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Undeterred by federal scrutiny, RealPage continues to innovate

Publish Date: April 19, 2024

Written by Craig C. Rowe

- Originally published at Inman News - Craig C. Rowe

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Artificial intelligence is driving the latest from rental industry software company RealPage, according to an April 18 press release.

The company has dubbed its latest innovation Lumina, an AI platform the company said is “packaged with trained AI models that enable smarter systems of engagement, intelligence and management to help optimize performance for property managers.”

This development comes only weeks after two large apartment operating groups settled in a class action case against the technology company that was accused of using its software to artificially inflate rent for its customers. Those companies are Pinnacle Property Management Services of Dallas and Denver-based multifamily operator Apartment Income REIT (AIR).

The DOJ got involved a few weeks after, according to a March 25 report by Politico that said the federal office is looking into the possibility RealPage helped facilitate price fixing at some of the large rental properties whose owners use the software, citing four unnamed sources.

RealPage builds software for property management companies, supporting marketing operations, financial oversight, leasing, payments, tenant prospecting and communications, vendor management and, in essence, all critical competencies required by a large multifamily property operator.

Lumina is being rolled out to automate a number of the supporting tasks that drive the large facets of its solution, helping an array of commands and tasks perform faster, much of which is made possible by the massive dataset from which it can learn. Decades of apartment property operation insights can do a lot for an eager AI system.

“AI brings tremendous opportunities to the multifamily industry,” said Dana Jones, RealPage CEO and president, in the press release. “Lumina enables a new paradigm for managing property operations with engagement, smarter systems of intelligence and management. By giving our customers the ability to make connections, identify trends and offer predictions, we help them achieve higher yield at lower costs in a more efficient and responsive resident experience.”

Lumina will use a conversational AI to drive discussions between staff and residents and applicants, as well as between staff and the system itself, as AI continues to evolve as an interface between people and software. It’s also been taught a bit about marketing budgets and how they overlap with community occupancy trends. In addition, it helps monitor for fraud through more granular applicant screening and proactive monitoring.

“It will also power AI Search for Market Insights to find data insights effortlessly with natural language queries,” the release stated.

RealPage’s problems started two years ago when a 2022 report suggested its algorithm was pushing up rent for residents leasing from users of its software.

Inman reported at the time that the ProPublica report cites such statements as evidence that “by RealPage’s own admission, its algorithm is helping drive rents higher.” The report goes on to note that managers appear to be using the software to enact rent hikes that they might not otherwise have attempted, and points out that the software is widely used across a multitude of rentals. Greystar, for example, is the largest property management firm in the U.S. and uses YieldStar on tens of thousands of units.

Thirty individual lawsuits ensued, eventually coalescing into a class-action case accusing RealPage of using algorithmic tools to help landlords boost rents across markets, in what the plaintiffs say amounted to a “cabal” of landlords and property managers sharing sensitive rent price information with each other through RealPage.

Fallout from the case is ongoing, with an array of regulators and industry analysts chiming in on how rent and subsequent increases should be calculated, with some citing macro-economic conditions as the primary driver for rapid jumps in apartment costs and others claiming critics are unaware of how the industry works.

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