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PropTech: A Property Management Point of View

The world of proptech is vast and can be overwhelming for many property owners. According to the MIT Center for Real Estate, there are over 3,000 companies reinventing how the real estate industry operates. As more residents come to expect this technology, landlords will have no choice but to jump on the technology bandwagon.

With so many options property owners and building managers need to set clear goals for what they want out of their technology for Property Management. Are you looking to engage tenants or perhaps run your building more efficiently. Only after defining your objectives can you really start to sift through the options. Testing the software on a smaller building or group is also a wise first move. You want to ensure the app you have selected is something your residents will actively use. Another key factor building owners need to keep in mind is data security and privacy. Ensure you understand who owns the data that your software is collecting and who is responsible for keeping it secure.

Here at GB Property Management, we have been actively using proptech to manage our buildings for several years and find the online based Appfolio to be a great choice that features robust accounting and management tools. Appfolio allows handling all aspects of the tenant cycle anywhere. Our residents also find the software easy to use and it streamlines the rent collection process.

Other apps/software we have our eye on are Common Areas and Cobu.  Common areas is computerized maintenance management software that works in real time to handle the maintenance workflow. It can be used from any device so managers at their desks and techs in the field can access the information. The Cobu app works in conjunction with on-site experiences to promote community within buildings. The app can provide data on community interests and cohesion and can promote tenant satisfaction leading to higher resident retention rates.

Using technology allows property owners and managers an easier way to connect with their residents and their buildings. As this category grows it will be imperative that building owners work with their management team to create a proptech strategy. At GB Property Management, we have found a mix of personal attention coupled with this new technology will provide tenants the high level of service that leads to renewals!

Looking for reliable property managers in Boston? Contact GB Property Management Boston, they provide quality rental property management services in Boston.

GB Properties: Resident Portals

residential portal

Last month we touched on the ever-expanding world of proptech and discussed a few of the different apps we have our eye on. Today we want to highlight what we have found to be the most important specific feature improving the residential tenant experience and also that of the property owner; the resident portal.  In the past few years, resident portals have made streamlined the property management process from application, to rent collection and maintenance. For the property owner, portals allow for easily accessed data and transparent accounting.

Starting with the leasing process, a resident portal allows for prospective tenants to easily view available apartments and then seamlessly submit an application. Having residents utilize the property website from the start is a great way to get them into the habit of utilizing technology for all of their property management needs, especially rent collection & maintenance. According to a Money magazine survey 61% of millennials and 42% of older generations are now paying bills online, so why not rent? The many factors that can cause delays with check payment (including the younger set not knowing how to write one) slow down the collections process. Online payments are not only faster, but they also allow residents flexibility in payment options including setting up recurring payments. When paying online residents and property managers alike also have a nearly real-time view of the account status and the time savings for property managers not having to deal with paper checks and resident ledgers is tremendous.

Along with easing the payment and application processes resident portals are helping make the maintenance request process more painless for all.  Instead of a phone call, often answered by a service and then bounced around to the right person, residents can easily enter a maintenance request through their portal and the manager and maintenance team are quickly and easily notified. This certainly streamlines the process and may help save money by decreasing the response time. Residents can also upload photos of maintenance issues directly through a portal to ensure maintenance understand the issue and can get the repair completed quickly and accurately.

For the property owner, these portals provide robust accounting software that allows for a more transparent view of the buildings financial status. With this software, property owners will also have access to their cash faster. There are no long waits as accountants prepare spreadsheets, owners can see collects and expenses by easily logging into their app or portal. This technology really is a win, win, win for tenants, managers, and owners.

As e-commerce has become the norm and there is an app for practically everything it follows that the property management service experience has gone online and these portals will only continue to help keep residents happy and save managers and owners money by streamlining time-consuming yet crucial processes. These portals appeal to the tech-savvy customer and can be marketed as an additional perk for your property. However, with all this talk of technology, let us not forget the importance of a personal touch and exceptional customer service in keeping residents satisfied. The key here is to use this technology to save time and money while still providing the resident with an exceptional experience.

Looking for reliable property managers in Boston? Contact GB Property Management Boston, they provide quality rental property management services in Boston.

Boston’s Multi-Family Developments of the Decade

As we approach the close of this decade let’s take a look back at some of the largest and significant residential & mixed-use developments in Boston. As a property management and brokerage firm, we are constantly monitoring the residential market and these projects have had a major impact on Boston’s neighborhoods, sales and rental pricing, and in many cases the skyline. We will also highlight a few upcoming projects sure to make an impact in the coming decade as the city works to reach Mayor Walsh’s goal of creating 69,000 new units of housing by the year 2030.

Millennium Tower

gb property boston

After a gaping hole marred Downtown Crossing for 5 long years, Millennium Tower broke ground in September 2013 and opened in July 2016. The game-changing office, residential and retail development features 442 luxury residential condominiums, some of Boston’s priciest real estate. The tower has led the way for a resurgence of Downtown Crossing

Ink Block

Once a desolate corner of Boston’s South End, Phase One of Ink Block brought 315 apartments plus an array of retail/restaurant options including a Whole Foods to the neighborhood. Completed in 2015 and followed by two additional condo buildings, The Ink Block has energized this critical section of the city at the intersection of the South End, Chinatown and South Boston. We doubt many of these other larger developments under construction now would be moving forward without the Ink Block leading the pack.

Lantera – Boston Landing

gb property boston

The 17-story building features 295 apartments just steps from the New Boston Landing MBTA Station. While other pieces of the Boston Landing Project, like the Celtics and Bruins practice facilities, may get more press Lantera brings a large scale residential project to this corner of Brighton and provides a key 24/7 residential presence within the development and community.

Pierce

Boston’s Fenway neighborhood has changed dramatically in the past ten years with numerous residential and mixed-use projects popping up, the most eye-catching being Pierce Boston. At 30-stories the glass tower stands elegantly at the busy crossroads of Brookline Ave. and Boylston Street. The building features a mix of 240 rental apartments plus 109 luxury condos. Amenities at Pierce Boston include a Levity Lounge on the building’s top-level and a sky deck featuring a kitchen, a gas fireplace, and a sky top pool. Other amenities include a library, a fitness center, and a private dining room.

Benjamin/Via

There are of course numerous new residential and mixed-use projects in Boston’s Seaport however we chose Benjamin/Via for its sheer size, 1.5 million square feet of residential over three acres of land. The two buildings feature a total of 832 modern apartment homes ranging from studios to three-bedrooms. Luxurious amenities abound within both buildings including an outdoor pool terrace at The Benjamin and a tech bar at VIA. Along with these residential units the project includes 250,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space including Kings Bowling and the 10 screen Showplace ICON Theatre. A 17,000-square-foot open space also serves as a key pedestrian link between Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue. The retail and restaurant space here has enlivened the neighborhood and the apartments above have brought more residential tenants to the area.

One Dalton

We certainly couldn’t leave New England’s tallest residential tower, One Dalton off this list. At 740 feet the striking building has irrevocably changed the city’s skyline and also brought luxury living to new heights. The 180 private condos situations over Boston’s second Four Seasons Hotel offer residents amazing views along with access to all hotel amenities plus exclusive owner perks including a private 50th-floor Resident’s Club Lounge.

Upcoming:

Back Bay South End Gateway

This upcoming project to be constructed above the existing Back Bay Station and the adjacent parking garage will feature over 1 million square feet of mixed-use space including around 600 residential units. New restaurant and retail will also be added plus a new 11,000 square foot public plaza along Clarendon Street, serving as a grand gateway to Back Bay Station.

Washington Village

Somewhat surprisingly in busy Southie, the 5-acre Washington Village site has been sitting empty for a number of years. The project could include 7 or 8 buildings with over 650 residences, almost 100,000 square feet of retail space and a 1.5-acre public plaza. In October 2019, the development team filed a Notice of Project Change to construct 1 building in place of the two buildings originally planned as Building A & B within the development. This new building would contain around 214 residential units, 20,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space, and around 58 parking spaces. For now, we will have to wait to how this project progresses, but should it finally break ground it will certainly have a major impact on the South Boston market.

The Sudbury – Bulfinch Crossing

gb property boston

Yes, it’s another luxury condo and apartment tower but as the first building in Bulfinch Crossing, the mega-development rising out of the Government Center garage it deserves a mention. The 45-story tower will feature 368 apartments and 55 condominiums and will bring a large number of residential tenants to what is typically a business-oriented section of the city

Winthrop Center

Although the number of residential units for Winthrop Center was recently cut down from around 500 to 387, these units are still sure to offer the highest of high-end luxury at top price points. After a long legal battle overshadows and height, it will be interesting to watch this new tower rise in Downtown Crossing.

PropTech: A Property Management Point of View

boston property

The world of proptech is vast and can be overwhelming for many property owners. According to the MIT Center for Real Estate, there are over 3,000 companies reinventing how the real estate industry operates. As more residents come to expect this technology, landlords will have no choice but to jump on the technology bandwagon.

With so many options property owners and building managers need to set clear goals for what they want out of their technology. Are you looking to engage tenants or perhaps run your building more efficiently. Only after defining your objectives can you really start to sift through the options. Testing the software on a smaller building or group is also a wise first move. You want to ensure the app you have selected is something your residents will actively use. Another key factor building owners need to keep in mind is data security and privacy. Ensure you understand who owns the data that your software is collecting and who is responsible for keeping it secure.

Here at GB Property Management, we have been actively using proptech to manage our buildings for several years and find the online based Appfolio to be a great choice that features robust accounting and management tools. Appfolio allows handling all aspects of the tenant cycle anywhere. Our residents also find the software easy to use and it streamlines the rent collection process.

Other apps/software we have our eye on are Common Areas and Cobu.  Common areas is computerized maintenance management software that works in real time to handle the maintenance workflow. It can be used from any device so managers at their desks and techs in the field can access the information. The Cobu app works in conjunction with on-site experiences to promote community within buildings. The app can provide data on community interests and cohesion and can promote tenant satisfaction leading to higher resident retention rates.

Using technology allows property owners and managers an easier way to connect with their residents and their buildings. As this category grows it will be imperative that building owners work with their management team to create a proptech strategy. At GB Property Management, we have found a mix of personal attention coupled with this new technology will provide tenants the high level of service that leads to renewals!

The Great Amenities Race

Across the city and into the suburbs the great amenities race is on with luxury buildings playing a large scale game of keeping up the Jones. Smaller, older properties are also trying to keep pace with renovations and amenity additions. Some of the most unique amenities we have seen include a vintage arcade room complete with Skee Ball and Pac-Man at Pierce Boston, Ink Block’s botanical gardens, and the upcoming “Woof Deck”  a rooftop terrace for your dog to be included at the residential tower for The Hub on Causeway.

But what amenities to residents actually use, want, and will they pay a premium for? The National Multifamily Housing Council along with Kingsley Associates conducted a massive study of over 270,00 renters in 2017 to try and answer this conundrum. According to this study, the number factor in renter decisions was the availability of high-speed internet. In fact, 93% of all renters are reviewing the internet options of the community and the apartment when looking for a new home. With more people working remote and technology changing the way people consume media the importance of quality internet within a property, old or new cannot be underestimated.

Not surprisingly many renters also now expect to find a fitness center and pool within their community. 55% of renters surveyed wouldn’t lease without a fitness center onsite and 60% demand a pool!  In another study conducted for the National Apartment Association, an average rent premium of nearly $70 per month is also added when a fitness center is available for residents. Package delivery and storage options were also high on the list of importance. As more residents shop online and the number of packages being delivered increases it is important for a property to have a secure location to store these items and also a rapid pickup system in place.

What was most interesting about this study however was that community amenities were ranked as the 4th reason that renters move. Amenities ranked behind lower rent, management, and apartment features in the survey. So while amenities are important, top quality service and apartment upkeep are larger factors in renter decisions. However, with such a competitive rental market it will still be crucial for developers and building owners to be able to offer a unique amenity package that helps form a building’s identity.

The Importance of Service in Tenant Retention and Gaining a Positive Online Reputation

Gb Property

Browse through any number of reviews for apartments and you will see a trend in both the coveted 5-star reviews and the opposite end of the spectrum, the dreaded 1 star. Many include commentary on property or concierge staff. While apartment quality and other issues come into play, these interactions with staff can really make or break the tenant experience. As these reviews are also a major factor in leasing decisions for prospective residents they are of high importance to your communities online brand.

When looking for a new apartment almost ALL renters read online reviews. In an Apartments.com survey, 98% of respondents stated they do read reviews of a rental property when on the hunt for a new home and most importantly these reviews are making an impact on decisions. 96% of surveyed renters find reviews influential and 79% find them HIGHLY influential. Positive reviews will help to bring in additional leasing traffic and can make your property stand out in a crowd.

While much of the leasing and property management experience has gone online, personal interaction with residents is key so property staff must be engaged and valued residents. Property Managers hiding behind a desk or email are never going to solve a problem like a personal phone call or visit can. This high level of service can take a potentially negative experience and turn it into a positive interaction.  Many buildings also utilize a concierge service as their main face to the residents. This, in turn, raises the question is your concierge accurately representing your brand and providing the quality interactions with tenants needed to form good relationships or are they just a doorman who accepts and distributes packages? A quality concierge service will get to know your residents, names, likes, dislikes and provide that personal touch for the management team.

Industry average tenant retention is around 50-55% however with this philosophy of offering high-level service GB Property Management is averaging a retention rate of around 87%. Consider the increase in NOI a building could realize with just a small jump in retention let alone a 20-25% jump. With numerous new construction projects coming online in and around Boston, many offering rental concessions, it will be imperative for property managers and owners to ensure resident satisfaction to both retain current residents and attract new tenants by fostering a positive online presence.

Trends in Article 80 Summary

Haven’t had time to review the BPDA’s report on Trends in Article 80 Development? We’ve got you covered and are breaking down the trends on the residential front that are most important for property owners and managers. The report covers development trends dating back to 1996 when Article 80 was first put in place.

Residential projects have made up almost half of article 80 approval (47%) since 1996 with Downtown Boston, the South Boston Waterfront, and Fenway/Back Bay as the busiest neighborhoods. 2016 was the busiest year on record with 100 projects approved. 2017 was also solid with another 74 approvals. With all of these projects in the pipeline, BPDA expects an increase in permitting and construction in the coming years including the transit-oriented development projects The Back Bay South End Gateway & South Station Air Rights.

There are also numerous large projects under construction now expected to be complete in the next few years including the residential portion of The Hub on Causeway with 440 units and Bulfinch Crossing, approved in 2016, under construction now with the first phase, 423 units, becoming available in 2020. Washington Village, approved in 2016, will also finally start moving forward in the coming months with Samuels & Associates joining the project. This development will bring over 650 residential units to the already busy South Boston.

But with Boston’s growing population these new residential units are being absorbed. Since 2000 the Boston population has increased by over 93,000. As we know the Mayor increased the housing goal for Boston 2030 from 53,000 units of housing to 69,000 units to ensure a variety of housing options will be available for this growing population.

Rents are also continuing to grow, from 2006 to 2017 the median rent in Boston increased by 17%. With many of the new projects comprised of luxury rentals or condos, workforce or middle-income housing will continue to be in high demand. However, with construction costs on the rise, it will be a challenge for developers to make the numbers work on these projects. Look for boston properties tenant services for this.

While BPDA approvals peaked in 2016, the number of residential units in the pipeline is still high. Landlords will need to be conscious of their rents as new product comes to market and buyers will watch pricing as mortgage rates continue to creep up. The report shows overall positive growth for the city and with a large number of approvals yet to permitted we don’t expect the boom to slow down.

Money Saving Tips for Property Owners

property management

Even for the experienced property owner managing your asset can become tiresome and costly. Below are a series of quick tips that can help any property owner save $$$.

Tenant Selection

Select tenants carefully (and lawfully)!  Use a property management or credit check software to ensure you are only leasing to qualified tenants. In Massachusetts, especially, the laws are very tenant friendly so once a “bad” tenant is in your building it may be very difficult and costly to evict them.

Tenant Retention

Timely maintenance and regular inspections

Dealing with tenant requests promptly is key to ensuring your property is in good condition and small problems don’t become larger costly ones.  Regular inspections and routine maintenance are also important, especially if you have a hunch your tenants are lax in reporting maintenance concerns.

Smart systems

Many newer properties will feature the latest in smart technology but older properties can be retrofit with these devices to keep utility costs down and run your property at top efficiency.

Tenant retention

Everyone knows keeping a tenant is less expensive than a new lease so customer service is key!  Have you gotten lost in the phone maze of a large property management company? Not pleasant for current tenants or anyone looking to lease at your property.

Hiring a Boutique Property Management company.

As a property owner, you want to ensure your asset is being run at peak performance but also at a reasonable rate.  Utilizing a boutique, local property management firm like GB property Management can decrease your management fees but also increase response time and tenant retention by building strong foundations with residents.

GB Properties Tips for Winter Weather

winter

GB Property Management is back with more tips for property owners and property managers for property management .  This month we tackle every maintenance teams favorite topic winter maintenance and snow removal. We’ve got tips on prepping your building for the New England Winter along with suggestions to ensure you’re avoiding pesky and expensive lawsuits.

 

Preparing for Winter

  1. LEAVE THE HEAT ON – Again we are hitting you with common sense, but remember for many residents that is not a strong suit. Before residents head out for a holiday break, make sure to remind them to leave their heat on. A low temperature is fine for those residents not home but to avoid frozen and burst pipes the heat should NEVER be turned off. CLOSE YOUR WINDOWS – In some of the older buildings in Boston with radiator heat, when residents don’t understand how to control the temperature they may open a window. Ensure residents know how to operate their heat and do a quick exterior check for open windows or patio doors.  When you are walking the building interior it is also a good time to be on the lookout for drafts. We have saved a burst pipe or two when the maintenance team noticed a draft coming from an apartment with a window left open by an out of town resident.

  1. Inspect roofs, doors, windows, and any other potential area for heat loss or water leakage. Also, make sure to check gutters to avoid ice dams.

  1. Check Vacant Units: Ideally your property is fully leased but if you do have a unit that is unoccupied make sure to check that the heat is on and it is ready for winter.

  1. Inspect your HVAC systems: Annual maintenance on your HVAC system will ensure it is running properly and efficiently. Checking the system on a regular basis will also help prevent costly and disruptive emergency repairs.

  1. Snow Removal: Have your team ready and supplies on hand. Keep detailed logs of snow removal, sanding, salting activity. In Massachusetts, an injured party has up to 3 three years to file a claim!  Detailed records will allow you to fight against a frivolous lawsuit. If an incident does occur, take photos and detailed notes. Having an incident report template to make sure all details are noted by staff is also a great idea.

Is your property ready for winter? Contact us the boston properties tenant services to learn more about how we can better manage your asset to increase residence retention and save you money!

 

IoT in Multi-Family Developments

A vast majority of today’s new construction multi-family developments are integrating some form of smart home device into their projects. From thermostats and lighting to keyless entry, today’s renters are expecting their apartments to seamlessly integrate into their tech-heavy lifestyles. These smart devices not only provide an additional amenity designed to save residents time and better quality of life but they also help landlords by cutting energy costs and in some cases can provide a direct service channel to tenants in their homes.

Multifamily buildings generate massive amounts of data and being able to monitor and manage this mountain of information may seem like an overwhelming task. However, developments that utilize smart sensors and other IoT tech can easily review and monitor this information to cut down on operational inefficiencies and help predict maintenance needs. For example, a smart plumbing system can not only detect a leak but will shut off the water and notify the maintenance staff thereby preventing costly water damage. Along with these sorts of problem-solving abilities, smart devices can also be utilized to cut down on energy usage. According to the global research firm, McKinsey, the application of IoT for residential energy management could save over $110 Billion in energy annually by 2025.  While new construction projects often have these devices built-in, implementing even some basis smart tech at an older property like thermostats and connected outlets is not a massive undertaking and will typically pay for itself in 2-3 years. Ultimately with more control and lower costs due to operational efficiencies, preventative maintenance, and resource management, tenants also receive a better experience in their homes.

Leading the charge to bring smart home devices into the apartment sector is Amazon who has partnered with Zego a hub designed specifically to link smart home devices within apartments to the building’s management and maintenance. Zego is currently operating in 20+ markets across the country in both large and boutique communities. Recently Amazon & Zego began working with national landlord S2Capital to bring the Amazon Echo into around 30,000 in the next three years. S2, founded in 2012, currently operates more than $2.1 billion in Class B and C multifamily communities. Having invested more than $200 million in upgrades and renovations, S2 feels these smart devices will provide the best-in-class technologies residents want. S2’s residents will have the ability to control smart home devices such as smart locks, lights, thermostats and wall plugs with the Zego app, or simply by asking Alexa. As a next step, It won’t be long before residents can tell Alexa to pay their rent.

The market for IoT, currently valued at more than $15 billion is projected to reach $137 billion by 2023. Obviously, this trend is certainly not slowing down. Smart buildings will continue to have the competitive advantage against their competitors and savy building owners and property managers for property management can leverage this technology in numerous other ways to save on operational costs.

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