Notable strategies from owner/operators during COVID-19
Despite a pandemic and housing affordability crisis, renters are still moving to new homes.
Because of this, the move-in moment remains the important first step in the relationship between properties and residents. We spoke to several of our partners about how the recent pandemic has impacted the ways they handle this moment and their work to deliver safe, comfortable community experiences.
In the next 6–12 months, hundreds of thousands of renters across the country will be evicted for the first time. “Stable” income has been exposed as something always subject to change. People with great credit before this past March now have good, average, or even bad credit.
Assessing financial stability will always be a central part of the move-in moment, but there are new ways to measure what exactly that means. Several of our partners spoke of a significant shift in how they consider the typical move-in qualification metrics. Trajectories and longer financial histories have become increasingly important as opposed to one-off submissions of credit scores and recent income in accordance with an application. In forecasting the future of their properties, one Rhino partner shared that they’d consider evictions occurring in the second part of 2020 and the entirety of 2021 with roughly half the weight they would for any evictions that occurred prior as they assess applications. Several other partners also detailed new “financial recovery plan” sections of their move-in applications that allow prospective residents to detail the plans they have in place to recover from the financial hardships brought on by COVID-19 as an additional way to prove qualification.
As an industry largely dependent on in-person interaction, much of multifamily housing has been forced online. Strangely enough, technology provides a new kind of personal touch.
Adoption rates of new technology have always varied across multifamily housing. Unfortunately, operators can’t afford to hold out any longer. What all of our partners have in common is their commitment to providing world-class service. What’s changed is how that service is actually delivered.
Rhino partners who’d used elements of online leasing in the past (virtual tours, digitized application processes, video conferencing to address resident issues) have been able to leverage this preparedness to go above and beyond during COVID-19, using technology to do things for their residents like schedule check-ins, deliver groceries, and provide health resources. Rhino partners who’d moved rent collection online saw a dramatic difference in their ability to collect full and partial rent payments when compared to those who were forced to rely on the mail. Several partners told us that the pandemic has forced them to communicate with more residents more often than ever before, which in the beginning felt like a larger inconvenience but ended up having real ramifications on rates of rent collection and lease renewal. Adopting technology early and often proved to be an advantage for this unforeseen circumstance, and adding these personal touches helps properties set themselves apart.
COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of case-by-case considerations like never before, and it’s obvious that every property will need different solutions to protect their profitability and foster communities that renters want to live in. With that being said, technology and creative consideration of financial metrics will undoubtedly be at the foundation no matter what solutions are chosen.