How to drive 200 to 300 basis points of margin improvement


In this series, Respage CEO Ellen Thompson discusses the latest trends in the multifamily industry and how apartment communities can generate greater results.

In their last earnings call, Essex Property Trust announced that it is in the process of automating all manual tasks, which is expected to improve their operating margin by 200 to 300 basis points (i.e., 2-3%).

Given that many expenses are relatively fixed or inherently hard to optimize, (e.g. real estate taxes or insurance), and that a material increase in NOI can significantly improve property values, automation initiatives seem like a no-brainer for any property management company. 

But the fact of the matter is many companies haven’t even dipped their toe into the automation waters.

While there are many reasons for this hesitation, they typically boil down to a lack of time or internal expertise to evaluate new technology. Or fears about what will happen when control is passed from human-controlled systems to bots. Further, staying the course is less work, doesn’t require increasing your operating budget, and simply feels less risky. 

Some of this reservation is understandable. It’s hard to know where to start, there are many solutions to consider in every software category, and managing software pilots and trials is tough on onsite teams. Not to mention, with so many new companies launching and solutions being introduced every month, it’s only natural to worry that you might end up in a long term contract only to find out you missed out on a better, less expensive option. 

As to where to start, choose an automation solution that is easy to set up and in an established category with a proven path to paying for itself, which lowers risk. Choose a supplier who won’t lock you into a long term contract and will help you understand and evaluate exactly how your automation investment is improving your metrics. 

One easy point of entry is a website chatbot. Chatbots have been around for many years, they are easy to install, and are relatively inexpensive. They can pay for themselves by improving lead and lease conversion rates for site traffic, which will enable you to reduce advertising costs by more than your investment in the chatbot.

Already using a chatbot? Test out an AI leasing agent that answers your email leads and automates prospect follow up.

Already deployed AI leasing? Explore what functions you can centralize. If this prospect makes you nervous, consider that over 40% of UDR’s communities already operate without onsite leasing and management staff and have not experienced a decline in resident satisfaction as measured by online reviews and resident survey data.

Choose a supplier that offers other leasing automation and centralization-enabling tools, such as lead nurturing or the ability to answer leads from other communication channels, like ILSs, text messages, or phone calls. Once you see the results from your chatbot, you’ll likely want to explore other leasing automation options. It will be much easier and cost effective to build out a leasing automation platform with a single supplier than to cobble solutions together from multiple ones, so choose a partner who can help you with all communication platforms.

Want to see how automation or centralization can help your bottom line? Download our case study or contact us today for more information.

From the desk of Ellen Thompson, Co-founder and CEO of Respage >> Since its founding, Respage has helped over 10,000 communities attract, engage, and retain residents. Its platform assists properties in generating leads, automating leasing, and managing reputation and social media. Thompson is also the Founder of Results Repeat, a digital marketing agency that has helped hundreds of companies create a digital presence and use SEO and paid marketing to generate more business online.


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