A Journey Through Apartmentalize 
eagle statue with apartmentalize scarf on it

10 minute read

In June, Apartmentalize served as the hub of the rental housing industry, where industry professionals created connections, shared ideas and found solutions.

Rental housing is an industry spanning multiple sectors and disciplines, ever-evolving from one idea to the next—something the record attendance of 12,323 learned at Apartmentalize in Atlanta in early June. The annual conference featured over 100 educational opportunities, networking with peers, the NAA Exposition and 645 exhibitors, General Sessions, Thursday Night Party and numerous other learning and networking opportunities.

This multi-day event allowed industry professionals ranging from housing providers and management companies to vendors and suppliers the opportunity to explore new trends, learn industry best practices and gather actionable tactics and strategies to take back to the office.

While all attendees have their own agenda, goals and knowledge they expect to glean from Apartmentalize, education is at the heart of the conference. Topics ranged from artificial intelligence to maintenance to employee and resident satisfaction and everywhere in between.

“It’s one of the most energizing opportunities to re-engage and develop yourself, and you have the tools to do it the way you see fit,” says Monica Frazier, General Manager at Midwood Investment & Development. “I go to this, do this, but the trade show opens spaces for dialogue or sessions to learn. There are engagement points, so you can really cultivate yourself personally. I think that’s been really valuable, and when I attend every year, I can get something different each time.”


Each year, there’s a new topic or an item of interest that is developed with a deeper, more in-depth analysis. Not new by any means, artificial intelligence (AI) took a larger stage than in previous years in part due to the recent rise in its more generalized public use through programs such as ChatGPT and other machine-learning applications.

As the industry evolves, so do the educational offerings, and attendees were ready to gather as much information as possible about AI in rental housing.

“I come to take advantage of the fast-paced changes,” says Melissa Joy, Senior Vice President at Village Green. “When I started in the industry, we still were collecting cash for rent, handwritten work orders, and to see the evolution—I am always so curious to see what’s the new happening thing. When I first came to Apartmentalize, it was how do we manage packages and then it became how do you do the pet stuff, and now it’s technology and it’s AI.

“I am very curious how AI is going to change the world, let alone our industry. I’ve been in the industry 28 years now... I usually have a lot to say and experience to share, [but]… I selected a session about mapping and AI and how we can use technology to identify trends immediately and then find the solution with the human component. So, I’m clearly very passionate about people. I need the AI learning, so anything I could find about that I attended.”

Also front and center in Atlanta were mental health as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). There remains certain stigmas around these topics, so leaders in the industry and subject matter experts took center stage to remove those thoughts and shine a positive light on these efforts.

“Mental health and DEI—a lot we can all learn from each other [from the] many HR sessions, so being an HR professional, it’s nice that those resources are available,” says Carolyn Lewis, Director of Talent Acquisition at Gables Residential. “It’s valuable because operations attendees come to our HR sessions to gain insight on trends, while conversely, we have the opportunity to attend operations sessions and learn more about what they’re doing, in order to better support each other.”

Mental health is also an important education item for Julie Blaikie, Vice President, Human Resources Business Partner at Equity Residential. “Top of mind for me is mental health but in relation to employee safety and dealing with challenging residents. People leave the industry because of fear… or the environment that’s created. However, we can work as an association to educate and empower our employees.”

NAA now has three years of data available from its Mental and Emotional Health Survey, which was among the educational offerings in Atlanta. (Survey results can be found on naahq.org.)

Apartmentalize: Homecoming

Not every attendee is an Apartmentalize regular—nearly 40% of attendees were first-time attendees. Some have only been in the industry for a short amount of time regardless of their employment history. Others are Apartmentalize newcomers with high hopes and even higher expectations, so beating those are often difficult.

“My expectations were high, but [Apartmentalize] blew [me away],” says Pincus, a first-time attendee. “Walking on the trade show floor for the first time; I was in awe. I feel like people that go year after year get used to the scale of it all, but for me, I was blown away. It was seriously unforgettable!”

Others who have been in the industry their entire career, or for most of it, love to return every year, or when possible, to learn what’s new or catch up with their industry peers.

“For me, it’s like a big family reunion; I’ve been in the business so long,” says Miller. “It’s where I get to see everyone, but also, it’s a great opportunity to see what’s new out there.”

Todd Hignite, Vice President at Hearth Home Communities, has been in the industry for nearly 30 years and loves returning to Apartmentalize annually. “The experience of coming back every year and connecting with people I don’t get to see but once or twice a year, it’s like seeing family. It’s a homecoming every time we all see each other. It’s also about the educational and social experiences, but overall, you feel like you’re at home with the entire multifamily housing community.”

For some, this is the only time they can see colleagues and peers outside the For some, this is the only time they can see colleagues and peers outside the traditional work atmosphere—a place to learn and focus on everything rental housing. “Apartmentalize is the only time that you get to see in aggregate what the apartment industry is collectively up to,” says Jonakan O’Steen, Principal, Jonakan O’Steen Consulting. “So, you get to understand—in one conference in just a few days—the whole status of the industry, what it’s doing and how it’s moving forward. You might come with some expertise in your area or interest, but there’s so many other things you don’t fully know and you get to see them and align with them to reshape your focus or greater success.”

Joy is focused on gaining the connection that was lost during the pandemic. “I really love connecting with people in person. I don’t think there is any substitute for being able to do that. I love the opportunity—and this is the third or fourth time—to speak, but I come to learn and to connect... So, I’m very curious mostly to learn and to connect and certainly to share my passion.” 

NAA Exposition

Hignite says his company is in a transition phase after repositioning and selling their portfolio in October to make way for a new product style. “So for me, it has been engaging with other people that are used to the traditional stack units and also being able to see the products on the [NAA Exposition] floor. There are many items and vendors we’re going to need for the new properties—new setup and taking technology to the next level and how it’s implemented including AI.”

The NAA Exposition is also a place for connection—between companies and clients or industry professionals networking over a coffee. It’s a location where the entire purpose is to create connections.

“Collaboration creates connection,” says Frazier. “So even if I don’t need your product or software, I’m creating a connection with you and networking. It may be an opportunity to invite you to the affiliate level. I don’t think there is not a reason to connect with somebody off the strength of we’re just human beings, and it’s okay to know somebody else in the industry. So, I think the beauty of the expo floor is you get to see companies in their own right displaying themselves the way they want to see fit and engaging in a way to say, ‘Can we do business together, and if not, what other opportunities exist?’ 

“My favorite things about the expo floor is that I make new friends, I try new products, win a few things. It’s a good time.”

Being able to network at Apart-mentalize has multiple benefits: The ability to connect in-person as well as the opportunity to reconnect once Apartmentalize has finished.

“It’s the only place where you have so many people from the industry come together where you can meet them and network,” says Moshe Crane, Director of Leasing and Marketing at Sage Ventures. “It’s more of having them part of your network outside of the conference, so if I have a question, challenge or issue I’m working through, I want to have people to ask what they do and what their thoughts are about it.”

Joy uses this time to research and find trends in the industry—and she’s found a trend about trends. “I am in Cincinnati, and I have noticed that trends in our industry start on the coasts and work their way in. I was very curious to seek the technological advances that have taken place... I’m always very curious about technology and integrations but on the other hand, how many apps can people have—so it’s about finding a good balance.”

Frazier had this to add as a general observation about the industry: “I think [the rental housing industry] is a silent 
power player. I think that people under- estimate the impact that the rental housing industry has on our economy and the global view because they aren’t aware of it.

“What’s great about NAA and events like these is it brings awareness up to light. Looking at it from that perspective: We’re impacting peoples’ daily lives. I see kids being born, people getting married; I see people pass away... We’re a part of the life cycle of the people. We’re a part of their history and their experience. I think that that’s again underestimated or not looked at as much as it should be.”

Educational Crossover

“It’s important when these sessions have a few takeaways. I sat in on one that was maintenance focused, and it was a little tactical, but it was great. I walked away with a list of things—tools—that I didn't know existed that we can buy our maintenance team... So that was a very tactical take away for me and something that I’ll implement.”

— Jared Miller, Chief Operating Officer, RedPeak

“I tried to attend a few sessions that maybe didn’t have much to do with my role. I think it’s valuable to sit in on education sessions that maybe don’t touch your role directly, but that can broaden your experience in the industry at large. So, I recommend taking advantage of every opportunity to soak in knowledge at Apartmentalize!”

— Julia Pincus, Senior Corporate Marketing and Communications Manager, Avenue5 Residential 

Education Amalgamation: Attendee vs. Presenter

It’s not as easy as it looks preparing to be on stage discussing a topic in-depth compared to soaking up knowledge in a large crowd. The priorities are different as well.

“As far as preparing ahead of time, that’s key,” says Hignite. “We made sure to be on multiple calls for our session to ensure we were well organized. We divided up the topics as you saw today and fine-tuned our program.” The panel for the session found time 30 minutes before the start of the program to comb through last-minute details in a run-through.

“It’s a different preparation when you’re speaking by yourself or with just one other presenter. That involves a lot more intensity in preparation,” says Hignite. “I plan out my days rather thoroughly so that I can use the actual [Apartmentalize] app, making sure I am scheduled exactly with what I want to see. Sometimes I’ve got two events or seminars I want to see at the same time; therefore, I have to make hard choices.  That’s a positive given there’s enough education offerings for everyone to keep interested no matter what level of the business you’re at in your company.”

There’s a bit of pressure being the one up on the stage delivering the quality information that hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees are searching for to bring home. 

Frazier likened this to being a role model and that “you want to make sure that people are learning things that they can actually take back that are tangible, whereas when you’re learning, you’re just soaking it in, you’re sponging in, and if you’re serving something like a chef serves food, you want to be the highest quality, have a great presentation, be of great value—I think that’s something different that you feel on the speaker side and that you normally wouldn't have to even think about if you’re an attendee.”


Up next for Apartmentalize is Philadelphia from June 19-21, 2024.

Save the Date for 2024


Michael Miller is NAA’s Managing Editor.