On May 20th, 2020, Livly hosted a webinar entitled Digital Transformation in Multifamily: COVID-19 and Beyond moderated by Jake Rynar, Livly’s Chief Marketing Officer. The panel included industry leading owner/operators and solution providers speaking on the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on their business and the multi-family industry.
Panelists involved in the discussion were:
Everett Lynn – CEO and Founder of Amenify
Matthew Mehon – Director of Marketing & Leasing at Waterton
Dave Seiler – Executive Vice President at Trinity Property Consultants
Alex Samoylovich – Founder & Managing Partner at CEDARst Companies; Founder & Co-CEO at Livly
Matt Weirich – Co-founder & CEO at Realync
Doreen Jaworski- Co-President at The Related Group
Together, the panelists maintain connections to hundreds of thousands of units nationally. With their expertise, they imparted the wisdom from actions taken in the early weeks of state-to-state shutdowns, as well as positioning themselves, residents, and partners for the future. COVID, the Tech Accelerator All of the panelists agreed that a move to an increasingly virtual relationship with residents is being accelerated due to the pandemic.
Speaking to new norms in leasing, Matt Weirich mentioned that he is seeing a 15000% increase in usage on his virtual leasing platform, Realync. As he sees it, the future is going to be “a very tech-enabled human process” in which “having the options at your disposal to connect with a resident how they want to be connected with” will be of the utmost importance.
The transition to virtual operations has not been without its hurdles. Operators like Doreen Jaworski have had to adjust to sweeping changes on the leasing side like overcoming spotty Wi-Fi and the challenge of creating professionally rendered virtual leasing videos. Dave Seiler mentioned that what his group has been working on implementing over a period of years has come into sharp focus in a matter of weeks. “We had a vision about 4-5 years ago of someone being able to do a virtual tour, apply online, and do a credit check. What the COVID-19 era has done has accelerated this vision. Self-guided tours have gone from 5 sites to 164 sites in a ten-day period.”
One can only imagine the associated operational changes.
Interestingly, operators are finding that residents are OK with the new modalities so long as communication is thoughtful, proactive, and focused. Through a survey, Jaworski and her team were somewhat surprised to find out that what residents missed the least was having a face-to-face interaction with her staff. Most important to residents was knowing when they could once again access the pool and gym facilities.
Opening Amenities As Alex Samoylovich noted, “the biggest question that comes about, for everybody, is when the amenities are going to open.” Navigating the state and local guidelines for health and safety and rolling out a reopening plan is an operational hurdle each operator must overcome. For Jaworski and staff, it meant having “a very strategically planned out methodology”, creating strict guidelines for contactless services, highly visible signage, and having attendants keep occupancy counts within shared spaces. With the help of her team, her sites’ amenities have reopened successfully. Empathetic Communication, an even greater emphasis through COVID
Matt Mehon of Waterton cited driving performance through analytics, mobile technology, and finding creative ways to communicate onsite, but also mentioned the importance of accommodating residents through a difficult period. This includes waiving fees, deferring payments, creating payment plans, and generally “finding best solutions for both parties versus one way or the other.”
Everyone agreed that despite the need to evolve rapidly, most critical to their success is their ability to effectively communicate. “What all of us are saying is we need to communicate,” Seiler emphasized. “I think every one of our industry partners have either stepped up or gone silent.” Jaworski agreed, saying, “what people really, really want right now is open communication.”
A Look to the Future
While stakeholders cannot be sure of what is next, it is clear that the role of technology will continue to be amplified. Everett Lynn of Amenify summed up it well, saying: “COVID is an accelerating force of trends that were happening already.”
Here at Livly we are working to address the new emphasis being placed on technology during this period. “We are responding to this rapid acceleration by doubling down on our already high priorities of amenity management and resident communication. These pillars will further enable our community managers and residents to connect to each other and their properties safely. As technologists and innovators, we do not just have an opportunity to improve the status quo for residents and communities, we have a responsibility to do so,” noted Ren Wang, Livly VP of Product.
Stay posted as we provide details of our new updates being released this week. And to learn more about Livly in general, please visit our main page.