Technology is impacting residential building management more than ever. In today’s digital world, consumers are conditioned to receiving what they want – instantly. Residential property managers are having to rethink the leasing process, are treating tenants as consumers and catering to the desire of new generations for quick, convenient and on-demand experiences.
Impact on customer: Technology can make the leasing process a simple interaction
Impact on the project: Making the most of the internet can give customers a positive experience around leasing and free up staff to build relationships
Impact on investors: Simplifying usually stressful processes is attractive to customers and is cost effective
The resident life cycle is a process that repeats each time a resident moves apartments or renews an existing lease. it can be divided into five segments: List, Look, Lease, Live, and Leave. Each segment refers to a certain time frame during which the customer interacts with the building’s processes, either in person or, increasingly, digitally.
These steps have historically been the primary responsibility of building management teams. However, with the technology available to management companies today, the way a prospect navigates through this process is changing.
Ideally, all Look to Live interactions can take place without any involvement from the management team: a. A prospect only needs a Wi-Fi connection and a single connected device – be it mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. The Aeroplane Test hypothesises an experience in which a prospective customer boards an aeroplane from New York to London and – with nothing more than the plane’s in-flight Wi-Fi – can find, apply for, and lease an apartment to move into upon arrival, without interacting with another person. This scenario forces us to consider what really needs to occur for that perfect digital experience. Technology enables today’s renters to make quick ‘shopping cart’ decisions when and where it’s convenient for them, shifting the management team’s focus to building successful and enduring relationships with residents.
In this trans-Atlantic example, the prospective customer begins using the in-flight Wi-Fi for an internet search for apartments in the East London neighbourhood of interest. Search results offer various iInternet Llistings Sservices and property websites for buildings in the chosen area. The website chatbot provides details about the buildings’ amenities, location, apartments, energy efficiency, pricing, and availability, and directs the prospect to virtually tour available units. Browsing through 3D floorplan images and photographs, the prospect selects a furnished apartment that best fits her needs and views the on-demand video tour of the specific unit in which she is interested. So far, so good, and all before the in-flight dinner service.
When the video tour concludes, the chatbot engages with the prospect again to answer any questions about the building, and to collect contact information before directing her to complete an online application. As part of the application process, the prospect is asked to take a picture of herself and provide additional photographic identification for ID verification to run a fraud check. She provides all the information needed to confirm her application, purchases tenant insurance and completes Right to Rent documents, all through the application portal. Within just a few minutes, the prospect is paying the holding deposit online, is processed for instant referencing and receives an approval notification. The final step in the application portal is the e-signature lease agreement, which can be executed by mobile phone. Hurray! Next stop London, and a new adventure begins.
Shortly after the excitement of signing her lease, the (now) tenant receives an invitation to complete a few more tasks before physically moving into her new home. From the tenant portal, the traveller pays the security deposit to the preferred Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme, the balance of the first month’s rent, and sets up recurring Direct Debit payments for future rent balances. The portal also provides a service to set up any utilities for which she is responsible. The customer spends a little time browsing the portal and is pleased to see the ability to reserve amenities such as a business meeting room, submit service requests should the need arise for any maintenance tasks, and join social groups and building events to get to know her new neighbours. A year from now, the resident will be able to pop into the portal to renew her tenancy. Before her flight even lands, she receives electronic keys to access her new home, along with a digital guide map with directions to the front door. Furniture is set to be delivered the same day, allowing the new resident to relax and recover from a long and productive flight. Ah, home sweet home.
Scott Wesson, Chief Digital Officer at UDR, a US REIT and leader in residential innovation adoption, sees the benefit of leaning into the instant gratification consumer mindset.
We’re listening to what prospects want, which is instant, transparent, on-demand ‘shopping’ experiences. UDR uses digital technology to make it easy for prospects to get leasing information and make decisions. With 85% of UDR prospect questions answered by a chatbot and 97% of our tours virtual or self-guided, we can clearly measure success.Scott Wesson, Chief Digital Officer at UDR
Residential management is a consumer-based business, in which the landscape is rapidly changing. The Aeroplane Test envisions a frictionless experience for renters. To maintain a level playing field with peers and gain a competitive edge in the market, developers and operators should view the leasing experience through the eyes of their customers. Making changes to operating platforms to support the “instant gratification” expectation of today’s renter will put you at the forefront of where digitally-native renters and technology meet, ready to greet customers on their terms.
Passing the Aeroplane Test