Technology continues to play an increasing role in improving student housing’s most chaotic season.
It’s September. The air is cooling, lending crisp edges to warm days. Pumpkin spice is sneaking back onto menus everywhere. Football season is underway. And students have returned to their classes. If you work in student housing, that means you’ve just survived some of the most critical days of the calendar year.
Rather than taking a well-deserved rest, the days and weeks following are an ideal time to review processes and evaluate technologies. So Entrata brought together Student Housing experts from Aspen Heights, CA Ventures and The Collier Companies at the Entrata Summit in October to do just that.
The panelists discussed move-out processes, including communications best practices and the pros and cons of bulk move-outs vs. real-time move-outs where you click the move-out button as a resident turns in their keys. Each of the panelists used bulk move-outs for their latest turn.
“Bulk move-outs are a lot easier,” says Meg Hainz, Systems Support Specialist at CA Ventures. “We do it with checklists. It gives our team a way to double-check the keys and fobs that are being returned and know which ones need to be replaced. Then you just bulk move-out everyone so you can start the make-ready process.”
“We hope to use real-time move-outs in the future,” adds Rebecca Herrin, Operations Analyst at Collier. “When you do bulk move-outs, you lose the collection of [individual] move-out reasons and that is so important. I think the biggest hesitation in student housing with doing real-time anything is the volume!”
The make-ready stage is next, and technology plays a big part in preparing a high volume of apartments. The traditional whiteboard is, according to the panelists, already obsolete and has been replaced with time-saving technologies and digital make-ready boards.
Some communities are transitioning to digital make-ready processes with spreadsheets used to generate lists for vendors. Some properties are taking advantage of inspections software to track the necessary work and populate make-ready boards automatically. Tasks that used to take a full day of work to complete are now done in minutes.
Looking at 2019, the need for advance prep and organization stands out.
“We had some sites that were rock stars and others that weren’t. So we want to make sure everything’s approved and good to go so when it comes the time, all of that organization has been done beforehand,” says Hainz.
Move-in day is always high energy when processes and people intersect. Panelists described tactics for keeping things moving and organized, including fast-pass move-ins. With the fast pass, students are able to take care of all required tasks before move-in occurs.
“We use our move-in board for tracking. So we know that first month’s rent has been collected and utilities have been signed-up,” says Chris Amrich, Business Process Manager at Aspen Heights. “If they’ve finished all of the items on the checklist, they don’t even have to get out of their car. It literally takes five seconds. We use iPads and search the move-in board. It tells us if they’ve completed all the items, so we can hand them a packet and click ‘Perform Move-In’ for a real-time move-in.”
With lessons learned fresh in their minds, these student housing leaders are already making plans to implement improvements into this year’s turn, including finding better ways to proactively complete move-in reviews and making checklists more dynamic. With a solid set of plans in place, now it really is time to sit back, relax and enjoy the season.