Software Solutions: Challenges in Asset Management of Multi-Family Property

The importance of software to facilitate best practices when it comes to multi-family tenants cannot be overstated.

With apartment properties, asset and property management functions often overlap. The attraction and retention of creditworthy tenants, for instance, can be thought of as pure property management, but the tenants generate revenue streams that are the basis of value in income-producing properties. In that case, the importance of software to facilitate best practices when it comes to tenants cannot be overstated.

“One of the most sought-after features that we’re seeing in property managers’ inquiries is that of automated tenant application services,” independent facilities management analyst Ashley Halligan said. “It allows a prospective tenant to fill out an online application so the property management company can quickly automate background checks and approval procedures. Companies like Point2 and AppFolio offer this feature.”

AppFolio, for instance, recently began a collaboration with Experian RentBureau, a provider of rental payment history data to the multi-family industry. Under the deal, users of the AppFolio Resident Screening Service, a Web-based system, will gain access to the Experian RentBureau rental payment history data, including on-time rent payments, late payments and information regarding skipped leases and any outstanding debts or collections. Likewise, Point2 Property Manager maintains information on prospective, future, current and past tenants, among other functions. That information helps landlords identify higher-quality tenants, effectively reducing the risk of bad debt and improving leasing decisions, all of which positively affect asset value.

Other kinds of asset management software enable multi-family management to pursue enhanced revenue streams—revenue optimization, that is—which is not precisely a new idea, since most large REITs use these kinds of systems. In fact, the concept is analogous to the system used by the 2002-03 Oakland As to build the best team at the lowest cost, as detailed by the book and movie Moneyball. The multi-family industry has taken to this kind of system with some gusto—or at least the larger owners have—and it is now filtering down to smaller owners.

“In mid-2010, we noticed that all of the publicly traded real estate investment trusts that we compete with used a revenue management solution to set rental prices,” said Jennifer van Arcken, director of information systems for BSR Trust, which specializes in affordable and workplace housing. After some consideration,  the company rolled out Yardi RENTmaximizer at 40 of its properties.

The system increases revenue by automating the process of calculating best rents, helping an owner or manager set prices directly from the trends of supply, demand and market conditions (that is, market comparisons). Using pricing algorithms, RENTmaximizer’s trends-and-rules-based model makes the most of rental income and occupancy by pricing each new lease and renewal for maximum revenue. Van Arcken reports that revenue produced by the 40 properties’ 7,000 units increased by 3.34 percent in the year after the system was implemented, surpassing the target of 3 percent.

This is a sidebar to the article “Tracking Change,” which appears in the September 2012 issue of Commercial Property Executive.