Auto Pricing Working For Lincoln

Auto Pricing Working For Lincoln ATLANTA, GA - Every company is addressing the current market challenges differently; some more aggressively and successfully than others. In late 2008, Lincoln Property Company decided to test a new price setting process to see if it could improve revenue. Lincoln's executives designed a scientific test of the newest multifamily housing revenue management technology and used it at eight of their communities in separate markets. To ensure an objective evaluation, they paired test properties with similar communities in the same markets that continued to set prices with their customary process. The results proved a definite increase in lease rents at the automated properties - in spite of the economy.

"Seven of eight properties using automated rate setting had better results than our control group setting rates manually," said Scott Wilder, senior VP, property management for the Lincoln Property Company residential division. "Our perception entering the test was that we would activate the 'black box' and it would do the thinking. We were encouraged how engaged our team became; by using LRO and contributing to our weekly pricing calls, they became more focused on rate setting and the factors that drive revenue."

Lincoln Property Company has a corporate culture of diligent pricing analysis and rate setting. "We are good at what we do but wanted to evaluate automated multifamily revenue management software tools and test the one we thought would be the best fit," Wilder said. The company selected the LRO system, from The Rainmaker Group, which is widely used in the multifamily industry.

Lincoln, which manages more than 350 conventional communities nationwide, began its six-month pilot in February 2009 with eight test communities using LRO to set rates, while staff at eight control properties continued their established price-setting process. To ensure test results were valid nationally, Lincoln selected communities in the Atlanta, Dallas, and South Florida markets. At the pilot's conclusion, LRO properties showed a 4.3% lift over the eight control properties. The LRO system analyzed hundreds of historic and current economic, market, and comp-set variables, and traffic information to deliver updated rate recommendations daily.

"The surprise was the LRO recommendations caused our on-site and regional managers to engage more with their markets and the price-setting data and became more familiar with who their real competitors were and why they were gaining or losing leases," said Wilder. "Our managers do a great job of rate setting, but the automated system is more detailed and looks at many more variables than you would think of including manually."

Another surprise was how the pricing system responded to the soft market. "LRO's analysis of market conditions, including guest traffic, revealed that significantly lowering rates was unlikely to produce a proportional increase in demand in the softening market," said Wilder. "We took a measured approach and accepted the systems recommendation that we lower rates in small increments. This kept our LRO properties from deeply reducing rates unnecessarily."

"We ran our six-month pilot in a very soft market and the system helped us," Wilder said. "LRO was good in the down market and when the economy corrects, the real value will come in the renewal cycle. Renewal rate setting is especially difficult where managers have relationships within their community. LRO's renewal price setting removes the emotion from the decision. I expect higher revenue will be the result."

"The transition to automated pricing is all about change management," Wilder said. "Shifting communities to automated pricing changes the way we do business. LRO's most solid benefit is that it helps our onsite people and regional managers do a better job. The longer you use it, the better you become at optimizing rents." Lincoln expects to roll out the LRO revenue management system to its owned properties over the next two years and recommend revenue management to all their third party clients.

Lincoln Property Company is one of the largest, most respected, diversified real estate services firms in the U.S and the only national firm to rank as a top 25 owner of office, industrial and multi-family real estate. Lincoln serves as owner/operator or full service management provider for more than 135,000 units (including its military group) and operates 350 conventional communities.

The Rainmaker Group is a software and services company that provides the LRO profit optimization solution that enables multifamily housing operators to maximize revenue from apartment leases. LRO is used by more than 60 percent of the companies deploying revenue management systems in the industry and, uniquely, LRO's lease/rent revenue optimization success has been verified by independent third party consulting firms. For more than six years LRO has delivered optimized leasing rates to the largest operators in the industry including Archstone, Equity Residential, Post Properties, Laramar Group, Home Properties, Simpson Housing, Mid-America Apartment Communities, Carmel Partners and other leading multifamily housing companies.
Source: The Rainmaker Group

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