BRE Properties Inc. has an itch for the Internet, one that has earned its shareholders a new company.

Later this month, the multifamily real estate investment trust will spin off and take public VelocityHSI Inc., a division it formed to provide Internet services and invest in Corrigo Inc., an area startup with software for creating a Web-based maintenance program.

BRE will distribute one share of VelocityHSI stock for every five shares of BRE stock held by BRE shareholders. The company expects to complete its Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration and make the distribution on Aug. 15.

Corrigo, the new company’s Redwood City, Calif.-based investment, was discovered thanks to BREs desire to Internet enable its property maintenance program while improving customer service, reducing employee turnover and saving money. No small task.

After a beta test of Corrigo’s Web and wireless-enabled software, BRE President and CEO Frank McDowell was ready not only to expand its use within the company, but also invest in the company. In addition to putting maintenance for all 86 of its apartment communities online, BRE bought an eighth of Corrigo’s $17.5 million funding round earlier this year.

McDowell and COO Lee Carlson, convinced the investment will be a winner, are also convinced it’s worth it just for the savings to BRE’s core mission. The online process lends itself to better communication between the company and the residents, and more support to the mobile maintenance man, “which means less turnover in a position that is hard to fill,” McDowell said.

Moreover, said McDowell, if a worker does a better job, residents stay longer. “If we reduce turnover not only in maintenance people, but in renters just fractionally, it’s a huge number in our business,” added Carlson. “If they stay an extra three months, it’s huge dollars.”

Every apartment turnover costs the REIT no less than $1,500, Carlson said. “We don’t have exact numbers,” said McDowell, “but it is saving us money.”

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