Future Tech: Advances in Leasing and Operational Technology from

Single Family Rentals

Future Tech: Advances in Leasing and Operational Technology from Single Family Rentals

The single-family rental sector may only be 10 years old, but it is already providing key lessons for its multifamily counterparts in leads and operations.

At the 2018 Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) Conference, panelists for the “Future Tech: Advances in Leasing and Operational Technology from Single Family Rentals” session represent pioneers in an industry sector that is barely 10 years old.

As moderator Todd Katler, CEO of Anyone Home, an Irvine, CA-based service contractor for single-family property managers at the REIT level, observed during introductions, “We all spent our entire careers in multifamily. It’s really all we knew. So at first we thought, “What did single family need to learn from multifamily? But now it’s what we’ve learned from single family that applies to multifamily.”

Each panelist including moderator Katler, has identified an industry need that could be satisfied by leveraging technology. These included

  • Single-family Marketing: Tina Mortera, SVP of Marketing for Scottsdale-based Progress Residential, one of the largest providers of single-family rental homes in the U.S., with more than 25,000 single-family homes in 15 markets across the country.
  • Investor-specific Property Management: Doug Brien, Co-Founder and CEO of Oakland-based Mynd a technology-enabled property management company for midsize (50 units or fewer) investment properties throughout the U.S. Mynd provide institutional quality management for owners by leasing units at or above market rates and filling vacancies in 17 days on average.
  • Enterprise Home Automation: Lucas Haldeman, CEO for Phoenix-based SmartRent, a real estate technology company that is developing end-to-end smart community solutions using proprietary autonomous IoT tools. SmartRent’s solution is designed to provide property managers with seamless visibility and residents with all-in-one home control.
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The review of best industry practices that was forced on the fledgling sector was perhaps a long time coming for the industry in general. “Nobody chooses to be in property management,” noted Brien, “you just end up here.” But when Brien found himself managing 17,000 single-family rentals in 13 markets, he realized he was running a REIT and needed a software management solution for public and institutional investors.

For the panel, the biggest a-ha moments involved scale comparisons:

  • “Scattered” v. concentrated: How is managing a one-unit home different from managing a 250-unit home? For Brien, “It’s the logistics of getting tasks done at a scattered site operation. It’s not like tasks are coming up in a concentrated area. It was technology that allowed us to be an efficient logistics.”
  • Lead and resource inefficiencies: Said Haldeman, “I was getting five times the amount of leads I was expecting from a multifamily, and I had no efficiencies for showing these properties. With the leads I did deal with, I couldn’t send leasing agents out to meet these people. A leasing agent could have an hour of drive time between showing units. We solved it with technology and logistics control.” Some solutions, such virtual tours, are hardly revolutionary; they’re familiar to anyone who has used Google maps or tried to book a vacation. But it’s still a handy tool for channeling leads. Self-guided tours are similarly akin to a realtor showing, but without the realtor. (Mortera is looking into VR.)
  • Creating a brand: Mortera’s company was in 15 markets and they were all different.” In addition, “Leasing agents had a ‘realtor mentality.’ They were concerned with their own particular brand. So creating a brand that unified our 15 different regions was an incredible challenge.”

Realizing a leasing opportunity out of the massive housing crisis of nearly a decade ago was essentially the wild wild west. “No one had worked at this scale before,” said Katler. “Whether you were an institutional investor or a manager, you were at startup.” Haldeman said they turned to technology because, “We could not have a profitable business with a traditional multifamily staffing.”

Panelists suggest that some solutions created for single family could also improve operational efficiencies for multifamily. Some are high-tech, some are high-touch and include:

  • Choose your high-touch moments: Acknowledging the importance of “the human connection and relationship building,” Mortera nonetheless choosing your moments for these. Said Haldeman, “Think about a car lot or Best Buy. I know I dread the person coming up to me. Same with renting an apartment. I just want to see if my cell phone has coverage in the bedroom and then rent it.”
  • Getting the message: When a resident puts in a maintenance request, the process may be as informal as the resident verbally telling a manager about a problem, or texting a photo asking for a needed repair. In a multifamily scenario, there’s often a custodian on-site. But maintenance requests in the scattered site operation (single family rental) can turn into a logistical nightmare. Haldeman’s tech solution, SmartRent, pairs property managers with residents in a seamless interface.
  • What scales down can scale up: “Single family operators have to know the details of their residents a lot more intimately, said Brien. That created the need for Mynd: “We felt that we could take everything we learned from single family and give a better renter experience to these mom-and-pop owners who own 10 units.”
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