The Demand Solutions Blog

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

Five Hot Takes from NMHC OPTECH

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Nov 15, 2019 11:26:38 AM

I think it was probably a record, and by some distance.  A whopping 2,300+ attendees were registered for NMHC OPTECH, and it made for a busy, busy show.  It will take us some time to decompress, organize and reflect on the many learnings and insights.  While we do that, here are a few instant reactions from the show.

Self-tour is HOT! 

Attitudes to several key technologies are quite different this year compared to a year ago. Nowhere is this more apparent than self-tour.  Last year, as we interviewed operations and technology leaders for 20 for ‘20, we were surprised at the push-back against this exciting and impactful technology.  While the range of views remains wide, the tide has clearly turned.

You might say that self-show has officially taken the place of short-term rentals as the hottest topic in the industry, as evidenced by the standing room only crowd at the “Cage Match” session on Tuesday.  Several companies who are experimenting with self tours shared their experiences, which ranged from working with the tech solutions to running manual tests with their on-site staff handing out keys. The panelists shared their excitement about the initial success and stats they've seen thus far, and it seems set to grow in 2020.

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Topics: Multifamily Trends, Technology

Blurring the Lines in Housing - FLEX 2019 Conference in Review

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Oct 28, 2019 10:35:35 AM

I just got back from attending the inaugural FLEX conference. More than 200 industry professionals spent a day and a half focused on the issues of short-term rentals (STRs) in this “first of its kind” event. Here are a few thoughts and recollections while still fresh in my mind:

1. Content was king! Kudos to Stephen Lefkovits and Dennis Cogbill for curating an excellent set of content. The content covered all angles, discussing pros and cons, finance questions, operational and service issues, regulatory challenges and more. Most importantly, presenters shared real-world scenarios, actual results based on data and generally gave the audience information they could take back to their offices and use.

2. The Lines are Blurring. If I were to sum up the conference lessons learned in one word, it would be “blurring.” There’s a blurring of lines. Housing is blurring with hospitality; vacation stays are merging with business travel, and vendors are combining to offer a range of overlapping services, etc. On the one hand, it’s quite confusing as it’s increasingly hard to label anything or keep our processes in neat metaphorical cubbyholes. On the other hand, it’s incredibly exciting, posing many opportunities for those who can embrace the increased uncertainty/risk to expand and optimize the use of space.

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Topics: pricing and revenue management, Technology, Short-Term Rentals

Forewarned is Forearmed: NAA Maximize 2019 in Review

Posted by Jessica Mills on Oct 2, 2019 8:38:30 AM

Lately, we've been writing about the possibility of a downturn, and the impact that it will have on multifamily revenue management. It came as no surprise, then, that the changing economic tides appeared to be a recurring theme at last week's Maximize asset management conference in Atlanta.

Although the conference's audience seemed neither preoccupied nor unduly worried by the prospect of a downturn, it formed a backdrop for the program. From the keynote session where economist Ryan Severino assured us that while a downturn is coming it is not happening tomorrow, to individual sessions in one of which I was fortunate enough to be a panelist, there was a decided focus on preparing for the inevitable downturn whenever it comes.

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Topics: NAA Conference, Technology, Short-Term Rentals, maximize

Bridging the Business Intelligence Divide

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Aug 26, 2019 11:24:49 AM

Lately, I’ve been talking to a lot of companies about business intelligence, and the ways that organizations attempt to deliver this key capability.  While there is a broad understanding of the need to bridge the gap between the business and IT organizations, the evidence suggests that the gap remains unbridged at many companies.

A recent article on the subject from McKinsey: “Analytics Translator: The new must-have role” suggests that the rewards are getting bigger, rather than smaller for companies who succeed in providing business leadership for increasingly critical IT-enabled analytics projects.  The logic goes that as data sets get bigger and data mining resources more sophisticated, firms will require a level of leadership that will ensure the maximum impact from their analytics.  

The point of the article is persuasive; however, we have argued for a long time that this requirement already exists.  In fact, it’s probably the biggest single reason why multifamily companies fail to reap the benefits of their business intelligence projects.  As we explained in our own white paper: “Creating an Analytically-Driven leadership Culture,” if business people are blue and IT people are red, then the best business intelligence resources are purple.  As both articles strongly suggest, purple people are among an organization’s most prized associates.

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Topics: business intelligence, Multifamily Trends, Technology

9 Take-Aways from NAA Apartmentalize 2019

Posted by Donald Davidoff on Jul 10, 2019 2:54:43 PM

A little over a week ago, 10,000+ apartment industry colleagues descended upon our hometown of Denver, Colorado for NAA’s annual Apartmentalize conference. Along with entertaining keynote speakers and many different dinners and parties, there was an excellent program of education, networking and one-on-one meetings. Here are a few highlights from what we saw and heard:

1. Despite political uncertainty (and even a few economic concerns), the industry is still very much a confident group of people. With annual rent growth still above the long-term trend, we continue to enjoy the longest bull run in the modern rental housing industry’s history. Perhaps the best implication of this is that the run is now so long, we no longer hear baseball references around “what inning” we are in 😊

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Topics: pricing and revenue management, Multifamily Trends, Technology, Short-Term Rentals

3 Steps to Avoiding Pricing Complacency

Posted by Donald Davidoff on May 29, 2019 1:13:12 PM

The legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus is often quoted as saying, "Complacency is a continuous struggle that we all have to fight." We have frequently argued on this blog and elsewhere that the decade of growth has blunted many of the tools that have delivered success and shareholder value in our industry over the last couple of decades. Rising tides lift all boats, and when growth is all-but-guaranteed, competitive capabilities atrophy.

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Topics: pricing and revenue management, Multifamily Trends, Technology

The Year They Put the “Innovation” into AIM

Posted by Dom Beveridge on May 8, 2019 10:14:59 AM

Early May has long been the time of year for multifamily marketers to head to Orange County, CA for AIM. As convivial networking opportunities go this event can’t be beat, which explains it’s impressively growing audience of both owner/operators and sponsors.

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Topics: apartment marketing, Multifamily Trends, Technology