Driving operational efficiency across multifamily properties has always been a challenge, but today’s market drives ownership groups and property management groups to develop new approaches for providing more service with fewer resources. Part of the challenge here is that multifamily asset management, for many companies, still relies on traditional methods. Even those organizations that have moved beyond Excel spreadsheets for day-to-day operations rarely harness the most powerful benefits of tools available today.
Data-driven asset management offers multifamily owners significant boosts in operational efficiency that directly impacts net operating income (NOI). With a targeted approach to data, property owners and managers may find themselves in a stronger position to react to the trends shifting the market today.
Two trends driving challenges in multifamily asset management
Two key trends are making it more critical than ever to take a new approach to multifamily asset management:
Renters are returning to cities with some caveats. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many urban markets saw an outgoing tide of renters who took to the suburbs. As occupancy decreased, so too did rent in the struggle to remain competitive. Today, some renters are returning to cities, and some multifamily property owners and managers are even seeing occupancies and rents rebound beyond pre-COVID levels. Those owners are among those who responded to new demands from their tenants, many of whom now work from home. To drive up occupancy, owners are installing full building Wi-Fi, providing more small gathering spaces, and highlighting work performed to boost occupant health and safety, among other strategies to attract occupants.
The labor market is tighter than ever. Maintenance and cleaning staff turnover is not a new challenge for the multifamily market, but it’s getting tougher than ever to manage. Property owners are seeing tremendous shortages in cleaning and maintenance labor in response to this new demand for higher levels of cleaning and disinfection and the strains COVID-driven cleaning puts on routine operating procedures. In response to these shortages, labor prices have gone up. Property owners that have the workforce to get work done are seeing their expenses skyrocket.
Making data management part of asset management
Property owners and asset managers already know they gain greater efficiency by applying operational standards across their portfolios. Keeping operations consistent across properties can eliminate common bottlenecks and tenant complaints while reducing spending on repetitive items. Yet ensuring this consistent approach becomes more manageable when there's reliable data.
Data provides property owners and asset managers with visibility into their operations, and it allows them to draw analytical insights into what strategies are working across their properties. Advanced reporting functionality allows property owners to identify the causes behind their pain points and apply best practices from one building to another. Good data will increasingly become a key differentiator in driving consistent operational standards, and subsequently, increased returns across multifamily portfolios.
Some multifamily groups are already seeing these benefits. Organizations are beginning to deploy smart sensors across apartment buildings, leveraging the benefits of the Internet of Things connectivity to attract tenants with solutions such as smart locks. Smart thermostats are helping reduce energy usage and their associated costs. At present, however, most companies are still scratching the surface of the potential benefits sensors offer. As MultiFamily Executive points out, data on smart lock usage offer managers insight into when residents are home during the week, data that can be used to optimize scheduling for maintenance or resident events.
Taking the first steps toward data-driven automation
Mobile sensors, such as cleaning robots, may provide a vital entry point for property owners and managers to apply data to improve asset management. For example, Whiz, the autonomous vacuum sweeper from SoftBank Robotics, provides multifamily organizations with data on its runtime, route coverage, and obstacles encountered, which can be used to optimize routes and boost the robot’s efficiency. This reporting allows managers to ensure their investment is being maximized and provide tenants with proof of a confirmed clean. It also makes for a more productive labor force, as it enables an already overtaxed cleaning staff to tackle more value-added tasks while Whiz cleans the floors.
Sensors ike Whiz point to another possible cost-saving solution for multifamily asset management. In addition to driving efficiency, automated solutions directly impact a property’s net operating income by reducing the operational expense of cleaning through a one-time capital expenditure. Purchasing a cleaning robot allows multifamily owners to amortize the cost of the equipment over its lifetime. These cost benefits can help offset the pinch of rising labor rates for the remaining cleaning staff.
Multifamily asset managers already see the benefits of automated cleaning. SoftBank Robotics has helped one of the largest multifamily ownership groups in the United States achieve demonstrable value with automation. By introducing Whiz across their multifamily portfolio, our client could automate their vacuuming, which led to a cost reduction in operations and an overall improvement in tenant experience. By investing in robotics, the company has positively impacted NOI.
If you’re ready to take the next step toward more efficient multifamily asset management, contact SoftBank Robotics today.