Apartmentalize, Answered

By on Jun 27, 2019 in Events, News

(June 27, 2019) – Yardi executives and clients brought their A game to Apartmentalize in Denver on Thursday, providing answers to pressing questions facing multifamily professionals. Read our day one recap here.

The country’s preeminent apartment industry get-together continued at an energetic pace with a full day of sessions, featured speakers like actress/producer Mindy Kaling (The Office/The Mindy Project) and the NAA Expo, which opened Thursday afternoon for product demonstrations, giveaways and special interactive events.

Kaling recounted her early days in New York City attempting to break into the acting and writing scene. She and her two best friends shared a railroad style apartment. Railroad style apartments have a series of connected rooms, making privacy near impossible.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but there’s one time in your life when you can share an apartment with connected rooms with your best friends, and it’s when you’re 21,” she shared. Kaling, now 40, also confided that she’d love to purchase an apartment building in New York City for her frequent work trips to the city. She couldn’t have found a more appropriate audience than 10,000 apartment managers and executives.

Yardi is one of two Strategic Alliance Partners for the conference and a major contributor to the NAA Education Institute.  A video that introduced the company at Thursday’s general session can be viewed below:

Thursday night, conference attendees were bused to the Denver Performing Arts Complex for an epic outdoor party that included live entertainment, a silent disco, breakdancers, caricature artists, BMX riders, a slackline performance, photo booths, and food truck fare.

But before party time, Yardi executives at Apartmentalize dove in to answer critical client questions in three insightful education sessions.

Top Tech Trends for Better NOI

Esther Bonardi, vice president of marketing at Yardi, moderated a panel including Garin Hamburger, senior director of national property marketing for Pinnacle; and Taylor Wiederkehr, director of innovation services for BH Management Services. The group explored emerging technologies disrupting the future of rental housing. They focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning and energy efficiency, and the impact of each on business operations and resident experiences.

Over the last decade, energy efficiency and utility management have become hot topics in multifamily. For both NOI and the planet, “it’s a good chance for our industry to make an impact,” said Bonardi.

Bonardi, Wiederkehr and Hamburger

In today’s technology-focused world, how can multifamily professionals tackle energy spend? Bonardi discussed the importance of having an energy strategy. Utilizing ENERGY STAR benchmarking, implementing energy management solutions, and installing IoT-enabled devices like smart thermostats which reduce costs and energy use.

“There are 17 billion IoT devices currently connected. By 2025 that will double to 34 billion,” said Hamburger. “We’ll need to have it in all of our communities because it will be the norm.”

Providing a basic IoT package – a smart hub, connected thermostat and upgraded outlets – has been beneficial for Pinnacle. The national multifamily housing provider has seen higher profits and been able to raise rents at IoT-enhanced properties. Hamburger shared that featured like self-guided tours and artificial intelligence for lead nurturing have resulted in cost savings and staff efficiency.

BH Management Services has fully embraced the Internet of Things. At property refurbishments, the firm has installed smart home systems across its portfolio, capitalizing on control and convenience for residents. A self-proclaimed former skeptic of IoT-connected living, Wiederkehr advised that “IoT will be the foundation for the future of multifamily.”

Resilience, Climate Change and Energy Use

Levkus, Cloutier and Zhu

A panel moderated by Martin Levkus, regional director of sales for Yardi, focused on the threat of continued climate change and strategies for both reducing energy use and preparing for climate challenges ahead. Speakers Deb Cloutier, president of RE Tech Advisors, and Cindy Zhu, fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy, brought exceptional insight to the topic.

“In the past, resilience and climate change hasn’t been a focus of conversation. Real estate companies weren’t paying much attention. But what we are seeing now is change. Climate is changing and it is impacting the way assets are valued today,” Levkus said to kick off the conversation.

In an app-based poll of the audience early in the presentation, the multifamily professionals in the room shared that most of their companies had already had an asset or property that suffered property damage as the result of a severe weather event.

Cloutier presented the astounding figure of insured losses to real property from climate events in 2017: $301 billion due to fires, flooding, hurricanes and extreme snowfall. That’s a drastic uptick from the typical average of $19.3 billion.

“These major climate events are occurring with more frequency and with more intensity. And they’re costing the U.S. economy. They’re also costing real estate companies, including multifamily companies, significant amounts of insurance losses,” Cloutier said.

The takeaway from the session was that it’s time to take such unanticipated threats seriously and react to the risk – but not just with insurance, but with risk mitigation and behavior change. Zhu presented a variety of resources that are available from the Department of Energy, including case studies, benchmarking, grants and new building technologies.

“You always want to be a step ahead of the trends and learn about the new energy management tools,” Levkus said. The Yardi Energy Suite is a good place to start – find out more about benchmarking and energy management solutions.

How to Leverage Big Data for Big Results

Dhar Sawh, industry principal for Yardi Elevate, guided a C-suite dialogue between three multifamily leaders on the value of big data for business improvement. Appearing on the panel were Darren Wesemann, EVP and chief innovation officer for Berkadia; Diana Norbury, senior vice president of multifamily operations for Pillar Properties; and Gino Ferro, vice president of ancillary/procurement for Bridge Property Management.

The wide-ranging conversation covered everything from the types of problems multifamily providers can solve with big data, the best ways to implement and encourage adoption and regular use by teams, and potential hurdles and pitfalls.

Sawh, Wesemann, Ferro and Norbury

“How do we cut through the noise to get to the data that will benefit our operations today and tomorrow?” Sawh asked to start the session. “How do we bring better NOI to the table, how do we make better acquisitions, how do we take that data and really focus on the things that matter?”

For Berkadia, a Berkshire Hathaway company with over $260 billion in real estate holdings, data aggregation and engineering has been a major focus. Wesemann shared. His No. 1 takeaway: always keep primary business objectives in mind when selecting data-based projects and initiatives.

At Pillar Properties, a smaller operator in Seattle, adopting a business intelligence platform several years ago wasn’t an overnight success. But through close work with Yardi (Pillar uses a Yardi single stack platform to manage its multifamily operations), Norbury was able to develop automated data dashboards that are customized by employee role.

“As an operator, we are constantly put in a position that the software that we purchased or the initiatives we’ve put into place are having a return,” Norbury said. “We are always trying to curate that data, separate the signal from the noise, and say yes, this is effective. From there, how can we be more efficient? We want to determine what we can pull out of (our big data) to become a better operator.”

Learn more about how Pillar Properties uses its Yardi platform to solve business problems and answer pressing real estate questions. And get more information about how you can elevate your entire asset portfolio with one connected solution using Yardi Elevate.


Apartmentalize concludes on Friday. Follow @YardiSystems on Twitter and the hashtag #Apartmentalize to keep up with the event online.