Smoothing Transitions With Technology
Acquisitions are common practice in the apartments industry, but they can still stir up plenty of stress for owners and residents. There is new data collect and transfer, new process to implement and disruption to the residents habits. How can a company that acquires new properties organize and effectively manage the process from a technology standpoint?
NAA spoke with Kristin Runyan, SVP of Operations at PayLease and Lisa Williams, Senior Vice Presidet Strategic Business Solutions at Bozzuto Management Company about their take-over experience and advice. They will both be speaking on the NAA Education Conference and Exposition panel Tech Takes Over: Strategies for Onboarding New Communities panel along with Jean A. Merenda, Compliance Coordinator, Madison Apartment Group and Casey Van Zandt, owner of Casey Van Zandt consulting.
Q: What are the biggest tech hurdles to a smooth transition?
Runyan: A lot of the problems stem from getting information from the previous owner and getting it into the new systems. Timing really comes into play here. Sometimes these deals happen really quickly, and with people constantly moving in and out you have to be in tight communication. Make sure to move as quickly as possible with the mostly relevant info possible.
Williams: The timing of the data transfer. When the outgoing management company is shutting down their books and were coming in, we have to move quickly to make sure we have all the right data. If only all transitions could happen in the middle of the month!
Q: Whats the number one best thing to do onboard efficiently?
Williams: Change is difficult for everyone, so we try to over communicate, especially with the residents. We want to make sure they know who to go to if something is broken and where they should pay their rent.
Q: Do you think apartment industry has lagged behind in tech utilization?
Runyan: The property management space has been slower to adapt new tech than other industries. Companies like Paylease try to fill the gap. Theres definitely a real lack of technology utilization that could make a residents like easier. I dont think anyone is particularly anti-tech, they just have different issues that theyre trying to solve around. But the Millennials are changing that. And now prop management companies are seeing the advantages.
Williams: The multifamily industry has lagged behind. Weve made up a lot of ground in the past five years with the help of NAA pushing things through. But still, there are a lot of residents who will pay their VISA online, but not their rent. Maybe its comfort or maybe we dont promote it well enough. Our demographic, throughout out portfolio is all over the place. I will say that people writing checks is going be the wayside. The younger millenials definitely dont even have checkbooks.
Q: How does tech help with marketing strategies?
Runyan: There are a lot of opportunities to get in front residents: email, text, flyers and more. We recommend all of them. You never know how youre going to reach each resident. Maybe theyre email is overloaded so a door hanger works best. You can also reach people on the their bills because you know theyre going to read that.
Williams: Once were able to capture all of the data from the outgoing company, we do a lot of email blasts. We also blast from our resident portal, but email is the key. We cant do much without that.
Q: What do you do if you have residents who are reluctant to use new technology?
Runyan: We try a bunch of different measures. We as the vendor will do all of the marketing for free print mailing programs, email blasts. We try to reach them anyway we can so they know online payments are available. For some of the older folks who may not like using the technology, we also run a call center and they can make a payment every month over the phone. At Paylease, we try to reach across the generations in a multitude of ways so we can reach everyone.
Williams: We never want to say no to a resident. If someone prefers to write a personal check, we still allow them to pay rent by check in the office. But, we make sure to train and educate the residents on the new technology. If their reluctance is that theyre not tech-savvy, were more than happy to have them come in to our business center and well help them get set up.