News & Research Listing

News, Industry Insider
NAA Hosts Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Week

NAA hosts first annual Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Week, releases D&I survey results.

The culture is changing in America, and so too are company values and standards. The National Apartment Association (NAA) recently conducted a survey to understand and document the current state of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the industry and gather the information needed to develop strategies that can support member organizations’ efforts to embed D&I in their cultures. These findings were presented in a report and webinar, “The State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in NAA Member Organizations.”

This coincides with NAA’s first-ever Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Week, happening now. NAA’s first annual D&I Awareness Week features five masterclass education sessions on diversity and inclusion that provide information on storytelling, allyship and leadership in the workplace. Each day, there’s the opportunity to learn and engage with other rental housing professionals on new ways to expand company D&I conversation and make actionable, long-lasting changes that benefit everyone.

“NAA is in the process of publicly raising the bar for DE&I with commitments, actions and reporting,” said Suzy Burke, Ph.D., Principal at T.H. Easter Consulting, one of the webinar presenters. “Changing a culture is complicated work. …When everyone can succeed, organizations do better.”

According to the survey, 88% of respondents said their company values improving people’s feelings of connection and inclusion, and nearly half reported their organization has an effective DE&I strategy. One of the best ways to begin is to “learn from others who have figured it out and share best practices,” said Burke.

It’s a two-dimension change, said Terri Hartwell Easter, Principal and Founder of T.H. Easter Consulting, in the webinar. “Capacity: Can you move from Position A to Position B? Second, how do you do that—training, training tools?” However, there is a time when Diversity & Inclusion can become overwhelming—DE&I fatigue, Easter called it. Trying to do too much in too little amount of time. “Move incrementally with intention and allow people to move with us – you don’t want people to fall off the bus.”

For more information, visit Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Week.

October 8, 2021
NAA Hosts Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Week
Apartment Advocate
It's Up to You: NAA Lawsuit Q&A

NAA’s Legal Counsel John McDermott tackles frequently asked questions about our newest legal endeavor.

Q: Let’s assume I’m an eligible property owner. Why is it crucial for me to join the lawsuit? In other words if others join the lawsuit why do I need to?

A: First and foremost, let me be clear. Property owners must participate in the lawsuit to have access to any dollars awarded through this endeavor. Our estimates show that $26.6 billion in rent debt exists without any federal assistance allocated to cover it. This lawsuit is the only feasible way to reclaim that lost rent, and property owners who do not join the lawsuit will not have access to dollars that may be awarded.

Ultimately, though, the goal of this lawsuit goes beyond just money. The federal government broke an efficient system and left housing providers with tens of billions of dollars in debt through their nationwide eviction moratorium. A good way to look at it is “you broke it, you buy it” – meaning the government must pay for their unfunded and overreaching mandate. And, equally important, this lawsuit will ensure that the federal government cannot take measures like this again. Though the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the CDC eviction order, they left open the possibility for another moratorium to come through Congressional action; this lawsuit could prevent that from happening. It’s crucial for any eligible housing provider to participate so that together, as one voice, we can secure property rights and protect the future of our industry.

Q: How much time and legwork is involved in joining the lawsuit?

A:  NAA and our legal representation have worked to streamline the plaintiff sign on process. It is our goal to ensure interested parties provide sufficient information to confirm their eligibility and ultimately save everybody time. Initially, property owners will need to complete a brief client information sheet and portfolio description. These documents are a snapshot of your rental properties and ask simple questions about your portfolio that will help ensure your eligibility. Questions include: states in which you have properties, unit counts and amount of uncollected rent, among others. Interested parties will also need to sign a contingency fee agreement and upload a W-9.

The process is thorough yet streamlined, as this lawsuit could secure property rights for years to come and result in payment of rent lost under the CDC’s eviction order.

Q: My portfolio didn’t experience large monetary losses, why should I join?

A: Ultimately this is about protecting your business and ensuring that you, alongside the broader rental housing industry, are not at the mercy of the government’s next “emergency order.” A victory in this case has the potential to prevent a federal takeover of private property from happening again.

Further, NAA wants to stop the federal government from damaging rental housing again by making it pay for the damage it caused over the last year. If they realize that they will have to pay for bad policies, they might think twice before damaging rental housing again. The industry’s future depends on property owners’ participation— even if your company experienced limited losses. We have a favorable Supreme Court that has already ruled recently to protect property rights, which provides us with a paramount opportunity.

Q: Is there a deadline to sign up?

The trial court is expected to reach a decision in the first quarter of 2022. Only those companies that have joined the case prior to that ruling will have their claims included as the case moves through the appeals process. The lawyers will amend the complaints filed with the court to add plaintiffs as they join but will be unable to do so when the case is on appeal.

October 5, 2021
News, Industry Insider
Lifestyle: Choosing Between Multifamily and Single-Family Rentals

NAA President and CEO compares apartments and single-family rental living in latest Washington Post column.

Choosing between renting an apartment or a single-family home depends on a resident’s lifestyle. In his most recent column for the Washington Post, “Factors to consider when determining whether renting an apartment or house best fits your lifestyle,” NAA President and CEO Bob Pinnegar compares the benefits of the two options for today’s rental housing residents.

Among the top factors impacting renter’s decisions to select an apartment is the community’s amenities. Rooftop areas, media rooms and swimming pools are top attractions for apartment renters. Also underscored by Pinnegar is the built-in community of residents. “Apartment residents are surrounded by a network of neighbors to engage with, and many communities host social events that bring residents together, whether in person or digitally in the covid era,” he writes.

Meanwhile, renters searching for more space and overall privacy and accessibility gravitate toward single-family homes. Personal outdoor space is another convenience for single-family renters. Residents will also have to be more mindful of utility costs, but Pinnegar says the “costs are unavoidable in our modern society, but it is important to note that the utility totals of single-family homes can be eye-popping.”

He says the decision comes down to lifestyle choice and what is important to the renter. “Ultimately, renting is all about flexibility and finding the best rental option that fits the needs and desires of your lifestyle…”

Read the full Washington Post article here.

October 4, 2021
Lifestyle: Choosing Between Multifamily and Single-Family Rentals
News, Industry Insider, Operations Insights
The Future of the Digital Leasing Office

Despite some growing pains, the rental housing industry adjusts to the remote-work world.

The tools were in place for onsite associates to occasionally work from afar, but it rarely happened. Rental housing had been an industry where everything had been done onsite, after all.

Then suddenly, working in the office wasn’t an option. Like it or not, associates had to get the job done from afar. But despite some growing pains, the industry commendably adjusted to the remote-work world, spurring questions about whether a more flexible model is a better solution moving forward.

Panelists at NAA’s Apartmentalize discussed some of the possibilities during, “The Future of the Digital Leasing Office.”

“As a marketer, I’m thrilled that the pandemic forced us to use the tools we already have,” said Mary Herrold, Director of Marketing and Revenue for Planned Property Management. “People change when they have to, and the industry definitely had to adjust to keep pace. If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it fostered creativity.”

The use of various contactless tour types—self-guided, remote, virtual, live video and more—and the adoption of advanced communication tools are well documented. It’s a safe bet that the word Zoom was muttered more times in 2020 than any previous year. But in using all these tools and many others by necessity, it became apparent that associates could remain productive off site.

For instance, the upfront portions of the leasing process can be handled by chatbots, which gather introductory information about prospects. Marketing automation functions can ensure that the information is preserved through all fields of the leasing process to eliminate tedious duplication efforts. Digital applications and e-signatures also were heavily utilized in a touch-free environment. And the industry also realized the contactless tour options made available for prospects during the pandemic could remain intact for those wanting to visit during nontraditional hours.

While some of these practices were being deployed prior to 2020, it became apparent that utilizing several different efficiencies in tandem could eliminate the need for a full-house onsite staff.

“Tech is usually a one-way street,” said Brian Zrimsek, Industry Principal of MRI Software. “After you adopt the iPhone or switch from VHS to DVD, you don't go back. Likewise, multifamily is not going back to paper processes, and many of the tech solutions adopted during the pandemic will be here to stay.”

The ability for associates to work remotely could attract new talent to the industry, as the possibility of a hybrid office/remote schedule could be appealing.

The panel shared ideas of industry goals for 2025, and all pointed to the possibility of a digital leasing office. These included the complete elimination of paper processes, the removal of onsite teams from the package business, centralized renewal processes, less onsite responsibility for move-out processing and a greater push for recurring e-payments.

The role of the leasing team will remain critical. But that doesn’t mean they’ll have always have to be onsite to perform their duties.

Paul Willis is a Content Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing. 

October 4, 2021
The Future of the Digital Leasing Office
UNITS
NAA Advocacy Case Study: Eviction Moratorium

It’s better to have a seat at the table than to be on the menu. It’s even better if you bring a dish.

By Austin O’Boyle and Jim Wilson

Pictured: Members of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas host a Site Visit with Rep. Pat Fallon (TX-04, third from left, back row)

The challenge: Overcoming the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Federal Eviction Moratorium.

In fall 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium, an unprecedented federal reach into what is normally the purview of state and local landlord-tenant law. The CDC’s moratorium has had and is still having devastating impacts on the rental housing industry. The National Apartment Association’s (NAA) members struggled to deal with the financial hardships stemming from the moratorium while at the same time continuing to provide quality housing for their residents and helping them with payment plans and locating rental assistance.

NAA had to act on several fronts to blunt the impact of the moratorium for both its members and for the residents who would inevitably incur thousands of dollars in debt. Like the battles over rent control in the past few years, it was evident that many members of Congress still held faulty assumptions about how the industry works and its depth. The assumption: That apartment owners can provide housing for free for months on end. NAA’s government affairs team has pursued several strategies—lobbying, media relations and legal action—to overturn the moratorium and limit its effects. However, NAA remained challenged to communicate quickly and comprehensively the first-hand stories of how its members had been affected by the moratorium.

NAA members needed to be empowered to act on behalf of the apartment industry. The two aspects of NAA grassroots advocacy that were to be focused on were direct communications sent to Congress in the latter half of 2020 and then meeting with Members of Congress—both virtually and in-person, as conditions allowed—to put pressure on both the Trump and Biden Administrations to end the moratorium while also ensuring that no legislation would be passed that would extend the federal order.

Solution: Summer into Winter 2020 - Direct Communications to Congress

Members of Congress need to hear from constituents to understand how they feel on important issues and how policy developments are impacting those constituents.

NAA had roughly 20,000 advocates send nearly 75,000 communications to Congress regarding the federal eviction moratorium and emergency rental assistance to help rental housing residents pay their rent.

These communications included emails, phone calls and tweets aimed at bringing an end to the federal moratorium. These advocates utilized NAA advocacy tools to communicate directly with Congress and ensure that the industry’s voice was heard in Washington, D.C. While it took Congress nine months to respond to the pandemic’s impact on rental housing with financial assistance, the first of two rental assistance packages passed at the end of 2020 and was followed by another in March, providing nearly $47 billion in total rental assistance thus far.

Solution: Winter 2021 into Spring/Summer 2021 - At Home Meetings

While the Biden Administration’s initial focus in early 2021 was on a stimulus package that included the second tranche of rental assistance, implementing and delivering both sets of assistance has been a significant challenge. As delivery of the aid lagged, Congress attempted to pass last-minute legislation right before the August Congressional recess, as the Supreme Court had previously indicated that the CDC had exceeded its authority. Thanks to NAA members calling their Members of Congress telling them to oppose this piece of legislation, the bill did not garner sufficient support to be brought to the House floor for a vote.

Knowing that Congress may try to pass another version of this legislation after the Congressional recess ended in September, the NAA At Home Program would be of the utmost importance to educate Members of Congress on the impact of the moratorium, the inefficiency of the emergency rental assistance distribution programs and the impact that another extension of the moratorium would have on the apartment industry.

NAA-affiliated apartment associations and members answered the call and made meeting with their Members of Congress a priority during the Congressional recess and made their voices heard on the topic.

The NAA At Home Program consisted of nearly 60 meetings with different Members of Congress and their staff to discuss the eviction moratorium and emergency rental assistance. Over 170 NAA members and affiliated apartment association staff attended these meetings during August and September to educate their lawmakers.

Impact: The End of the CDC’s Federal Eviction Moratorium

The actions taken by NAA’s membership, affiliated apartment associations and the Government Affairs team during the course of the pandemic made direct impacts on the federal eviction moratorium coming to an end. The activity aimed at Congress led to a lack of support for any form of legislative extension, and with the Supreme Court’s most recent decision to rule the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium unconstitutional, there is no path forward for an extension of the moratorium in any form at the federal level.

Another positive impact was made by NAA members through educating their Members of Congress on the issues surrounding emergency rental assistance programs across the country. The narrative of Congress made a dramatic shift to fixing the emergency rental assistance programs and making it easier for funds to be distributed to apartment owners to keep residents in their homes.

Thanks to NAA’s membership and affiliated apartment associations, the rental housing industry was able to defeat the federal eviction moratorium and put Congress on track to solve issues surrounding the distribution of emergency rental assistance. The apartment industry came together and showed the power that their collective voices can have on even the most high-profile of federal policies.

Austin O’Boyle is NAA’s Manager, Grassroots Engagement, reachable at [email protected]. Jim Wilson is NAA's Director, Political Affairs, reachable at [email protected]

October 4, 2021
NAA Advocacy Case Study: Eviction Moratorium
Apartment Advocate
Flood Insurance Will Look Different in 2022. Here’s Why.

Policyholders under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can expect big changes soon. The federal government’s voluntary flood mitigation effort for property owners and operators will implement a new methodology for setting premium rates called Risk Rating 2.0.

Under current rating methodology, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets rates for properties participating in the NFIP according to the flood zone in which the property is located. For years, properties grouped within the same flood zone have paid the same premium rate, resulting in lower-value homes in high-risk areas subsidizing higher value properties in less flood-prone zones. Reversing this inequity was the impetus for FEMA’s decision to establish a new risk rating system.

Risk Rating 2.0 will use additional variables to determine a property’s individual risk, rather than assess the property by the zone in which it is located. This process will consider additional flood risks not included in the current methodology, data collected from new flood mapping technology and the risk mitigation features of the property itself.

FEMA has determined that under one quarter of NFIP policyholders will see a decrease in their monthly premium rates, while 66 percent will only see up to a $10 increase in their rates. 11 percent of policyholders will see assessments beyond $10. The new rates kicked in on October 1, 2021 for new policyholders and are set to begin for April 1, 2022 for existing policyholders.

Currently, FEMA’s statistics do not reflect an independent analysis of Risk Rating 2.0’s impact on multifamily policyholders. The National Apartment Association (NAA) is working closely with FEMA to compel the disclosure of multifamily data so that owners and operators can more adequately prepare for the impending changes to rates for multifamily housing.

On September 30, 2021, Congress passed a continuing resolution preventing a government shutdown. The stopgap funding measure also included a short-term reauthorization of the NFIP now set to expire on December 3, 2021.

NAA will continue to monitor the reauthorization of the NFIP and the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0. The NFIP remains an essential tool for multifamily owners and operators to help mitigate flood-based risk. With more than 5 million policyholders participating in the program, long-term reauthorization of the NFIP is critical to ensuring the health of our nation’s housing supply and safety of its community members.

To learn more about our advocacy on the National Flood Insurance Program, please reach out to Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Manager of Public Policy.

 

October 4, 2021
Apartment Advocate
Forbearance for Enterprise-backed Multifamily Mortgages Continues with No Expiration

On September 24, 2021, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it will continue to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners.

Property owners with Enterprise-backed multifamily mortgages may continue to enter into a new or, if qualified, modified forbearance agreement if they experience a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Participating multifamily borrowers must:

  • Notify residents of the protections available to them during the forbearance and repayment periods.
  • Commit to not evicting renters due to nonpayment of rent while the property is in forbearance.
  • Adhere to additional requirements during the repayment period, including providing at least a 30-day notice to vacate, waiving late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent, and allowing flexibility in repayment of outstanding rent, not in a lump sum.

The extension marks FHFA’s fourth iteration of the program which was first implemented on March 23, 2020. The notice does not indicate an expiration date. On October 1, 2021, FHFA will allow the Enterprises to continue offering COVID-19 forbearance to qualified multifamily owners unless otherwise instructed by FHFA.

To learn more about the options available to multifamily borrowers, contact your loan servicer.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) will continue its federal advocacy with the Administration and help its members manage regulatory compliance. For more information on housing finance policy, please reach out to Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Manager of Public Policy.

October 4, 2021
Apartment Advocate
Congress Considers Rental Assistance Program Reform

On September 17, the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) passed H.R. 5196, as amended, by a party line vote of 28-22. The bill reforms the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and redefines how state and local grantees should structure their programs and distribute federal rental assistance dollars. Since January, grantees have only obligated or distributed 16.5 percent of the nearly $47 billion in funds appropriated by Congress. Next steps for the bill are in flux as House Leadership considers options for this legislation and other priority items.

Alongside our coalition partners, the National Apartment Association (NAA) has been engaging with the Committee over several iterations of the bill. The latest version is certainly an improvement. It allows for self-attestation for all eligibility criteria to expedite processing of applications and creates a process for housing providers to notify residents that they will apply for rental assistance on their behalf (allowing an application process that is no longer contingent on the renter’s consent).

We remain concerned about the inclusion of a 120-day eviction moratorium (even in limited circumstances), restrictions on opportunities for housing provider assistance and other provisions that would increase barriers to housing provider participation and ultimately hinder rental assistance programs’ success.

Learn more about NAA’s key takeaways of this bill:

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Amends rental assistance laws in the American Rescue Plan Act (also known as ERA 2) to increase the amount of assistance (up to 24 months) that ERAP grantees can provide to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amends language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act’s rental assistance laws (also known as ERA 1) from “may” to “shall” making clear that grantees are required to provide direct-to-renter assistance if the housing provider refuses to participate.

Amends ERA 1 to create a new housing provider-led application process (where notification of the renter is required, not consent).

Amends ERA 1 to require, as a condition to obtaining assistance under the housing provider-led process without renters’ consent, a 120-day eviction moratorium beginning from the date of application and mandates that the amount of assistance received is deemed to satisfy all monetary claims. 

Amends ERA 1 to require grantees to create systems to process and approve aggregated applications and provide a single payment to housing providers for these applications.

Amends ERA 1 to require prioritization of renter-led applications and housing provider-led applications in which renter consent was obtained before housing provider-led applications where renter consent was not obtained.

Amends ERA 1 to allow for self-attestation or proxies for all resident eligibility criteria.

Amends ERA 1 laws to allow renters in federally assisted housing to opt out and prevent housing providers from applying for assistance on their behalf.

Amends ERA 1 to enable eligibility of those who experienced financial hardship “during” the pandemic, expanding beyond those who experienced financial hardship “due to” the pandemic.

Amends ERA 1 to allow housing providers to obtain rental assistance for vacant units but excludes those who have filed for eviction from obtaining relief.

Amends ERA 1 to direct the U.S. Department of the Treasury and grantees to conduct outreach to housing providers and renters to increase awareness of ERAP programs.

 

The vote followed robust discussion about the bill by legislators and industry stakeholders during the Committee’s September 10 hearing. The hearing featured testimony from NAA and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) members Gilbert J. Winn, Chief Executive Officer, Winn Companies and David Schwartz, CEO, Chairman & Co-Founder of Waterton, who also serves as NMHC’s 2021 Chairman (read his written testimony here).

Consistent with NAA’s continued federal advocacy on emergency rental assistance, we continue to support program improvements that would ultimately speed up processing of applications and distribution of funds, leading to improved outcomes for participating renters and housing providers. Any ERAP reform efforts should prioritize combining ERA 1 and ERA 2 program requirements, simplifying processes and ensuring consistent program delivery across grantees. Both housing providers and renters who have been affected by COVID-19 are relying on emergency rental assistance. To learn more about our ERAP reforms asks, read our letter to Congress.

To learn more about rental assistance policy, contact Nicole Upano, NAA’s Director of Public Policy.

October 4, 2021
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights
Rent Growth Persists, Slows Slightly

National rent index shows continued growth—faster than pre-pandemic.

The latest Apartment List Rent Report continues the tale of positive rent growth across the country, as the firm’s national index jumped 2.1% from August to September.

Since the start of 2021, the national median rent growth is 16.4%—well above pre-pandemic years—with an average increase of 3.4% from January to September. Despite the increase from month to month, rent growth has slowed since the July peak.

The national median rent is $1,302. That’s $102 higher than projected had growth rates remained in line with pre-pandemic numbers.

Overall, rents are rising across the nation, but this varies by market. Only a handful of cities are still below pre-pandemic prices.

Boise, Idaho, continues to pace the cities with the most rent growth since March 2020 at 39%, but prices have cooled as of late with median rent dipping 0.1%. Slightly behind was Tampa, Fla., which has a rent growth of 36% since March 2020. Meanwhile, in third was Spokane, Wash., which saw a 1.8% decline in rents month to month.

Only five cities are still below their pre-pandemic rents—three in California’s Bay Area. San Francisco (-10%), Oakland (-10%) and San Jose (-3%) are still lagging a full rebound. Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., are also behind their March 2020 numbers. Seattle saw rents sink 22% between March 2020 and January 2021, yet the city has seen a resurgence and is now at 2% rent growth since March 2020.

October 1, 2021
Rent Growth Persists, Slows Slightly
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights
4 Lessons Learned from Single-Family and Multifamily Property Management

Owners and operators of single-family rentals and multifamily housing can use each other’s experiences to combat challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

According to a report by Walker & Dunlop, all eyes have been on single-family rentals (SFR), with rental growth expected to outpace multifamily, office, retail, storage and hospitality growth by 2022. With an increasing number of investors betting on the SFR market, owners and operators of multifamily housing have had their ears to the ground and are beginning to adjust their own operational strategies to stay ahead of the game.

According to Jered Lerum, Director of Business Development at Edison47, the focus should be on identifying what is appealing about SFRs and multifamily, and then creating a resident experience that works within both markets. For instance, owners and operators of both SFRs and multifamily housing can create communities that have the independence of a SFR while also having the support and extra layer of insulation of a traditional, high-end multifamily housing community.

However, despite leading the charge recently, SFRs have also gained deeper insights from legacy multifamily owners and operators who have been successful at fostering thriving communities that attract and retain residents year over year. With the ability to promote a sense of community through shared amenity spaces, door staff, onsite maintenance and more, owners and operators of multifamily housing have many lessons to share with the SFR community, which can’t always boast the same onsite luxuries.

During a time when resident experience management (the curation of personalized and frictionless touchpoints throughout a resident’s tenure) has become critical for owners and operators of properties on either side of the coin, resident touchpoints are going digital to deliver elevated living experiences. The rise in innovative technologies is improving bottom lines, increasing efficiencies and growing net operating income (NOI), proving how much owners and operators of SFRs and multifamily housing can gain from each other.

Here are four key takeaways stemming from the similarities and differences in SFR and multifamily housing property management.  

1. Technology can be used to streamline time-consuming and costly aspects of the rental process.

Technology adoption can be instrumental in making the rental process more efficient and streamlined. SFRs are geographically dispersed by nature. When thinking about the various aspects of the rental process, as well as the resident experience once they officially move into a home, property owners and managers need to think about the time and energy it takes to conduct property tours, complete applications, conduct ID verifications, compile maintenance and work orders, onboard residents and more. Even tasks as simple as collecting rent requires time, and time is money.

SFRs don’t have the luxury of having their units co-located, or the simplicity of having maintenance staff onsite ready and able to fulfill requests at a moment’s notice. Technology adoption has been vital in ensuring these processes are completed successfully and in a timely manner when having a property manager onsite isn’t possible. And while much of multifamily housing is contained under one roof, the ratio of residents to staff can often create a bottleneck of available resources to manage things like rent collection and maintenance requests. With today’s renter focused on convenience and accessibility, both multifamily housing and SFRs can lean on technology to heighten the resident experience.

“Automating simple tasks like paying rent, submitting maintenance requests, etc. enables owners and operators of [multifamily rentals] to focus on residents and their living experience,” said Joe Melton, Vice President of Marketing and Management Support Services at The Morgan Group.

2. Resident priorities are shifting.

According to a 2020 survey from Zillow, Millennials account for 43% of single-family home renters and 41% of multifamily housing residents, and are more open to using a mobile app for maintenance requests, lease renewal and communications with property management in general. The National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley found that 80% of residents across multifamily housing and SFRs want to be able to interact and do everything through a mobile app – community events, maintenance, paying rent, controlling utilities etc. In addition, Zego’s State of Resident Experience Management Report found that 50% of managers regularly communicate with residents via their home phones, and 98% of management companies offer or plan to offer a digital portal or mobile app for communication with management teams in the next 12 months. Fully native mobile solutions are becoming increasingly important to residents.

“The adoption of online rent payment went lock and step with digital communication,” said Jason Hagen, Chief Operating Officer at Cobblestone Real Estate in a story in Propmodo about single-family rentals. “Before residents didn’t want to provide their email addresses, but now they do so happily. We used to have to print out 500 letters and now we can do almost all of that over text and email.”

Because SFR assets are more dispersed, operators have had to adopt technology faster and as a result, have been providing renters with virtual and digital service offerings that cater directly to their preferences and the overall resident experience. While many multifamily operators have been comfortable up to this point with their traditional ways of handling the rental process, they now need to digitally transform and evolve to remain relevant and competitive. In the age of COVID-19, renters have become accustomed to tech-enabled remote offerings. Considering the tremendous growth SFRs have experienced in the last year, multifamily owners and operators need to continually think about technology adoption as a way to boost retention and increase resident satisfaction.

3. Not all tech stacks are built equal.

While multifamily and SFR operators have been quick to adopt technology, they often run into the pain point of having a wealth of choices. With so many innovative solutions in the market, portfolios can easily feel overwhelmed by the array of options, or simply intimidated with the idea of evolving past what they’ve used for the past decade. But in many instances, this approach leads to operators managing with solutions that either don’t fit their current needs, or never were a perfect fit for their business. Many times, large property management systems are purpose-built for multifamily, so they can often feel like a “square peg” solution for a “round hole” problem to the largest players in SFR.

These challenges create unique opportunities for best-in-breed technology options and more targeted proptech stack solutions. Instead of staying within the full stack, operators who hone in on identifying targeted systems can alleviate the pain points associated with researching and purchasing multiple disparate tech applications. Targeted systems that focus on one particular aspect of the real estate industry and include multiple functionalities provide operators with the efficiency they crave. Their stacks can be simplified without being tied to an all-in-one solution, providing them with the best of both worlds.  

4. Untapped opportunities in predicting maintenance and utilities.

Predictive maintenance is a huge opportunity for owners and operators of both SFRs and multifamily housing that has yet to be fully tapped. For instance, being able to collect analytics on HVAC systems is where owners and operators can determine other issues like leak detection. HVAC systems are often big expenses, so the ability to monitor these systems with predictive maintenance enables issues to be treated proactively before they become larger and more costly problems. 

This opportunity also lies in utility usage and conservation, especially for SFRs. The nature of SFRs forces owners and operators to think about scaling faster. However, multifamily operators aren’t always thinking about maintenance cost per unit, as all they need are maintenance staff in the building. SFR operators are therefore hyper-aware of expenses, because they often need to tap into dispersed networks, contacts and resources. The ability to have automatic settings can make a world of difference for both SFR owners and operators, whose utility efficiencies vary unit to unit, as well as multifamily owners and operators looking to better track building infrastructure and energy efficiency. A systemized “checklist” is critical as well, as it provides a clear overview of entire portfolios. Implementing technology solutions can enable these checklists to be standardized and managed at a large scale, providing NOI gains to property owners on both the SFR and multifamily sides. 

As the needs of consumers continue to fluctuate, SFR and multifamily owners and operators can use each other’s respective experiences to both combat challenges and take advantage of opportunities within their respective spaces. Additionally, as the commercial real estate industry continues to digitally transform, the unique opportunities, challenges and learnings from SFR and multifamily housing’s technology journeys are critical to accelerating their transformations and gaining a competitive edge in the market.

Nick Latz is Chief Revenue Officer at Zego.

September 27, 2021
4 Lessons Learned from Single-Family and Multifamily Property Management

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