February 11, 2016
As Property Competition Heats Up, Operations Eye Technology
Between 1945 and 1981 the Canadian population doubled, and the post-war boom led not only to a growth in housing, but also to a change in types of structures. During the 60s and 70s multi-family high-rise and low-rise apartments began to poke up across cities, from downtown to the suburbs. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC), Canada’s apartment inventory is aging, with more than half of apartment buildings between 36 and 55 years old and a further 28% older than that.
Today, with the viral-like spread of shiny modern condo units with higher-end finishes, there’s no doubt that the multi-family property rental business is facing a more competitive landscape. No longer a landlord’s market, the power has shifted to the renter.
“In the coming years, you’re going to see a lot more tenant mobility. It’s going to be more challenging to keep tenants for five years, like we do now,” said Craig Hatt, Director, Asset Management at GWL Realty Advisors. “Today, to be the best property manager, you need to be up-to-speed with technology. You need to be working and talking with the tenants. From an operations point of view, we see technology as way to improve our returns in the future.”
Many industry experts are seeing a shift toward the use of cloud-based or web-based technology as a way to both enhance the residents’ customer experience as well as increase operational efficiencies.
Lizaine Wheeler, Vice President Operations at Northview Apartment REIT, says that tenants need to be able to do everything on their computer, tablet or mobile phone — from searching for an apartment to being able to report any maintenance issues to paying their rent from the convenience of their apartment.
“There are also increased efficiencies gained from using web-based rental applications. It saves a ton of paperwork. The applicant can fill in all their information directly, which is then automatically generated to the lease. It also reduces errors. It removes the human factor of someone manually entering rents or incentives. It’s all tied together.”
As consumers’ technology habits change, property management technology must change with it. Residents are demanding more self-service.
“In today’s world most people are looking for the most efficient and easiest way to accomplish things,” says Lizaine Wheeler. “We talk on the phone less and less now and renters don’t want to have to phone in to report work orders or issues in the buildings. They don’t want to have to come into offices to pay rent, the more they can do on their phone or tablet the more content they will be.”
Craig Hatt also notes that these online tools make life easier for the tenants. “In 2016, and the coming years, you’ll see a lot less of tenants having to work with paper. Work orders, booking a party room as well as move-ins/move-outs, you’re going to see this done online through the website or through phone applications.”
Cloud-based and web-based technologies, like online applications and credit approvals, work order tools, and tenant portals are increasingly becoming a way to attract and keep residents. Lizaine Wheeler notes that the improved service and operational efficiencies that stem from new technologies can set property organizations apart from condo-owner rentals.
When viewed through the lens of operations, Craig Hatt stresses that technology allows the property management company to be more customer facing. “We can be at the site and yet remain highly productive. People can be more service oriented, and liberated from their desks. Technology can improve the efficiency of the back office in terms of online applications and management software programs.”
Stay tuned for our ongoing discussions with industry experts on the latest trends in multi-residential property management.