Leasing is an ever-changing process, especially as new technology options push into the market, making leasing faster, more convenient, and more secure. In March 2012, Property Solutions distributed a survey to multifamily professionals to uncover their preferences, priorities, and concerns about new leasing technology. Their responses highlight needs that new software can fill and reveal some lingering apprehension about using technology in leasing.
Sixty-eight respondents from a broad spectrum of job roles within the multifamily industry participated in the online survey. Thirty-four percent of participants identified their job role as executive management. Property managers made up 31 percent of our respondents, while 24 percent identified themselves as being involved in resident services. Mid-level managers and regional managers made up 16 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
It’s About Time
We asked a series of questions to help us understand how much time it takes typical leasing office staff to perform recurring leasing functions. For starters, we asked participants, “According to your best estimate, how many minutes (per lease) are spent re-entering information from the application into the lease document?”
Out of a broad range of answers from 2 minutes to 90 minutes, the average was 15.5 minutes.
When asked how many days typically pass from the time an application is approved to the time an assigned lease is in hand, the average response was 8.5 days, with some responses as high as 21 days. Asked to estimate how many hours per year the property—or their legal counsel—spends updating leasing documentation, the average was 38.46 hours, out of a range from 1 to 200 hours.
Perception vs. Reality
According to our survey results, few perceive online lease signing technology as lacking in value. Interestingly, however, actual adoption of the technology seems to lag significantly behind that perception.
When asked, “How important is online lease signing to your company’s future success?,” 34 percent indicated that it was ‘very important’; another 34 percent said it was ‘important’. Only 33 percent of total respondents selected ‘unimportant’, ‘very unimportant’, or ‘neither’.
However, in response to the question, “Which of the following best describes your company’s use of online lease signing?”, only 14 percent responded that all of their company’s properties use the technology. Sixteen percent said some of their properties have adopted it. A whopping 71 percent replied that none of their properties use online lease signing. This highlights a peculiar discrepancy between the perceived value of online leasing technology and actual adoption.
Features and Priorities
We asked respondents to tell us, if they were considering the purchase of a new online leasing solution, which features and priorities would be most important to them, and the responses were mostly uniform across job roles with a few minor variations.
Seventy-five respondents indicated that the ability to automatically populate applicant information into a lease would be ‘very important’ in their decision, more than any other feature. This feature was most highly valued by executive managers and regional managers. Online document availability to applicants for review and signing was indicated as ‘very important’ by 72 percent of respondents. While none of the features surveyed were deemed ‘unimportant’ by a significant percentage of our respondents, features involving the automation of lease renewals received the least enthusiasm.
Regarding respondents’ priorities, resident retention and company legal security were at the top of their lists. Ninety-two percent of respondents described resident retention as ‘very important’, while 90 percent deemed their company’s legal security ‘very important’. Increasing closing rates and improving resident opinions of their communities were close behind, with 85 percent and 84 percent respectively indicating that these priorities were ‘very important’ to them.
Areas for Improvement
To help us better understand which leasing technology issues were most important to respondents, we asked respondents to indicate whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with a series of statements. Problems surrounding data re-entry were on the minds of our respondents. Executive managers, mid-level managers, and property managers all indicated data re-entry as one of their top concerns. But their responses also highlight concerns about the technology itself.
Renewal forecasting was also a recurring concern. Seventy percent of mid-level managers, 84 percent of regional managers, and 63 percent of property managers indicated that renewal forecasting was a top concern. Executive managers and regional managers also indicated a concern about document organization and maintenance, with 48 percent and 67 percent respectively.
Most interestingly, despite these concerns, a lingering concern around the necessity of online lease signing also manifested itself in our survey. Fifty-three percent of executive managers responded that they viewed online lease signing as a luxury, rather than a necessity. Forty percent of mid-level managers shared this sentiment. On a related note, 57 percent of mid-level, regional, and property managers expressed concern about building relationships with residents with the inclusion of technology in the leasing process.
This would seem to reveal a discrepancy in multifamily professionals’ attitudes toward online leasing technology. While there is an overwhelming acceptance of the benefits that can come from these solutions, such as greater forecasting capabilities and document organization, misgivings persist around how this technology could impact interpersonal relationships with prospects and residents.
Although most multifamily professionals believe that online leasing has a crucial role to play in their company’s future and are enthusiastic about the benefits the technology can bring to their leasing offices, adoption is likely being hampered by concerns about the the effects it may have on property-resident relationships.
One survey result is the most telling of all: 84 percent of respondents ranked “serving residents/prospects well” as their top goal. Clearly, developers of online leasing solutions will need to take these relationship-based concerns into consideration as they improve the technology to foster—rather than detract from—building relationships with residents and prospects on a human level.
We’d like to thank everyone who participated in our survey. Congratulations to Caren Riddle, Director of Community Support Services at Scully Company, for winning our drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. Stay tuned for more surveys like these in our upcoming monthly newsletters.