ZRS Management, LLC
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of ZRS Management, LLC, as part of our focus on best practices in the apartment rental sector.
With extensive experience in managing quality garden-style apartments, urban mixed-use projects, “fractured” condominium projects, and luxury, high-rise buildings, ZRS Management, LLC is one of the most highly respected, third-party management companies in the Unites States. Founded in 1991, to manage high-quality, multi-family investments, ZRS spun off from its original company in 2010.
“What we found was an opportunity to take our institutional experience and knowledge as a captive management company, which is what we were before 2010, and expand into a fully third-party business, taking the mindset of adding value to the properties with a focus on best-in-class resident relationships,” explains company Vice President, Darren Pierce.
“We are a people business,” Pierce continues. “We are focused on people’s homes and making sure that they have the best place to live and creating the best customer service environment for them, because, at the end of the day, it’s not just an apartment, it’s a home. We’re very focused on our resident relationships in the events that we host; we want to make sure that they’re creating connections within the community. We found that when people create the friendships and relationships, it’s more than just an apartment; it’s a home and a neighborhood.”
With headquarters in Orlando, Florida, ZRS Management has approximately 1,000 employees and a presence in six states. “Our footprint is all of Florida; every major metro in Texas; in Georgia, we’re in Savannah and Atlanta; in the mid-Atlantic, we’re in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia; and we’re also in Chicago,” Pierce reports.
Today, ZRS manages approximately 43,000 units for various institutional clients, as well as high net-worth individuals. “We look at business not as a series of transactions, but on growing relationships,” he asserts. “We manage multiple properties for the majority of our clients in long-term relationship. For some of our clients, we’ve managed their assets for 20 years. So, we’ve seen multiple cycles of the real estate investment climate, and have been able to maximize value, along the way, for them.” ZRS only gets paid from the asset owners. “Everything is done through a management fee,” adds Pierce. It’s a percentage of income. If we drive higher rents for the property, we earn more.”
Pierce believes that ZRS Management is “that bridge between the asset owners and the end users,” whose job it is to maximize the end users’ willingness to pay higher rents by increasing the value of a property. “From a resident’s perspective, it’s about the value that they get, the convenience, how it makes their lives better,” he explains. “It’s not just selling an apartment; it’s selling a lifestyle to them. By changing it from not just a place to live, but how one’s life and day-to-day activities will change by living in this community, we found that people’s willingness to pay will go up because of that. It’s about understanding the goals and objectives of our clients and having those conversations with them about how the property will best suit their lifestyle.”
Company Partner and Vice President, Jeremy Brown, believes that ZRS Management differentiates itself from its competitors by its embrace of technology – both in the ways in which prospective renters can access the company, as well as in the ways technology makes their lives easier once they’ve moved in. “Eighty percent of our apartment shoppers begin their search online,” he notes. “So, everything from reviews, to YouTube videos, to Zillow, to Apartments.com, to our paid advertising with Google, Yahoo, Instagram, Facebook, and all the other channels that we use – that’s the consumer that we’re going after. Those consumers tend to be much more educated on the apartment market, itself, as well.”
Another one of the channels that ZRS uses is Urbandoor, a global marketplace for furnished apartments specifically built for professionals. Its mission is to effortlessly connect professionals with their right apartment every time, anywhere. Unlike other furnished apartment marketplaces, there are no private homes or individual hosts on Urbandoor; all apartments and providers are vetted to meet standards professionals expect. The platform currently offers more than 250,000 furnished apartments in 1300+ markets across 45 countries. So, with Urbandoor’s technology, property operators like ZRS can access business demand without inventory risk or additional operational burden.
“From a resident perspective, there is more online opportunity,” says Director of Operations, Jackie Impellitier. “They can go through the full process – identifying their unit, seeing photographs of it, all the way to choosing a parking space, and signing their lease online. That rolls them into having the ability to do things on the fly from their mobile device and not having to be bogged down from a time perspective. It gives them visibility into their new home; it gives them digital documentation and an easy way to communicate with us. So, we’re seeing a lot of collaboration between the way we market and the way we service our residents through the whole lifecycle of the lease.”
“We want to make the experience of anybody living in one of our communities, easier than somewhere else; how they can navigate our website; how they can find us on different platforms; how they can do the full leasing process online,” Pierce adds. “We know how busy our residents are and we want to make it easier for them.”
“We invest a lot in technology,” says Brown. “Every year, we hold a technology conference for all of our folks to attend; we just had it a few weeks ago in Miami Beach. We flew in all of our managers, top assistant managers, leasing people, and the entire corporate team – about 500 people. What we do is we educate all of our folks on the latest and greatest mobile applications, industry trends, etc. It’s an opportunity to reinforce our stance on technology and educate our folks that this is in the forefront of everything.”
“The big thing now is voice recognition,” Brown continues. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on our partners to develop their skills for Amazon Alexa, so that residents can buzz people in from the gate through Alexa; they can have conversations with their neighbors with Alexa; they can ask Alexa who’s working in the leasing office; they can ask Alexa if there’s a package, downstairs. We’ve got a company that puts detectors on all the fitness equipment, so a resident can say, ‘Alexa, is there a treadmill available at the gym?’ And she can say, ‘Yes, there are three that are available.’ That’s really our big focus because voice recognition has become so affordable.”
The embrace of technology also extends to the ways in which ZRS Management operates as a company. “From a business automation perspective, for the last several years, we have tried to find ways to go green, to have more paperless initiatives and more data and information at our fingertips,” says Impellitier. “So, a big focus for us has been investing in business intelligence software and trying to create a consistent platform that all of our assets are operating from, and that gives the executive level team more visibility into what’s happening at the properties. We have data that leads into a dashboard and we have customized different widgets and information that allow us to see where there are areas of improvement, areas of focus, red flags, and even areas where we’re excelling and exceeding. That has changed the way we run our business and what we focus on day-to-day.”
While investment in technology is key to the company’s success, Pierce maintains that ZRS Management is still in the relationship business – including how the company acquires new clients. “Our business is all reputation and word-of-mouth,” he states. “It’s people that know us within the industry, that are either entering a new market where we operate, or toured some of our communities and had great experiences – they’ll give us a call. All of our new business is relationship driven. So, as much as technology is changing the way that we do business, we still understand that what we do is very personal to the investors that we work with, as well as the residents. And we try to make sure that there is a connection between the technology side and the personal relationship side.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: ZRS Management, LLC
WHAT: A third-party management company
WHERE: Orlando, Florida
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