Matt Weirich is CEO and Co-founder of Realync, the leading video leasing and engagement platform for the entire resident lifecycle.
We’ve heard it time and time again: Leasing professionals are often hesitant to adopt new technology. It’s easy to encounter statements within the real estate industry like: “Our teams are skeptical of fully implementing technology,” or “Our team isn’t tech savvy enough to use this.” You may even have or see the question “Will this replace my leasing job?” surface, too. These are not new concerns, and in fact, a fear of technology has been around for decades.
Most real estate technologies are simply an extension of your leasing teams’ marketing or sales strategy. Why? Most technologies are meant to make it easier for your teams. These tools may look like prospect qualifiers, which take over one step in the leasing process freeing up the team for other tasks or something else.
Introducing Your New Co-Worker: Technology
A 2020 GlobalData survey found 79% of U.S. worker respondents say technology will change the way they work over the next three years. Even as the world goes more virtual, there is still a need for human connection that won’t disappear.
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed multifamily leasing offices to close for in-person activities, like tours. Teams adapted to the new normal, and it may seem like many of them are waiting to go back to pre-pandemic operations. But the reality is, virtual leasing is here to stay, and so is the need for the technology to support it.
The question, then, is whether teams should go back to how they performed before the pandemic.
The pandemic unlocked new pathways to effective and efficient operation on a daily basis. Virtual leasing existed before the pandemic, but it transitioned quickly to the top of leasing teams’ strategies. In the process, these teams learned the impact of technology-led virtual leasing efforts on streamlining and enhancing their leasing processes. While leasing agents may have equated virtual leasing with out-of-state prospects before the pandemic, according to the NMHC/Kingsley Associates Apartment Resident Preferences Report released in October 2019, virtual leasing applied to 14% of consumers renting an apartment.
The presence of this technology before the pandemic is partially why the conversation about whether technology is replacing leasing agents and in what ways continues to surface. It would be a step in the wrong direction for leasing teams to revert to their in-person, pre-pandemic ways without considering how technology could actually help them.
Leveraging Instead Of Avoiding Technology
If a technology is new to you, it can take time to grasp all its capabilities. This is common – and human. But the long-term ROI is invaluable and seemingly inevitable for those who want to excel in their multifamily profession long-term.
With technology designed to make our lives more effective and efficient, you can leverage it to find time savings while still providing an element technology can never provide: human interaction.
In 2020, the real estate industry learned just how valuable that combination of humans and technology can be. Instead of fearing technology as a replacement, it’s time to look at it as a co-worker, a partner, a resource for bigger and better things yet to come.
What Technology Doesn’t Provide
Amid this real estate technology boom, there’s one thing that continues to stand true throughout the multifamily leasing process: the human connection. This makes the need for multifamily professionals steadfast.
Humans still want to buy from other humans, regardless of what technology provides in the process. It’s the ability to see someone and converse in real time while feeling the expressed passion and empathy in someone’s voice that can make a difference in big purchasing decisions. In fact, a 2017 survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers found 79% of respondents only consider brands that show they care. Further, 90% of the millennials surveyed in 2017 by Stackla say that authenticity is one of the most important factors for them when deciding which brands to support and purchase from. For consumers overall, 76% of 6,700 surveyed by SalesForce in 2018 expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
Prospective residents want to ask questions; they want to clarify their misconceptions and express their needs to a real human. That’s where personalization and trust come in: with leasing professionals taking an interest in consumers’ wants and needs.
Make The Change
What’s the one point to take away from this yearlong investigation of the importance of the human element intermingled with technology? The bottom line is to adopt. Instead of avoiding technology, encourage leasing teams to learn about technologies that can leverage their capabilities.
Leasing leaders that are looking to be competitive moving forward into this new season of multifamily leasing and management need to ensure their teams are equipped to compete. This means adopting the right tools and technology. To pull everything together and leave you with actionable next steps, here are three tips to ensure your multifamily teams are set up to succeed with technology:
Benchmark: Shopping comps is a tried-and-true multifamily practice, so why not apply it to technology as well?
Think All-Encompassing: If you’re looking to implement virtual leasing technology, for example, make sure you are covering all needs and avoid offering one virtual experience that consumers may or may not desire. The goal of virtual leasing is to provide the opportunity to connect with consumers, no matter their desired means.
Train, Train, Train: You know the high turnover in the multifamily industry, so make sure that your company is equipped in partnership with your supplier partner or equipped internally to train your teams regularly on best practices, new product updates, changing processes, and more. Simply rolling out a new technology and assuming it will be successful following one training is not how technology works for multifamily teams.
It’s questions like these that lead innovators to create technology in the first place. Now is the time to strategically think about all aspects of your leasing teams’ job that could be streamlined or enhanced by leveraging the right technology.
Leasing teams who can provide the level of human connection consumers long for while also leveraging technology will help their multifamily communities stand out and grow. Furthermore, leasing teams have the power to help diminish the fear of technology in leasing offices across the world. It all starts somewhere.
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