This article is sponsored by NIC MAP Vision. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Arick Morton, Chief Executive Officer of NIC MAP Vision, to learn how senior housing executives are using the platform’s data today, and why they continue to renew every year. Morton also shares what’s coming with NIC MAP Vision data and active adult. The answer? Everything.
Senior Housing News: What was your inspiration to found what would eventually become NIC MAP Vision?
Arick Morton: The inspiration started at childhood. Having grown up in a family of senior housing operators, I saw firsthand what it took to successfully run a community. I spent a lot of time understanding the nuances of the industry, and shadowing jobs at the facility level gave me an even greater appreciation.
The interest in data and analytics developed later. I eventually worked for a health care analytics company for the better part of five years and developed new analytics solutions there. Later, I was approached by someone very tenured in the senior housing industry who wanted to understand the best place to build his next building. I used my data background to run a market evaluation, and that process laid the foundation for what would become VisionLTC, a new senior housing data and analytics startup.
After a few years of rapid growth, our company was approached by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC). Their data platform at the time, NIC MAP® Data Service (NIC MAP), was well regarded in the industry and strongly complemented what we offered. In early 2021, we brought NIC MAP and VisionLTC together and our growth has only multiplied since.
For more than 15 years, NIC MAP Vision has been known within the senior housing industry as a premier data and analytics provider. Why do clients continue to renew their membership year after year?
Morton: I think the primary reason clients renew is that we offer the gold standard supply and demand data in the market. NIC MAP, before combining with VisionLTC last year, built a reputation as the pre-eminent platform for rate and occupancy data — the supply side. At VisionLTC, we built a reputation for market analytics, construction pipeline, and demographic data — the demand side. Now that NIC MAP Vision is formed, clients can get the best of both specialties in one place, along with a manifold of advanced analytical insights that are made possible by housing all of the data under one roof.
If you truly want to know what’s happening in the market, NIC MAP Vision really is the only place to get that information. When you’re looking to build or buy, or when you’re thinking about asset management and operational decisions, it’s now standard practice to consult NIC MAP Vision data. I think NIC MAP Vision always had a natural pull to the stakeholders that valued data-based decision-making.
I’d also add that we’re highly attentive to client feedback. Many of the features now in our platform were inspired by operators, investors, developers, and others telling us what would help make their lives easier. I think the fact we consciously add those changes sends the message that we care about what our clients think, and those clients respond by continuing to renew.
NIC MAP Vision recently released a revamped business intelligence and asset management tool. What are the top three benefits that this new tool brings to senior housing operators?
Morton: I think the first benefit would be the ability to unlock insights that are sitting inside of siloed data systems. That would be one.
Two would be the ability to benchmark against the competition in a way that’s effective and accurate. It’s one thing to say, “My occupancy went up 3%.” Is that good or bad? Depends on if the market went up 10% or if the market went down 5%. With machine learning we’ve developed, our platform can create smart comps sets where we can tell you, “Based on all the data we have, which is unparalleled in the market, these are your 10 closest competitors.”
Then, three, I think it’s just ease of consumption. The ability to get all those analytics in a way that’s easy and fast is indispensable. There is no work for the user since the analysis is automated. The data comes right to your desk and executives can sit down, consume the data efficiently, and then make real-time decisions.
NIC MAP Vision also recently launched a product that helps connect health care providers with contacts within senior housing operators. What benefits does the tool bring operators, and what are the best outcomes that the tool is now delivering?
Morton: Senior housing is quickly becoming part of the integrated health care system. Senior Housing News has had many articles about new entrants, VC-backed primary care providers, and other companies that are coming into the market and looking to take advantage of the opportunity to connect senior housing into the broader health care continuum.
The matchmaking between health care providers and operators works both ways. We’re working with many of the top health care providers to help them understand what the utilization landscape looks like. “Who are the players?” “Where is the opportunity?”
But then on the other side, that data is available to senior housing providers who can go out and understand who the providers are. “Who can I partner with?” “Who’s growing?” “Where is there an opportunity for my community?”
Essentially, having data that shows which providers are matched with which operators is going to be some of the most critical data to stay competitive. As we allow providers to develop proactive strategies with this data, forward-thinking providers are already viewing the data as a necessity. The data we provide facilitates and improves the matchmaking process and is even more powerful because it’s so groundbreaking.
When I was working in healthcare analytics, I was always asked, “Where is the opportunity in senior housing for a health care-focused company?” The answer was always, “There’s not good enough data to answer that question.” Before now, you couldn’t figure out the utilization at the building level and you couldn’t see the utilization patterns. You couldn’t see who’s working with who or the referral patterns.
The lack of data was a challenge we started trying to solve as far back as 2015 and we’re now rolling out that information.
Active Adult communities have grown in popularity in recent years. What are NIC MAP Vision’s upcoming plans for tracking the growth and market trends for that segment?
Morton: I think active adult is critical and that we have a responsibility to report data for this emerging property type. Everything you’re able to see and analyze for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing in our platform, you’ll also be able to perform with active adult data by early next year.
What we’re hearing time and time again is when a new active adult facility opens, 15 or 20 people move out of a local independent living facility and into the active adult facility. If you don’t need three bundled meals a day, or two bundled meals a day, you can go and save yourself 50% on the rent in an active adult community.
There are a lot of people who are in IL who say, “The meals are nice, but I don’t have to have it, so I’ll just make my own meals and I’ll bank the difference,” or, “I don’t like the acuity here and I’ll go somewhere with lower acuity.” We’re seeing, anecdotally at least, that active adult is eating some of the front end of independent living.
With that development in mind, you’re really seeing active adult compete in the senior housing continuum. Sure, active adult looks a lot more like multi-family than most senior housing, but it truly is a senior housing product. One of the most telling signs is if you look at the sales model at an active-adult property, the personnel and experience feel nearly identical to what you’d expect in senior housing as opposed to the typical multi-family model.
In an IL property, the sales and marketing reps tend to be people who have more life experience and really work with the family to navigate what is often a fraught decision-making process. You need a someone who can truly consult with the prospective resident, because you’re selling a lifestyle change. It may not be an assisted living move-in, but you’re still selling a material lifestyle change. That’s a much harder sell than multifamily and so you see a sales and leasing process that looks nearly identical to senior housing, rather than multifamily and I think that really speaks to Active Adult’s rightful placement in senior housing continuum.
Anybody who’s a user of our platform needs to understand what’s happening in active adult. We’re very lucky that NIC has an entire stakeholder process. We’ve brought together many investors, operators, and thought leaders and put together a standardized definition of active adult. They have a broader name for it because they’re thinking about active adult as it exists today, but what is it going to be in five or ten years?
These senior housing stakeholders spent more than a year going out identifying the properties and collecting data around performance. They ask questions like: What amenities does each property have? Who operates it? What’s the unit mix? What do occupancy and rate look like? What kind of loan does the property have on it?
We have building-level financials for many of these facilities. We’re now bringing our entire constellation of data around active adult to market.
Considering the current state of the economy and rising interest rates, how does NIC MAP Vision help users gain visibility into new construction activity?
Morton: This is an area where we invest heavily. We have a very robust research team that tracks every property. The second the shovel hits the ground, we have data on the pipeline, on construction, and on what’s trading.
I think in this moment it’s critical to keep an eye on that. You look at rising interest rates and construction costs and labor costs and say, “All right, maybe that’s going to dampen construction activity now.” This dynamic raises an interesting question of whether there will be a favorable demand imbalance for the early part of the baby boomer demographic wave that’s the result of some of these macroeconomic trends that might be suppressing development activity.
I think construction pipeline data has implications for development strategy as well as acquisition strategy because you really can get down to the micro level on the demographics. You can see a market’s demographic surge, but also that its construction activity has been dampened, so an investor might see a market like that as a favorable place to buy and hold a building for the next three to five years.
We’ve gone out and invested heavily in multiple sources of pipeline data which we make widely available. We want to make sure that everybody in the industry has as accurate and comprehensive a picture as humanly possible of what other projects are in the works. It benefits nobody in the industry for people to find out about projects after the point of no return on their own projects.
Finish this sentence: “The top strategy that senior housing operators should employ in 2022 to best prepare for 2023 is…”?
Morton: Smart growth planning. I think 2023 will see a surge in acquisition and transition opportunities as the lingering, suppressive effects of COVID fully lift. I think there will be more dynamism in the acquisition and transitions market in 2023, and operators who are well-positioned to intelligently grow their portfolio in their footprint will have a wide range of opportunities to do so.
We’re seeing many of our most forward-thinking users leverage the full breadth of our data to determine where they want to be as the baby boomer wave begins to break, particularly considering the first boomer turns 80 in 2025. There are users making plans to identify and realize those growth opportunities in 2023. I think of it as a surfer getting in the right spot as the wave begins to mass up ahead of breaking. I think for those that do it well, the rewards will be significant as the demographics surge, and at least in the short-term, new construction remains depressed below historical levels.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2021, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) and VisionLTC merged VisionLTC with NIC MAP ® Data Service to create a new and independent company, NIC MAP Vision, which brings together data needed by investors, operators and others in senior living. To learn more about how this data can help your organization make its next decision, visit nicmapvision.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact email@example.com.
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