As the COVID-19 pandemic rages into the second half of 2020, the world continues adapting to a “new normal” which many still try to resist. While the future course of the pandemic remains in question, it’s becoming clear that many industries will be forever changed.
Multi-family real estate and property management businesses are still facing their own battles as unemployed tenants struggle to pay rent, and the risk of infection threatens their buildings and communities. But the short-term obstacles are only part of the story, and strategies are needed to address long-term implications of a post-pandemic market.
It’s no surprise, then, that property managers are left wondering how to navigate their businesses in a changed real estate atmosphere. Fortunately, a variety of proptech (property technology) resources can help adapt to needs for social distance while continuing to provide outstanding service to tenants and reducing the health risks of residents, staff, contractors, vendors and visitors.
Looking for ways to meet the post-pandemic demands of your multi-family community? The following technology solutions can help.
Virtual Tours and Remote Leasing
Heightened concerns over health safety are expected to continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic finally comes to an end. Even as markets reopen and in-person apartment viewings commence, technologies adopted during the pandemic are expected to remain in popular use. In fact, 64 percent of property owners surveyed by AppFolio said virtual showings, having spiked during the pandemic, will remain part of the industry’s new normal.
Virtual showings were starting to trend before the coronavirus began wreaking havoc on the world, but recent shutdowns boosted that trajectory. People still needed to tour potential residences, but it wasn’t safe to be out and about.
Fortunately, companies like Forj provide virtual reality home tours, which are not only safer for prospective tenants and staff, but they are more convenient and secure. There will be segments of the population who continue their preference of virtual tours long after the pandemic has passed. Some virtual tours, like those created with Veert, are so simple to construct they can be fully designed with a smartphone.
Likewise, leasing can be accomplished without a physical presence. Online apps like DocuSign let users securely approve, sign and send documents with an electronic signature from anywhere they have an internet connection.
Reduced Risk of Infection
Obviously, it’s to everyone’s benefit to stop the spread of the coronavirus – or any other dangerous pathogen for that matter. Research has shown the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces for as long as 72 hours. Considering how many hands touch the average door handle in public areas of multi-family communities, the risk of spreading the illness is real.
Automation in public spaces will be a valuable amenity in the post-pandemic multi-family real estate market. Something as simple as automatic doors could do wonders in preventing the spread of disease and promoting tenants’ peace of mind.
Tech solutions like Blue Bolt even can measure the temperature of anyone seeking entry to the property. Residents only need their smartphones to gain access to a building, and guests can be remotely granted entry to a main entrance or to certain areas of a property.
Integrated Building Services
It’s expected that residents in post-pandemic multi-family communities will be spending more time at home, and therefore will have higher expectations of the properties in which they live. They will be more conscientious of customer service, reliability and overall cleanliness.
A variety of proptech tools that will boost multifamily building services have emerged in the wake of the pandemic. Rental Heroes’ virtual assistant, “Alex,” is every property manager’s trusty sidekick. Residents need only reach out to Alex with inquiries, and the assistant will answer common questions, instantly respond and automatically update other inquiries and provide a host of other tenant resources.
An efficient HVAC system will continue its impact on resident satisfaction, if not more so as greater numbers of people work and attend school remotely, spending most of their time at home. Motili’s multi-family Asset Management suite of proptech products help property managers and building operators make proactive and intelligent decisions about HVAC and hot water operations. Motili features comprehensive asset tracking to manage all of a property’s or community’s HVAC equipment, scheduling inspections and regular maintenance so the entire system functions at peak performance all year long, while remaining cost-effective for the property owner and operator.
As the Internet of Things continues to impact more facets of everyday living, smart buildings open endless opportunities to transform operations in multi-family and commercial properties. In most cases, however, retrofitting existing buildings with the technology needed to gather sufficient property data is still a lofty goal for most companies. LineMetrics is changing that.
With its plug-and-play wireless sensors that can be installed practically anywhere, LineMetrics can collect data concerning a building’s energy consumption, air quality, temperature and even utilization of space, as well as many other categories. This data can then be analyzed online, and building operations can be optimized accordingly.
Remotely Managed Properties
While the increases in remote work had started to gain steam in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new normal that will likely emerge on the other side will feature mass movements toward remote workplaces. In fact, entire businesses will move from a traditional office to the cloud-based variety, and property management will likely be part of that group.
Thanks to a variety of online proptech resources, a huge chunk of property management tasks – even those that historically involved face-to-face contact with tenants – can be completed from a home office.
Platforms such as Buildium help property managers rely on a single tool for practically all business operations and communication with tenants, vendors, applicants and staff. Users can use Buildium to create a free professional website for not only listings but applications from initial screening to final eSignatures.
With the same resource, tenants can submit online maintenance requests and manage their own rent payments. The platform even includes tools for bookkeeping, accounting, taxes and other aspects of business operations. Other platforms, such as Rent Manager and TrueRent, offer a variety of software suites designed specifically for landlords, property owners and professional managers.
The multi-family real estate market is all but guaranteed to take on a new normal in the post-pandemic atmosphere. Fortunately, a host of proptech tools are emerging to address needed changes and new challenges. What proptech tools are you employing in the current business environment?