While paperless systems could conceivably enable apartment operators to cut headcount, the real benefit might lie in resident satisfaction.
At first blush, you wouldn’t think a merchant developer, which traditionally doesn’t manage communities for very long, would see value in investing in a paperless system that automates leasing, screening and renewals. But Steve F. Hallsey, Managing Director for Wood Partners, says it’s precisely the company’s hold time that makes paperless so appealing.
“It’s helpful in our model because there’s so much due diligence time, because we build, we lease up and we sell,” Hallsey says. “To pull the lease paperwork and the due diligence paperwork together, we had to employ three people. Now, because of the paperless process, we have one person who coordinates the disposition and due diligence.”
Wood also has 20 communities that were long-term holds, so it decided to make the transition, which Hallsey says, “was pretty painless.”
“We’ve been able to cut headcount at corporate and onsite,” Hallsey says. “We’re down three-quarters to one fewer person onsite.”
Conventional wisdom might say the efficiencies of going paperless could allow companies to reduce personnel, but Melissa L. Smith, Chief Administrative Officer for Fogelman Management Group, doesn’t necessarily agree.
“I think [a paperless office] just allows people to focus on the core business better, like servicing the person sitting in front of them,” Smith says. “It’s just a more efficient and better use of their time.”
Others concur. “We really want our team members to be more focused on the service aspect of their business and not filling out reports and shuffling paper,” says Tina West, Certified Property Manager, COO for Capstone Real Estate Services. “We want to be a service-oriented industry. The more we can take off our onsite teams’ plates, the more we can truly service our customers.”
Pinnacle’s Delese Noble, Director, Construction Administration and Accounting, is also a paperless proponent because it takes the responsibilities of processing the paperwork of leasing, renewals and cash and checks off the onsite team.
“In the past, they’d get a paper application and have to get that into the system,” Noble says. “With online applications, getting that information entered into the system and screening become super-efficient. [Associates] can be more geared toward things such as outreach marketing.”
Paperless systems are also efficient for corporate staff. “Instead of [printing] annual reports and sending them out, they’re all generated right out of your system and emailed out,” West says.