Breaking Up with Multifamily Software?
5 Things You Need from New Tech
How do you find happiness after software heartbreak? HappyCo spoke with multifamily leaders to find out what they value most in operations solutions — and why they decided to break away when software wasn’t compatible.
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“It’s not an easy decision to move 30 to 50 properties from one software to another. It’s a big decision. But the price you pay for not making adjustments can sometimes set you back in unforgivable ways.”
CALCAP EVP and Managing Director Lani Porter admits that changing your tech stack can feel overwhelming. But, staying with a product that keeps disappointing? Porter finds this much harder to stomach, “because you already knew the issue was not going away.”
So, how should multifamily teams know it’s time to break away from software? And, what are the top five criteria they should seek in something new? HappyCo spoke to multifamily leaders to find out.
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Seeing “too many disparities”
Porter says the software CALCAP used before switching to HappyCo was refreshing at unexpected times, causing disparities in data and leaving teams uncertain about which property information they could trust.
Losing hope for technical fixes
Porter says her teams weren’t getting the support they needed to solve these syncing issues, so she started researching how other software providers were handling the same concerns. When she saw that the grass was much greener on the other side, she knew it was time for a switch.
Wasting time chasing answers
Meanwhile, Orion Property Group President Mike Napovanice says the grind of gathering data in disconnected systems had become too draining for teams at Orion. “In the old days, we had weekly reports done by hand on paper. On-site teams would have to take pics, then download and scan them in. All this took time, and since the information wasn’t in one place that I could see immediately, I had to take time calling regionals for the previous week’s reports.”
While these stressors inspired Porter and Napovanice to seek out other software options, the execs genuinely approached their search from a glass-half-full perspective. Here are the five criteria they valued most when choosing new multifamily tech.
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Straightforward templates for any skill level
All the best intentions go down the drain if multifamily software proves too complicated to actually use. In Porter’s view, “Adoption only works if you can simplify things to the most basic steps, creating templates that give people only what they need.”
Too many fields? Too overwhelming
Porter stresses: “Some companies create forms with everything you can think of on them. Maybe they think of 24 fields and put them all there when people only need six to eight.” In some cases, Porter says, operations leaders have to take steps on the back-end to streamline templates — far from the best use of their time.
Intuitive workflow from any device
Napovanice says compatibility with a range of devices — phones, tablets, laptops — is critical. From there, end users need to feel the expectations placed on them are crystal clear. Napovanice argues: “It has to be easy to understand what’s due, how to close out an inspection. There can’t be too many screens or options. Ideally, there’s a really straightforward ‘yes/no’ style rating.”
User-friendly interface, stress-free launch
Napovanice feels that an accessible interface is key to making launch a seamless process. And, in his view, “Having a smooth rollout process is critical because it gets people using the software immediately or deciding Day 1 that they’re turned off and don’t believe in the product anymore.”
Of course, multifamily software has to suit the needs of corporate teams, too. Porter and Napovanice share what leaders want to see.
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Templates designed to help properties thrive
Porter says the opportunity to leverage best practice templates is a strong selling point in software. She recalls: “We were drawn to HappyCo in the first place because we liked having the opportunity to modify best practice templates for all of our purposes.”
Inspections tailored to leadership’s lens
Napovanice says it was often the case that: “Regional managers would all have different ideas of what they felt was important at a property.” However, he’s happy to see a sea change now that Orion leadership can capture standardized data through Happy Inspector templates. In his view, it ensures “[Regionals] can now focus in on what we feel matters most.” Porter agrees: “As head of shop, I want to be choosing what’s relevant.”
Uses well beyond make ready
In Napovanice’s view, the ideal inspection software is flexible enough to let you experiment with use cases well beyond the expected make ready model. “We already use it for quality control, like marketing aspects, too. We’ve created inspections for our on-site teams to check that the website and phone numbers are up to date, that the flags are up and the model units are at the quality they should be.”
Yet, Porter and Napovanice emphasize: the prime trait for inspection software rests in something paper could never provide: all the property data in one place, uploaded instantly.
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Real-time facts, zero guesswork
To Napovanice, the ability to have inspection photos, notes, and attachments available in one system — in real-time — has added much-needed flexibility to maintenance workflows. “You immediately know what’s happening. You also have just one place to see everything, which means saving time not having to ask questions. I can check that data myself - any time I want.”
Easing tension with residents
Porter, meanwhile, is grateful that such transparent data can help ease tension where manual systems fell short. “With HappyCo, you have a history of conditions — photos aligned with notes — and this helps crush any friction over move-out damages. That’s where HappyCo pays for itself, as you’re able to eliminate pushback since you can capture much more information than you would have in the old days.”
Adding certainty in budget season
When budget season gets underway, Napovanice says it’s especially important to have time-stamped evidence should an expensive item need replacing. “Pictures really say 1,000 words. Now, investors can see with picture proof that a retaining wall was damaged, and needs budget allotted for the following year.”
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Identifying maintenance pain points
Porter says an inspection solution offering portfolio-wide data also helps teams think well beyond the most urgent issues. “Having a historical record with time-stamped photos helps you already from an empirical evidence standpoint, but it also helps you from a cost-saving perspective because you can easily gain a sense of a systematic problem — leaks, plumbing, etc — and then take action.”
Making systemwide connections
But, Porter feels having these metrics at her fingertips does more than help with maintenance trends. She stresses: “From a 30,000-foot level, you can now see a large pool of collective experiences, which helps you make decisions in budgeting, investment, staffing. It helps everyone on the team understand the source of any angst. It helps them bring to the forefront a case for change if it’s in order.”
Building motivated teams
With the right software in tow, Napovanice also sees potential for boosting morale among teams. “We use Happy Inspector data to acknowledge our top five inspectors of the month — an accomplishment that’s about how soon they’re getting the reports done and how much info is in them.”
Yet, Porter and Napovanice both stressed: if a software provider lacks a committed support team (and quality training resources), all of these benefits are out of reach. Here’s why.
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Turnover raises support expectations
Every multifamily company knows well the sting of turnover. So, what does that mean for teams leveraging software in day-to-day operations? They need their tech vendors to offer quality trainings and a range of support resources. As Porter puts it, “You shouldn’t just be looking at the capability of a provider. You should be looking at their support capabilities. A company can offer a great system, but since there’s lots of turnover in multifamily, it means the training process is ongoing.”
Timely responses, genuine partnership
Porter emphasizes just how important it is for support teams to respond promptly — and to offer thoughtful resources teams can turn to on the go. “It really requires a partnership from the software provider; they need to offer instructional resources that they invest in. If they don’t offer consistent support, then you’re not able to resolve issues in time for a 24-7, 365-day-a-year business like multifamily.”
Napovanice also believes partnership is the right framework to work from when considering new software. “Nobody likes changing procedures or changing processes, so if you find software that really works, you feel hopeful it will be the last one for years — forever. It’s like when you’re dating. When you’ve dated enough, you know it when you meet the right someone. You know it’s finally time to settle down.”
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