Multifamily operators are integrating proptech into just about every area of the business—from leasing and maintenance to marketing, security, and beyond.
And for good reason. When used strategically, proptech has the power to reduce operational costs, increase retention, and even make buildings more resilient, among other benefits.
But those are the long-run advantages. In the short run, operators say there are a number of challenges that must be overcome to get to those eventual perks. And challenge No. 1? That’s choosing the right tech in the first place.
As Lucas Haldeman, CEO of building automation company SmartRent, puts it, ”In a mad dash to modernize, many forget that not all proptech is created equal.”
Challenge 1: Picking the Right Tech
There are hundreds of property technologies to choose from these days, each with its own advantages, drawbacks, and use cases. To zero in on the right ones to invest in, operators say to think big picture: technologies that will reduce workload, streamline tedious processes, or meet some larger tenant need.
“In my own experience as an operator, I attempted to enhance my building’s efficiency by implementing key fobs instead of keys,” Haldeman says. “However, I found that our issues remained the same, as residents forgot their fobs as often as they had forgotten their keys. It was only when we delved deeper into our core issues that we found a plan that worked: implementing smart access controls throughout the building and eliminating the burden on residents.”
Beyond this, staying power also needs to play a role in which technologies you choose. What will stand the test of time—particularly when it comes to your staff and residents? What will continue to integrate with your existing systems and processes?
“There’s the potential for the tech to become outdated relatively quickly, as technology advances so rapidly in this day and age,” says Eric Brody, founder and managing partner of ANAX Real Estate Partners. “Always prioritize the end user.”
Challenge 2: Choosing the Right Partners
Proptech is a booming field, and, with most technologies, there are countless providers you can choose to partner with. But service, knowledge, and usability can vary greatly from one to the next, and not every company is the right partner for every property.
“Verify the smart tech partners you’re working with are a good fit for your needs,” says Rick Goldberg, vice president at Arize, a smart solutions provider. “Get a demo, prepare questions and ensure that they get answered in the demo, ask for references, and go see the technology for yourself. Request a trial on a small subset of your community and see those solutions in place.”
You also want a company that will provide plenty of training and education. This is critical to ensure your teams not only utilize the technology properly but that you maximize the tech’s capabilities—and your investment.
“There’s a knowledge gap for owners and managers,” Brody says. “Technology companies are not [always] in the business of explaining to owners how to use their systems, integrate it into their projects, or change it if needed.”
Challenge 3: Thinking Beyond Installation
Installing a new proptech solution doesn’t mean the work is done. Operators say anticipating how that solution will integrate with your other technologies and overall business funnel is critical for that new tech to see success.
“It’s so important to understand the workflows for both your team and the customer,” says Virginia Love, industry principal at property management platform Entrata. “Everyone wants to implement the latest and greatest technology but might not be as focused as they need to be on how that new solution will affect their reporting or leasing funnel.”
Having a system in place to measure and improve the new solution’s performance is important, too.
“What is the plan for ongoing training? How are KPIs determined? And can solutions or steps be eliminated to make the experience better for both the multifamily associate and their customer?” Love asks. “Unfortunately, we are an industry guilty of ‘one-and-done’ when it comes to associate development and introducing new technologies and solutions.”
Challenge 4: Getting All Hands on Deck
The last and possibly biggest challenge with proptech, operators say, is creating buy-in with on-site teams—the people who will actually use these new systems and processes in their day-to-day work.
“New technology can be interpreted as more work, and therefore ‘the why’ and ‘what’s in it for you’ must be clearly outlined to get enthusiastic buy-in from on-site staff,” says Stephen Baker, president and general manager of Zego, a resident experience platform. “We’ve also found that adding gamification to the implementation, like contests, helps to encourage understanding and use.”
Beyond the buy-in, operators also need to prioritize proper training around each new solution implemented—and not just for existing team members, either. Having a system for educating new employees, during the onboarding process, perhaps, is just as critical.
“We’ve focused heavily in the last year on developing a robust ‘Client Enablement Framework,’” Baker says. “Our tutorials and guides are available in a variety of formats to accommodate all training needs. The library of material is not only available during the onboarding process and on demand, but we thoughtfully provide the right information at the right time in-app to guide new users through the platform, educate existing users on new features, and proactively identify and respond to questions.”
As Baker succinctly puts it, “With the industry experiencing high staff turnover, ensuring all staff members are appropriately equipped is especially important.”