When Joseph Westlake founded Sight-Plan Inc. eight years ago, the property management software company consisted of just one person — Westlake — in a 50-square-foot office.
Today, the Orlando-based property management has reached the 100-employee mark, with 11,000 square feet of office space in The Plaza building at 189 S. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando. A red-hot apartment market drove 36% growth in SightPlan’s staff from 73 people in January to 100 in August, Westlake told Orlando Inn, and the president expects more growth in the near future.
Next, SightPlan eyes a big downtown expansion. City commissioners on Nov. 8 approved up to $66,500 in incentives through the Community Redevelopment Agency High Wage/High Value Job Creation Program. In exchange, Sight-Plan will create 19 new jobs in five years, and invest $111,157 this year in buildout and equipment for up to 10,000 more square feet of office space.
Westlake projects 75% of its new jobs will be high-wage engineer and developer roles. These positions pay an aver-age annual wage of $95,870, compared to metro Orlando’s $48,530, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meanwhile, SightPlan adds new apartment community customers every day, Westlake said.
“At our growth rate, it could be 2%-3% of the U.S. population by next year interacting with SightPlan technology.” SightPlan is in a lucrative market. The global property management software sector was worth $2.9 billion in 2020, likely to surpass a $3 billion valuation by 2028, according to market research firm Grand View Research.
The adoption of technology among property owners and managers is one of the real estate industry’s most significant emerging trends, the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers reported in the 2021 Emerging Trends in Real Estate Report.
SightPlan’s array of products allow apartment operators to manage work requests, communicate with residents, collect rent, oversee inspections and more.
Examples of the technology in action include turning mobile devices into digital keys to save time accessing proper-ties and integration with sensors to alert technicians as soon as an issue with an HVAC system is detected.
Westlake declined to share revenue, but did say SightPlan recorded 60% year-over-year growth in 2020 and is poised to beat that in 2021.
The growth is part of a revolution in the property technology sector, known as proptech. Proptech companies re-eived only 3.7% of venture capital de-ployed in 2015, according to CB Insights and PitchBook. However, the industry’s potential caught the attention of investors, and proptech landed 6.8% of venture capital invested in 2019 — equivalent to $8.8 billion.
Today, SightPlan’s biggest challenge is the same that most tech firms face: a fiercely competitive labor market. Every industry’s conversion to digital platforms means software talent is in demand in every industry, not just tech, Westlake said.
SightPlan tries to overcome this by touting its company culture and ben-efits that include ability to work from home and ownership options. While SightPlan has a minority investor in Park City, Utah-based RET Ventures, an investment firm backed by multifamily operators across the country, it is majority employee-owned.
This is important to Westlake, who said 500 shares of Microsoft he owned while at the tech giant gave him the financial freedom to later start SightPlan.
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SightPlan found traction before the pandemic, but skyrocketing demand for apartments this year accelerated its growth trajectory. A tightening labor market makes it tough for apartment operators to hire the help they need, but a digital solution like SightPlan makes existing teams more efficient, Westlake said.
The use of software in the property rental industry has made a “night and day” difference, said Adam Wonus, partner of Lake Mary-based Atrium Management Co. Atrium is not a Sight-Plan customer, but the company has experienced first-hand how software makes work orders, rent collection and showings more efficient, Wonus said.
In fact, $15,000 in annual savings at one multifamily can translate to a $330,000 bump in the building’s value, he added. “I believe that’s one reason we’ve seen value and prices increase so much, because buildings are operating so much more efficiently.”