Prior to getting my MBA and joining Nine Four Ventures a few months ago, I worked at The Marketing Directors (TMD), a real estate advisory company. We were third-party consultants to residential developers who needed help with anything from site selection to construction to sales, and everything in between. The Moinian Group, Ceruzzi Properties, KRE Group, Fisher Organization, Kuafu Properties, and Midwood Investment and Development were some of our clients, to name a few.
As a Project Manager, I wore many hats, including but not limited to:
- Developing and implementing each building’s business strategy, from construction and design through marketing and sales.
- Managing meetings of cross-functional teams such as developers, financiers, engineers, contractors, architects, designers, advertising agencies, PR agencies and more.
- Researching and instituting new ways to capitalize on new technology.
- Planning and executing social media campaigns, community events, corporate outreach programs, and broker initiatives.
- Training and managing marketing coordinators, property administrators, and sales and leasing agents.
My role at TMD gave me experience managing and operating assets, and the challenges that each stakeholder across each functional group that interacts with those assets feels. In 2016, one of those assets was Charles & Co, a building I managed in Jersey City. It helped our team win the “Real Estate Sales Team of the Year” award from the National Association of Home Builders. Reflecting on that experience, I noticed that there were things we did as a team that can now be augmented by technology. What was previously winning awards is now likely “table stakes” made possible by some of the technology and software solutions that are out there. Some examples of this are:
- Model apartments – The model apartment was always our best selling tool. However, it was also the most costly. Furniture was expensive. Therefore, we usually only modeled 1-3 apartments per building, leaving all other apartment layouts to the imagination (which is usually not a good thing). In 2020, we have significant rental furniture options like Feather, Burrow, Mobley, and Fernish, that make it much more cost effective to have more layouts furnished at a time, and therefore sell or lease out faster.
- Broker responsiveness – It is important that your broker be readily available to potential buyers. The issue, however, is that most people work during the times that the sales office is open. Therefore, agents are usually getting emails and calls at odd hours. However, clients want immediate responses. Now, with the assistance of AI, tools like Lisa by appfolio and MeetElise help make that possible.
- Building Amenities – Many developers were inclined to remove common spaces, so that they could have more apartments to sell. However, the tradeoff would lead to lower apartment price tags. Companies like Hello Alfred and HoM come up with innovative ways to give amenities to residents without compromising much (or any) space. Service-based amenities are now an expectation and the “amenity wars” between buildings are still in full swing.
- Smart home technology – Sometimes we used products by companies such as Nest, Sonos, Crestron and Savant to provide the best possible apartment for our residents. However, even with higher-end condominiums, these technologies were almost always “value-engineered” out because they were too expensive, with little or no benefit to the owners. Now, companies such as SmartRent (a Nine Four portfolio company) make the technology seamless and accessible. They provide solutions that benefit the resident as much as building operators, maintenance personnel, leasing, and 3rd parties. The result is higher resident satisfaction and developer saving money on operations, maintenance, and avoiding costly repairs (ie leaks via leak detection sensors and software)
- Selling overseas – Although it is possible for buyers to get an apartment sight-unseen, it is most common for buyers to come in and see the apartment in person, usually multiple times. This potentially limits the building’s reach (more specifically, in a short timeframe), unless an expensive global marketing program is campaigned. With tools like Matterport and Send Reality, potential tenants can see very realistic 3D floorplans of furnished spaces from anywhere.
Overall, even in just 3 years, a lot has changed in the landscape of real estate technology to raise the bar. We’re excited to see what new technology 2020 brings!