Highlights With TFLiving CEO Devin Wirt on His Entrepreneurial Journey and the Future of Multifamily Amenities From Tangent Podcast
Our CEO Devin Wirt recently had the fortunate opportunity to sit down and chat with Edward Cohen of Tangent Podcast, a series that highlights the future of cities; from Real Estate to Development and Trends, to Sustainability and Tech. Devin opens up about his background and initiation into the multifamily amenities space before Edward prompts him to discuss many of the shifts, concerns and emerging movements we’ve seen recently through pandemic, as well as prior trends that are shaping the way communities develop into the foreseeable future.
We’ve highlighted just a few clips from the first half of their interview below. To explore the full podcast episode, and the Tangent Podcast, visit here.
Q: Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey that got you into the Real Estate amenities space, and your current mission to enhance the the residential and tenant experience.
“I started my journey opening up my first company at the age of 21, and have been an entrepreneur over the last thirteen years. My first company was actually in the Personal Training space in Philadelphia and surrounding area. I started that in 2008 and sold it in 2014, then took a year off and started our current company TFLiving in 2016, which provides amenities in residential and commercial Real Estate around the U.S. and it’s been a journey from there ever since.
I’ve been lucky to have tremendous mentors just to name a few- Richard Ollar, owner and chairman of GoldOller Real Estate Investments, who got me started on this portion of the Real Estate side very early on. Also within TFLiving, I’ve been lucky to have great mentors including one of our Board Members, Brady Nolan, who was the reason that we ended up and building technology behind the services platform and a large reason why we’re at where we are today.”
Q: What are some of the immediate measures property owners and managers have been taking with your help, to ensure their residents have safe access to their amenities and properties – such as implementing and enforcing of social distancing rules, and proper sanitation to enjoy their spaces?
“I think there’s been a lot of changes. As we’ve gone through this, the overused quote has been ‘The new norm’. I think we’re all a little tired of hearing that. The best practices just for amenities services haven’t just changed, but really the operational procedures within all of real estate. From the amenities, TFLiving and all of its competitors had to go virtual, and we had to create and shift in a very fluid manner, offering fitness and residential events through a virtual platform, while also being unique about it. We had to find ways to further engage with our residents, to find out what they were most interested in, and implement that through our virtual application, and a web based platform.
While the amenities are first and foremost for us, the biggest shift has been janitorial. The way we are cleaning spaces is so important, from doing temperature checks at the front desk, to making sure people are wearing masks. We make sure if we’re hosting a Yoga class that it’s arranged in an optimal outdoor space and people are doing proper social distancing of at least 6 feet, and ensuring amenities spaces are wiped down afterwards.
The biggest thing is communication as we’ve gone through it. From our wonderful partners with Bozzutto, Avalon Bay, PMC and Colliers on the office side, we’re making sure we’re keeping the lines of communication open, sharing best practices to ensure the safety of the residents and tenants we’re serving, and working together to enhance their experience and come out of this stronger on the backend.”
Q: How is technology specifically impacting landlords and Property Manager’s decisions on how they operate, use, and think of common areas in the Multifamily or Commercial sector going into the future?
“It will definitely play a large role going forward, and not just with amenities. I think you’re going to see more virtual touring, not as many people going into leasing centers with agents, keyless entry, sanitation wipes, residents being able to access and tour units on specific timing using services like Latch and ButterflyMX at a specific time, virtually. I think the technology shift will continue to be strong and we will continue to innovate. Even during this time with the terrible crisis and pandemic, it has caused innovation that will continue to cause us to shift and change, and work together.”
Q: Today TFLiving is available in over 300 locations. We’ve seen an Influx of residents relocating from high-tax, 24-7, Tier 1 cities like New York and San Francisco to cities like Denver, Austin, Nashville, etc. Any thoughts on this trend? Where is the next Austin? What are the elements a city needs to thrive and attract talent?
“I don’t think we’re going to see a shift away from urban/suburban market but rather individuals focusing on more on affordability and also just as important -walkability. The reason why people thrive in New York is not just from the economics, but also the walkability of things that are entertaining, from Broadway to the great restaurants, etc.. We’re finding (those elements) starting to be built in other major cities. Austin is a great growing area as you mentioned, not just from the residential side, but because it also has thriving technology and entrepreneurs that are constantly popping up there. If I had to make a bet on to the next major city that will start to inhabit into a hub, I think Nashville, like Austin, could be another place for evolving companies and technology.”
Q: TFLiving offers both on-site and virtual amenities allowing for a customized solution for any budget. As you mentioned, these include anything from fitness to wellness programs, as well as pet care services, social events, and other offerings. Lately there is a big focus around health, communication, wellness. Will amenities be more service oriented going forward?
“I think it will. Our COO Jason Deppen and the team worked very diligently to create best practices for starting back on-site. I think what we’re going to see for the foreseeable future, is a hybrid of services. The virtual component is not going to go away, and there’s going to be limited capacity (on-site) to make sure we’re using best practices, from sanitation to operational procedures. But I think we will see a hybrid solution, with people still participating in Yoga classes and Mixology classes on-site but for the nest 18-24 months, we’re also going to see most of these services being live streamed for people to access services from their homes or wherever they’re traveling from.”
Q: In terms of remote work, this approach means residents are spending less time in offices and more time at home. As far as opportunities for home office amenities, such as a virtual conference room, or equipment rentals, do you see any of these?
“Yes – we personally see that there is going to be a shift. We’re watching developers like like Related Group putting co-working spaces within their beautiful communities. I think we’re going to shift in the way people are leasing. For example, a company like PrintWithMe has a mobile solution that is doing amazing things for apartment complexes – making sure residents and tenants have access to things like printing ink, etc. Services like these will be further utilized within the multifamily space as well as the office space.
People who are traditionally leasing 10 to 12 or 15,000 square feet are going to start decreasing their office space, Our prediction is they’re going to be more ‘we-work-esque’ in the ability to come in, sit at an open table, work if you would like to get together with colleagues, or work from home. We’re seeing that people can work from home. But there is going to be issues coming up that we’ve already seen for parents with schooling. How do you do it with another significant other and children at home? We’re going to be constantly working around that. I think there will be a shift mainly in the retail and commercial office sectors, but multifamily will continue to adapt to allow these amenities greater access for people.”