Unlike other professions, the property management sector is known for ignoring new technologies and processes longer than in should in favour of the status quo. The reason is, property managers are driven by the singular objective to maximize revenues—and there are only two ways of doing it: by reducing operational costs, or by increasing the amount that tenants pay. That’s why savvy property managers are worth their weight in gold.
Still, technology shouldn’t be ignored, and those who explore and embrace new methods can gain a real advantage. Of course, every property management professional has a mobile phone, but it is still incredibly common for tasks to be done the old way, sometimes even with pen and paper rather than mobile devices and computers. This approach may save money in the short run, and it certainly cuts down on training time for new technologies, but it’s not good for the bottom line.
Here’s a look at some of the antiquated processes that are still standard in the property management industry and how they should be updated to maximize efficiencies:
1. Property inspections
Everyone knows how critical it is to check over recently vacated units, making sure that everything is in working order. This allows companies to pay the damage deposit back to former tenants, make necessary repairs, and get empty units quickly turned around. Given the importance of this process, it’s amazing that most inspections are actually done using a printed checklist. On paper (literally), this isn’t a terrible thing. After all, it still captures relevant information. But what it doesn’t show is when damage occurred, causing the list to be almost useless when it comes to a dispute over deposit refunds. A great way to mitigate this is to use apps such as Happy.co. Effective property managers use iPads and cell phones not only to record the condition of properties but to take and archive timestamped photographs. Accurate documentation gives property managers the upper hand when they can prove that units were pristine before a resident moved in.
2. Ordering supplies
Even in an age of sophisticated technologies, most purchasing is rather ad hoc. If property managers run low on supplies, they just head out to the local Home Depot to buy more nails, cleaner or floor mats. This isn’t a terrible approach because companies can buy whatever they need relatively quickly. However, owners then have almost no visibility into spending—and no control over seemingly small expenses that can add up in a hurry. Savvy property owners that want bulk discounts and consistency in their expenditures should look into platforms such as Yardi or RealPage that offer advanced catalogue tools, where all purchases are initiated and tracked in a single system.
3. Apartment tours
Apartment tours are difficult to arrange in the best of times, and almost impossible to schedule during a pandemic. Most people search for rental units online, and when they find a place that meets their criteria, they call the leasing office to schedule a conversation and perhaps even a visit. Again, this is not a terrible approach. The problem is that most people do their searches at night when rental offices are closed. This means that a potential tenant who is ready to sign a lease has to send an email or leave a voicemail and then wait for 12 hours or more for a return message. Access to a leasing agent directly correlates to revenue because people tend to look at multiple units then take the first one available. First mover advantage is everything, which is why technology platforms like MeetElise use AI-powered bots to automatically respond to inquiries or schedule visits within a matter of seconds. So even if a property management professional is off-line for the evening, prospective tenants are reeled in long enough for a live agent to take over the next day.
4. Tenant approval or denial decisions
Finding a tenant is only a positive if he or she is able to pay rent in full every month. It costs property owners money if they approve a tenant only to find out that the rent isn’t going to be paid on time, or there is illegal activity, or damage to the premises. The best way to prevent costly and time-consuming evictions is to find quality tenants. For the last 30 years or so the industry standard has been a credit check, which allows property companies to make sure that prospects have a good financial score. It’s a fine idea in theory, but credit checks miss many crucial details, including employer and income data, bounced checks and average bank balance. In short, they just don’t get the job done. Over the next few years, these kinds of inquiries are ripe to get replaced by technologies that use artificial intelligence to predict whether or not a prospect will make a good resident. That’s why bank checks are primed to become the industry standard for third-party verification: they actually answer questions that credit checks don’t even ask. By getting a complete snapshot of an applicant’s financial health and not just credit card payments, landlords can make intelligent, data-driven decisions that result in better tenant selection.
There’s no single technology that’s going to solve every problem. After all, there really are too many issues to tackle simultaneously. What is needed is a willingness to let go of old approaches and adopt new technologies that will not only save time and improve efficiency, but ultimately increase profits as well. If you already have a smart phone in your pocket, you’re 90 per cent of the way there.
Chad Guziewicz is Co-Founder of Rentify, the leader in bank checks, an instant screening tool used to verify tenant application data by landlords and property managers across North America.