PropTalk: Investment Management in Multifamily – Featuring Reed Goossens, Co-Founder of Wildhorn Capital

PropTalk invites Elizabeth Francisco, President of ResMan, and Josiah Mann, CEO of Investor Deal Room, invited Reed Goossens, Co-Founder of Wildhorn Capital, to discuss how investor management solutions brings multifamily syndicators to their investors, the important considerations to remember when evaluating investor management solutions, and various digital strategies for young investors.

To listen to more episodes of PropTalk, visit https://learn.myresman.com/proptalk/.

Getting Ready for the Trickiest Budget Season in a While

Getting Ready for the Trickiest Budget Season in a While

All things considered, the Apartment industry is performing quite well in the majority of the U.S. Even the gateway markets are indicating they are on the upward trend to business, as usual. Owners are optimistic and their thoughts of ongoing success are top-of-mind.

But – and there’s always a but – how tricky will budget season be for management companies with the possibility of rising inflation, supply chain management issues, the eviction moratorium’s fallout and the threat of natural disasters?

ResMan held a webinar “Natural Disasters, Pandemic, Recession, Inflation – How the Heck Do We Budget for 2022?” in late August, featuring its President and moderator Elizabeth Francisco along with panelists Mary Gwyn, Chief Innovator, Apartment Dynamics, High Point, N.C.; and Jennifer Triptow, Director of Analytics & Project Management, City Gate Property Group, Dallas.

The discussion covered the state of the industry, including 2022 forecasting (plus rising expenses and rent growth) and strategies for projecting revenue and occupancy. The group also shared best practices for educating owners and investors about the economic challenges they will face with budgeting for 2022.

Solid Performance in Apartments Lately

Apartments have performed strongly the past 14 months, particularly during Q2 2021. There were 197,000 apartments absorbed, a number which hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s. The average market rent increased 3.5 percent quarter-over-quarter – the kind of growth not experienced since 1Q 2020. The overall vacancy rate fell by 70 basis points to 4 percent. Moody Analytics projects the U.S. national multifamily vacancy rate to remain within 5.25 percent and 5.75 percent by year-end.

Cautiously, Francisco said, “Unlike previous economic downturns, the government stepped in with funding to support renters and their rental obligations, begging the question: to what degree is the additional funding supporting the positive trends? Will the trends continue at the same rate now that the economy and renters have to stand on their own?”

Francisco added, “Operators in the sunbelt states benefited greatly from the population migration into those markets providing significant rent growth opportunities. But, if the migration patterns shift or slow down, will we see the same levels of rent growth?  Are we setting realistic expectations going into 2022?” she asked.

Investors are excited about rent growth,” Gwyn added, “but we have to tell them about rising expenses needed to run the property, too. North Carolina, for example, is a hot market, but 20 percent rent growth is hard to envision.

It’s our job to keep our investors informed about what’s happening with expenses and evictions, supply challenges and regulatory issues that could affect performance.We’ve had about one and a half years of this, so you should have some history on forecasting how this could play out.”

Gwyn said that the No. 1 “proforma pain point” right now is supply chain management because costs are going up and contractors are overbooked so projects take longer. “You will see increased vacancy loss because of this,” she said.

Triptow urged managers to have a conversation with their clients ahead of budget season to see if their goals and strategy have changed.

“There’s so much uncertainty,” she said. “The eviction moratorium leads to restrictions and constraints on budgeting for any pie-in-the-sky numbers. We’re being more conservative on the revenue side because the contractor shortfall means that turns, renovations and capital expenditure projects will all cost more and take longer.”

Net Rental Income

“Our data reflects net new leases are consistently being singed at market rent levels. Renewal leases, on the other hand, are reflecting concessions or discounting anywhere from one percent to even ten percent,” Francisco said.

Gwyn said she was “really bullish” about 2021 with the thought that we’d be coming out of the pandemic. She said her renewal rents and rent growth were up by 10 or 11 percent, and she believes rent will continue to grow in 2022. “Unless the government steps in with something, I don’t think we’ve seen the next ‘top’ for rents yet.”

Gwyn has been pre-leasing more quickly than normal, and with higher rent rates.

“We need to remind our team, if we’re 100 percent occupied, our rents are too low,” she said. “I’ve coached our team to test the water, ‘If you get a 60-day notice, mark it up $200.’  This way, you are being aggressive, but if you can’t find a taker, you have time to drop it a bit.”

Triptow expects they will continue to see strong renewal performance because many residents are in “uncertain situations” and will want to stay put. In-place residents will renew, she said, we expect to continue offering discounts to some degree into next year.

“When you think about the possibility of a fourth or fifth wave of COVID-19, I’m having to be more conservative in my budgeting,” she said. “This way, I don’t regret anything I’ve told to the investors that doesn’t come through.”

Occupancy Projections

Occupancy forecasts are sitting in the 94 to 95 percent range, but there are lingering effects from COVID-19. Francisco pointed out the high number of month-to-month renters from 2020 who have carried over to 2021 and now into 2022, according to ResMan data.

“As confidence in the economy rises, I expect to see a return to pre-pandemic retention rates.  However, the increase in month-to-month renters over the last year and half have not been good for lease expiration management,” Francisco said. “I’m seeing some communities with as high as 25 percent of total unit count expiring in fall and winter months for both this year and already into next year.”

Triptow said month-to-month leases are always a threat to the rent roll, no matter the circumstances, “but even more so right now given all of the uncertainty,” she added. “They don’t know where they are going or what could happen next and want to hold that rent for one more month at a time.”

Triptow tells her leasing team to give these residents some stability, and to make them a good offer and use lease expiration to try to extend them by six or seven months. “This will make your lease expiration management more manageable,” she said.

Gwyn said it’s important to “hold tight” to your lease expiration schedule, even in unpredictable times. For example, “3-bedroom units that haven’t rented by the time school has started are going to be really tough to rent and your vacancy loss will rise.” She sees some owners offering an $1,800 apartment at $1,200 to $1,500 just to get it occupied.

Use lease expiration to your advantage, Gwyn said. “Most renters look for 12-month leases because they’ve been trained to do so, and our leasing teams have been trained to sell them,” she said. “They need to be trained to offer lease terms that are best for the lease expiration matrix and help renters to realize they are available.”

For example, after taking over a community with all month-to-month leases in July and August, Gwyn offered two lease expiration choices, attached “painful” month-to-month fees, and went door-to-door and marketed those choices. She said the strategy worked well.

Gwyn also recommends creating and marketing a waiting list; those who are on it can fill in for those who have to leave in October and beyond, in some cases, for those who are evicted, she said.

She cited leasing consultant Jennifer Nevitt, who advises that by keeping a waiting list for at least 10 percent of the community’s overall units, the property will always be okay when it comes to lease expirations.

Operational Expenses

“You can’t save your way to profitability for the long term,” Francisco said. “Market changes equate to marketing changes. Don’t just do what you always do. Question it and dig into what you’re spending on.”

Gwyn said that the industry learned in 2020 that you could lease well without a lot of Internet Listing Service (ILS) spend.

“So many people were stuck at home and were shopping online for apartments,” she said. “It created a lot of less-qualified leads and our teams were only addressing about 50 percent of the leads they were given because of that.”

Today, she uses “free” channels such as Instagram and Facebook to market apartments, taking advantage of the friend referrals that come with that. Facebook Marketplace is another effective and inexpensive platform to use.

She’s also using geo-targeting and the Wayz app to draw prospects.

“With geo-targeting, the technology lets us set it up so that our apartment homes show up on the prospect’s phone while they are visiting a neighboring, competing community,” Gwyn said, who added the importance of maintaining the community’s Google My Business page.

“It’s amazing how few of your competitors are doing this,” she said. “Their listings aren’t accurate and they aren’t responding to reviews posted there.”

When it comes to supply chain constraints, most of the talk has been about construction, but operational expenses are taking a hit as well, Francisco said.

“Expenses rising for materials because of supply chain management issues; this is not something new,” Triptow said. “Investors should be familiar with its continued delays and effects. We’re in a global economy so you never know when or what might shut things down again in China or abroad. We have no control over it. Budget for an aggressive cost rise in these materials.”

Investor Approval/Buy-In

The age-old question around budgeting season is figuring out how to gain approval of owners.

“Some investors just want to know when you are sending them their income checks and others (more institutional) are on a two-year pro forma and are much more focused,” Gwyn said. “If focused two years out, this is really tough when it comes to value-add properties given delays in supplies, getting contractors, timelines.”

Triptow said making her case is not an issue as long as “she comes to the table” with diligent facts and research.

“We are the experts,” she said. “We know the micro markets and what our competitors are doing. We need to show that expertise to the investors on how we can make up for revenue shortfalls. Yes, there could be some pushback, but in the end, they will always understand a fact-based case.”

ResMan Bolsters Executive Team with Leadership Appointments

ResMan Bolsters Executive Team with Leadership Appointments

Chief Technology Officer Michael Dunn Promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Tahlor DiCicco joins Company as Senior Vice President of Marketing   

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021 – PLANO, Texas: ResMan®, a leading property management SaaS platform provider, today announced that Michael Dunn has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Tahlor DiCicco has joined the company as Senior Vice President of Marketing.  

Dunn joined ResMan in 2019 as Chief Technology Officer and General Manager of Payments, and soon after coming on board began overseeing the strategy across both the Development and Product organizations. 

In Dunn’s new role as Chief Operating Officer (COO), he will partner with Paul Bridgewater, CEO, to help build on and execute ResMan’s vision to help multifamily and affordable housing managers operate more efficiently. Dunn will assume day-to-day leadership and operations duties, taking responsibility for effecting the company’s strategy and leading the team in the execution of growth objectives. In this new role, Dunn will continue to oversee the Product, Development, Implementation, Support and Training organizations, as well as Marketing, led by DiCicco. 

“I am humbled at the opportunity to lead ResMan’s core operations through our next chapter,” said Dunn. “ResMan has a market-leading platform supported by an exceptional team of passionate individuals, and I look forward to guiding our operations through this exciting time of growth.” 

DiCicco comes to ResMan after several years as the Vice President of Global Marketing at CoreView, a SaaS management platform, where she oversaw global marketing operations and strategy. Prior to CoreView, DiCicco held marketing leadership roles in both the U.S. and abroad at several other private equity backed SaaS organizations like Acquia (a digital experience platform that enjoyed a $1 billion exit in 2019 to Vista Equity Partners) and Akumina (an employee experience platform). At ResMan, DiCicco will oversee the marketing strategy and operations.  

“ResMan is redefining property management platforms for property management companies and fee managers across the U.S.,” said DiCicco. “The management team is top-notch, with experience in building companies during their high-growth stages – and customers love the platform. It’s an exciting time to be at ResMan.”  

“The promotion of Michael to COO and the addition of Tahlor to lead our marketing team will be instrumental in taking ResMan to the next level,” said Bridgewater. “Michael’s commitment to our customers is unparalleled and his unrelenting focus on operational excellence will only make the experience for our customers even better. The combination of Michael’s expertise in product and strategy and Tahlor’s ability to execute on the marketing side will fuel ResMan’s next phase of growth.”  

This announcement comes on the heels of Inhabit IQ’s announcement of its combination of ResMan with its extended family of products. Read the full announcement here: https://myresman.com/blog/inhabit-iq-adds-resman-to-its-suite-of-solutions/

Takeaways from 6 NAA Apartmentalize 2021 Sessions

Some things were different about NAA Apartmentalize this year, but one thing that wasn’t was the great content that the association puts together to share best practices and stay current on industry trends. Below are highlights from sessions that the ResMan team found most compelling and relevant.

Session 1: Is Artificial Intelligence Changing Rental Housing Management?  

Operators who are currently using AI shared insights into how AI is being used to reduce costs, increase bandwidth and create the future. The session provided a really compelling case for the need for and value in using AI across many operational areas. Examples cited by presenters include:

  • * Forty percent of resident interactions happen after 5pm. AI allows for quick, personalized responses any time of day or night.One operator measured the impact of having AI on their call volume and found the AI led to at 20% reduction in calls.

  • * AI is driving faster and higher renewals, with 45% to 50% of residents engaged in an AI renewal process clicking a button to initiate a renewal.

  • * Properties using AI in the lead generation process are seeing a significant increase in prequalified applicants showing up for appointments. Lease conversions on the internet leads are also higher when AI is in place.

  • * AI is driving better data for service requests and routes work orders to the correct skill set for maintenance staff. AI is also being used to automate the move out process.

  • * Perhaps the most compelling case for AI is the time savings it brings. One presenter reported that AI sent 750,000 responses in the first month after implementation, saving site staff two hours per day.

If these examples are enough to motivate you to adopt an AI solution, the presenters had some advice for successfully rolling out AI in multifamily – have a dedicated project manager for the rollout and take seasonality into account when setting the roll out schedule (e.g. don’t roll out in May/June). On another note related to AI but not to Apartmentalize, ResMan and AvidXchange are hosting a webinar on September 22nd titled “How AI-Powered Innovation is Transforming Accounts Payable”. This webinar is a great opportunity to learn more about how using AI to replace manual AP processes can help your company increase efficiencies and scale for growth.

Session 2: Talk Data to Me: Pet Research to Improve NOI

Much has been written about the rise in pet ownership/adoption during the pandemic, but the reality it is a trend that has been on the rise for at least the last three decades. We all know that with pet fees and pet rent, pet owners provide more revenue to apartment communities than residents that don’t own pets. But there are always a lot of questions about whether the benefits of allowing pets outweigh the drawbacks. Presenters during this session shared a lot of helpful data and insights for apartment communities that allow pets or are considering allowing pets. The points that we found most interesting/relevant are:

  • * Nearly 70% of US households have pets.

  • * 26% of apartment residents with a pet indicated that they added the pet or a second pet during the pandemic.

  • * Residents in pet-friendly communities stay in the community 21% longer on average.

  • * 83% of property owners report that vacant pet-friendly units rent faster.

  • * Overall, residents with and without pets favored a pet-friendly community, and 71% of them had no issue with charging more for irresponsible pet ownership.

Beyond just the data, it was also interesting to hear the approach that communities are taking to pet policies. For example, Jamin Harkness, Executive Vice President of The Management Group (TMG), does not look at pet ownership as just an income line item. They’ve found that pet ownership has a considerable and positive impact on the community. They encourage prospective renters to bring their pets with them for the initial tour. They incorporate pets as part of the community, from encouraging Tik-Tok videos with renters and their pets to adding pet station locations to property maps and sponsoring pet adoptions.  Given that people with pets are less likely to move, they can secure higher effective rents for being the Pet Preferred Community of Choice.

Session 3: Meet Gen Z: Understanding the Next Generation of Renters

There are 67 million Gen Zers in the US. The oldest are nearing 25 years old. They’ll make up 30% of the workforce by 2023. While every generation is unique, this one is particularly different in ways that matter to apartment communities. They’ve never lived without the internet, social media or mobile devices, so their expectations for apartment search and lifestyle are different. Some statistics that we found particularly interesting and relevant for apartment communities looking to attract Gen Z renters are:

  • * The good news is 81% of Gen Z aspire to be leaders; however, the bad news is they reportedly only have an 8 second attention span.

  • * Gen-Z renters prefer to use longer-tail search terms than previous generations, using 4.9 words per search on average.

  • * 70% of Gen Z renters prefer videos less than 60 seconds, with Instagram and Facebook being their leading channel preferences.

  • * 68% prefer property photos over lifestyle images.

  • * 65% of Gen Z renters almost always rely on reviews when making buying decisions.

Session 4: Emerging Issues: Inflation and Its Effect on the Industry.

Earlier this year, when our industry started to feel the impact of the rising costs of materials coupled with labor shortages, there was anxiety about the increasing operating expenses and capital expenditures. But, interestingly enough, expenses for the first half of 2021 are in line with the first half of 2020. One the reasons provided as to why we are not seeing the spike in expenses is due to the payroll savings, which have remained flat.  Payroll savings reflect the challenges management companies are having when trying to fill open positions. In addition, as companies rushed to adopt technology needed to move to virtual or centralized processes, they re-evaluated their staffing models for 2021 and beyond, taking savings where they could.

Now the interesting question is where do things go from here. Will prices continue to rise? Will labor continue to be in short supply? Can communities continue to operate effectively at current staffing levels? ResMan’s recent webinar, “Natural Disasters, Pandemic, Recession, Inflation – How the Heck Do We Budget for 2022?” shares insights from industry veterans around how to budget for 2022 amid all this uncertainty. We encourage you to watch the on-demand recording.

Session 5: Remote Leadership – Turned On, Tuned In, Uninterrupted 

Remote work went from 3.6% pre-pandemic to 44% even as vaccines were rolled out and restrictions started were relaxed. This remote work trend is not expected to subside, even when the pandemic finally comes to an end. In fact, experts are predicting a 25% to 30% increase in remote work by the end of 2021.

With remote work here to stay, organization and team leaders need to be thinking about changes they need to make to how they engage with and manage their teams. The panelists for this session highlighted traits they are seeing in great remote leaders, which include:

  • * Setting Ground Rules and Expectations: This includes establishing and communicating guidelines around use of cameras in online meetings, being available and connected, expected response times.

  • * Avoiding Distractions: This includes scheduling time with team members, focusing on being present in the moment and resisting the urge to multitask while in meetings, setting clear boundaries around work time and non-work time.

  • * Checking In More With Team Members: This includes doing more to motivate and recognize them authentically and in a personalized and meaningful way as well as focusing on supporting them and their career growth and aspirations – especially with training.

  • * Practicing Servant Leadership: This concept is about focusing on providing service to team members and it involves understanding and adapting to team members’ learning styles, being process-focused by documenting processes and managing processes first before people as well as learning to pivot when necessary to support the team.

  • * Reenergizing their teams: After this difficult period, these leaders are looking for ways to build employees up by interacting with them more in person-to-person ways with happy hours and lunches and fun team activities. They’re also vigilant about spotting signs of burnout like emotional exhaustion, lack of interest, low energy, loss of satisfaction in achievements. And when they do see signs of burnout, they are intervening and taking action.

Session 6: Using Post Pandemic Metrics to Optimize Sales Conversions

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the way that prospective residents find and make decisions about their next home. While historical leasing process metrics are still relevant, there are many new and different metrics and processes that properties need to consider to ensure they continue to hit their revenue and occupancy goals. Below are key takeaways from the session:

  • * Having a range of tour options (in-person agent-guided, in-person self-guided, virtual agent guided and virtual “video” tour) is important because of individual preference. But not all types of tours convert at the same rate. For example, panelists reported that prospects who complete a self-guided tour have a 54% higher conversion rate than those who take an agent-led tour.

  • * With Gen Z entering the rental market en masse, communities need to have a self-serve, all digital leasing process in place if expect to attract these residents. Key to having an effective digital leasing process is for all digital touchpoints to be connected so communities can track performance and optimize the experience to maximize conversion.

  • * A critical tool to support communities in measuring and optimizing conversion across all types of prospective resident journeys is a CRM system. CRM systems that include chatbots, automation, alerts and lead tracking facilitate an all digital process for renters that prefer this, and support your team in engaging and following up with all leads in a personalized and timely manner. These systems also track conversion across different lead sources and prospective resident journeys and help ensure best practices for follow up. With leasing agents completing about 70% of follow up best practices today, imagine the impact that a CRM system can have as it moves that number closer to 100%.

If you’re interested in more takeaways from NAA Apartmentalize 2021, watch ResMan’s on-demand webinar, “In Case You Missed Apartmentalize: ResMan Recaps What You Need to Know”.

PropTalk: Asset Management in Multifamily – Featuring Patrick Duffy, Founder of Tactical Asset Management

PropTalk invites Elizabeth Francisco, President of ResMan, and Josiah Mann, CEO of Investor Deal Room, to sit down with Patrick Duffy, CEO of Tactical Asset Management, to discuss the 2022 budget cycles, investment strategies, and rent collections.

To listen to more episodes of PropTalk, visit https://learn.myresman.com/proptalk/.

ICYMI: Top Questions Asked at ResMan’s NAA Apartmentalize Booth

NAA Apartmentalize has been such an amazing conference! Attendance may have been a bit lighter this year than in past years, but interest and enthusiasm among those who attended was stronger than ever! Everyone was excited to be back in person and focused on getting everything out of the learning opportunity. 

With crowds steady in the ResMan booth throughout the conference, one might surmise that the questions would be booth related. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide:  

1. “OMG can I PLEASE have an espresso?” …said many an attendee and an exhibitor as they spotted the Lamarzocco machine. The in-booth espresso bar was definitely well-received! Special thanks to our barista, George, who helped a lot of folks make it through their first full conference day in a long time! 

2. “Did they just walk up to the touch screen and start giving themselves a demo?” said more than one ResMan employee standing in disbelief as a property management team, giddy with excitement, started completing tasks on their own without having ever used ResMan before. “It’s so easy!” could be heard echoing around the booth…. 

3. “Look – it’s ROI! Did he gain weight since we last saw him?” …said a ResMan customer who spotted ROI atop the welcome desk. It’s true that ROI, the ResMan chameleon mascot, has been out of the industry’s view for a few years. And certainly, we all know what can happen after taking it easy for a few years. 

4. “Should we be letting Paul give a demo?” said a concerned ResMan employee who worried a bit, as our fearless leader, Paul Bridgewater, was expertly navigating the touch screen monitor and proving just how easy ResMan is to use. Paul clearly earned his demo wings at the NAA Apartmentalize 2021!  

5. “Do you know how happy we are that you’re now part of Inhabit IQ?” … said many of ResMan’s biggest fans! It isn’t hard to see that it just makes so much sense – for customers, for the companies and for the industry as a whole. Adding ResMan complements and strengthens the collective Inhabit IQ product portfolio. The move allows for a broader range of solutions under one family of leading brands, while still providing the flexibility customers need to access to best-in-class solutions. It’s no wonder the industry sees this as a win for all! 

Stay tuned to the blog as we highlight more of the learning and fun that took place over the last few days at NAA Apartmentalize.