21Key Strategic Insights for 2021

Start the New Year out in the know! Our strategic planning guide will walk through the outlook for 2021—and give you our top strategies for outperforming in the Year of Variability.

1Throttle Up Your Sun Belt and Suburban Assets

Understanding the opportunities with Sun Belt and Suburban translates to pricing hope for multifamily operators and investors in 2021 and beyond—especially while Gateway cities face ongoing limitations. Balancing discipline with action is key for planning your rent growth strategy.

2Strengthen Your Core in Ailing Coastal and Downtown Assets

Investors are wondering how to support assets in Coastal and Downtown after COVID-19 accelerated a shift that created an uncertain outlook. Redefining the “core” investment strategy will require disciplined focus on demand-driven occupancy and resident engagement programs to limit long-term damage to the rent roll.

3Adjust the Recipe for Your Operational “Secret Sauce”

Top-performing owners and operators are those willing to challenge their own assumptions and use analytics to inform strategy. Assessing KPIs for relevancy against market conditions and benchmarks with the right data can identify where to adapt your approach and maximize healthy asset operations across classes.

4Accelerate Fully Virtual Leasing— Not Just Tours

Pandemic lockdowns sharpened the advantage for operators investing in virtual leasing tools. Remote property tours and paperless applications driven by safety and preference are accelerating demand for a full virtual leasing platform that manages execution while properties focus on closing deals and optimizing both customer journey and resident experience.

5Cut Costs Not Quality: On-Site Teams Go Multi-Site

Limited revenue opportunities have shifted executive attention to generating savings—preferably unnoticed by residents and prospects. Strategic cost-cutting means shifting traditionally on-site functions off-site to alleviate increased staff workloads, alongside benchmarking, smart property technologies and resident care solutions for leasing teams that are spread thin.

6Shift Operational Levers Together—Not Independently

Property and asset managers ultimately lose with panicked response to a downturn. Avoiding rent roll damage, risk, low-value rents and slow recovery starts with tighter internal collaboration, but streamlining process and aligning operational priorities is key to accelerating decision making that drives specific asset yield strategy.

7Focus on Renewals—They’ll Be Harder to Secure

After COVID-19 boosted retention and resident care, apartment property managers will be challenged to stay the course amid normalizing turnover patterns. Phasing in face-to-face interaction alongside virtual channels and making your properties stickier can support strategic renewal growth plans based on holistic demand in market/submarket conditions.

8No “Tsunami”: Evictions Will Remain Limited

Local, statewide and national eviction moratoriums enacted in light of pandemic hardships indicate limited enforcement authority in various markets through 2021. Leveraging technology to exercise increased caution in applicant screening protects not only the bottom line but also existing residents and viable inventory as fraud accelerates.

9Decentralize Your Leasing Office

Critical leasing functions now occur beyond the office—portals, call centers, apps and websites operate in a multidimensional circulatory system that keeps multifamily communities thriving and property teams driving revenue through occupancy and retention and optimizing back office functions for success with fewer resources than usual.

10Explore a Low-Capital Value-Add Strategy

A decade of hot value-add activity has left fewer opportunities and dollars for property renovations. But as investors take a broader view beyond physical construction and derive valuation from the rent roll, you can invest in other strategies to boost yield, demand, apartment occupancy and rent.

11Don’t Bank on a “Flight to Quality”

Investors historically luring renters up with concessions are finding the equation changing. With a widening rent gap, harder move-up math and tighter occupancies as renters choose more affordable options, high-quality multifamily assets focused on retention strategies and stable new occupancy revenue will reduce risk and churn.

12Be Cautious With Concessions

Lease-up concessions sometimes make sense but often cost more than they gain, complicate achieving new rent growth, frustrate other residents and create fair housing compliance risk. Consider pricing strategies that establish consistency but offer flexibility, transparency and incentives that benefit properties and renters alike.

13Get Back to the Basics of Property Management

Multifamily operators with community managers and leasing agents who never experienced a downturn are combatting this operational gap by focusing on the basics of delivering results—attending to the critical details of product, presence and promotion that differentiate properties in a competitive, engagement-driven rental market.

14Strengthen Your Tech Stack

For CTOs, 2020 brought a clear focus on efficiency and optimizing the software stack—evaluating solutions on overall performance, value and impact in the portfolio’s overall technology set. Identifying opportunities for integration and analytics can fuel productivity and better inform and align property and resident operations to meet demands.

15Take Back Control of Your Brand

Standard lead generation offers limited control over brand positioning and limited visibility into results. Investing in focused, science-based marketing that can more efficiently target the right audience, timing, presence and content gives you maximum ROI at every point in the renter’s digital journey to your property.

16Drive Up Revenues—Not Just Base Rent

Property owners and managers looking beyond rent growth in 2021 must think bigger to monetize the amenity services and premium features that residents value. From technology to spaces to in-unit premiums, build additional revenue by pricing amenities to resonate with renters and align with demand.

17Get Aggressive Again (Strategically) With Acquisitions

Multifamily emerged from 2020 a net winner with investors reallocating capital toward apartments. As this accelerates in 2021, investors will want to weigh goals against the opportunities likely to appear primarily in Sun Belt and Suburban assets, while recognizing that yields were compressed basically everywhere.

18Look for New Development Opportunities That Make Sense Post-COVID

Strategic investors are identifying higher-demand submarkets worthy of capital for fewer starts amid key market struggles and generally higher construction costs. But a shift is easier said than done given higher barriers to entry. Tweak your strategy, but COVID shouldn’t shape your entire view of new development.

19Reimagine Short-Term Rentals

After stress-testing short-term rental business models, multifamily owners/operators can prepare for the next generation of STRs with “flexible living” technology, services and tools designed for apartment operators to easily implement and accommodate transient guest activity—affordably, safely and profitably—to correct vacancies with minimal PMC involvement.

20Prepare for Longer Unit Turns

Anticipate a limited construction supply chain with greater delays and costs for property repairs and unit renovations. Proactively adjust move-out timelines and vendor processes and empower your teams with the tools to manage it all remotely to ensure efficient operations and consistent quality.

21Push for More Public Support for Affordable Housing

A dangerous undersupply of Affordable Housing in the U.S. continues under policies and funding shortages that restrict and slow development and pass the buck to property owners. Apartment industry professionals joining with public advocates, policymakers and media can deliver a cohesive, informative message to grow Affordable inventory for low-income renters.

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