Artificial intelligence technology is all that people can talk about these days, and commercial real estate investors are excited about how these tools can impact investment decisions. But it isn’t only investors adopting AI technology. The whole industry is integrating new AI tools. In the property management industry, AI tools are rapidly growing in popularity.
“Every day it’s becoming increasingly important for property management teams to rely on software to help expedite work processes, be more efficient and provide a more seamless experience to renters,” Nat Kunes, VP Product at AppFolio, tells GlobeSt.com. “AI is still very new, but the adoption curve for it in the property management segment is well on its way.”
The technology adoption is following the standard pattern of technology adoption, according to Kunes. That means there is slow adoption in the beginning that picks up momentum as the pioneers take an industry lead and the new technology is proven to give an competitive edge. “Generally, like with older types of prop tech, once adoption begins, it just continues to grow,” he says. “The organizations that are quick to experiment with and adopt cutting edge technologies become more competitive in the market. That situation naturally sparks greater adoption amongst competitors, all of whom are looking to remain relevant in the space, if not trying to dominate certain regions or markets. So, yes, we suspect the adoption rate will continue to increase over the next several years.”
AppFolio is one of those pioneers. It is developing a suite of AI-enhanced tools specifically for property management companies. The firm is committed to expanding its AI tools, starting with payment and invoicing “We’re really starting to use AI to help our customers with the accounts payable process,” says Kunes. “Instead of customers paying millions of paper bills manually, we enable them to scan bills directly into the AppFolio system/platform, and our AI solution determines what accounting entries need to be created by extracting the data, pre-filling the form fields and, eventually, will enter that data for our customers.”
The firm has also launched a digital leasing assistant. While the tool is new, it has the potential to be a major disruptor for property managers. “AI handles all the communications and scheduling of prospective renters to visit open units, and much of that is done through text,” says Kunes. “It’s not a chatbot; it’s much more human-augmented, with the ability to field and answer questions that prospects might have about any open unit. It also has real humans on call as back up in case the algorithm gets confused. This creates a totally seamless experience for the prospect.”
The new tool is also going to be a benefit for leasing brokers. “It requires less time with prospects at the top of the funnel and allows for more time with prospects more likely to convert, in-person at the showing,” says Kunes. “Additionally, digital leasing agents are superior to call centers and, sometimes, even people in their effectiveness at getting prospects to physically come to a unit showing. Some property management companies have even seen occupancy increase by five to ten percent after just two months of using digital leasing agent products.”