Property technology has taken the apartment industry by storm in recent years, with digital solutions emerging for nearly every aspect of operations. During the 2022 Apartmentalize session “Integrated or Point Solutions? Get Married or Play the Field?,” industry leaders discussed the strategy behind building a tech stack and the considerations required of operators throughout the process. The session, featuring SmartRent CEO Lucas Haldeman, assessed the benefits of complementary, integrated solutions vs. isolated technologies.
“If we look at the word ‘proptech,’ five years ago that wasn’t even a word,” Haldeman said. “Five years later, proptech is a category. That’s great for the industry. We’re at an unprecedented time of change, and real estate operators have access to more and better technology than we ever have. The one downside is making it all work together.”
Panelists conceded that the myriad of proptech solutions and providers can be overwhelming. Guntram Weissenberger, Jr., owner and CEO of The Westover Companies, said a strong decision-making team – including members of IT, operations, and on-site associates – is critical to the tech selection process.
“What I’ve heard here is there is a little bit of vendor fatigue, and that is true. There are a lot of things coming to us, and property technology has become a huge business,” Weissenberger said. “People on the front lines have to be comfortable with the products you’re using. It’s important that they’re involved in the decisions because they can really see the faults and the benefits of a certain system.”
Jennifer Staciokas, Executive Managing Director of Property Management at Western Wealth Communities, stressed that operators need to seek out solutions that solve for specific pain points.
“So many times, you get caught with the shiny new penny,” she said. “You get this pitch, and you just get mesmerized by it. You think, ‘We have to have that.’ But think about, ‘What problem is it solving in my organization?’ That question is going to cut out a lot of the noise you’re having with some of the vendors that are coming around.”
Staciokas said operators should also analyze a solution’s ability to future-proof assets when making proptech purchasing decisions.
“Where are you going to be three years from here?” she said. “Five years from here? And what are the solutions that you know that you can grow with versus things that are going to stay stagnant?”
Operator due diligence is essential to accurately assess tech integrations and sustainability, according to Ellen Thompson, Founder & CEO of Respage.
“Sales reps are going to say anything it takes to get you to sign on the dotted line,” she said. “So please, when you’re trying something new, pilot it and make sure those integrations work the way you want.”
Haldeman said while individual point solutions may resolve a singular pain point, operators need to keep the big picture in mind when assembling their tech stacks.
“Too much we see these point solutions that gain scale, they’re very niche, but they handle one piece. I think because we’re so frustrated with the incumbent software we’re using to run property management, that if you do one thing really well, we as operators get excited by that,” Haldeman said. “We get distracted from the macro view of, ‘I’ve got to put together a tech stack.’ Be wary of the point solution, as great as it is. If it doesn’t integrate into the overall tech stack you’re not going to get those benefits, you’re not going to get those efficiencies.”