Wrap Up Report: NMHC 2014 Annual Meeting
At the 2014 NMHC Annual Meeting, an expert panel moderated by Terry Danner, CEO of Riverstone Residential Group, reviewed a recent NMHC-Kinglsey Associates survey of apartment resident preferences. Technology was top of mind, as survey results detailed residents’ preferences for all things online, from connectivity to communications. Here’s how members of the panel responded to the survey results in light of what they were experiencing day to day in their communities.
Is Facebook just for mom and dad now?
According to the survey, only 30 percent of residents expect multifamily properties to have a Facebook page. With generating Facebook “likes” and running Facebook contests and campaigns having been a marketing initiative in years past, Danner asked the panelists if Facebook is now becoming a thing of the past. Jonathan Holtzman, chairman and CEO of Village Green Companies, said he couldn’t disagree more. “We still see Facebook as a valuable tool,” said Holtzman. “For example, we leased up an entire property of ours last year through a Facebook campaign.”
Is print dead?
Communicating in print continues its downward decline in popularity among residents, based on the survey data. Keith Oden,president of Camden Property Trust, agreed and emphasized that his company uses “almost zero print." The only exception is when it comes to walk-in traffic. Oden has found that prospective residents still want something printed to carry away that provides pricing information and that they can take notes on. “We still think that people who show up at the property want to have something in their hands as they take the tour of our community,” he said.
When it comes to student housing, however, the approach is based on
who pays the bills. “We do print and send home brochures to the parents
because they pay the rent, but for the students themselves, it’s online
communications,” said William C. Bayless, Jr.,president and CEO of American Campus Communities.
Is the rent check old news?
Given conversations about increasing internet use, Danner asked the expert panel about their approach to online payments. “We are convinced that our residents are committed to paying online,” said Oden. “So we want to make that a priority in 2014.”
However, while other executives said they were also seeing online payments on the rise, they cautioned that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. “For example, for our affordable communities, I see online payments being a harder sell because money orders and checks are used more frequently,” explained one executive.
Is it time to talk about rising e-commerce and delivery trends?
Residents loves the convenience of online shopping and increasingly use e-commerce sites like Amazon, Zappos or Diapers.com. Given that the popularity of these sites is only expected to increase, Danner asked the panelists what that means now, and in the future, for property owners and managers.
“It’s a trend we’re going to have to address at our older communities, as well as the new,” said Cindy Clare, president of Kettler Management. “We tell our properties to double the size of their package room areas, but for existing properties, space is an issue.”
Camden’s Oden expressed significant concerns about the increasing use of online shopping and delivery. “We need to be having a serious conversation about whose job it is to get items to our residents-the supplier or the property,” Oden said.
“Frankly, I’m scared to death of the day that Dominos shows up and says that customers are complaining because their pizzas are cold,” he added. Attendees responded with wide applause.