Morgan Properties, a national real estate investment and management company based in Pennsylvania, owns and manages multifamily properties, including 350 apartment communities and over 95,000 units across 20 states.
The organization’s recent activity in the industry includes partnerships with: Wilshire Lane Capital, a California-based venture capital proptech firm which aims to test its technology on Morgan’s units, and NewPoint, a real estate finance proptech, to launch an affordable housing platform that connects “private capital with government-subsidized products.”
Morgan Properties also recently acquired two portfolios of eight apartment communities and 2,986 units in Illinois and Indiana, totaling $410 million. This brought its management portfolio to 2,035 units in Illinois and 3,692 units in Indiana.
FinLedger spoke with Amy Weissberger, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Morgan Properties about new technology and its expansion strategies, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in real estate and valuing people as the organization’s greatest asset.
Q: With regards to Morgan Property’s journey with proptech, how have the technology and the strategies evolved over the years?
A: Morgan Properties has always looked at technology as a way to improve our customer experience, both our external customers, our residents, and also for our employees. For years we’ve been looking at technology and how we can utilize it to to make things better for the site staff, the back office team, and most importantly our residents. We made changes throughout the years, right? We’ve never said, “We’re one and done. We’re just going to use this one product.”
We’ve always looked at what’s out there and what’s next. And as we’ve acquired more and more communities and companies, we haven’t rested on what we’ve always done. We’ve looked at what’s out there, and asked, “Can we improve on our current operations and our current systems?”
I would say that Jason Morgan and his brother Jon, both of them, the owners of our company both have the mindset of what is going to be our competitive advantage as we get bigger? Is it technology and how can we get better as we continue to grow.
It’s by looking at technology and having a team of people on the innovation side saying, while a product might not be quite ready for prime time today, it could be there in the next three-five years with a little nurturing and a partnership. And it might be able to scale to the rest of our communities.
That’s sort of where they’ve been thinking, “How can we use technology?” It may not be quite there yet, but how can we help companies that have a good idea or good concept, that are working through ways to get better. What’s next and how can we partner with them and make it scale, so that if we can help them develop their software, they’re going to help us, too. That’s sort of been our strategy.
Q: What are your biggest takeaways when it comes to testing and integrating efficient technology across your portfolio?
A: Setting up what you want from that program, whatever it is, and having some clear KPIs, clear goals, timelines and deadlines for when you expect to hit them. That’s an important piece of what we look at, and we have a process for how we vet technology and how we vet what’s going to work for us.
There’s a whole team of us with different perspectives that are looking at it, and feedback that we gather. But before we make a decision, we sort of know what it is that would make something a win or a miss, and we have deadlines for when we’re looking to achieve those.
And look, they’re flexible. Things change when you’ve got new software and new technologies. But at some point you can’t let pilots go on forever. You either have to roll them or you have to kill them.
Q: Are there any technologies you think may not be developed enough today, but you think will drive efficiency in the future?
A: I think that AI from both a new customer perspective and for your existing customers, whatever that looks like for people who are inquiring about apartments, responding to them, residents who already live with us who have questions or work orders, or we want to do some follow up with them. Say they’re behind in their rent.
I think that AI is getting there, but I don’t think that any one product that I’ve seen yet is fully quite mature enough that it’s going to hit all of those pieces. That’s one area.
Q: Can you tell me about Morgan Properties’ acquisitions in North Carolina, Illinois and Indiana?
A: But I can tell you that we’re excited to continue our growth and we’re excited to expand our geographic footprint. We try to pick areas where we have a presence and we want to continue to grow our presence in those up and coming areas. That’s pretty much how we got to be where we are in those markets.
Q: Based on your observations, how has Wilshire Lane Capital provided you with help in managing properties?
A: So Wilshire Lane Capital, that partnership has been pretty exciting for all of us on the innovation team because they’re partnering with us to look at these companies that are coming to us day in and day out, and they’re vetting them in a different way than we vet them.
They’re looking at them from their set of criteria that they use, while we’re looking at them specifically from the operational side of things. We have insight that they don’t have, and they have insight that we don’t have.
That partnership has really has made us both stronger I think, as we look to select what’s going to be next for Morgan. We know that if we really like a product and Wilshire Lane really likes the product, and we can partner together to help that company, we know that that’s going to scale not just to Morgan, but it’s going to help others in our industry.
Q: With regards to the company’s recent $410 million expansion in the Midwest, could you state some multifamily housing trends in this part of the United States from a strategic point of view?
A: I think across the board, regardless of geographically where you are, there are some specific trends that I see. I see a few.
One is regarding the screening of new applicants coming in, and using technology to eliminate or reduce fraud. That’s been a big pain point in our industry, regardless of where you are. So identification verification, employment verification and automating some of that, that’s something that I see.
I also am seeing a call for centralization of leasing. That’s regardless of where you are, too. As your geographic footprint expands like ours has, it becomes even more important because you have to staff more and more sites, maintenance, operationally and from the offices. Everybody’s trying to figure out how do you do more with less.
Q: What are some plans Morgan Properties has for the future that we should look out for?
A: Morgan has lots of plans as far as continuing to grow our company and continuing to be a leader as far as our resident engagement, and a leader as far as our employee engagement and retention.
We’re looking at ways not just from use of technology, but we’re looking at ways that we can continually attract and retain the best and the brightest there are in the industry. I would say that Morgan realizes that the number one strength in our whole company is its people. That’s the number one asset. And so as we continue to grow, we’re trying to figure out ways that we can continue to support the number one asset, which is people.
In other recent proptech news, PLACE, a “brokerage-agnostic” proptech company, launched 37 teams to expand into 35 states in the U.S. and Canada. MHN also released its “Top 50 Multifamily Property Management Firms of 2022” report, with self-reported operating data from top U.S. multifamily management firms.