By Meghan Hall
In the nation’s busiest markets, landlords are always looking for ways to fill residential vacancies while competing with other properties. According to Bethany Taufiq, CEO and Founder of Cityhive, residents provide unique insight into their apartment buildings and through referrals, can be a valuable path to decrease vacancies throughout properties. Cityhive markets itself as the first platform that caters to residential referrals, and can help landlords register vacancies, determine incentives and notify residents, who can then spread the word. These word-of-mouth recommendations are “worth their weight in gold,” said Taufiq, and has been largely untapped by the residential market to-date.
Please tell The Registry a little bit about Cityhive. What pain points were you seeing in the multifamily leasing process that prompted you to establish the platform?
Cityhive is a resident referral platform created to make the apartment referral process efficient and straightforward for landlords and residents. From uploading pictures and adding descriptions to notifying residents when vacancies are available and managing rewards and leads, Cityhive provides a one-stop solution to implementing a successful resident referral system. Most often, residents know buildings as well, if not better, (the ins-and-outs) than leasing agents, landlords, or building personnel, and most importantly, a resident is a trustworthy source. Residents can also become a building’s best ambassador or marketer when properly incentivized and when their effort is acknowledged. And landlords, especially in New York City, are dealing with skyrocketing vacancies numbers, with very few technology solutions to help fill such vacancies. Today, most such buildings are doing a poor job tapping their best marketing assets – their residents – to help fill vacancies, and this is where Cityhives adds tremendous value.
Can you talk a little bit about how Cityhive works? How does it serve both tenants and landlords?
Cityhive’s platform allows landlords to manage buildings and units both filled and vacant through its easy-to-use interface. For example, a landlord can easily display all unit information, set and track incentives and referral leads, and alert residents of current and upcoming vacancies. For landlords, the benefits of Cityhive are apparent. Still, for residents, in addition to gaining incentives, by making referrals from their close networks, a resident is creating an environment – their hive – with people they know and like to be around, which makes for an enjoyable living experience.
How does Cityhive compare to traditional referral programs offered by landlords? What is Cityhive’s rate of success, so to speak?
When comparing referral programs side-by-side, there is not much in the market that compares with Cityhive. We provide a fully streamlined, intuitive, simple-to-use management system that can be implemented in minutes. Cityhive will be onboarding buildings soon; thus, at a later time, we will be able to discuss our success rating. However, resident referrals have been successful for apartment buildings across New York City, such as 21 West End and Sessanta. We are confident our platform will add value to any building.
Cityhive claims it offers crucial cost and time savings— by how much has Cityhive improved upon these metrics?
There are many costs associated with vacant units, such as administrative costs, the loss of rental income, marketing fees, cleaning and upkeep charges, and paying a broker upwards of 15% of the first year’s rental income. When you add these costs, you quickly realize how a vacant unit loses much current cash and future cash flow. Cityhive can help shorten vacancy timelines, which can help save landlords thousands of dollars.
What is your favorite feature of the platform? Why?
My favorite feature of the platform is its efficient management system of residents and units.
Currently, Cityhive is tailored to those living in New York. Does Cityhive have plans to expand into other major cities in the future? If so, which ones? Why is Cityhive targeting these locations.
Cityhive plans to expand into the major U.S. cities, ones that are densely populated and have many apartment buildings, such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We target these locations because people are always on the move, absolute vacancy numbers are usually high, and many landlords and residents could benefit from our platform.
What is your current perspective of the national multifamily market—especially in dense cities?
The multifamily market in cities is under pressure as many people have left and are continuing to flee to the suburbs, which has created a massive supply of apartment vacancies.
How have leasing dynamics changed as a result of the pandemic? Are there any trends that have emerged/accelerated that we should keep our eyes on for the future? Why or why not?
The leasing dynamic’s most significant change has been the supply and demand imbalance of apartment units in the bigger cities. Simply put, landlords are dealing with longer vacancy timelines, coupled with a larger quantity of vacant units. The most apparent trend we are seeing is an increase in offered incentives to attract new residents. Once landlords begin to reduce or eliminate offered incentives, you will know the rental market is likely starting to recover.