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The Future of Property Management: How the Industry Embraced the Chaos and Came Out Ahead

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Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across all industries were transitioning digital processes to streamline operations and provide a better customer experience. But over the past six months, we’ve seen a rapid acceleration in the adoption of technology, especially in property management. What used to be a ‘nice to have’ is now a ‘must have’ for doing business, and as a result property management companies have had to quickly adapt and evolve. 

In a recent survey conducted by AppFolio, 46% of property management companies cited “adopting new technology” as a top way they were preparing their business for the future. How have you pivoted your business strategy to continue to serve your residents, drive lead conversion, and maintain continuity? Throughout this disruptive time, it’s likely you had to adapt and find creative solutions in order to continue to attract new renters and keep your current residents satisfied. 

Leasing Tools for the New Normal

Leasing demand took a hard hit during the initial onset of the pandemic. Based on internal AppFolio data, leasing demand dropped to 62% of projected lead volume from March 16-20, the same week that the DOW Jones experienced the largest point drop in history. However, by the end of April, leasing demand had fully recovered to match and even exceed projections.

If you don’t already have tools that allow you to conduct your leasing flow remotely, then now is the time to implement technology that enables a virtual experience. Prospects expect to be able to interact with your team virtually, and to access information and services online and on-demand. In fact, evidence has even shown that virtual showings are 2.4 times more likely to be completed than in-person showings. 

Virtual showings are also a great option for renters who may not be quite ready for in-person showings, or for those who are moving from a different area. Based on AppFolio’s survey, 71% of property management companies said their priority for implementing virtual showings has increased, and 64% believe they are here to stay. 

Innovative technology, like AppFolio’s Virtual Showings allow you to host live 1:1 video walkthroughs of units, so you can still maintain a human touch, while showing prospects the space from afar. In addition, AI technology such as AppFolio’s AI leasing assistant, Lisa can automatically handle your incoming inquiries, giving your team more time to focus on the most serious leads and conduct 1:1 Virtual Showings. By implementing these kinds of virtual technologies you can convert leads into residents faster and free up your team from having to manually follow-up with each prospect and show units in-person.

In response to the pandemic, Cambridge Management Group pivoted their leasing strategy and moved to a fully virtual leasing process. As a result, they have been able to fill vacancies and haven’t seen a major impact on their leasing performance during this time. 

Why Digital Communications are Key

Along with virtual leasing technology, property management companies have also increased their dependence on digital tools that allow for mass communications to keep their residents informed. For instance, 87% of property management companies believe bulk emails and text messages are here to stay. Now that residents are accustomed to receiving communications and interacting with your property management company digitally, they will expect to be able do so from now on. 

How Teams Have Adapted

With distributed teams working remotely, property management companies had to rely heavily on technology to manage their teams and maintain consistency across all their properties. In the survey, 48% of property management companies said they were automating and streamlining business processes to prepare for the future. This is a trend that will likely continue, especially now that businesses have experienced the benefits. An integrated software that has real-time flexible reporting, data and analytics, and guided workflows under one solution can help you maximize efficiency and quickly access information from anywhere. 

Those who have embraced technology have been better equipped to overcome challenges, and as a result have an overall optimistic outlook on the future — 66% of property management companies who participated in AppFolio’s survey said they had either a positive or very positive outlook, and only 4% were pessimistic. If you capitalize on the changes, and leverage virtual tools, you’ll be able to adapt faster, stand out from the competition, and prepare for the future.

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