The Demand Solutions Blog

Why This Downturn is Different for Multifamily

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Mar 26, 2020 4:01:22 PM

I often think of the economy as a metaphorical set of pipes with money (the "water") flowing through them. Recessions typically happen when the pipes "clog," causing the water to flow well below its normal pressure. Governments have to respond, taking actions to "unclog" those pipes to get the "water" flowing again.

But the recession I believe we've already entered is very different in kind, not just degree. The coronavirus pandemic has forced large sectors of our economy to close down, severely restricting consumption and economic activity. This time, the "pump" has broken. It may not matter how much anyone tries to unclog the pipes, as little will flow until the pump starts working again.

This metaphor has some significant ramifications for what we'll experience over the next few months (yes, months, not weeks). It feels like we will have a two-stage recession:

  • Stage 1 will be unlike anything we've ever encountered before. This is the current stage, where the pump is frozen. Many industries will experience an inability to stimulate demand no matter what they do. For example, Las Vegas casinos are not allowed to do any business and thus can't even make an offer. Airlines can cut prices to practically zero, yet very few people will fly. Normal pricing and revenue management actions like lowering the price to boost occupancy simply won't work the way they typically might.

  • Stage 2 will be more like a typical recession, where weak demand meets excess capacity until supply and demand rebalance. Government stimulus will drive investment and demand and slowly, but surely, the engine roars back to life. Whether this will be a "V shape" like typical recessions or a shape more like the balance sheet-driven "Great Recession" is hard for me to predict (I'm an engineer, not an econometrician). But whatever it will be and however long it takes, it will mark the process by which we get back to "normal."
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Topics: Multifamily Trends, Future, Change Management

20 for ‘20 - What a Difference a Year Makes!

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Mar 24, 2020 1:56:58 PM

As many of you will already be aware, we recently published the 2020 edition of our 20 for '20 white paper.  Just as we did a year ago, we sat down with another 20 senior executives to get their perspectives on the outlook for the immediate future. Of course, the interviews took place before the coronavirus disrupted our 2020 plans, but the findings tell us a lot about what companies are working on from a technology perspective. As we shall summarize in this post, the industry has experienced a significant year over year shift. 

In our new 2020 paper, we have identified a new set of trends and observations about current projects and priorities, some of which we will highlight on this blog in the coming weeks. But below, we will recap the five big findings from last year and see what's changed in the interim.

1. No more "One Big Project" dynamic

A year ago, we were struck by the number of respondents (a half) who reported having spent 2018 focusing on a single project that had dominated their year, effectively consuming all IT delivery capacity other than business as usual. Seven of the ten had been PMS switches or major upgrades, in itself an anomaly.

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Topics: Multifamily Trends, Technology, Future

Coronavirus: Catalyst or Catastrophe?

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Mar 10, 2020 11:46:06 AM

I’m writing this sitting on an airplane wondering whether this week will be the last week I travel for quite a while. As the level of fear (dare I say panic) continues to rise, we’re bombarded with exhortations to wash our hands frequently (easy to do), stop touching our face (virtually impossible, just try to do so for even 15 minutes) and dispense with handshakes, hugs and even standing within 6 feet of one another. While I keep telling myself (and I fervently believe) “This, too, shall pass,” I can’t help feeling a sense of anxiety driven by the uncertainty of it all.

To relax, I open up the latest edition of The Economist and as I read along, I come upon the “Schumpeter” column (Economist readers will recognize that as the regular column in the Business section).

Titled “Plan V,” the teaser copy says, “Covid-19 is foisting change on business. Some of it may be for the better.” One of the key elements of the article is about how companies are responding to the virus risk by encouraging (often requiring) that associates telecommute, in many cases as a “test” for contingency plans and in some cases (e.g. Seattle) as a strategy for arresting the pace of new cases. This dovetails with a story I heard on NPR driving to the airport discussing the same thing.

Both NPR and The Economist make the argument that this could be an unexpected, but possibly positive, long-term impact from the virus. The latter points out that British and American firms pay on average $5,000 per employee on rental costs despite only 40-50% of desks being used during working hours.  They suggest that employers may find an increase, or at least no dip, in productivity and thus change working patterns in perpetuity.

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Topics: multi-family housing, Technology, Future

NMHC Annual 2020: When Even White Shirts Get Disrupted

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Jan 23, 2020 10:30:00 AM

It’s not often that one finds oneself struggling to stay warm in Florida, but it’s been happening this week in Orlando, where we’ve been these last couple of days, along with a few thousand of our closest friends at the 2020 NMHC annual meeting.  

Among the gathered throng of multifamily dealmakers huddled (mostly indoors to avoid the cold) one could not help but notice a marked break from the previously mandatory uniform of grey pants, white shirt and blue blazer.  Many attendees commented on the degree of self-expression in the clothing (we’re talking blue, and even the occasional checkered, shirts) and the apparent disruption of a long-established order. But it was a different type of disruption that grabbed at least some of the attention this week.

About that tipping point

On Wednesday we were treated to a rapid-fire panel featuring luminaries of three technologies that have more potential than anything to transform multifamily operations. A succession of providers of AI leasing agents; smart home technologies and self-tour came to the stage to answer questions from operators.  The dialogue - although too quick to do much more than whet the appetite for further research and discussion - touched on some themes to which our industry should be paying attention.

As Rick Haughey (NMHC’s VP of Industry Technology Initiatives) reminded us at the start of the session, our industry has moved “from laggard to leader” in proptech.  A year ago in our 20 for ‘20 white paper, we noted that the industry was at a technology tipping point, largely because of those three technologies.  What’s impressive is the progress that has been made in 12 months.

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Topics: Multifamily Trends, Technology, Future

How To Beat The Multifamily Holiday Blues

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Dec 19, 2019 12:00:00 PM

As we head into the holidays, I hope everyone has some time planned for family, fun and just winding down a bit. Taking a lesson from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits,” we at D2 Demand really believe in life-work balance to “sharpen the saw.” This balance was on our minds this week as the growing D2 team followed its end-of-year meeting with our now-annual holiday party with our friends at Linnell-Taylor and Après Creative, this year held at Unser Kart Racing. 

Amid the holiday festivities, it’s easy to forget some of the pitfalls of year-end in multifamily. One of the most obvious is the traditionally-sluggish demand for apartments that tends to accompany buoyant demand for socks, items from the Williams-Sonoma catalog and the like.  

November and December always carry the risk of panic pricing reactions and concessions, and more broadly of the self-fulfilling prophecy that “we don’t sign leases at this time of year.” With marketing budgets having dried up months ago (like *enter the name of the child’s gift you can’t find anywhere*) year-end can be a leasing funk.

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Topics: multi-family housing, Future, Short-Term Rentals

It’s the (Revenue Management) Strategy, Stupid!

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Aug 14, 2019 11:03:51 AM

You reach an age when everything reminds you of something in the past, often for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. A few weeks ago I was talking to a seasoned pricing and revenue management (PRM) practitioner, and I found myself reminded of an old political slogan.

Most readers of this blog are probably too young to remember the 1992 US general election. But after Bill Clinton won it, it came to light that the mantra “It’s the economy, stupid,” had been drilled into campaign staff. The slogan was intended to remind them never to stray from the core theme of the campaign, which was the plight of the American worker. An overarching strategy begat an overarching message that dominated an ultimately successful campaign.

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Topics: Revenue Management, pricing and revenue management, Future

7 Reasons Why There Ain’t Nothing Like a Downturn

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Jul 30, 2019 12:07:11 PM

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the core skills of Pricing and Revenue Management (PRM) and how those skills have diminished in the industry talent pool during the last decade. As I explained - using Warren Buffett’s playful metaphor about tides and skinny-dipping - it’s relatively easy to deliver growth in a generally growing market. Skillful, difference-making PRM professionals are adept in delivering upside even in less favorable market conditions.

Nobody likes downturns, but having been in multifamily PRM for more than 20 years, I can attest to the stress-test that they impose on PRM capabilities and practitioners. If your pricing managers haven’t been pricing for at least 10 years, then they have never dealt with a softening market. That’s true whether they’re internal employees, associates of your third-party fee manager or serve on the staff on a pricing services team that is offered by your pricing software vendor.

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Topics: multi-family housing, Multifamily Trends, Future

The Next Big Thing in Multifamily Revenue Management

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Apr 23, 2019 9:42:19 AM

Pricing and Revenue Management (PRM) in multifamily turned 18 years old this year. For those interested, the first-ever deployment of a PRM system took place in February 2001 at the Hunters Run apartment complex in Austin, TX. When we sat down recently with 20 multifamily executives to discuss the industry outlook towards 2020 and beyond, we invited them to provide their perspectives on the current state of PRM.

We discuss the results of our research in greater detail in our 20 for '20 white paper. Below we have summarized the feedback that we received on possible future PRM advancements and areas of opportunity.  We found that PRM system-specific feedback fell into two broad categories: how to improve the current models; and more radical improvements and future direction.   

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Topics: pricing and revenue management, Multifamily Trends, Future

Multifamily’s Last Technological Inflection Point

Posted by Dan Amedro on Apr 9, 2019 8:15:00 AM

Since we published the findings of our 20 for ‘20 research, we have found a broad consensus that multifamily technology is at a technology inflection point, the like of which we have not seen since the 1999-2004 timeframe. During that period pricing and revenue management, web-based property management systems and resident and prospect portals all came to market at once. Dan Amedro was CIO at Archstone from 1997 through 2012. He not only had a front seat to all those changes but as often in the driver’s seat. We asked him to reflect on that time in the industry. As you read this, we think you’ll agree that the experience 15-20 years ago provides a great map to help navigate technology today.

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Topics: Multifamily Trends, Technology, Future, Change Management

How the Multifamily Technology Environment is Changing

Posted by John Helm on Apr 1, 2019 11:40:00 AM

As we were researching our new white paper, 20 for ‘20 - we learned about the multifamily technologies that are currently top of mind from the 20 senior executives who we interviewed. As we mention in the white paper, multifamily is at a technology tipping point, the like of which we have not seen since the late 1990s. This time, however, there seem to be some differences in the way that the industry is approaching new technologies.

Guest Blog by John Helm - Managing Director of Real Estate Technology Ventures

Real estate technology has significantly matured over the past few years, with seismic shifts in resident preferences changing the adoption of technology. Increasingly tech-savvy, digitally-native residents have the same expectations of their living experiences as they have for all other services they consume.

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Topics: Technology, Future