By Trevor Youens, Managing Director Residential Solutions UK, MRI Software
The residential property market is going through a period of dynamic change with technology and data enabling the development of modern, professionally managed properties.
The emergence of a new class of professional property management is giving renters better options and higher expectations, and one of the major driving forces behind this trend has been the emergence and growth of Build to Rent. Recent figures published by the British Property Federation showed that between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020, the number of completed Build to Rent homes rose by 37%.
As demand for Build to Rent properties continues to accelerate, technology will play a key role in supporting business growth and meeting the evolving needs of renters. From tracking the state of buildings, managing rental payments more effectively, keeping vacant units to a minimum to managing maintenance requests, businesses must ensure processes are streamlined and efficient to deliver a positive resident experience and build stronger relationships with the communities they serve.
Flexibility is key to long term success
There’s little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, and the longer-term impacts will accelerate the adoption of technology across the industry. For the rental market, we’re already seeing businesses turn to digital solutions to provide the additional flexibility and agility they need to continue to carry out their day-to-day operations while ensuring they keep staff and residents safe. For example, virtual tours of properties, e-signatures and electronic rent payments are becoming more and more commonplace.
However, businesses are realising that the flexibility of these services are also helping them attract, retain and build better relationships with residents. For instance, if a renter is experiencing financial hardships and needs to defer payments, residential operators that have flexible systems in place will be able to manage and account for these deferred payment agreements in which balances due are spread over future periods.
For organisations running Build to Rent developments, it’s important to choose flexible solutions to suit both current and future requirements and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the growing Build to Rent sector. Technology is a key pillar of a successful Build to Rent operation, but it’s important to note that no one solution can meet every single need of a business.
Collaboration is vital, as are open platforms and interoperable systems that ensure property management is efficient and seamless. By starting with a simple and open platform that grows over time, property owners and operators can create a flexible, end-to-end tech stack that can respond to the changing market conditions and evolve as businesses grow.
Customer-centric portal technology
The rising rental expectations that come with the growth of the Build to Rent sector means property managers will need digital tools that allow them to engage with residents in a more personalised and consistent way than they ever have before. Taking a customer-centric approach will require specialist technology – such as self-service online portals for residents of all types.
Portals help maintain clear and consistent lines of communication with residents by providing an easier way for them to raise queries and maintenance requests from any location at any time. Online portals also create visibility for residents and ensure nothing slips through the cracks, with clear audit trails of how any resident problems have been dealt with – documenting how and when each issue is logged, responded to and checked. It becomes a matter, for instance, of simply taking a photo with a smartphone of a smashed light, a broken lock, or a leaking pipe and loading the information on the portal – which also provides the means for property managers to respond to the problem in real time.
Creating this auditable trail is not only sound business practice from a property management point of view, but essential for ensuring that compliance with today’s strict regulatory standards is met and maintained in all cases. When these portals are linked to property management and accounting solutions, utilising data from both property managers and renters will enable a more effective service to residents and deliver actionable insights that can open up new opportunities for revenue generation.
Generation Rent is here to stay
The trend to more professionalised property management is also being driven on the consumer end by ‘Generation Rent’, the Gen Z and Millennial renters who have been priced out of the home purchase market.
Residents today expect the highest levels of service and to be treated less like mere renters and more like community members. This generation will spur demand for higher quality rental properties, and we can see that the market is moving away from a lease focus to a customer-centric approach that puts resident relationships at the heart of each landlord’s business.
Increasingly, property owners and operators will see digital interactions carry through the entire residential life cycle – for everything from taking a virtual tour and providing references online, signing the lease and making digital rent payments, booking amenities and tracking repairs, to giving notice and completing an online checklist before moving out.
Going digital is an essential component for servicing today’s tech-savvy renters who are accustomed to constant connectivity, convenience and highly personalised services. Property managers and developers that embrace this trend and offer a more effective customer experience that not only meets expectations, but exceeds, will have a distinct advantage over those that don’t.
As the Build to Rent sector continues to grow, investing in technology to manage property and resident engagement will be essential for operators of all sizes to leverage the data and insight they need to propel their businesses forward. With a data-driven approach, not only can businesses provide a better resident journey, but also have the ability to meet shifting market conditions and growing consumer expectations.