Olivia Conover-Richardson Career Background
What is your biggest career achievement?
- My biggest career accomplishment to date has been my promotion to Property Manager. I obtained this achievement at the age of 26, and though I was nervous that I could potentially be overlooked due to my age; my performance, talent and drive, easily set me apart. Not only at the age of 26, was I running a 300-unit community (built in the 1960’s, which poses many challenges in itself), but I was given the new responsibility of managing a team of six. Even though I had the property management experience, already working several years prior in the industry, I did not have the knowledge of managing people, let alone, people nearly twice my age. Managing people is already demanding, but even more so given the age factor. Luckily, my team made my transition to manager seamless. The challenge it purposed made me grow and through trial and error, eventually helped me better establish my own sense of management style. My team was, and still is, very accepting of my position and trust my vision and knowledge.
Currently, I am very proud of my aptitude to successfully multitask. I heavily participate in my local and state apartment associations, manage a property that was built in the 1960’s, and maintain 96-98% occupancy at that property simultaneously. I am able to handle the multitude of maintenance issues (60-year-old pipes and a boiler/chiller system can be a messy combo at times), the everyday management decisions, and exceed company standards. All of this in addition to sitting as a Board Member of the Virginia Apartment Management Association, the Chair of Central Virginia Apartment Association Advisory Committee, and work towards my ultimate goal by being a mentor on the Next Gen sub-committee. Even in my company, I am the most recent past chair of Landmark’s Social Committee, and current member of the Volunteer Committee. Balancing all of my many committees while still excelling at my site has been a colossal accomplishment.
What is your ultimate career goal within the rental housing industry?
- As with most young, focused professionals, I quite often find myself thinking about the future of my career and the direction I intend to grow. Having currently 7 years of property management experience, and 3 out of those 7 years being a property manager, I am always wanting to take it to the next level. I remember one of my college professors telling me that whatever I do, to never stay stagnant in my life, to always keep climbing, and that is one piece of advice that I have tried to use throughout my career. While I can definitely see myself becoming a regional in the near future, and eventually onto more of a corporate senior position (Olivia Richardson-Director of Property Management, has a really nice ring to it), I believe that my ultimate career goal would be to have the opportunity to help others build their own passion and path within this industry. I came into the multifamily industry like many of us do – looking for a job until I could figure out what I wanted to do, but unknowingly, I stumbled upon my dream job.
Luckily during that period of my life, my then property manager, turned regional, really took the role of a mentor in my profession. She encouraged me to grow within my company, truly utilized my creative side, and showed me that my part time leasing job could easily transpire into a great career. Often, those that do happen to enter this profession by chance, loose interest because they are not shown what all this field is capable of, are not challenged enough, and are not properly mentored to achieve greatness. With that being said, ultimately, I would love to work with individuals whom desire direction and guidance.
I am in awe of how much the rental housing industry has changed in just seven years, and can only imagine how much it will change in the near future. The entire persona of multi-family housing has transformed for the best. The role of a ‘landlord’ (is that even used anymore?!) has now transitioned into warm professionals, geared on providing a fundamental need. We are now more focused on delivering exceptional customer service and a great quality of living, regardless of price-range and location. To be able to show young professionals the magnitude of what this industry is capable of, would be such a fulfilling and rewarding feat. Even if I find myself in a corporate or regional position, I know that I always try to inspire those around me and oncoming professionals.
What's one rental housing trend you have your eye on?
- An emerging technology that is currently making a wave in the housing industry is the usage of Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is already so prevalent in our society and I only foresee it becoming the norm. For instance, our industry is now seeing the desire for “Smart” Apartments. Many young apartment dwellers are willing to pay more for “Smart” Apartment homes that are equipped with automated or remotely controlled devices. This includes having access to key-less entry, moisture sensors, smart thermostats, voice activated lights, with the ability to have light/mood settings, and voice-controlled surround speakers. And that is just the beginning. There are companies that have already picked up on this trend and solely market themselves as “smart-home” communities. Eventually I believe this marketed amenity becoming the new standard throughout the industry. Once, “Free WI-FI” was pitched as an added amenity, now however, it is viewed as more of a necessity.
In addition to the way Artificial Intelligence is already changing our communities, I believe that it will also play a vast role in property management companies and in the yes industry as a whole. In today’s society, with the swipe of a finger you have access to endless products and services. I now have the ability to never leave my house for weeks and/or months, yet fully survive with limited human interaction, if desired. I can order groceries, take-out, products, exercise, and work remotely all via apps. With that being said, the wish to use technology vs. human interaction will definitely inspire change in our industry. We already push people to apply for apartments, submit work orders, make rental payments, and correspond with office staff all through apps, texting, and online portals. I can only see this becoming more utilized within the housing rental industry in the future.
That being said, with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (which is used throughout numerous companies and other industries already—just call your credit card company, it takes forever to even talk to a real person), people are going to want to interact, exclusively, with technology throughout the entire leasing process. Companies are already investing in self-guided apartment tours, and I believe that with the development of AI, soon, prospects will be able to receive direct answers about the community and lease from start to finish. However, this will then result in the elimination of most office staff, leaving the remaining office staff the role of handling the resident relation component, and I am sure AI will eventually be able to handle that aspect as well.
I think companies will feel more inclined to take on AI because it helps eliminate the liability aspect. For instance, when one is applying for an apartment, the process is so streamlined, that it does not allow the human component to affect the results. Having the ability to streamline other aspects of property management through an AI system; i.e. touring components, lease violations, and resident complaints -- will take the liability factor out of the equation, which will leave the property management companies above reproach. Imagine a future where there is no chance of a Fair Housing violation because AI is inherently unbiased.
And I do not think AI will just stop there. Imagine if this amazing technology could ultimately reduce the high demand for the ever-elusive maintenance tech, or at least make their jobs a lot easier. It is common knowledge that good maintenance teams are hard to come by in this industry. While there are many out there, they are still few and far between. Even when you have a great team, it can sometimes take a long period of time to complete certain tasks. Maybe this is because they have to test things out to figure out the reason why something is broken. Maybe there are too many other things to get done so something gets lost in the mix. Either way, this new form of emerging technology will streamline the process making it easier to pinpoint causation and develop a plan of action. Imagine a future where your refrigerator can tell you exactly what is wrong with it to streamline repairs. Leaky roof? How about a quick 10 sec thermal scan to identify the source? A running toilet? The maintenance tech receives an immediate alert to their phone from said fixture. The possibilities are endless! This is the future that I see for our industry and I for one am excited to be there to help facilitate that change.