Students are returning to classes and student housing owners are singing the praises of a newish trend that has not only gotten many through the pandemic, but served as a blueprint for the next phase of student housing operations — proptech.
Student Housing Business recently caught up with Ryan Lang, vice chairman at Newmark, to discuss the advantages of utilizing proptech and its usage as we move out of the pandemic.
Student Housing Business: What are some of the advantages of proptech from a student housing owner/investor/manager perspective? What are the advantages for the students?
Ryan Lang: Proptech advancements have been significant over the past several years and have benefited both owners and residents alike. The advancements have improved living standards through secure access, community communication, safety, maintenance and overall asset operations. The leaps have been material over the past few years and we expect that trend to accelerate moving forward.
SHB: What are some of the challenges associated with proptech? Do you have any advice on how you can overcome these?
Lang: Rolling out proptech initiatives the right way — with proper communication and depending on the subject matter — is essential. There can be some initial ramp-up time with on-site staff or employees in understanding how to best utilize the technology. Strong and ongoing communication with residents, along with proper training among staff to improve efficiencies are key.
SHB: Can you point to one example of a successful proptech initiative at a school/student housing facility/parent company?
Lang: There have been many cleanliness-related physical features come to fruition through COVID-19, as well as several companies that have successfully implemented proptech software with great results. One example, called “Nalu,” is a revenue management software that analyzes each square foot of a given property to most efficiently determine appropriate rates while maximizing true potential of a given unit/ bed. Data continue be incredibly valuable and, when used effectively, we’ve seen it yield excellent results.
SHB: How will proptech help student housing facilities come back after the COVID-19 pandemic/closures? How will proptech assist in the hybrid in-person/online learning programs?
Lang: It seems proptech will serve an ever-greater propose post-COVID-19 with an increased need for intelligent revenue and expense management, improvements to technology affording safer touch points throughout properties, recurring asset efficiencies and broad basing communication systems to ensure resident safety and retention.
SHB: How can proptech impact a student housing facility’s ROI? On the one hand, these initiatives can be expensive to install and implement. On the other, tech-savvy students expect innovative experiences, amenities and designs. Plus, with COVID, many facilities are reducing the number of beds per unit. There is also the old adage in commercial real estate that firms use technology to decrease their internal costs, rather than to grow their business through innovative ways with consumers.
Lang: While some of the mentioned proptech advancements come with increased front-end costs, many of the new and innovative features and services lead to improved efficiencies, sustained recurring expense savings and improved resident retention. When used appropriately, the ROI can be powerful and make for strong competitor advantages.