If you are considering adopting new property management software in the New Year, you may be overwhelmed by the decision-making process. Every solution in the multifamily market has a long list of bells and whistles, so it can be difficult to zero-in on what makes a solution a good choice for your portfolio. Which features are must-haves rather than nice-to-haves? Which functionality sounds appealing but turns out to be lackluster—or worse yet, frustrating to on-site teams? What’s going to make the greatest positive impact on your efficiency, performance, and ultimately, your communities’ profitability?
When considering your options, don’t be blinded by shiny, bright objects. Instead, focus on the features that will lead to improvements in your property management operations.
Here are 5 questions to ask property management software providers.
1) How does the solution save us time?
Property management teams, both leaders and on-site community staff, are constantly being asked to add more tasks to their calendars. But the last time we checked the days haven’t gotten any longer. It’s just not feasible to ladle on new responsibilities without streamlining or eliminating others. Question number one for any new solution should be: how will this initiative save my teams time?
Be realistic. If you are not confident that the solution will improve your portfolio’s efficiency, it may instead be a drain on your human resources. Consequently, you may not realize all the promised benefits because your team simply won’t have the time needed to devote to proper use of the solution. If it’s just another application that adds complexities to your tech stack and takes time to implement, it should be reconsidered. There’s no reason to invest in software if you don’t have time to utilize it.
2) How does the solution drive resident retention and renewals?
Rental housing providers’ responsibilities are vast and varied. In any given day, you may find yourself doing everything from cleaning up garden beds with overgrown weeds, to organizing resident packages to processing payroll. For every responsibility, there are services and software to assist.
But—which solutions actually help drive leasing and resident renewals? When it comes right down to it, your portfolio won’t succeed unless your communities have what’s known in the business as “heads in beds,” or occupied apartments. When tempted to roll out a new initiative, it’s worth investigating how it will drive occupancy and resident retention. If it won’t—perhaps it should be considered a nice-to-have solution rather than a need-to-have technology. Furthermore, property management software providers should be able to demonstrate quantifiable data and case study scenarios to explain how their product and services drive tangible results for apartment communities.
3) How does the solution strengthen the sense of community at our properties?
One of the top drivers of resident renewals is the strength of a community of neighbors within an apartment community. According to 2022 data published by SatisFacts in their Biennial Online Renter Study examining close to 5,000 resident surveys, “sense of community” increased the most in importance among all renewal drivers. The National Apartment Association’s UNITS magazine refers to the multifamily industry as being in the middle of a “great lifestyle reboot” post-pandemic. “After being holed up in their apartments, residents are eager to see others,” says magazine contributor Barbara Ballinger.
If you want to drive resident retention, the data is clear: it is imperative to prioritize building and strengthening the relationships between your community staff and neighbors. When evaluating potential new software solutions for your portfolio, consider whether adoption of each new tool will allow you to draw neighbors closer together. Resident activities, for example, are relationship-builders. Conducting thoughtfully planned resident events that appeal to your customers can be key to getting neighbors to interact. Communication tools, such as message boards and social media, can also drive interaction among neighbors and community staff. Cutting-edge resident experience app providers should be able to provide solutions that illustrate how their product features and tools cultivate resident engagement and build community.
4) How does the solution integrate with the other systems we use?
When hiring an associate to join an existing work team, one of the qualities you look for in a candidate is someone who is going to work well with the current members of the team. The same should be said for adopting new technology. Will it integrate with other systems you have in place? Integration is a key consideration, because it can be the difference between saving you time and costing you time. Without successful and seamless integration, you may find yourself wrestling with double entry of data or other added steps in your team’s workflow.
Multifamily technology enthusiast Ed Wolff explains it this way: “Software integration combines products to function as a single source solution. Operating from the same database instead of passing information across a shared boundary, integrated products operate together to improve capabilities through automation.” Ask the right questions of the solution provider to identify whether their solution and your existing tools allow for real-time data synchronization, rather than a bridge between the two.
5) Will the solution add enough value that we want to continue to use it for the long-term?
We’ve all done it: added a new tool to our work life in hopes of improving some aspect of productivity, only to find enthusiasm for the new tool waning after a few weeks or months. I find myself regularly deleting apps from my phone, for example, that I had high hopes for when I first installed but after the initial thrill wore off, I rarely use.
How can you prevent the same from happening to your new software? When selecting a software solution for your operations team, ask for metrics on long-term usage from other multifamily customers. Chances are you will be signing at least an annual contract. Will you still want to use the tool a year from now? Do your due diligence to make sure the investment you make is going to pay off in terms of performance and productivity not just in the immediate future, but for the long term.
Keep in mind, the purpose of prop tech is to improve your operations, efficiency, and profitability. If your property management service providers provide ambiguous answers and a lot of technical language that isn’t translating, be sure to break down the jargon to a comprehensible level. Ask the right questions and listen intently to help you choose your software solution tools and partners wisely.
· True Integration: 5 Questions to Ensure Tech Isn’t Just Interfacing, Multifamily Insiders, https://www.multifamilyinsiders.com/multifamily-blogs/true-integration-5-questions-to-ensure-tech-isn-t-just-interfacing
· Biennial Online Renter Study, SatisFacts, https://www.satisfacts.com/researchfindings/biennial-online-renter-study-february-2022-release/