Multifamily Operations & Asset Management: Automation, Efficiency, Millennials and the All-Important Amenity Offerings

Dec 2, 2016
by Brian Klebash

LIVINGSTON, New Jersey – The Sixth Annual New Jersey Apartment Summit was host to an expert panel discussion about the strategies professionals utilize when managing multifamily properties. In attendance were Michael Bick, COO, LPZ-Bertram; Jennifer French, Director of National Sales and Marketing, Retriever Waste Management; Jaja Jackson, Director, Global Multifamily Housing Partnerships, Airbnb; Charles Kaliades, Regional Vice President, Renters Legal Liability LLC (RLL); Laila Partridge, CEO, WegoWise; and Adam Pasternack, Senior Vice President, Russo Development. The discussion was moderated by Erik Sabotka, Vice President, Bozzuto Management Company.

The discussion was kicked off on the topic of necessary technology that all property owners and managers should be considering. Michael Bick, COO of LPZ-Bertram explained that most of his company’s technology has been focused on the sales process. Bick said that the sales and qualification process for tenants has been improved using standard templates in email messages, for instance. This alone has helped them cut down on time-consuming (and often wasteful) conversations with potential tenants about all the qualifications needed to rent an apartment. Simply by using templates in email programs they have drastically cut down on question and answer sessions with prospective renters. Adam Pasternack, Senior Vice President of Russo Development, added that automation and streamlining the leasing and management process is the key to technology. If the technology is not saving time and effort, then it probably should be changed, said Pasternack.

Next, moderator Erik Sabotka, Vice President of Bozzuto Management Company asked the panel about energy efficiency in today’s multifamily dwellings, and what tenants are looking for in terms of energy utilization and efficiencies. Jennifer French, Director of National Sales and Marketing for Retriever Waste Management said that streamlining anything that could be wasteful is the key to efficient management. Laila Partridge, CEO of WegoWise added that measuring energy efficiency in a building, like boiler output for example, is the best indicator of building performance and efficiency overall. She explained that energy efficiency can be viewed as capital, which can be benchmarked to show how you improve or where you many need improvement. Partridge also discussed that being very energy efficient can assist with Fanny Mae or Freddie Mac programs which reward developers for their energy efficiency efforts, saving a substantial amount of capital requirements.

Insurance was the next topic and directed at Charles Kaliades, Regional Vice President, Renters Legal Liability LLC (RLL), who explained that trends point to implementing insurance programs for renters. Kaliades said that renters should view their insurance needs similar to how they insure automobiles, something you would never consider not insuring. He also said that requiring insurance for renters is becoming more and more common as technology has made the process of adding renters insurance to a lease easy and quick.

Sobotka then asked the group about millennials and how to target the group from a marketing standpoint. Jaja Jackson, Director, Global Multifamily Housing Partnerships for Airbnb began by explaining that millennials today desire experiences more than ownership of property. He says that short-term stays are becoming more popular than long-term leases as flexibility is important to this generation. Millennials want to be ready to pick up and go at a moment’s notice. This, says Jackson, is why AirBNB is starting a home share program to allow residents to host out of towners in order to collect some extra income while still retaining their space. Sobotka inquired about the security aspect of the program. Jackson explained that the AirBNB platform now allows the building owner/manager to access renters’ statistics when using the program, and allow caps of activity. He explained that background screening and insurance policies are adding to the comfort level of using the service.

In conclusion, Sobotka asked the group about amenities. Pasternack explained that new and exclusive amenities are becoming more prevalent in every new building, and the trend will continue. He said that gimmicks are dependent on the market – where millennials may like outdoor activities, older demographics may prefer a dog park. Jackson agreed, witnessing some new trends such as smaller pools and more jacuzzis and lounges with social aspects. Jackson said that many renters are preferring services that are personal or concierge in nature to support busy lifestyles. He added that exclusivity to neighborhood amenities is becoming popular via partnerships with local business owners.

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