By: Demetrios Salpoglou
If you’re into buzzwords and real estate, you might have started to incorporate “proptech” into your vocabulary. For the rest of us, it’s still a pretty new concept. So, what is proptech, and how can it help manage, rent, sell and optimize your income producing properties?
Wait, what is it exactly?
PropTech is the real estate industry’s reaction to the advancing digitalization of our world. Entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to make our lives easier, and prop tech provides a huge benefit to those looking to buy, sell, rent, and/or property manage. Technology and innovation have been accelerating in recent years and real estate is no exception. All industries and business models must move forward, or they eventually fall by the wayside, lose ROI, or face decreasing market share and loss of pricing power.
Unique, creative startups are popping up everywhere looking to capture markets with pioneering solutions to traditionally long standing problems. Landlords and homeowners can reap the benefits of these recent innovations and leverage the latest, greatest technology to simplify all aspects of real estate and improve their quality of life. Maximizing time, and output of production per hour, is the catalyst for change in an ever increasing instant service world.
How can proptech benefit property owners?
Internet of Things
If we’re discussing PropTech, it’s hard not to mention another worthy buzzword, the Internet of Things, or IoT for you techies out there. What is IoT? Simply stated, the Internet of Things is a system of interconnected and interrelated computers and devices that can run and operate themselves with minimal human intervention.
Smart thermostats are a great example of the Internet of Things. Using a smart phone or any device connected to the internet, landlords and tenants alike can control the thermostat. Forgot to turn the heat down when you left for vacation? Just login to your thermostat app and adjust it from the airport runway!
Smart locks are another IoT invention that has made it easier for landlords and homeowners to manage their properties. Using a device or a computer, you can check to see if your door is locked, and if it isn’t, you’re able to lock it right from your app or computer! For landlords, it makes it much easier to manage apartment showings, and for homeowners it gives them added peace of mind. The ability to let contactors into properties from a centralized location reduces the amount of times an owner needs to get in a car or commute to a location. This allows landlord to continue to grow and scale their businesses and work on more important matters. Many landlords now have external cameras also installed at their properties so they can see when the contractor arrives and leaves to verify hourly billed rates in the event of a dispute or other matter.
There are many other home devices that can operate using IoT frameworks. For landlords looking to take advantage of this technology, they can get with companies like Boston Pads and Boston Property Management to learn more how they can integrate this into their properties.
Good communication with tenants is a two-way street. You need to make sure tenants aware of important news such as upcoming routine maintenance or changes in service providers. But it’s equally important to make sure your tenants can easily let you know about needed repairs, or changes to their living and leasing arrangements. It’s important to deploy a multistage CRM and marketing plan to both retain tenants and also get them to communicate with you more when problems are small so they don’t become major costly problems. Systematic reminder emails to tenants such as quickly notifying you of a running toilet can save landlords hundreds of dollars in wasted water. Letting tenants know that you are building or renovating a new building with different bedroom counts and sizes and price points helps them also stick with you if their lifestyle or budget needs have changed. Most of the time it is far better to keep your same customer that knows your billing and management style than to train or teach new customers. Time is money!
Great landlords use technology to remind tenants of trash pickup days, scheduling snow removal and landscaping providers, and appropriate related action items. Having automated cron-job emails helps disseminate important information year after year, without much effort, so that time is gained for: landlord, tenants and third party service providers. Emergency record cold temperatures can also trigger reminder emails that tenants might want to let their water drip on each faucet, and put their apartment temperatures a little bit higher so that their pipes don’t freeze. It also shows your care. Having a great CRM can do wonders for scalability and relatability as a landlord. Tenants write great reviews about landlords that follow these three rules– They must know, like and trust you. By keeping good communication going with your tenants, you weave those three rules into your relationship with them.
Some sites will allow you communicate important messages to tenants using flexible channels, such as email, phone call, or text message, based on the type of message or the tenant’s preference. Simple, effective communication with tenants is a pillar of effective property management, and plenty of proptech options are out there to help you succeed. Some leading real estate technology companies such as Bostonpads.com deliver abilities to contact everyone in an entire building with one click through a medium of communication channels. In emergency, or showing or service activities, bet on over communication than under communication. You will find that pound for pound over communicating wins 90% of the time. You will find you will have less annoyed tenants when you can show them that you called, texted and emailed them. This is especially true on higher bedroom count apartments where tenants will say they didn’t know someone was stopping by. The last thing you want is for a contractor to be turned away by a tenant especially when it took you a couple weeks to find that special repair company for the job. With the Boston unemployment rate hovering exceptionally low right now; you can’t afford to take chances.
Document and lease storage with contact numbers also makes it a breeze for lease renewals or for timely paperwork retrieval. It’s important to work with real estate companies that have their paperwork and CRM systems down to a science. Working with large industry leading apartment leasing companies in a given area is often the wisest decision so you get the best real time apartment data pricing and document storage and retrieval. You would be surprised at how dominate regional players have vast sums of the most accurate local real time data that has been accumulated over the years.
Another key to time management as a landlord is to be able to talk with companies that rent the most properties year after year. Ask how many apartments they have rented in the past decade. Be leery of fly by night companies with very few google reviews. Like the New England Patriots, experience matters. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have worked together for almost two decades, so they know how to operate at a higher level without inconsistency. Look for winners that have built the best long standing organizational teams in apartment leasing in your area. Examine the upper management staff. Ask for references. If you see a company that has the most landlords it is a great sign that they are helping landlords achieve the highest possible cash flow. Companies that have local websites and good real time data can price your property more accurately. Seek companies that spend the money on marketing, and the best diversified offices throughout an area, with the most agents that participate in leasing. Look for long standing partners of the real estate industry. Tom Brady has worked with Julian Edelman for nearly one decade so they know how to work well together and accomplish great things through long standing experience. The best mix of success is to find tech savvy companies with deep management experience so you are covered at all levels. This will cut down on the number of vendors you will need to work with or explain all the nuances of your investment property. Time in Money.
Short-Term Rental Management
If you’re in the short-term rental business, you have plenty of logistics to juggle. New proptech companies will take on some of that burden for you by handling both the online component and the hands-on logistics. They’ll list your property on popular sites like Airbnb and Homeaway and take care of day to day necessities like key exchanges, cleaning, and restocking.
Using PropTech, landlords can also automate the process for getting the necessary paperwork signed. As soon as a short term rental agreement is made, documents can be automatically sent out to the renter, complete with digital signature fields so they can sign right from their smart phone or computer. Once it’s signed, it’s send back to the landlord for their records and stored in a database for retrieval when needed.
Be sure to check local zoning laws as they many areas are still changing and adapting new rules. Many online companies help formulate software that can do the best job predicting short term rental pricing.
Publicity and Listing Management
Every landlord knows the difficulty of finding and retaining good tenants. How can make sure the right renters find your property and choose it from among their many options? To publicize your property you’ve got to keep up with the latest websites and keep your listing current on each one. Or do you? If you leverage the right proptech sites, technology can do most of the work for you. It’s important to look around and see what local technology providers can get your listings to the widest possible audiences.
Look for tech companies that can syndicate your listings to the greatest amount of national portals, local portals and hyper-local niche specific real estate websites with the least amount of effort. You also may want to look to see how their social media presence is doing. Ask specifically how many marketing locations they can place your apartment for rent in several clicks. Any real estate company in Boston worth it’s weight in salt should be able to place your listing to over 100 locations on the internet today. The internet has become more vast with wider audiences spread across more locations. You want to make sure that the agency you utilize has the best syndication technologies. Be leery of any company that tries to slam close you into an exclusive right to rent; take your time and learn the best players of the industry. It costs of lot of money to build applications specific to the Boston Market or any market for that matter. Ask the real estate company if they have been automated admaking technology specific to your needs. Make sure you ask them why they deserve to get your listing. Do they get your property up, featured and refreshed on the ever increasing Facebook groups and expanding social marketplaces? Do they tweet our your listing? Can they automatically put your apartment video on YouTube? Can they get your property up on Craigslist in two clicks? Do they have large followings, pages and groups? Always work with local real estate companies that have the best and largest number of reviews both in google and on social media.
Boston Pads is the dominate local portal and real estate technology provider that is very popular among renters, buyers, sellers and property managers in the Boston area. It is a valuable resource for a vast array of real estate needs. As a landlord, you can enter your property information one time and have it potentially displayed on 80 local websites and over 130 local social media channels. Their systems are also robust enough to further syndicate to national sites such as: Zillow, Trulia, Renthop, Zumper, CraigsList as well as social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Need to make a change to the property information or pricing? No problem; one update ensures accurate information on every site. Want advice from a dedicated human (not a robot) with years of experience in real estate? No problem, they have integrated technology and the human touch to provide outstanding results!
Leveraging the best proptech sites can take much of the headache out of property management. You don’t need to keep up with the latest, greatest technology. A few key websites and companies will do the innovating for you to make sure you’re attracting the right tenants and keeping them happy with great administration.