Editor's Pick 2004

Apartment Professional
November 15 2004


Product Review: What's Hot

I read press releases, visit trade shows, meet vendors, hear story pitches, read and do online research about new products all year long. Some products genuinely excite me (you wouldn't believe how exciting artificial lawns can be!), others bore me to tears, most leave me unimpressed. After all, unless it's innovative, why bother?

I asked an exclusive group of AP readers to reveal their favorite products of 2004. What follows is a sampling of what people are really using. Vaultware (www.vaultware.com) and CallSource (www.callsource.com) are the two most popular products. In 2004, both companies introduced new products that allow us to work smarter, and both companies approach technology as a means to an end--one that we can master rather than the other way around.

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When I feel clueless, I ask my friend Mike Mueller what he thinks is cool.

"I think what www.propertysolutions.com is doing for property Web pages and payments; also, www.bluemoon.com for rental applications. SafeRent has a new reporting tool for property analysis on the quality of the prospects. Forget about all the new tech products, the real action is actually implementing technology. Company web sites are now extensions of the leasing office: www.udrt.com or www.homeproperties.com. Adoption by the industry is finally taking off and the promise of the Internet has arrived."

Mike Mueller

CEO

Realty Data Trust

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"Productivity starts with training, and e-learning systems are a great leap forward for the multifamily industry. It's typical for the hire-to-train process to take 13 days for new associates, but with e-learning systems, associates can access training 24/7/365 over the Web. Not only will associates be 'up to speed' more quickly, managers no longer need to take time out of their schedules to provide training. Associates control their own training process, save their place and repeat assignments, and managers keep track of modules associates have taken and their scores. We believe e-learning will have a significant impact on the industry as companies that provide web-based training begin to see dramatic improvements in customer service and productivity."

"Electronic cashiering. Historically the rent deposit process began with collecting rent checks, gathering enough checks to make a trip to the bank worthwhile, finding time to get to the bank, then waiting five to seven days for residents' checks to clear. Electronic cashiering means depositing your checks electronically--either by scanning a check or by allowing automatic debits from residents' accounts. This eliminates time-consuming trips to the bank. Even more importantly, funds are deposited sooner. And it reduces redundant data entry and error, because the data from the check scan or deposit is automatically transferred into the system. When you add all the time that can be eliminated from rent collection each month across multiple properties, productivity improvement is significant."

"Resident portals. Communicating with residents is absolutely critical to retention, but it's time-consuming. With Resident Portal technology, you can automate a significant portion of the communication that goes on between associates and current residents, such as: collecting and paying rent, entering service requests and automatically communicating status, registering for utilities, reserving community amenities and facilities, sharing community news, exclusive 'eBay' type solution for residents."

"Online leasing. Prospective residents can complete the entire leasing process on-line. Electronic leasing allows a community to incorporate a 24/7/365 leasing effort. Prospects no longer have to conform to leasing office hours. They can identify, tour and lease an apartment electronically: tour the community from the Internet listing service, see real-time availability, pricing and concessions, select a specific apartment from current inventory, complete an application and obtain approval with resident screening services, place a deposit on an apartment and take it off the market."

Russ Sandlin

Senior Manager, Residential Management Business Group

Intuit Real Estate Solutions

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