Key property management trends impacting multifamily assets

People and technology are taking center stage as multifamily stakeholders consider change

“You cannot step in the same river twice.” That ancient quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, stresses that everything is in a state of perpetual flux—even during the moment one puts their foot in the water, both the river and the person stepping in it have changed.

As the ways people live and work change, their communities must align with corresponding new uses and expectations. However, there’s often a time gap between the change in resident preferences and a multifamily property owner or developer’s response. In that time, a property can risk losing residents and slowing leasing velocity, in turn impacting cash flow and asset value.

Today, residents have high expectations for their apartment communities, and prospective renters are becoming more discerning in their wants and needs. Where should owners and developers focus first to align with these new resident expectations, and, as a result, reduce the chance of negative financial impact?

Paying attention to the trends centered around people, technology, and safety can help every property—and property owner and developer—remain competitive in the current market.

In multifamily, “one size fits all” doesn’t exist

To ensure a multifamily owner is responding to the right trends and resident preferences, they need a deep understanding of the property’s target audience to drive decision making. This includes knowing the preferences and the most-favored features of people using the space. For example, young professionals will need super-fast wireless internet to accommodate multiple connected devices running from home , whereas a Boomer resident, who is more likely to be retired than younger residents, may only need basic internet and cable TV connections.

Demographic and geographic differences will drive everything from amenity selections and technology adoption to experience management and interior design. Every property has a predominant demographic—the group the property should aim to serve. And now, in the age of instant information exchange, reaching that demographic with technology has never been easier.

AI connects people; streamlines operations

New technologies sprouting up in the post-pandemic era—such as solutions that leverage AI—can help support a multifamily property’s transformation by connecting it with prospective renters and streamlining property operations. A study from McKinsey Global Institute estimates that AI will generate $110 billion to $180 billion in real estate value, and property operators have an opportunity to drive meaningful usage at a property.

AI can be used to automate the leasing process by communicating with prospects, answering common questions, scheduling tours and taking the burden of menial tasks off the leasing team. Beyond leasing, AI can streamline back-office workflows like maintenance requests, rent payments and other invoicing and contracts.

AI can deliver nuanced property performance insights that help investors make more informed decisions and achieve targeted investment goals. If they haven’t already, AI is a tool that property owners and developers should begin investing in today.

Wi-Fi—and outlets—get left behind

AI is still in its infancy in property level adoption, and the excitement surrounding its potential is palpable. But surprisingly, many properties have yet to master a more basic technological offering: internet connectivity.

Before the pandemic, 80% of employees worked in an office. That number has changed significantly since due to the expanded gig economy and corporate adoption of fully remote or hybrid strategies. Apartment communities are now extensions of offices and business centers. Residents need access to a quality internet connection, spaces to work and enough plug-ins to accommodate computers and other tools to complete their jobs.

In the National Multifamily Housing Council and Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Reports, residents routinely call out high-speed internet access as a top desire when looking for the ideal apartment community—86% of respondents say it's either very important or absolutely essential. And while an internet connection has been table stakes for decades, many owners and developers overlook not only the need for boosted internet service across all areas of the property, but also the security of their residents when using it.

Cybersecurity continues to be a threat

We're living in a digital age, and every property owner needs to think defensively about their exposure to virtual threats, like phishing scams, which can affect both property owners and residents. As a result, cybersecurity is an important node in modern property management. A proper cybersecurity platform allows owners and operators to incorporate the digital features that residents want, like online payments and Wi-Fi, while protecting against cyber threats. A cohesive cybersecurity strategy should include firewalls, threat detection and employee training, alongside more foundational efforts like controlled employee permissions and routinely changing passwords.

What’s next?

Property owners and developers should be paying attention to emerging trends and implementing changes throughout a property to remain competitive. Unfortunately, multifamily stakeholders—who are often managing a complex development or portfolio of properties—aren’t always in tune with trends and resident experiences. A professional property management team can provide insight and manage execution to help an owner through this evolution.

Engaging a property management team early—particularly during the pre- or early-development stages—will ensure that the property is not only delivering a complete and cohesive resident experience, but also that developers and owners don’t miss essential features that impact the functionality of a property. Equally, property stakeholders can work with a professional team to gain a deeper understanding of the resident profile and curate a suite of tailored features that will optimize property performance and maximize value.

Multifamily assets are designed to serve people. By listening to resident needs and understanding emerging lifestyle trends, multifamily owners and developers can deliver thoughtful, thriving and forward-thinking properties.