The release of our 2014 Market Survey has generated a lot of buzz about trends in the property management industry regarding resident payments and online technology. We wanted to hear what a few of our friends in the industry thought about these trends, so we interviewed Lisa Trosien, Jackie Ramstedt and Doug Chasick to get their expert views about what’s happening.
Lisa Trosien, The Apartment Expert
Q: The white paper correlated record-low vacancy rates to a high increase in online payment implementation within the multifamily industry. Do you think this is an accurate assessment and why?
LT: I strongly believe that management companies are trying to streamline as much of their work as possible. Providing solutions that allow the resident to ‘control’ their requests is a huge part of this. The ability of the resident to perform as many of their ‘resident functions’ (payments, maintenance requests, package notifications, etc.) online is an amenity that has to be included these days to maintain a competitive stance.
Online payments aren’t even really as much an amenity these days as they are a utility. The expectation is there on the part of the resident – they want the ability to pay when they want, the way they want. As vacancies continue to drop nationwide, residents will continue to flex their muscle with their management companies in getting the services they want. Owners and management companies will have to acquiesce to not only keep residents content, but to help keep staff from being overwhelmed with servicing their residents. Online payments make rent week much easier for the onsite teams.
Q: With mobile internet traffic to multifamily websites expected to increase dramatically in 2015, do you think multifamily firms should be promoting mobile optimization and/or mobile apps to their residents?
LT: Absolutely. With the Millennial generation occupying the vast majority of our industry’s market rate apartment homes, we need to be acutely tuned into their media consumption practices. Did you know that 53% of Millennials surveyed would rather give up their sense of smell than give up their media? The fastest growing apps are Snapchat and Instagram – two totally mobile apps. These statistics alone should be compelling enough for any management company or owner to realize that mobile is essential for success with today’s (and tomorrow’s) renter.
Embracing the mobile usage of customers is where all management companies and owners need to be. Unfortunately, many companies don’t realize the importance of mobile in regards to everything that they do. Many companies still do not even have a mobile website! Almost 60% of mobile customers are Millennials, and over half have made purchases via their smart devices. Mobile should be at the center of every company’s overall strategy – and NOT just for marketing purposes.
Jackie Ramstedt, CAPS, CAM, CAS
Q: Thirty-eight percent of multifamily firms have yet to offer online rent payments to their residents. What do you think the hold out is for these multifamily firms?
JR: Resident profile is the key. Technology has expanded greatly over the past 10 years, but in some areas, the lack of education about the trustworthiness or costs of online payments makes these companies reluctant to push this service. A comprehensive approach to training not only for the residents, but the onsite staff would help with the momentum of building trust by explaining and encouraging their residents to utilize the service. Unfortunately, sometimes it just boils down to the resident wanting that tactile feeling and interaction with paying in person by check. I have had one client who insists on having their manager personally go to each resident to collect their rent checks to insure that “personal” touch.
Q: The majority of multifamily firms have an online payment solution. What benefits of online payments do you think resonated most with community managers in 2014?
JR: Saving time! Any service offered must literally take the place of something to be truly appreciated. 2015 will be a year of forward movement for most companies to make up for those missed windows of opportunity in both revenue and services for a very demanding, competitive customer expectation. No longer will just being friendly keep people at their community. All industries must stay in touch with what their consumers need, want and willing to pay for. I see more clients moving toward an “all inclusive” approach by adding additional online payment types to give their residents more choice in how they pay. This is exactly what PayLease does by incorporating the credit card, check scanner, cash pay, and now the mobile app.
Doug Chasick, The Apartment Doctor
Q: The survey found that 26% of companies with an online payment solution changed something about their system in 2014. Of the reasons for change the survey lists, is there anything that surprises you the most? Why?
DC: I’m surprised that that more firms didn’t make a change in 2014; specifically in the areas of adding an online payments solution or switching to a more effective solution! Convenience and ease of use are great selling points for today’s customers and just having an online solution isn’t good enough – I believe you need to have the best online solution and I’ll define “best” as secure, user-friendly, and universally accessible.
Q: Do you have any predictions on how leasing and resident retention efforts will shape multifamily technology choices in 2015?
DC: I think just as PayLease noted in its Market Survey, mobile internet traffic will greatly shape technology in this industry. According to Byron Carlock, Jr., U.S real estate practice leader with consulting firm PwC., “Nearly 29 million Millennials still live at home due to student debt and/or delayed entry into jobs. They will move out and start their own households over the coming years as the economy’s slow recovery continues.”
That means mobile will be even more important as these Millennials enter the marketplace. Best of breed solutions that are mobile-friendly, robust, easy to use and low maintenance will become more popular in spite of whether there is a seamless integration with the property management software and/or whether they are the lowest cost.