Welcome to the land technology forgot. High-end leases negotiated and signed via fax. Millions of dollars in apartment inventory — in some of the hottest real estate markets in the country — tracked on whiteboards with dry-erase markers. Client histories recorded in longhand in legal notebooks and stashed in manila folders.
Multi-family real estate (i.e. apartment buildings) is one the fastest-growing sectors in the country right now. In fact, investment hit a record $43 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, and multi-family units now account for more than one-third of all new housing.
But the multi-family sector has long proved one of the most resistant to technological change. Owing partly to an old guard of landlords and owners, and partly to the relationship-driven nature of the business, the kinds of cloud-based apps and innovations that have transformed other sectors have failed to make inroads into one of the biggest.
But a flurry of developments in the past few years means change may finally be on the horizon.
For starters, shifting lifestyles in the U.S. have sent demand for rentals through the roof. America’s rental population is expected to grow by 4.2 million people between 2015 and 2025, according to a recent Harvard study. Post-traumatic stress from the recent mortgage crisis and a younger generation less attached to home ownership is fast making renting thenew American choice. The push to rent is reflected in plummeting vacancy rates in major cities, which hover at around 1.75 percent in Manhattan and 2.7 percent in L.A., for instance.