The three groups of software tools needed to manage multifamily finance
In this digital era of multifamily finance, there’s no organization, large or small, that’s not currently using a mix of software tools. Some of these tools you can’t live without, such as cloud-based document storage and online collaboration tools. These are essential for day-to-day operations at Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs), banks and any other large lending institutions.
Other important tools that let you oversee your entire portfolio include: budget forecasts and analysis, pipeline management, portfolio analytics and reports. Every organization today needs some form of these database management tools. It could be a data lake where all your different deals’ data is collected and standardized. Unless you want to comb through your individual Excel sheets and combine your data points into reports and analytics, such a tool is indispensable.
A third group of tools offer something novel: workflow automation, automatic document summaries, reports that write themselves… you got it right. It’s a new generation of software that taps into generative AI and machine learning. As you can see, there's a suite of proptech integrations out there and each have their own pros and cons.
At Builders Patch, we’ve created something that combines what all these three groups offer. The base layer of our software offers cloud storage and online collaboration seamlessly. We do the heavy lifting by onboarding and standardizing all your current and past data to create useful reports and analytics in minutes. How do we make it happen? We use AI data ingestion to quickly read and organize large volumes of data. This process offers speed and scalability, and the results are double-check by human reviewers. We have always maintained that AI is a co-pilot for human faculty and it can only work in tandem with humans, and not by replacing them.
And as a bonus, we’ve sprinkled in some other AI integrations to enhance productivity while using our platform. You'll have the ability to autofill deal information as needed, automate investment memos and project summaries for easy revision, automate the summarization of third-party reports, and receive answers to your questions, among other features.
Let’s look at the three groups of tools as part of your real estate software suite, and find out if Builders Patch would replace your existing system or complement it with added features.
First group: cloud storage and collaboration tools
Whether you are using OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other service, document storage on the cloud has become indispensable for the largest and smallest organizations alike. The pandemic pushed this trend further. Online collaboration tools to communicate with colleagues, hold meetings, hand out instructions, manage tasks, etc became the new norm. These requirements are now considered fundamental, and our platform offers them all. Contrary to other similar tools, we don't believe in gatekeeping. We never charge by the seat or limit the number of people you can bring onboard. Our aim is to allow your entire team to seamlessly collaborate on our platform.
Coming back to the tools we mentioned at the outset, we won’t discourage you from using them. These tools are inexpensive and easy-to-use and might already be a pillar of your workflow. For day-to-day intra-office communication and meetings, you should keep your favorite tools, and having an external backup of your files never hurts. However, we want to tell you how we do things differently and why we have these features.
Organizing data and maintaining naming conventions
In mainstream cloud storage services, it’s up to the individual to organize files and data into well-structured folders. Personally, we at Builders Patch are sticklers for organization: neat folders and categories, consistent naming conventions, tags for easier findability, we do it all! But what happens when the docs keep piling up? Suddenly, it stops to matter where you drop your file as long as you know it’s saved somewhere. Now multiply that with an ever expanding group of teammates and external collaborators also entering your record-keeping system, and soon it becomes a full-time job to just maintain order. Think back on the last few documents you had to look for: how long did it take to find them? Did you have to email a colleague to figure out where it was on the drive? Or did you look through a long email thread to retrieve the document at the source? Most of our clients had issues similar to these, which we helped streamline.
Automate the way your data is organized and moves throughout the lifecylce of the deal
At Builders Patch, everything is centered around your deal, and every piece of information, be it an important document or a single data point, is collected organically through the platform as your deal progresses. Our system automatically creates the folder structure for you, based on your direction. It includes sections for loan application documents and preliminary deal details. Due diligence material is promptly collected based on a checklist that you define. Later, these files can be exported as a ZIP package, while maintaining the defined structure. Moreover, you receive a comprehensive version history of your underwriting pro forma with the latest version presented upfront. Investment memos, from the initial draft to the final version, are also easily accessible. Asset management data collected during the first months is included, along with securely saved and stored audited financial documents.
Seamless communication with internal and external team members
We are no strangers to how multifamily housing finance works. The communications around penciling a deal are multiple, fragmented and often taking place on external tools like Gmail, Slack, Whatsapp, Text Messaging and so on. With us, all back-and-forth communications, comments, notes, tasks can be be made as granular as a single document, and all of it happens on the platform. You can also invite external contributors to the exact location where their input is needed.
Second group: data lake, data standardization, analytics
We’ve talked about the difficulty of maintaining order around how your documents are named, categorized, and stored. Let’s say it’s two hundred documents per deal. The number of data points collected through the deal lifecycle will be tens of thousands. Maintaining data hygiene across your portfolio is a challenging task if you are working in different Excel sheets. Let’s say an Excel template was created some time ago and adopted across your organization. Then that template was updated, new line items added, some renamed… First problem: it will take a while for everyone to switch to this new template; second and bigger problem: the data in your old deals are still structured using the earlier template.
Comparative analytics requires standardized data at scale - what does it take?
Let's consider the income and OPEX data. Under rental income, do you break down ancillary income into parking, laundry, community space, etc. or do you just lump sum collect them as one? In utilities, are water and sewage one category, or two separate categories? And what if they were collected as one item for one deal, but separate line items for another deal? Or just take some simple spelling issues: is your deal located in New York, New York City, or did you actually spell it out that it’s located in Brooklyn, for example. If this is data you are collecting in Excel cells, there’s no geolocation or standardization, it’s a simple text input. As you can imagine, performing comparative analytics on your deals will require painstaking standardization of all the data first.
But you’ve likely realized this problem a while ago, so your organization must have adopted some software solution to collect and standardize your deal data into a portfolio-level database. You might have an internal team working directly in MySQL, or you may have hired outside consultants to set up a Salesforce environment for your pipeline and portfolio, or it may be Oracle you are using. Once the data is standardized and all put together, you can create analytics dashboards within your software or feed it into yet another system like PowerBI or Tableau. These are robust tools widely adopted across a variety of industries. They are staples in the software kit of any large organization. One thing in common, however, is that you need experts to set up and operate them, and that’s not only pricey but means you are dependent on them. Often, smaller organizations don’t have the resources to buy pricey software and then hire IT personnel to maintain them.
How is Builders Patch different?
Builders Patch is different in a couple of ways: one, you don’t need an IT team to set things up; two, it’s specific to multifamily housing finance and affordable housing finance, so it understands what’s in your books; and three, you portfolio data is not only automatically onboarded and cleaned up, it immediately surfaces the analytics you need on them.
Now what if you want to keep your current existing systems? Maybe because your organization is handling more than just housing deals, or you want to keep the CRM system that Salesforce offers. You can absolutely do that and still bring us on as an additional layer to offer you the services we have listed above. We can ensure that data flows back and forth seamlessly between your chosen systems and Builders Patch through API integrations that you can turn on and off for your deals.
You can consider other proptech integrations which might apply to additional functions performed by your organization, like a loan servicing software, accounting software, or even Yardi if your deals in asset management are already tracked there. The more robust database you can afford for your deal data, the more granular details you can surface on the health and performance of your portfolio.
Third group: AI-integrations for automated workflows and analytics
Once you have your deal data and documents in a standardized and structured database, then Builders Patch swoops in to help you speed up your processes and eliminate repetitive manual tasks through automation, intelligent analytics, and generative AI.
Take investment memos as an example. They normally consist of a project narrative, some in-depth data points on the proposed structure, unit mix and development budget, the expected income and operating costs, highlights from the third party reports such as the environmental study or market report, financial audits and general trustworthiness of the developer-borrower, and a bunch of evaluation notes from the underwriter. The good thing about using Builders Patch? It’s that everything apart from the final OK is automated.
Since all deal data is already present on the platform (it was collected during due diligence), the relevant data points are automatically brought into your memo. For third party reports, you have automatically generated summaries, answering your specific questions using generative AI. And if you want, you can revise and modify them before bringing them into your memo.
The underwriting pro forma has already been revised and finalized by you, so its summary tables can be pulled in. The proposed budget and OPEX projections, deal-to-deal comparisons and portfolio-segment-to-deal comparisons are also automatically offered by the system. Doing a background check on borrowers is faster than ever, because that same developer has likely worked with you before so you have a full report on them, or we have their portfolio data in our system. In the end, the only thing left for you is to write a few lines on your final evaluation and recommendations to the credit committee, and the memo is good to go. No additional effort.
Our personal experience in multifamily housing finance shaped our product - we were in your seat, so we understand you
Our philosophy and the underlying reason why we started Builders Patch: why put work into re-entering, combining and collating the same data points over and over when you have already collected and organized them before? No same data point should be entered (or pasted in) twice! (If you didn't already known this, we started out as underwriters and this was one of the most frustrating aspects of the job workflow. You can read about our founder, Kanan’s experiences here.)
We’ve already touched upon our AI-powered data onboarding process in the previous section. Given the sheer size of portfolios we are handling, this is going to become more and more the industry standard. However, very few tools have the capability yet to do what we do. Builders Patch is one of the pioneers in this regard, and because the data ingestion process is supervised by a human, we ensure that it is CRE experts with the necessary know-how, reviewing the final outcome. We believe that leveraging AI will be fundamental to any large scale business, and early adopters will have an advantage.
Fourth (bonus) group: two-way interaction between lenders and borrowers
Fantastic addition for lenders, a godsend for borrowers. Increasingly, loan applications are moving into the digital realm, spanning personal loans, business loans, and home mortgages. There is a boom of new tools that lenders of all sizes can integrate into their systems for increased productivity and scaling. But wait a minute, are you forgetting about your borrowers?
Navigating the labyrinth of loan applications, deciphering the offered terms, and grasping the requirements is daunting for many. Add a clunky, glitchy front-end interface on top of that, and you will only have increased borrower frustration, leading to hight drop off rates in the application process. If digital loan applications are becoming the standard, and providing a better experience for borrowers is proving crucial in a competitive landscape of commercial banks, then how is it that much larger and way more complex CRE loans are still being handled via PDF forms and email submissions?
Digitizing the application and approval processes of personal and small business loans were the low-hanging fruit in fintech. Home mortgages came next, and the larger CRE industry was left out. Builders Patch has made it its mission to make it easier for everyone to navigate the complexities of CRE and affordable housing finance, and we offer an in-built borrower experience and application intake system that can be applied to any loan type.
You decide what information needs to be collected as part of your application, then publish your intake form via a simple link, and your application dashboard gets populated with the submissions received. Now, the ball is in your court to review them and move them into your deal pipeline. At the same time, you will be inviting your borrower to continue filling out the due diligence information on the platform itself.
And the good thing about all this? Not only does it cut down on friction between lenders and borrowers, it allows them to maintain a streamlined line of communication until the loan closing. The data points may change over time and become more refined as the deal progresses, but you have a complete record of everything from loan application to asset management. And this unique continuity of deal data is the promise of Builders Patch which we believe no other system can provide.
We hope this blog has offered you more clarity on how to assess your current systems and their functions and what alternative ways of doing business exist out there. Builders Patch stands out by consolidating essential tools for CRE deal management, offering a unified solution with automated data organization and AI-driven workflows. Whether augmenting existing systems or seeking an all-in-one platform, our approach enhances efficiency and communication. We can become your single source of truth.