by Brent Steiner
Multifamily organizations often clamor for ways to expedite processes. Finding ways to increase efficiencies, particularly with the abundance of available tech tools, has become a primary objective.
Yet for most companies, that pursuit ends with a communication tool such as Basecamp or Slack. While having a comprehensive list of projects and rapid-chat capabilities certainly helps, it doesn’t push the boundaries of how technology can genuinely make a difference.
That’s where data visualization comes in.
A spreadsheet contains an abundance of information, but it’s without context. It might contain every possible detail about an apartment’s location, type of finish, proximity to the dog park and the views it offers. But if you cannot see it, you can only envision it based upon a written description. When onsite teams can observe those details on an interactive map—and pass it along to prospects—that’s when it truly transforms from an organizational tool to a business intelligence tool.
Here are a few examples of how visualization can provide key insights that cannot be found in text-based information:
Assessing value of various types of homes
During lease-up, apartment operators tend to begin with a straight-up approach. Most floor plans are priced the same, with the exception of those with well-apparent benefits, such as larger closets or balconies with desirable views. But as the leasing process unfolds over several months and years, microtrends begin to emerge. Certain homes might be more attractive for subtle reasons, such as proximity to a parking space, distance from the elevator, a quieter location or many other factors.
Community teams often struggle to track these microtrends trends when they are experiencing turnover or largely working from memory. Spreadsheet-based leasing data is proficient to a point but fails to provide many key insights, whereas viewing homes on a visualized map adds a completely different dynamic. The ability to assess homes within the full context of their location on the property makes it easier to diagnose why certain homes are more attractive. This is where data visualization truly becomes a business intelligence tool, in that it allows communities to charge a premium on homes that weren’t initially considered more attractive than others.
Insight into longstanding homes
Data visualization can also provide insight into homes that aren’t leasing as rapidly. An apartment operator can take a look at a community’s 10 longstanding vacant homes, and based on their location on the property, start to assess why these homes aren’t leasing. It could be anything from alley-way views, noise, disruptive neighbors, distance from the nearest public transit stop, an unpopular floor plan or because its position within the property does not afford a lot of sunlight. When perusing the homes on a visualized map, the apartment operator has a much greater chance of diagnosing what the 10 homes have in common. Perhaps those homes might need a rent reduction, which can still be a win for two reasons. One, it will allow those homes to be leased quicker. And two, premiums charged on more desirable homes can offset this loss.
Collaboration between teams
With visualization as an option, all teams within an organization can make decisions based off of the same information. If marketing and pricing teams are looking at text-based data only, they might have different ideas as to why a portfolio, community or particular unit is struggling. The ability to share visual data enables all teams to make decisions within the same context and fosters more productive discussion between teams. It also enables apartment operators and management teams to collaborate with outside teams, such as asset managers and investors.
Technology leads to efficiency, and multifamily organizations have done a commendable job of utilizing tech to expedite their processes. But if visualization is not a part of it, they are missing a key component.