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Liat Kozuch

5 Minutes in Multifamily with Donje Putnam

5 Minutes in Multifamily: Episode #10

Recorded on June 1 by Hyro

5 Minutes in Multifamily—a new video series featuring real estate and #proptech experts sharing their insights on key industry topics and trends, all under 5 minutes. Well, usually under 5 minutes.

For this episode, we were honored to welcome Donje Putnam, Regional Property Manager at S. L. Nusbaum Realty Co. - one of the largest real estate development companies in the southeastern United States. They offer a full spectrum of real estate services, including multifamily, office, industrial, retail, land and investment sales and leasing, third party property management, mixed-use development, commercial development, multi-family development, apartment leasing and a full menu of financial services.

Donje shares her perspective on:

  • The importance of facilitating personalized journeys, from customization to relevance, and beyond
  • Managing turnover especially in a post-pandemic world, alongside rolling out new technology effectively by understanding how people learn
  • Look out for centralized offices as the next trend in multifamily, using tech and AI to overcome the gaps

About Donje:



[00:00:00] Monica: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining. Absolutely thrilled to have Donje Putnam on today as our guest. Donje If you don't mind, just kicking us off with a quick introduction of who you are, where you're working and how long you've been in the industry.

[00:00:28] Donje: Hey, I'm happy to be here. Again, my name is Donje incase you didn't catch that. I work for SL Nusbaum here in Hampton roads, Virginia, and I'm a regional property manager for a fine little portfolio of apartments going through renovation. So it's really exciting times for me. I've been in the industry since the 1840s. I started in college as a leasing consultant, working part-time and had fell in love with it because like my life mission is to create community and this job allows me to do it all the time. So I'm really excited that I'm in the multifamily industry.

[00:01:06] Monica: so thrilled to hear your perspective, especially with such a passion for creating community. So let's kick it off with question number one.

What are the top three things that owners and property management companies should be thinking about for 2022?

Donje: So I have a little bit of a background in marketing and operations. So I'm gonna talk about two different perspectives, three, four, I don't know. First from a marketing perspective and a resident experience perspective, I think it's really important to think about personalized journeys.

This is something that I've really been thinking about and talking about with some multifamily people is making sure that your prospects and residents feel like you're treating them as an individual and not just a number and what I think that involves. If they tell you that they have a pet and they're looking for a two bedroom, then don't serve them content for a one bedroom in a non pet friendly community.

So listening to what they're saying, and then even carrying it into the move in process where you're. Cus, if they have a pet, for example, you are customizing their welcome letter and you're giving them like, Hey, our closest grooms is right over here. And we have a pet park right over here just making that feel, really engaging to them.

So that's one of the things that I am looking into and I think is really important for our industry. I think the end of the R P. The government assistance for COVID and the start of evictions and things moving forward with that is something that we all need to be keeping an eye on and trying to figure out what we're gonna do when that money runs out and how we're gonna help our residents stay in their homes, that they can find new places and the big turnover management that we may be coming up against.

And then my third. Actually both, these were operations. I think rent restrictions are something that we should be paying attention to. I know here in Virginia, there's a lot of talk because of the inflation and how we've been able to push rents because we've had no availability here. A lot of mumblings about maybe we should put a cap on renewals.

Maybe we should put a cap on rents. And I know, I think in San Francisco, you already have things going on like this, but I think nationwide with inflation, that's something that our industry should be paying attention to and figuring out how to deliver the message that. Rent control is not necessarily the answer.

Sometimes it's making it the way easier to build new products. And sometimes we get in our own way for that, because there's so much restriction on construction. 

Monica: Thank you so much. I think it's super interesting with your background and the passion for creating community, that everything is focused around that, the customization and relevance, and then being aware of what's happened in the last couple of years to the root restrictions.

What are some risks for companies who are hesitant to adapt to today's digital demands and changes?

[00:04:25] Donje: Okay. So the first one I thought of was failure to launch. So we all know change is hard for everybody. And when you're adapting a new technology, you're pushing it all the way down through leasing or even through leasing and maintenance. If you're like onboarding a product that helps you do digital work tickets or something like that.

So effectively launching something is really important in that you can't launch new technology via email . A lot of times company are like, Hey, we have a new product. Here's how it works. And it's just text and understanding how people learn and understanding how how to effectively roll out new tech is really important for companies to be paying attention to and get.

Maybe outside of yourself, if you're, if you have a hard time adopting tech with somebody who's effectively rolled out process. And then the second thing is failure to integrate correctly. So if you have a product that you are selling to a property management company and you say it integrates, and it doesn't work correctly, then you're not gonna get the adoption and it's not gonna be as sticky as you want it to be.

And they're gonna, they're gonna drop you. And integration is hard because property management softwares are all different company. Work processes are all different and. Technology's always changing. So making sure that, that integration into their work, into the company's workflow and as a property manager or a owner, you're thinking about how that integration works and making sure you're asking the right questions of your provider.

Your tech provider is really crucial to getting that off the ground. 

[00:06:03] Monica: Okay. So it sounds like the biggest things are, if you're struggling with adopting, maybe work with a consultant and then focus on adoption and the integrations. 

[00:06:14] Donje: Yes. I would say making it. Easy to use and making sure it works correctly in a nutshell.

[00:06:23] Monica: That sounds great. Thank you so much. Okay.

So what are you reading/listening to? 

[00:06:32] Donje: I listen to a lot of podcasts in our industry and there's so many, but one thing that I'm reading that I wanted to kinda share with you because of my marketing background, I'm really enjoying this newsletter called click C L I.

No CLI KK. It was actually a, I was targeted on Facebook for them and I signed up for it and it's really got good information for marketers to help multi-family marketers think outside the box. 

[00:06:58] Monica: Love it. I love hearing from other industries and seeing what they're doing better. So that's awesome.

Who are some of the trailblazers in the industry, and how can we learn from them?

[00:07:17] Donje: Okay. I have four. So I used to work at 30 lines with Mike whaling and he is always thinking of the future.

I love talking to him and I love the way he thinks about marketing and leasing. I think that he's an expert in that area and if you are on LinkedIn, you should follow him and just read what he's saying. Cause he's always thinking. He thinks a lot. And I thought this was funny. I was gonna try to do all mics, but I had to throw some other folks in here, but Mike Brewer has it's like a video podcast that he does and he reads more than half of us put together.

He reads so much. So he has a lot of great thoughts on multifamily industry leadership and just management. And I really get a lot out of listening to his. His videos. And then Mary Gwen is someone who I get a lot. Of information about, she's very passionate about the employee experience and maintenance and how to get maintenance involved, how to keep maintenance, happy, how to reduce turnover in your company.

And I've really got a lot of information from her. And if you follow her on LinkedIn, she posts, there's a lady in her office that post puns. And they're just great. every time I see one I'm like, it just makes meץ And then Vicky sharp. The first I belonged to H a C, which is a subset of Thema, which is a subset of NAA here in Virginia.

And the very first C meeting I went to was with Vicky sharp. And she talked about maintenance and running. Things efficiently. And I still, I can't remember the specifics, but I know that I still apply things from that morning coffee that was like 10 years ago today. And I'm always watching what she's saying and doing, because she really thinks about the whole picture of operations and has some really good information for those of us who are trying to think about how to make things work better.

It's just good. Good. 

[00:09:21] Monica: awesome. So we've got two mics, Mary and Vicky to follow. Yeah. Thank you so much. 

[00:09:25] Donje: Yeah, I could have last question. it's all. 

[00:09:29] Monica: It's hard to choose. Question number five.

What do you think is the next big trend in the multifamily industry?

[00:09:37] Donje: So I have three things. One, I think, centralized offices.

Traditionally we have a leasing, consulted assistant manager on each of our port, like our offices. And I think with, if we don't solve the staffing issue one thing we might be looking at is putting people one place and using technology such as AI, Chad, getting more information before they, they will come into tour and.

My second thing, which is video virtual tours to lease instead of having onsite teams. And then I also mean by that having a centralized website that you're using as a ILS, essentially. So instead of having seven little websites for your seven little properties, you have one giant website and you're using all your SEO and ad purchasing power to Centralize your office virtually and then physically video, I think is a component of that using really good tour videos, being able to go over and say, this is apartment GF.

Here it is. Let me show you the closet. That kind of thing will help with that centralization and then automating things. I think. Coming finally to multifamily. It's been around for a long time in other industries. It's just taken us a little while to get to where we're willing to let go a bit. So I think that thinking about what you can do automatically for yourself and having less people capital, because we're not able to find the people to staff our offices.

[00:11:11] Monica: And that makes total sense. And thank you so much. Donia for your perspective, loved having you today. My very last question, which is outside of the five is who would you nominate as? Our next 

[00:11:24] Donje: guest. So I think you should talk to the, one of the mics or both of the mics that I mentioned previously.

Just pick a mic. nice. And put them on the mic. Yeah. 

[00:11:37] Monica: Perfect. So Mike, we're coming for you, 

[00:11:39] Donje: either. Mike, all of the mics better watch out all 

[00:11:42] Monica: the mics in real estate better watch out. Perfect. Thank you so much. It was great to have you and have a great day. 

[00:11:49] Donje: Thank you really fun.

Show Notes & Learn More:

Connect with guest Donje Putnam:


Loved this podcast? Check out the next episode:

Want to be our next guest? Contact [email protected].

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