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”.