In line with our mission to provide valuable thought leadership for the rental housing industry, we’re featuring multifamily experts whom we’ve had the honor of welcoming to our advisory board.
In this month’s edition of LeaseLock Advisory Board Q&A Spotlight, we are excited to highlight a highly-esteemed multifamily influencer — Marcie Williams, President of Rivergate KW Residential (RKW). Bringing over 20 years of industry experience in the Southeast, Marcie is the overall leader of all aspects of multifamily property management operations, new business development, and strategy. Next month, she will serve as Co-Chair at NMHC OPTECH 2021. Perhaps most notably, Marcie has built RKW to become one of the nation’s fastest growing multifamily management companies.
As an active thought leader in the community, Marcie was recently named one of the Most Admired CEO’s in Charlotte and also earned the 25 Most Influential Women in Business Designation by the Charlotte Business Journal. GlobeSt also listed Marcie as a Multifamily Influencer in 2020. Additionally, she is an active member of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association and is the recipient of several industry awards including Manager of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Instructor of the Year and The Lex Marsh Award for Lifetime Achievement. Most recently, Marcie was inducted into the 2021 Apartment Association of North Carolina Hall of Fame for her various contributions, accomplishments, and service to the multifamily industry.
We interviewed Marcie to learn about her take on the latest trends, challenges, and strategies, as well as forward-looking operations — read on below:
LeaseLock: While the federal eviction moratorium has been lifted, the rental housing industry continues to feel the strain of accessing rent assistance. How can operators work with legislators to more efficiently and effectively distribute rental assistance to residents most in need?
Marcie Williams: We have been successful in utilizing the local apartment associations’ resources to unite as an industry and make a larger impact with our legislators to help our residents. With many companies coming together, we can aggregate our needs to help our residents holistically.
Affordable housing is in short supply — what strategies can the apartment housing industry employ to address affordability challenges for renters in today’s economic climate?
MW: With rental rate growth for both new leases and renewals in the double digits, it can put an additional burden on the resident to lease the apartment of their choice. The cost of moving is still a strain as well, and that’s where lease insurance can really help. Offering lease insurance rather than requiring the resident to pay a large deposit at move-in can ease the dollars needed to move, helping the resident and the property owner.
We’ve observed several new renter behaviors take shape since the start of the pandemic including signing for longer lease terms, using flexible rent payment solutions, shifting to remote work, relocating to more affordable markets, among others. What are your thoughts on the modern renter’s profile, and how is your organization meeting new renter demands?
MW: Our company has always been flexible and nimble, but now it is a necessity versus a luxury. Renters’ needs will continue to evolve and we are always planning for the future. But at the same time, renters have always wanted a blend of convenience and personal attention, which hasn’t changed. They want the convenience of self-serve, such as on-the-go amenities that are available 24/7 and the ability to be able to speak with someone immediately when there is a need or problem. We can be flexible and adjust to the renters’ evolving needs and wants.
As a firm that delivers expertise in multifamily management through its technology, marketing and customer experience platforms, what are RKW’s criteria for implementing effective property management technology solutions that both elevate its brand values and its resident’s experience?
MW: At RKW, we are always testing new technology and innovative platforms that will advance the service levels of our teams for our residents and clients. We test these solutions by implementing at a small sampling of our communities to ensure the effectiveness and viability before we roll anything out company wide. The technology should increase the value of the community by saving our teams’ time, allowing them to serve the needs of our residents in a better way.
Hiring and retaining talent is one of the top challenges for firms — as the nation’s second-fastest growing multifamily management company in 2020, how is RKW able to hire and retain top talent?
MW: Despite RKW being a younger company (founded in 2014), we do have many employees who have been with us for five or six years. We prioritize their long-term career goals and put professional development programs in place so those objectives can be realized. Multifamily firms may be able to compete for talent dollar for dollar in some instances, but they must find non-monetary ways to foster loyalty in today’s competitive environment.
What NOI improvement strategies has your organization leaned into this year? And why are they so important?
MW: We have implemented new ideas from an income stream, such as additional revenue sources that the residents can benefit from, as well as package locker systems to smart home technologies. On the expense side, we are fortunate to have innovative and creative vendor partners that help streamline our processes and add new products that will increase the bottom line.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for apartment housing operators as we near the end of 2021?
MW: Finding the right people for our communities and corporate support staff has been a big challenge for our industry. As the multifamily industry grows and more apartments are developed, we need more talent to staff the communities and corporate team members to support them. Successfully recruiting the necessary talent comes down to a combination of competitive salaries, strong benefits, emphasizing work-life balance and clearly articulating the long-term growth potential your firm offers.
Looking beyond 2021, what is your perspective on multifamily opportunities?
MW: The multifamily industry remains strong and continues to perform during the pandemic. Smart multifamily operations will continue to keep this industry moving forward to benefit our residents and owners.
Why did you select LeaseLock to offer your time, talent, and expertise as an advisory board member?
MW: I appreciate vendor partners that offer creative and helpful solutions for our residents. The team behind LeaseLock has been incredibly supportive to the needs of our organization and our people.