Overheard on the Conference Floor: The Importance of Proptech, Integrations & Resident Experience

In-person conferences are back! In February and March, members of the Obligo team traveled throughout California to Nashville, hearing from industry experts and absorbing valuable insights along the way. 

The IMN Student Housing 360 and PM Grow Summit in Dana Point and San Diego brought a wealth of knowledge from real estate experts. It was hard to beat the blue skies and 70-degree weather of California, but the Nashville trip was just as informative during the Build-To-Rent conference.

Reilly (author of this article, left) and other members of the Obligo team at the conference booth 

It is an exhilarating time for the industry. This period of innovation was referred to by multiple industry experts as “the Internet era of the 90s for housing,” which perhaps is a biased opinion, but exciting nonetheless. 

Shuttling through stimulating talks in all of these events, I noticed three key themes that the whole industry is buzzing about:

Less People, More Tech

A clear theme emerged from all three conferences: hiring full time staff is a challenge. And finding the right talent to fill jobs is even more difficult. Companies have had to become more creative in recruiting, especially for student housing where the vast majority of staff are students. Offering signing bonuses, staying bonuses and increasing part-time leasing staff are a few solutions. But monetary incentives to this degree have forced corners to be cut operationally.

One way to combat the hiring challenge? Implementing the right technology. Conference presenters were quick to mention that they are investing heavily in technology that automates processes that would otherwise take a significant amount of human effort. One example of that is electronic payment collection, which property managers at the conferences agreed is the bare minimum needed to stay competitive.

Electronic deposit refund is another emerging proptech automation people are watching closely. Obligo offers a plug-and-play Electronic Deposit Refund solution, which helps accelerate the refund process and simplify the move-out experience for both property managers and residents.

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It is not easy to stay competitive in this market. Years ago, the competitive advantage was software, but that is no longer the case. Renters today are looking for exceptional customer service, which leads me to the next theme:

Automate the Back End to Customize the Front End

With tech and automation liberating humans from unstimulating manual tasks, people can optimize their time by interacting with customers and building rapport on the front end, rather than dealing with antiquated back-end operations. 

But how best to automate the back end? To increase operational efficiency and combat hiring challenges with current tech solutions, software integration is a must. Training staff on new technology can be time consuming, but with integrations, property managers can use the software they already know and trust. In the case of deposit-free, resident adoption rates also increase with integrations. Obligo’s holistic suite of move-in and move-out solutions is fully integrated with leading property management software systems. 

It’s important for property managers to establish some foundational processes to ensure smooth integration. Software and process documentation are at the foundation of any property management organization. Once those are in place, integrations can be added with ease. 

At the end of the day, increasing tech adoption will not only make life easier for owners and operators, but also better for renters.

Resident Experience

The new generation of renters will expect to complete the rental process on their phones, starting from the first apartment tour all the way to moving out the door. For example, one emerging trend across the industry is the desire for app-enabled smart home technology. People love the added convenience of controlling their heat and cooling via their mobile devices – so much that they’re willing to pay up to 20% more to live in a smart home, according to data presented at the PM Grow conference. 

In short, owners and managers need to get with the times or get left behind, because the next industry bellwether is how well you are managing the resident experience. 

Renters want options. It is no secret that rents are skyrocketing across the country, while incomes have fluctuated drastically in the pandemic era, making it more difficult to determine a renter’s financial stability. Obligo’s deposit alternative gives renters financial flexibility while maintaining the same level of accountability. Our platform also lets renters pay a traditional deposit, and helps them get it refunded electronically. 

Renters want trust and transparency. Moving into a new home is a big deal. Data shared at the PM Grow conference suggests that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for better renter experience. They want to trust that their landlords will provide upgraded amenities, great customer service, and a well planned resident benefit package. Deposit-free living is the latest amenity to add to your roster. Obligo’s security deposit alternative can help streamline your operations, boost your bottom line and most importantly, take your resident experience game to the next level. 

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The Big Takeaway

Property management means being a partner in the lifetime journey of residents. Renters become owners, owners become investors. Currently, the industry is seeing what is arguably the largest generational transfer of assets. Baby Boomers are handing down their properties to a tech-savvy cohort of new owners. These owners manage their portfolios like they would manage their stock portfolios: through emerging technology. 

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