In this column, I have written at length about how 2019 is the year for “smart” technologies. These encompass both commercial and residential real estate; as well as, to a degree since it is a vastly more complex subject matter, the public realm. We recently looked at what “smart” can look like in the commercial space, so what is it like in residential? One way residential real estate can be “smart” is through the careful integration of IOT and software. This is for the benefit of residents, but also for efficient and effective building and portfolio management by their landlords.
SightPlan, the top provider of maintenance and resident service software within the US multifamily industry, is one of the companies that has turned this vision into a winning proposition. The Orlando-based startup launched its product in 2015, and today has over 600,000 multifamily units on its platform, with a growth rate of 30,000 new units per month! The SightPlan team exclusively shared with me that they just closed their Series B round with multifamily industry-backed VC RET Ventures, in a bid to further grow the company’s customer base and build collaborative partnerships with some of the fund’s other portfolio companies.
When Founder and President Joseph Westlake set up SightPlan in 2013, he recognized that a lot of change was swiftly happening in the multifamily industry. Resident profiles had changed a lot since the financial crisis, with people staying longer in rented accommodation as home ownership had lost some of its appeal. The properties themselves were becoming more sophisticated in terms of tech implementation both in homes and in the buildings. The industry structure was also changing rapidly with increased consolidation of ownership and of management at the portfolio level. However, the operational tools on-site teams were using were stuck 20 years in the past.
SightPlan set out to become the platform from which service to the multifamily community could be effectively managed. This is an essential part of the multifamily value proposition as, according to Satisfacts’ “Getting Inside the Head of Today’s Online Renter” report, three of the top five factors impacting rental decision are linked to service quality perception and it grows to four of the top five for residents’ renewal decisions.
Further to this, CEO Terry Danner, a multifamily veteran with 28 years’ experience in the industry, explained to me that the growth of high-rise communities coupled with ever-larger portfolios means that there is a growing need for corporate insight into what is going on at the site level. The industry is growing dramatically (with an addition of 300 to 400 thousand units a year for the past decade), and the staffing just can’t keep up, so SightPlan’s tech is also used to leverage the existing site staff to get things done.
In practical terms, SightPlan combines the geospatial representation of a property with all the activity and work that needs to be done in it. The system allows owners to share specialized teams across communities because information is perfectly shared, and also reduces re-education related to turnover. SightPlan also provides tools for residents to report issues (via photos, a virtual assistant or by calling it in) and the system’s AI will categorize the issue and its urgency and then assign the relevant task to the appropriate staff member. External contractors can be leveraged via the system, and they are tagged to each issue that is relevant to them. The majority of service requests are automatically generated by pre-determined business rules. For example, when a tenant notifies they want to leave, the system auto-generates a task to get the unit ready for the next resident.
SightPlan can integrate with property management software as well as resident facing tools such as remote access controls, smart automation, and resident apps. It provides practical insights for operators and can integrate with their business intelligence systems, all in the name of greater service and better efficiency. The company is so confident in the quality of its product that it doesn’t tie in customers to long term contracts but runs on a monthly subscription basis.
Customers seem to love it. Joanna Zabriskie, President of BH Management told me that “SightPlan has been a trusted partner as we’ve worked to modernize the way we manage our communities and interact with our residents. Their impact on our operations extends from resident service through preventive maintenance, turns, inspections, and risk management. Our team members are now better equipped than ever to improve the condition of the communities they serve while providing our residents with the exceptional service they expect from BH Management communities.”
The multifamily space is one that excites investors because of its strong growth. According to the US Census Bureau, renters have become the majority in 22 of the largest cities in the US. Danner told me that, though they had interest from several players in the VC community, it was important for SightPlan to bring in an investor who understands the industry and make strategic introductions: “Our industry is getting more complex, not less, and our tools need to leap forward and make work easier for our site teams. SightPlan is on a mission to reinvent service management for our industry, and the partnership with RET Ventures enables us to do so along with some of the brightest minds from the REIT, Management and Ownership domains of our business.”
RET Ventures Managing Partner John Helm believes they’ve definitely bet on the right horse. “After speaking with our limited partners and other companies in the space, it became clear that SightPlan was running away with the category and was consistently winning the big accounts. We saw an opportunity to back the emerging leader and help them become the dominant company in their category. Also, the team is very experienced within Multifamily and we believe that knowledge is critical to building a business in this industry. The industry has a complicated structure and Terry Danner, the CEO, and the rest of the team know multifamily inside and out.”
So, what’s next for SightPlan? The company is planning to use this raise to scale its growth. It is investing heavily in engineering and service as a top priority, as well as account management towards clients. Having only started pushing sales recently, once certain of the product and of existing customer support, SightPlan can be expected to accelerate rapidly from here.
- Originally posted on Forbes