Originally appeared in NAA Apartment TECHniques
Acquisitions are a common practice in the apartment industry, but they can still stir up plenty of stress for owners and residents. There is new data to collect and transfer, new processes to implement, and disruption to the residents’ habits. How can a company that acquires new properties organize and effectively manage the process from a technology standpoint?
NAA spoke with Kristin Runyan, SVP of Operations at PayLease, and Lisa Williams, Senior Vice President of Strategic Business Solutions at Bozzuto Management Company about their take-over experience and advice. They will both be speaking on the NAA Education Conference panel, “Tech Takes Over: Strategies for Onboarding New Communities” taking place on Thursday, June 16th at 10:15. Joining them on the panel will be Jean Merenda, Compliance Coordinator at Madison Apartment Group, and Casey Van Zandt, owner of Casey Van Zandt consulting.
Q: What are the biggest tech hurdles to a smooth transition?
Runyan: A lot of problems stem from transferring information from the previous owner and integrating it into the new systems. Timing really comes into play here. Sometimes these deals happen really quickly, and with people constantly moving in and out, you have to be in tight communication. Make sure to move as quickly as possible and to communicate the most relevant information.
Williams: The timing of the data transfer. When the outgoing management company is shutting down their books and we’re coming in, we have to move quickly to make sure we have all the right data. If only all transitions could happen in the middle of the month!
Q: What’s the number one thing a company can do to onboard efficiently?
Williams: Change is difficult for everyone so we try to over communicate, especially with the residents. We want to make sure they know who to go to if something is broken and where they should pay their rent.
Q: Do you think the apartment industry has lagged behind in tech utilization?
Runyan: The property management space has been slower to adopt new technology than other industries. There’s definitely a lack of technology utilization that could make a resident’s life easier. Companies like PayLease try to fill the gap. I don’t think anyone is particularly anti-tech, they just have different issues that they’re trying to solve. But Millennials are changing that. And now property management companies are seeing the advantages.
Williams: The multifamily industry has lagged behind. We’ve made up a lot of ground in the past five years, thanks to NAA pushing things through. Yet, there are still a lot of residents who will pay their VISA online, but not their rent. Maybe it’s comfort or maybe we don’t promote it well enough. Our demographic, throughout our portfolio is all over the place. I will say that writing checks is going by the wayside. The younger Millennials don’t even have checkbooks.
Q: How does tech help with marketing strategies?
Runyan: There are a lot of opportunities to get in front of residents: email, text, flyers and more. We recommend all of them. You never know how you’re going to reach each resident. Maybe their email is overloaded so a door hanger works best. PayLease also lets property managers add custom messages to their residents’ bills because you know they’re going to read that.
Williams: Once we’re able to capture all of the data from the outgoing company, we do a lot of email blasts. We also blast from our resident portal, but email is the key.
Q: What do you do if you have residents who are reluctant to use new technology?
Runyan: We try a bunch of different measures. We as the vendor, will do all of the marketing for free – print mailing programs, email blasts, etc. We try to reach them any way we can so they know online payments are available. For folks who may not like using technology, we also offer a call center where residents can speak to a live representative and make a payment over the phone. At PayLease, we try to offer multiple ways to pay so we can reach everyone.
Williams: We never want to say “no” to a resident. If someone prefers to write a personal check, we still allow them to pay rent by check in the office. But, we make sure to train and educate the residents on the new technology. If their reluctance is that they’re not tech-savvy, we’re more than happy to have them come in to our business center and we’ll help them get set up.
To learn more about the session, “Tech Takes Over: Strategies for Onboarding New Communities,” or to submit questions to the panelists, click here.