Is AI the Next Frontier for Property Management?

Is AI the Next Frontier for Property Management?

Own, or rent? If you live in a big city, odds are you do the latter. In the last decade, we’ve seen the largest gain in housing history as nine million households have become renters, with 60% of residents in cities like New York and San Francisco choosing to rent instead of buy.  

But with more rentals comes more multi-home property management, and with demand comes innovation. Artificial intelligence is one technology that appears on track to disrupt property management, and the outlook seems positive both for industry insiders and tenants.

The real estate industry is an old one ripe for reinvention, and a variety of new startups are providing the software to do just that. Artificial intelligence, in theory, could streamline communication between tenants and property managers, using smart software for rent payment, issue reporting, lease negotiations and more.

Zenplace is a prime example of this theory in action. The company, according to Forbes, “features an AI-powered service that works using chatbots and through devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which makes it effortless and convenient for tenants to pay rent easily, extend their lease and report issues with the property 24/7.”

Though only a human plumber can fix a leaky pipe, reporting the issue to AI when management office is closed could save everyone time, trouble, and even money. Since Zenplace is marketed toward owners who live away from the properties they manage, this convenience makes perfect sense.

Zenplace uses machine learning technology to let property managers find new tenants, locate cost-efficient vendors, and proactively recommend maintenance and management tasks. As Engadget details: “Using machine learning, Zenplace gives a heads-up to the owner that 47% of tenants typically will have an issue with the garbage disposal, and including a $5 wrench could avoid the otherwise inevitable $100 service call. Not only does that mean ease and simplicity for owners, it also means higher returns for owners and better maintenance of the property.”

The deal appears to be just as sweet for tenants, who, aside from paying rent and reporting problems, can manage bills (including TV and the Internet), manage security, and solve other property-related issues. The software is simple to use on both ends through a sleek app with a modern and intuitive design.

For renters that have historically had to deal with distant, over-worked landlords, adding some AI into the equation could be just the ticket to blissful living in big cities and beyond. And as tech-driven startups continue to change the game, competition in this department could be afoot sooner rather than later. 

How Refugees Help Revitalize New York Communities

How Refugees Help Revitalize New York Communities

Much ado has been made about the global refugee crisis, as well as the policies aimed to either help or bar refugees from resettlement. While the Trump Administration has done its best to limit refugee resettlement in the US, there are some regions of this country that remain hospitable— and given they have the real estate to fill, and benefits to reap, why not?

According to the New York Times, regions in New York state have reported that in influx of refugees have helped to revitalize communities by filling empty homes and storefronts and stimulating suffering economies. Of the 5,000 refugees New York accepted last fiscal year, 95 percent settled in upstate communities. Their gravitation to these areas was fortuitous for the refugees, who found low prices and jobs waiting; at the same time, their relocation has been a salve for cities suffering from population crises.

Buffalo, which has placed 100,000 refugees, has lived up to its nickname “The City of Good Neighbors” for this very reason. Burdened by an exodus of residents after losing keystone businesses, cities like Buffalo have been revitalized by newcomers, who make up a strong and stable immigrant population.

It’s true that an influx of refugees, some up-front costs follow in terms of government spending on immediate assistance. But economists estimate that the long-term gains make up for this quickly, as refugees are likely to stay rooted and contribute to the economy. For places facing population decline, the facts are clear: refugees are more of a boon to economic development than a burden.

Of course, in bigger metropolises like New York City population decline is not an issue. But NYC is not a stranger to immigrants or refugees. In 2015, Mayor De Blasio pledged to work with local institutions to place incoming refugees. Since the 2016 election, companies like Airbnb are filling empty real estate with refugees in need in NYC and beyond—once again, to mutual benefit, in this case to the company’s PR.

It seems clear that refugees are not only in need, but have value to provide, especially in areas with real estate to fill and jobs to spare. But if the new administration’s agenda proceeds as planned, it may be that cities like Buffalo continue to stagnate or decline.

The Next Generation of Property Management: Emerging Trends

The Next Generation of Property Management: Emerging Trends

Like just about every other industry in our rapidly-changing world, property management is in a constant state of evolution—so long as those in the industry are willing to stay in sync with the latest trends. At a recent event hosted by CRE Tech (Commercial Real Estate Technology) at the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) in Manhattan, industry thought leaders discussed how technology is transforming property management, and what these trends mean for the future of real estate.

Though CRE primarily focuses on commercial real estate management, the same trends influencing commercial real estate are gaining prominence in residential. Here are some of the trends they discussed, and how they are transforming all forms of property management in America.

AR & VR for Space Planning & Marketing

Augmented and virtual reality may bring gaming to mind first and foremost, but for real estate, they have pretty big implications. At the event, Marc Rehberger of Matterport led a session about how 2D representations of flat data are being transformed into 3D renderings of complex datasets, providing more insight on physical spaces than ever.

Matterport creates virtual tours for buyers and renters to provide immersive, online viewing experiences of real-world spaces. As technologies like theirs gain prominence, virtual tours of commercial and residential real estate will become commonplace. This capability is one that property management companies should take note of, or even adopt, to stay ahead of the curve.  

Cloud Services for Real Estate Management

Another educational session was led by Peter Boritz of Real Data Management (RDM), who discussed the potential of the cloud as a platform for innovation in the real estate industry. Smart property managers, Boritz explained, will adopt cloud technology to manage properties and entire business ecosystems on-demand with great efficiency.

RDM’s software and solutions are tailor-made for the commercial real estate industry, and their flagship software RealAccess is designed to help real estate professionals market, manage and lease their entire portfolio with ease.

Cybersecurity for Smart Properties

Buildings are becoming more and more connected to the Internet of Things, making cybersecurity is a growing concern. As real estate takes on this extra virtual layer, the protection of its digital property becomes as critical as its physical one; in many cases, the two are linked.

At CRE Tech’s event, Michael Mullin of Integrated Business Systems (IBS) explained why this is a growing concern for the real estate industry, and a potential liability as well.

Experience Management & Community Building

The event also delved into the idea that property management must take on “experience management” and community building to adapt to the changing nature of life and work. Building Engine’s Scott Sidman led a session on this concept and the necessity of a shift in approach to management.

Building Engines provides software that helps property managers set service delivery priorities, alert and notify tenants, vendors, and staff, and track performance against goals. Their software was designed “from the ground up,” first gleaning insight from industry thought leaders and customer feedback, then building a unified platform with their needs in mind. This people-oriented approach is one reason Sidman believes property managers need to view their duties more holistically moving forward.

Tech Improving Operations & Efficiency

Lastly, a distinguished panel of industry experts addressed the more general idea that technology can help improve the overall operations and efficiency of property management. The panel discussed smart buildings, technology adoption by tenants and property managers, data transparency and sustainability, among other pertinent topics.

The overall theme is that technology is—and will continue—shaping property management’s advancement. Embracing these trends will help tenants and industry insiders alike move more seamlessly, and harmoniously, into the future of real estate.

The Many Stories of New York’s Skyscraper Museum

The Many Stories of New York’s Skyscraper Museum

New York city’s iconic skyline doesn’t just attract tourists: it frames the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

It is difficult to imagine such a familiar fixture changing or evolving, especially when that silhouette is synonymous with the Big Apple. But what forces shaped, defined, and etched that skyline into the minds of people around the world?

The Skyscraper Museum located in downtown Manhattan–Battery Park–attempts to answer that often-unasked question. A skyscraper–particularly in a city with some of the most expensive real estate in the world–represents many different things to many people: investment, design, technology, and destination. How and why were skyscrapers first conceived? And once built, what do they become?

The museum’s permanent collection features handmade models of downtown and midtown, as well as models of some of the world’s tallest buildings. The evolution of skyscrapers and the race for the title of tallest building has led to constant iteration worldwide, particularly in newer cities such as Dubai. And with the additional stories come amazing feats of engineering and technology, to allow a structure to safely ascend vertically.

Juxtaposing the skyscrapers of today with the monoliths of the past, like Notre Dame and the pyramids, paints a picture of humans reaching for new heights over centuries and millennia. The past century has certainly seen the fastest advancement of that goal, particularly in urban development.

The museum’s current exhibit Ten & Taller charts the history of ‘skyscrapers’ by mapping buildings from the past 150 years that reached at least ten stories: quite an achievement in terms of the technology available during the late nineteenth century! Many of these contemporary ‘skyscrapers’ are no longer standing.

The exhibit was built on the work of structural engineer Donald Friedman, who spent years researching the shift from masonry to steel architecture. The museum obtained information about and photos of skyscrapers that had been demolished. For this exhibit, the museum indexed, organized, and shared the information online in grid, map, and timeline views.

From these resources, one gets the sense that the city not only looked different back in the day, but felt different. When ten stories is considered tall, the city probably felt a lot less towering and sprawling than it does presently. Although, at the time, buildings ten stories high may have been considered an unsettling novelty.

The skyscrapers of old that have since been demolished were sometimes historic fixtures, like the 1875 Tribune building. But equally as interesting as the buildings that were torn down are the buildings that remain standing–well over a hundred. Many of these structures would be impossible to greenlight today, based on the city’s current (convoluted) building codes. Although buildings are not as often dismantled in a dense city like New York, they are almost constantly renovated, which adds another dimension to the urban facade.

Previous exhibitions at the Skyscraper Museum have explored the implications of skyscrapers and their expanding role in urban development. Times Square, 1984 chronicled a crucial juncture for the development of this infamously busy hub and popular tourist destination. The Woolworth Building @ 100 tells the story of the iconic Woolworth Building a century after it was built. Frank Lloyd Wright: The Vertical Dimension explores the famous architect’s fascination with skyscrapers, although of his many designs, only two were ever built, and neither in New York. THE RISE OF WALL STREET traces the increasingly vertical growth of one prosperous New York neighborhood. GARDEN CITY | MEGA CITY highlights an architectural firm building in urban South and Southeast Asia with an emphasis on integrated green space. And SUPERTALL! surveys ambitious 21st century skyscraper projects.

Skyscrapers will only grow taller, slimmer, and smarter in the coming century, as more and more are built in growing urban areas. So pay a visit to the Skyscraper Museum today, to see what the race for air space is all about!

The Greenest Ways to Go

The Greenest Ways to Go

The concept of green burials is not a new one — in fact, it once was the norm, with burials using wooden boxes occurring at home, or on family-owned property. At the turn of the 19th century, when deaths moved from homes to hospitals and funeral parlors, the post-death rituals we practice today became widely adopted.

But, as Novel Property Venture’s co-founder Bennat Berger discussed previously, Americans are expressing a growing interest in dying sustainably. Digging up reliable data in this realm can be challenging, as reliable figures on green funeral and burial practices are rarely kept and hard to come by. Still, even if not directly quantifiable, our cultural attitudes toward death seem to be changing. As the subject of death becomes less taboo and public interest in the environment continues to grow, greener burials may represent the final frontier of environmental sustainability.

More than a niche issue, the fate we choose for our bodies after life and the environmental impact of those choices is generating an increasing amount of public interest. Within limited urban real estate, cemeteries frequently lie in well-trafficked neighborhoods; their management — or the lack thereof — is highly visible.

As plots continue fill up with cemetery space at a premium, cities confront questions surrounding public health, religion, and community relations. When it comes to dying, no hot topic is left untouched, from safety to sustainability, issues of green space and inclusion to public policy, urban planning and economics.

Some experts have expressed the view that those who understand the earth’s ecosystem and human beings’ place within it will choose to die sustainably. Like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who wants his body to be “buried not cremated, so that the energy contained gets returned to the earth, so the flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined,” more people are engineering innovative solutions to merge sustainability and death.

Selected sustainable death ideas which have attracted attention of late:

  • Designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel propose the concept of being buried in biodegradable pods, which become fertilizer for trees planted on top. The egg-shaped pod they created, Capsula Mundi, is designed to decompose underground.
  • Natural Causes is an Infinity Burial Suit exhibition co-curated by Coeio, a “green burial” company that created their suit as an alternative to traditional funerary practices. The burial suit spawned from an unlikely inspiration: mushrooms. The fungi are envisioned as a way to naturally decompose dead bodies.
  • Some people are opting for “green cremation,” which is executed by way of alkaline hydrolysis. The process dissolves the body into a liquid, but in the end the body can still be returned as ashes. Alkaline hydrolysis uses less energy than traditional cremation, which also pollutes the atmosphere by releasing harmful gases.
  • For her master’s thesis at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Katrina Spade founded the Urban Death Project, an ambitious plan to build a system for composting human bodies after death and turning them back into soil. Her proposal includes building Urban Death centers, three-story structures that contain a “core,” where bodies decompose inside.
Escape NYC’s Winter Tundra with Planet Earth II

Escape NYC’s Winter Tundra with Planet Earth II

If you’re looking for ways to escape the urban tundra of New York City this winter, plan on staying in to enjoy a good TV series. The hit Planet Earth TV series returned for another season in the UK in 2016 to provide a portrait of life on Earth. The BBC original series was the most expensive documentary ever broadcast and took five years to make. Planet Earth II affords the chance to experience the world through the eyes of animals, a spellbinding program that will take you to different environments to see what it’s like to live and play in different habitats of planet Earth.

The series takes you to the remote Caribbean Islands, the world’s greatest mountain ranges, the jungles of Costa Rica, scorching deserts, and even cities to see how animals survive and thrive. Each episode takes you to one habitat so you’ll want to tune in for the entire season to discover different environments. You’ll get to see the lives of all sorts of creatures as they make their way through the days and can also see the beauty and wonders of the world along the way. Some episodes are more lighthearted in nature, even comical. Others are more dramatic and violent, showcasing the unique survival skills different species of animals must develop in order to live and thrive in the animal kingdom.

The dramatic scenes, high-quality footage and compelling narrative make this mini-series one of the most riveting documentaries of the year. The original score was created by legendary composer Hans Zimmer and the series was produced by BBC Studios Natural History Unit. David Ranklin Attenborough is the wildlife broadcaster for the show. You’ll find plenty of clips and an extended trailer for the show on the BBC Earth YouTube channel.

The British documentary series was first broadcast in November 2006 and the final episode date was December 11, 2016. It will air in the United States starting January 28, 2017, on BBC America so be sure to mark your calendar to catch the show this winter. If you can’t wait that long and are eager to see it, you can watch a few clips of the series online — don’t miss the pink flamingoes trying to walk across thin ice, the snake attack on iguana hatchlings, and the swimming sloth searching for its mate.

You can also learn more about your favorite animals or get updates about BBC Earth’s upcoming shows on the BBC Earth website.

There are six episodes and a compilation episode, “A World of Wonder”, that provides highlights of all six adventures that take you to islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and cities. A World of Wonder is scheduled to air in the UK on January 1, 2017. The series has been released in the UK on a two-disc DVD and Blu-ray box sets. Diehard fans can also pick up the accompanying book written by Steven Moss. The book was published by BBC Books and released on October 6, 2016.

Planet Earth II aired on BBC One on Sunday nights. If you can catch some clips of the show or tune in to recorded versions of the show this winter, it’s the perfect reason to cozy up in front of the television and escape to another world for a few hours.