Entrata’s Virginia Love Featured in Apartmentalize Session
The tech revolution gradually made the apartment industry more adaptable to change. It’s a good thing, too, because multifamily teams have never had to adjust more than they did last year in a suddenly contactless world.
Had the pandemic arrived, say, 15 years earlier, operators and onsite teams would have had considerable difficulty modifying their set-in-place, non-tech-savvy ways. But modernized apartment professionals have experience beta testing new tech, instituting rollout plans and modifying processes on the fly to make them more efficient.
That experience has proved invaluable through the early and current stages of the pandemic and has enabled teams to navigate through the chaos as efficiently as possible. A panel of experts, moderated by Entrata Industry Principal Virginia Love, recently discussed ways the industry has deftly altered its approach in the Apartmentalize 2021 session Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick: The Art of Pivot.
Love estimated that the pandemic pushed tech forward five to seven years—and she would know, considering she consults with many operators on their specific and immediate needs on a regular basis. She expressed fondness for the industry’s adept approach at traversing through the bevy of unseen changes.
“Even competitors became partners,” said Melissa White, director of property management for Perennial Properties. “We’d call and ask what they were doing and share ideas with them.”
On the tech side, the industry fast-tracked several contactless tour options, including virtual, self-guided, remote and others. While many of these were already in various stages of rollouts at some companies, the process became extremely accelerated. Teams also had to discover how to preserve something of a resident experience in a socially distant world. They had to deploy advanced communication tools to keep in contact with residents and for inter-team communication, which was even more crucial with ever-changing mandates.
Perennial Properties also developed innovative renewal incentives and utilized tech tools to work with residents on payment plans. But not all of the industry’s adjustments were based upon the onboarding of new tech. Daily practices were significantly altered, as well.
“The sense of responsibility and pride and care that our teams took to make sure our residents stayed healthy and had everything they needed was one of the really big highlights,” White said. “Even when we cut back nonessential requests, our service teams were right there to make sure that light bulb or garbage disposal was taken care of.”
Alex O’Brien, chief executive officer for Cardinal Group, joked that: “Procrastinators saw the true definition of ‘last minute’ when the pandemic arrived,” noting that everyone was thrown into a whirlwind regardless of how prepared they appeared to be.
O’Brien alluded to the idea that the necessitated remote leasing office could be a silver lining of the pandemic in that it could set a blueprint for the industry moving forward. Flexible workweeks could be a boon to attract new talent, as well, he said. But that’s not to dismiss the role of the onsite associate—actually, quite the contrary.
“For a long time, our industry had swayed away from the true word ‘essential’ to describe our onsite teams, but we matter,” O’Brien said. “I think the positive of COVID is that we were reminded of that. Even in the mundane things we do, we add value to people’s lives.”