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Ride the PropTech Wave Without Drowning

Rental housing technology innovations
June 2018

With its unique asset class, San-Fran based rental property owner Veritas continually looks to technology as a problem-solver and a differentiator.

Rental housing operators are abuzz about “PropTech”—technological innovations that directly serve the industry. All real estate firms are using technology to some degree these days, adopting new tools to improve operations and customer service. But in the race to incorporate the latest technology into apartment buildings and meet the demand of tomorrow’s residents, proper evaluation and prioritization can be challenging.

Which technology will have the biggest impact on residents and the management team? Which technology will offer the most immediate ROI? Which technology will have the most long-term staying power and won’t become outdated in just a few years?

Veritas has been keenly watching and engaging as the PropTech wave swells. Because of its own start-up mentality and its location in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas, it embraces innovation and is an early adopter. Its unique asset class—a portfolio of aggregated smaller, historic buildings—causes it to continually look to technology as both a problem-solver and a differentiator.

As of 2017, Veritas has formalized its presence as a PropTech advocate with the creation of the Veritas Innovation Platform, which invests, incubates and advises technology firms that offer the potential to make residents happier, operations more efficient and communities more profitable. It does this in-house and in a collaborative way with the firms and their other networks. The goal is to benefit both Veritas and to advance the industry as a whole.

Veritas’ perspective in working with innovation companies is a two-way street, and regularly provides feedback to enhance the partner’s products or services in the interest of supporting their growth and success. The company also is careful to fully explore a potential adoption before integrating it, and that’s one reason for the dedicated resources within Veritas Innovations Platform.

Here are a few PropTech firms with whom Veritas has partnered along with insights as to how it developed those relationships and what they portend for the industry.

Latch Smart-Access Systems

Smart access has been on the rise. Modern apartment residents want keyless entry, using a smartphone, keycard or code to enter their homes — and a recent study found that 55 percent of residents would pay more for it. With smart access, the occurrence that residents lock themselves out becomes virtually impossible. Friends and family can be given access remotely. And delivery services can gain time-limited access, which provides key integration with today’s app and web-based services for food delivery and shopping.

On the management side, keyless entry makes it easy for onsite staff to enter an apartment home to make upgrades or repairs. Veritas also is beta-testing a program that enables its agents to offer applicants self-showings. Data will then be collected about whether that option is desirable for prospective residents and if return on investment is positively affected. In other words, smart access should be the first step in an amenity-based tech strategy, enabling other kinds of technologies and services that wouldn’t be possible or optimized without it.

Veritas chose Latch after considering multiple smart-access technologies and has equipped 50 properties with the access hardware that comes with a small monthly cost per lockset. Latch Co-Founder and award-winning Chief Designer, Thomas Meyerhoffer, previously worked long-term with Apple. Veritas finds that Latch’s hardware is robust and the technology is top-notch, including a visual audit trail.

Pillow Short-Term Enabler

As one of San Francisco’s largest owners and operators of multifamily apartment buildings, Veritas was a natural match to pilot a program in partnership with Pillow. In November 2017, it joined forces with the home-sharing app to offer owner-approved Airbnb rental homes in five of its communities, spanning 100 apartments.

Through the Pillow partnership, earnings from Airbnb rentals are enabled for residents, who keep the lion’s share of the revenue, with a small portion going to Pillow and the owner for cost recovery. Not only is this a great way to earn income, but it’s a way to safely monitor home-sharing in buildings by being a part of a sanctioned, above-board solution, backed by $1 million in liability insurance provided by Airbnb. Veritas considers itself “beta-testers” with these five buildings, and based on data collection and resident surveys, it will track resident satisfaction and the program’s overall benefit.

As a result of feedback from those who are participating, Veritas is in the process of potentially expanding the program to a small group of properties to better evaluate the interest and benefit to residents. As such, the company doesn’t have a firm date for evaluation, but is rather influenced by overall experience.

After six to 12 months, Veritas will decide, based on performance and resident sentiment, if it would like to expand the partnership by offering more Airbnb Friendly Buildings across more of its portfolio.

Rentlytics Insightful Analysis

Veritas has worked with Rentlytics since 2015, using the platform as “overlay tech” for its operations. Through the software, it is able to study operating metrics and understand how to drive the best performance within its portfolio.

Veritas chose Rentlytics for its ease of implementation and because of the way its fluid, user-friendly platform presents interpretable data, thus allowing the staff to focus on ideas and active solutions. Veritas uses Rentlytics across all levels, from the C-suite to asset management to property management. It has really improved its awareness, performance, operational efficiency and forward-thinking. Finally, the increased efficiencies created by Rentlytics have maximized Veritas’ ROI.

These examples show how technologies are sometimes independent but can also work in concert with one another. Integration can be complicated, but it promises a multiplier of benefits and amenities—one plus one to make four— that integration is where apartment owners can best serve its residents, as well as increase efficiencies and ROI for the company. PropTech is helping on the resident side along with the owner and manager side, and it’s everywhere, from leasing to amenities to construction to regulatory and financial services.

At a recent San Francisco fireside chat hosted by the Pension Real Estate Association, Veritas had the pleasure of discussing the sector with Clelia Peters. President of Warburg Realty and Co-Founder and Advisor at New York’s MetaProp, a leading PropTech accelerator program. Peters says, “The real estate industry needs to start looking at tech as strategy, not as IT.” Owners and operators, managers and investors take note: The future is now.