Leveraging Big Data to Elevate Portfolio Performance
May 29, 2019
Updated August 4, 2021
3 minutes

Market analysis married with machine-learned recommendations drives smart business decisions.

The first thing Diana Norbury does every morning when she gets to her Seattle office is open Yardi’s Asset Intelligence program. 

The Senior Vice President of Multifamily Operations at apartment developer, owner and manager Pillar Properties uses the dashboard—which aggregates data on the company’s entire portfolio—to prepare for the day ahead, evaluating assets for occupancy rates, pricing, general operations and more. She looks ahead to the coming weeks and months for vacancies and upcoming challenges so she can stay ahead of them. 

“It has changed the flow of our regular weekly calls and meetings—whether it’s pricing calls, stale unit calls, monthly performance calls or just to review general operations,” she says. “I use Asset Intelligence as a resource while on these calls because all the information is in one place, and it’s a driver for other processes we have for our operations at Pillar. Quite frankly, I haven’t seen anything else in the market like it yet.”

Part of the Yardi® Elevate suite of products for the apartment industry, Asset Intelligence leverages synthesized data and benchmarking metrics to optimize the assets within a portfolio, providing revenue management and budgeting tools, comparisons of competing properties on the market and data-driven recommendations for lowering costs and raising revenue. 

The marriage of third-party benchmarking from Yardi® Matrix with Pillar’s own performance data has been invaluable, says Norbury.

“We can truly challenge our teams and empower them with more data. We can see how well we’re doing and what the market may bear in terms of rent increases and renewal activity, and we can more quickly hone in on certain areas or challenges,” she explains. “We no longer rely solely on our budget or past performance, which can be misleading and potentially hinder progress or stretch-goals.”

Armed with more precise information, the team at Pillar can make educated and data-driven decisions. Recently, Norbury and her team used benchmarking data to illustrate a change to Pillar’s rental and pricing approach to investors. As the market was becoming saturated, Pillar determined it would need to reduce pricing in order to catch up on occupancy. The team was able to show investors it had consistently been a market leader in rent prices compared to the market benchmark set. 

“We were able to illustrate that we could reduce pricing by a considerable dollar amount to raise occupancy and still remain competitive compared to our benchmark market and ultimately, meet or beat cash flow goals,” she explains. 

The predictive and prescriptive analytics have also been a “game changer,” notes Norbury, who says the company is using predictive analytics to prepare for upcoming exposure and vacancy. Pillar can act proactively rather than reactively. 

“I review the predictive analytics portion to set a course with our leasing and operational teams, whether it’s from a retention perspective or leasing perspective, asking questions like: do we have the right specials, is pricing right and what are comps offering?” she explains. “You can look at the dashboard and say, ‘In the next 90 days there will be an onslaught of two bedrooms coming online, so what does my team need to do to get ahead of that?’”

The prescriptive portion of asset intelligence then directs the team in understanding how much to spend on marketing to generate more traffic and overcome upcoming vacancy or exposure. The Pillar team adjusts keywords and reviews spending to make sure it’s targeting the right prospect 60 to 90 days in advance, “rather than waiting for the floor to fall out from under us,” says Norbury, which can mean last-minute price reductions, last-ditch marketing campaigns and desperate concession offers. 
“We can pull different levers, such as increasing marketing before reducing pricing or working with our leasing team to focus on specific floor plan marketing and leasing initiatives,” she says. “We’ve gotten much more refined in our strategies. It’s made us all much better operators.