform Storefront, which activates vacant ground-floor space, is looking to help owners optimize assets in a whole new way. “Something like a vacant space that owners see as a liability, we see as an asset. We are providing short term space for a long term goal. It can not only bring in income but can provide a great marketing platform.”
Shenderovich agreed, “I think owners have never been incentivized to innovate. When you think of the word landlord, it is a very feudal term. There is a change in ownership dynamics from family owners to REIT ownership, where the companies have to optimize profitability for their shareholders, that is driving change in the real estate landscape. Technology companies are able to bring a product to the market that utilizes a resource in a way that they have never been able to before.”
The challenges facing modern property managers are many and not easy to solve, explained Fan, “De Blasio’s new law to tax vacancies is another example of outside forces affecting the property market. […] Shopping malls are having such a hard time because they didn’t create a community outside of commerce. Now that people can shop online they are struggling to stay relevant.”
Everyone agreed that data is going to be a large part of the solution. “We collect a lot of data from the usage of space,” Shenderovich said about his firm Knotel. “This can help employers understand their operations better and help owners determine what parts of a building are being underutilized.”
“Our job as the new style of operators is to show the old guard what we can do. We collect a lot of data to try to show that.”
Lynn added: “Our job as the new style of operators is to show the old guard what we can do. We collect a lot of data to try to show that. For example, we have seen a huge spike in pet care. This isn’t just in city centers like Manhattan but in suburban areas as well. We also see a big increase in health and wellness. It isn’t just happening in the high-end, class A space but across the spectrum. Landlords can then use this info to prioritize how they invest in properties. For that to happen, we need to give the property industry tools to quickly and easily access important data, not expect them to check eight dashboards every day.”
After the coffee chat, representatives from a number of cutting-edge PropTech startups delivered a series of educational presentations. Michael Mullin of property management platform IBS shared his thoughts on what property managers need to know before adopting a multi-cloud strategy. “Some people have a perception that the Cloud means Cloud—singular. However, to truly take advantage of the Cloud, you need to understand that there isn’t going to be just one Cloud when all the dust settles, but many of them,” explained Mullin. “In fact,” he added, “Today’s enterprises use an average of 4.1 clouds.”
Phil Mobley from Building Engines led a presentation aimed at helping managers understand how tenants interact with building technology. Mobley said that, “When tenants interact with building technology, they are participating in a conversation with the building. They are trying to tell us something, both in what they say and what they do.”
On the subject of attracting and retaining tenants Mark Smukler of Bixby, explained that bringing value and new life to Class B apartments and lackluster buildings doesn’t always require a value-add renovation or adaptive reuse. “Hard amenities like gyms and lounges require significant capital expenditures, but soft amenities like those offered through technology may be just enough to take a tenant from moving out to signing a renewal.”
Robert Vail from Genea, talked to the audience about how to drive value with process automation. He explained that property teams spend more time than they realize dealing with time-intensive, manual processes and technology offers an opportunity to simplify and automate those tasks. “Some of the biggest time sinks property managers deal with are overtime HVAC requests, and submeter reading and billing,” he said. “Engineers are manually programming the BMS and then someone has to track all that in a spreadsheet.” Vail explained that this these antiquated methods are actually dangerous for a property. “Property teams spend hundreds of hours on these processes. They think they are doing what’s best for the tenants. But it’s actually hurting the tenant base because they don’t have time for higher level tasks.”
The event was capped off by a property management technology discussion panel moderated by Ryan J. S. Baxter, a Vice President at the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) where he leads efforts in sustainability and technology. Baxter asked panelist Matthew Montanes, Vice President of Global Property Management and Operations for JPMorgan Chase, about the financial giant’s sustainability goals.
“We (JP Morgan Chase) have made an announcement to go carbon neutral by 2020, which is very aggressive,” shared Montanes, who oversees a 75 million square portfolio with a $1 billion annual operating expense budget and a $1 billion 5-year capital plan. “The first way is through renewable energy projects. We are the biggest LED consumer. We purchase $200 million worth of LEDs from GE. We also are installing $40 million worth of BMS systems across all of our retail branches. And we’re installing thermal insulation blankets across all of our retail branches. That’s number one – the energy consumption.”
Dana Schneider, who leads JLL’s Energy and Sustainability Services division in a region anchored by New York City, Boston and Washington DC, also weighed in on the topic of energy management. She has been instrumental in the whole-building energy retrofit of the Empire State Building, using a groundbreaking analytical model for maximizing energy and environmental value per dollar spent. “It’s really important to do the right analysis upfront whether you’re developing energy projects in an asset or designing a new building that’s going to be one of the best ever. Even in those cases we want to use the most advanced solutions possible. It doesn’t mean it’s new. […] Sometimes it’s really obvious stuff that we just need to do right.” In addition to her work at the Empire State Building, Schneider has led energy and sustainability assignments at over 60 million square feet of properties in the Northeast.
Steven Caputo, the Assistant Commissioner for Operations at the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ Division of Energy Management (DEM), said that with about 280 million square-feet of space across 4,000 buildings, New York City has a lot of room for property management improvement. “Our city has a mix of advanced technology and old systems that we need to have a better way to monitor. We need to learn more about how the controls are functioning in order to improve.” But he admits, “The City has systems in place to help protect taxpayers that sometimes make it hard to invest in big ideas.”
More insights from these cutting-edge presentations and panels will be available to Propmodo readers in upcoming articles and videos.