By Justin Marshall (MultiFamilyExecutive.com Article) —
Looking ahead at 2020, property managers and multifamily operators certainly have their hands full with the ongoing challenges of onboarding new technology, the struggle for solid on-site talent, and streamlining package management. As the industry continues to evolve with the start of a new decade, operators can stand out and take pride in their properties with opportunities for a higher level of service, clear and frequent communication, and a foundation of personalized customer service. We’re taking a moment to explore the emerging trends shaping multifamily property management next year. Here are five trends to watch in multifamily for 2020:
1. Performance Starts with People
Finding and retaining talent will remain a top priority for multifamily in 2020, particularly on the maintenance side. In 2019, turnover was up for nearly every role with leasing professionals and maintenance technicians topping out with a turnover rate of 20% and 22%, respectively, according to recent benchmark reports from Grace Hill. Due in part to the transient nature of the younger generation, the cost of turnover and hiring qualified teams continues to accelerate faster than inflation. In 2020, we’ll see multifamily companies leaning more heavily on employee referral bonus programs, local associations, job training programs, and learning management systems to find and retain on-site talent. Fogelman Properties takes retention a step further by continuing to evaluate employee salaries relative to market value and organizing weeklong events to celebrate various on-site roles.
2. Balancing High Tech Versus Human Touch
Over the years, the fundamentals of property management have not changed, but the additional obligations and responsibilities for property management teams will continue to increase. Between nurturing prospective leads, sustaining resident retention, and keeping owners in the loop, property managers have reduced bandwidth to manage technology and maintenance challenges. There’s an app for that, right? Perhaps. While technology is often an enabler and accelerator for performance, ensuring a balance of the team’s time and use of technology is critical for maximizing asset values and reducing investment risk for owners. It’s often a fine line and unique mix of human touch versus technology that gives prospects, residents, and clients the personalized interaction they need while minimizing the burden of on-site teams.
3. Make Way for Package Management
While fitness centers are a must-have amenity in apartment communities, a less sexy package management solution is what residents really need for 2020. Amazon recently rolled out one-day shipping for 72% of the U.S. population, and, with 60% of millennials now making their purchases online, property managers are rethinking the space and retrieval methods for resident packages. Looking ahead, operators are now outfitting newly acquired communities with secure package rooms to include shelving units, one-time entry code keypad access, and cameras for security. The package rooms not only ensure 24-hour package retrieval for residents, but also reduce workload in the office. While online retail trends will continue to transform multifamily design, many expect a need for a refrigeration solution and upgraded recycling to make waves in 2020.
4. Is Smart Home Tech the Smart Choice for Multifamily?
Many are keeping a close eye on smart homes as in-home automation technology is an enticing lure for residents. However, operators are opting out of in-unit automation devices due to the high cost of retrofitting, uncertainty surrounding return on investment, and the continual need to update evolving tech. Not too long ago, in-unit Apple docking stations were widespread. Fast-forward a few years later, and thousands of apartments are outfitted with old adaptors and an unusable feature. Property managers will narrow the focus on improved safety and energy savings, plus on-demand leasing and robust virtual tour services in 2020.
5. Confidence and Communication
What is the key common denominator for successful communication across ownership, renters, and prospects? Confidence. Residents want information on their terms and crave continual feedback, particularly with work orders, while owners expect expertise on submarket trends and solutions when challenges arise. The tried and true formula of clear, consistent communication married with confidence will remain key for property managers in 2020, in addition to expanding tech capabilities such as resident SMS services, forums, apps, and owner dashboards.