American Homes 4 Rent reinvents leasing
Moving tens of thousands of contracts securely through the cloud
KEY USE CASES
Digital client exchange
Vendor and partner onboarding
employees across 22 states
months to overhaul outdated solutions
of unstructured data more secure
of contracts moving through the nationwide system
- Managing tens of thousands of properties across the US meant a lot of legal documents needed to be well-governed
- Teams needed a way to centralize and surface unstructured data
- A brand-new business model created an opportunity to do things differently
- The Content Cloud organizes all unstructured content in one place and makes it easy to both govern and find
- Box APIs meant AH4R teams could build apps exactly as they envisioned
- End users (i.e.home renters) enjoy a better experience finding and leasing a home
Reinventing the rental home business for families
Nationwide, about 35% of households live in rental properties, but finding a good home to lease has become harder. Demand for single-family homes has hit an unprecedented high, with plenty of pandemic-inspired relocations now in the mix. Even once renters find a place to live, the paperwork and red tape can prove daunting.
This is the rental experience American Homes 4 Rent (AH4R) is focused on fixing. When the real estate investment trust launched a decade ago, it pioneered the single-family rental industry as an asset class. Today, AH4R manages about 58,000 properties in 22 states around the US, including its latest growth engine, new built-to-rent home communities —a pivot that helped earn the company a ranking of 41st largest homebuilder in the country.
AH4R streamlines the experience of finding a family-friendly home, applying for and signing a lease, and answering maintenance requests for residents. It’s a progressive, technology-enabled property manager that keeps resident needs top of mind and makes conscious investments in underserved communities. And underlying all of this good intention is solid technology.
Recovery from a hodgepodge of content solutions
AH4R has roughly 1,700 employees scattered across nearly two dozen states, with headquarters in both Nevada and California. Chief Technology Officer Philip Irby is credited with re-engineering the technology platform that fuels its operations and the customer experience. When he joined the company, file sharing was scattered across OneDrive, SharePoint, Google Drive, and other tools, resulting in shadow IT. With this hodgepodge of content solutions, Irby says, “Nobody could get a single picture of the documents in one place.”
“At the core of everything,” he explains, “IT is essentially about structured data. As an industry, we’re good at that. But unstructured data has always been a problem, because every one of those structured data systems you work with also generates unstructured data documents: content. That content sprawls, with files all over the place.”
At AH4R, that data includes things like leases, HOA documents, and other types of contracts.
“There was no data warehouse for unstructured data,” says Irby. “But now, what we’re doing with Box is exactly that.”
A structure for unstructured content
Applications built on Box APIs have enabled the company to perform specific actions within particular types of content. For instance:
- A rental portal allows residents to pull up leases and other personal information on demand
- When creating a lease, the company can automatically apply regionalized municipality requirements and create addendums
- Houses in homeowner associations (HOAs) —about 80% of the inventory in the system —have different terms and conditions, and the cognitive AI services of Azure can write specific data into a ticket with Dynamics, the cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution built for Microsoft Azure
In the homebuilding division, contracts with third parties are all handled in Box as well, which provides a strong, secure platform for collaboration with vendors and other partners outside of the company. This is done through a separate vendor portal, also built —you guessed it —on Box.
6 months to success in the Content Cloud
Irby had executed Box implementations at other companies, but of course, such a major tech-stack change took work. The path AH4R chose —using APIs to customize portals and platforms —required, in Irby’s words, “a certain amount of capability that’s not easily discoverable if you don’t have years of experience doing API work and custom development.”
That’s why AH4R teamed with Box Consulting to design the base components and ensure everything was built in an optimal way. Box Consulting has the perspective of experience managing content transitions (for instance, migrating SharePoint files into Box).
“Box Consulting has been very instrumental in getting us out of those other environments,” confirms Irby.
In fact, the entire rollout took a mere six months. With all the company’s critical documents in the Content Cloud, surfacing the right document became easy. The IT team at AH4R now has visibility across all the unstructured data, even while it’s being created by familiar tools like Microsoft.
95% of unstructured data now more secure
The last piece of the puzzle for Irby’s team was to make sure sensitive files stayed secure and maintained proper governance. After all, pretty much every contract or legal document that passes through the system contains some sort of personally identifiable information or intellectual property.
With Box Governance and Box Shield applied to the Content Cloud, AH4R could ensure that innovation kept moving forward without ever jeopardizing sensitive content. Irby confirms, “I’ve now protected 95% of our unstructured data because I've got it on a secure platform.” Innovating, while ensuring governance and cybersecurity, is the critical combination with any content platform.
The next step is to institute Box Sign for natively integrated e-signatures —the newest capability of the Content Cloud. This will expedite how the company processes tens of thousands of contracts. Irby will continue to innovate with the Content Cloud, making the resident experience painless and helping get more and more people into the right homes more quickly.
There aren’t many products out there that can support true, SaaS-style, API-first delivery. Box has stayed way ahead of the pack with the product offering.