Real Estate’s Digital Revolution And Why It Matters
Automation and advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), have infiltrated many areas of life and, for the most part, in positive ways. From virtual assistants and transportation helping us in our daily lives to the transformation of entire industries like healthcare and manufacturing, tech’s impact is immeasurable, and it’s changed consumer expectations about nearly everything as they grow accustomed to an on-demand world.
However, there is one industry that this Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has rapidly altered communication and connectivity, hasn’t consumed quite yet: real estate. There’s still so much manual work involved in real estate professionals’ day-to-day responsibilities. There’s also a gap between the experience the real estate industry delivers and what the modern employee, renter and buyer expects. Luckily, we are finally upon the brink of change in real estate, where tech is disrupting procedures and enhancing processes for both consumers and real estate professionals.
Modern Expectations Call For Modern Experiences
Today’s average consumer lives amid an on-demand reality. Those realities don’t have to stop with their renting experiences. Renting experiences today can reflect people’s expectations for “instant” and “mobile” as easily as any other industry.
Mobile advancements have changed the way renters accomplish certain tasks, like signing checks and putting them in the mail ahead of the rent due date. Paying rent online — on a mobile phone, no less — has cut down the time it takes renters to make payments. This is an aspect to renting that, prior to mobile rent payments, could spur stressful situations, especially when renters remembered to pay rent at inconvenient times, with no access to their checkbook. Another way that mobile makes renters’ lives simpler is it does away with all the email communications from property management, allowing for more instant communications through text and mobile. A good example of a situation where text would be helpful is for a notification of a building-wide water shut down. If sent directly via text, there’s a likelihood that all tenants will get the memo. When sending a notification through an email blast, you run the risk of tenants not checking their personal email frequently enough to see it in time.
Tech is also revamping maintenance. No one likes being kept in the dark about maintenance problems they’re waiting to be fixed. Apart from the tedium of filling out a maintenance request form or leaving a voicemail for property management, if the situation is pressing enough, waiting for a response for even an hour can seem like a lifetime to a tenant. Advancements have come so far in the virtual assistant world that some platforms now give renters the capability to submit maintenance requests by simply talking to their smart-home devices, automatically creating a work order for staff and notifying tenants via mobile of the progress on the order.
Your Employees Have Expectations, Too
According to a survey we at AppFolio conducted with real estate consulting firm John Burns, four of the five factors inhibiting residential property management business growth are employee-related, and the fifth is work process-related. Some of the highest-ranked factors included a lack of employee time to focus on business strategy, finding employees with the right skills and being able to effectively manage maintenance. Interestingly, a large segment of the property management workforce will retire in the next five years, so it’s important that property management businesses continue to hire fresh talent to keep their businesses thriving.
A great way to attract the next crop of talent is through technology, giving employees time back in their day. Instead of working on tedious admin tasks, employees of tech-driven property management firms can use their days to focus more on business strategy, train, learn and grow in their roles. Automating workflows, be it maintenance requests, the collections process or even updating unit listings, is changing the game for property management teams. Automation is a huge value-add to fresh faces in property management, helping people do their jobs better and encouraging them to stay in the business longer.
Technology also helps uncover key insights for business owners in the real estate segment. Real-time market insights, which range from how to effectively price a unit to trends in tenant turnover, can dramatically help improve the overall business strategy. If gathered manually, these insights are often lost in a mass of dispersed data, and identifying the trends that are most important is difficult to do — it may even require more expertise in the data science arena to accomplish.
Modern tech like automation and AI are complete game-changers for the real estate industry, and companies that need to retain their renters and talent will find a huge value-add in the help that tech brings to both of those business goals. To stay competitive, businesses in the real estate industry need to accelerate the adoption of these technologies or risk failure.