By Meghan Hall
Online reviews can make or break a property, and as the multifamily sector grows, technology has evolved to accommodate. The digital age has increased the importance of resident reviews for the multifamily sector. One such platform, Opiniion, is seeking to streamline the resident experience process and turn it into viable data for property owners. The Registry spoke with Opiniion’s Chief Executive Officer, Justin Bingham, on the firm’s future and the evolution of residential relations platforms in the industry.
Opiniion operates as an “online resident relations and reputation management platform.” From your perspective, what does it mean to be a resident relations and reputation management platform?
It’s clearly beneficial for property owners and managers to make sure that residents’ property interactions are as enjoyable and convenient as possible; among other benefits, enhancing resident comfort will also improve the property’s reputation. The challenge is gauging where sentiment lies and how it can be improved.
Opiniion helps property managers look at the feedback and data and learn things about the community that they didn’t know before — specifically, helping them arrive at conclusions that truly improve the resident experience.
How can technology improve both of these aspects of multifamily real estate?
The key to improving resident relations and reputation management is finding out what is bothering residents (or what can be improved) and then executing on it. When it’s done right, technology can help operators learn things about their communities and make correlations that may have not been visible before.
The issue with the status quo is that the industry stuffers from application overload. Our system is designed to run on its own (if that is what the client wants), and it eliminates the need for various vendors whose products overlap.
2020 was a difficult year for many in the commercial real estate industry as fundamentals were in flux due to the coronavirus. However, in that time, Opiniion managed to double its client base. What specific business strategies did Opiniion employ to ensure its success?
Obviously the fact that we focus on the residential sector — which performed comparatively well in 2020 — was helpful. But when I look at our growth, I think it comes down to the fact that we take care of our clients and in return they take care of us. Our white glove service has allowed us to offer top-notch customer service and measurable results to our clients, and that has led to organic word-of-mouth growth.
As Opiniion continues to grow, what steps will the platform take to specifically differentiate itself from the increasing number of well-established listing and review sites?
We already are more proactive than any system out there. We intend to roll out other elements of our tech so we are ultimately the only necessary solution for resident feedback, which also encompasses traditional reputation management. We have a big focus on reporting and pulling insights from the data to show clients what they need to do — and not make them figure it out on their own. I don’t think there’s any other technology on the market that provides all of these services to operators, so I do feel we have been, and can continue to be, successful at differentiating Opiniion from other review sites.
Opiniion recently clinched $3 million in its latest financing round led by Frazier Group—with participation from RET Ventures, AIM Ventura Capital and Tamarak Capital Partners. What aspects of Opiniion are enticing investors to place capital into Opiniion’s development?
We have a great mix of investors, and different investors are attracted to different aspects of what we do. One thing I should mentions is that, while Opiniion has done exceptionally well in multifamily, it is only one of many verticals we have the ability to service. The reputation management aspect of our technology has a great deal of value (and significant client bases) with a wide range of companies, from medical offices to service businesses (Sport Clips, Marry Maids, Pest Control).
For an investor like RET Ventures — which is extremely influential in multifamily real estate and whose strategic investors include major real estate operators — we are particularly attractive because of the potential we have to benefit the real estate industry. The Frazier Group and other investors have broader mandates. Ultimately, I think all of our investors are excited about our recent growth and the potential to expand into additional markets!
How will Opiniion spend these funds?
With this capital raise, we expect to ramp up product development and marketing and hire some additional key members to the Opiniion team.
The commercial real estate sector—including multifamily—continued to evolve significantly in 2020. From your perspective, what are some of the trademarks of a successful multifamily property? Why?
There are a hundred factors you could try to point to, but ultimately the most important one is customer satisfaction. A successful multifamily property has dedicated management and ownership groups that invest in their residents and employees. Happy employees lead to happier resident interactions, and those two factors have a positive trickle-down effect with more renewals, etc.
Looking at the remainder of 2021 and beyond, how do you see the multifamily industry changing? Why?
We definitely see the multifamily industry continuing to expand — in fact, the National Apartment Association projects that the U.S. will need roughly 328,000 new multifamily units annually through 2030. One development that may help bolster the sector is short term rentals, which we expect to become more common amongst communities in the years ahead. This will have a positive impact on travel, giving vacationers more options for where to stay. We can also envision capitalizing on this trend, as short-term rental growth will likely open a door to hospitality sector for Opiniion.