Triple Win Property Management Blog

Why offer a tenant benefits package?

In the residential real estate sector, like everywhere else, residents and property investors alike are getting younger – and with this generational shift comes expectations for a certain level of convenience and support. To put it bluntly, today’s residents want their needs proactively anticipated. It’s something they're willing to pay (and stay) for. That’s where a tenant benefits package comes in. In this article, we’ll explore what a tenant benefit package is, how it improves the experience for both property managers and tenants, and crucial mistakes to avoid. Before we get into the details, we want to give a shoutout to our very own “Resident Benefits Package” – which is how we refer to the benefits comprised in the “tenant benefits package.” “Tenant” is not yet a legacy term, but we here at Second Nature are trying to evolve it. That’s because, in our experience, property managers work hard to make renters feel like they’re not just parties to a contract – they’re residents. On one hand, this is just humans being humans, but on the other hand, it also encourages them to invest in care for their new home and add value to the property. Ready to get started now? Build your Resident Benefits Package today. What is a tenant benefits package? A tenant benefits package is typically a bundle of services, conveniences, and provisions offered by a property manager on top of the basic lease agreement. They represent a triple-win situation for property managers, residents, and property owners, as they enhance the overall rental experience, generate additional income, and protect the real estate investment. It might include conveniences such as online monthly rent payment options, or portals for submitting maintenance requests and tracking their status. It could also include various financial perks, such as credit rating improvements that are contingent on on-time rental payments, or discounts on nearby services such as fitness centers. It might also include amenities ranging from move-in concierge or utility set-up services, to identity protection services, to HVAC filter delivery. The cost for resident benefits packages is typically included in the lease and added as a monthly fee, with the fee being dependent on the specific benefits. Indeed, the benefits contained in a tenant benefits package will vary depending on the property manager and the type of rental property. The overall goal is to provide tenants with an enhanced quality of life while simplifying the experience of renting. At Second Nature, we pioneered the only fully managed resident benefits package, in response to PMs who wanted to make their business stand out. Our RBP includes an array of services and supports for residents, from filter delivery to credit building to maintenance. Why should property managers offer a tenant benefits package? Beyond the triple-win considerations mentioned just above, there are compelling and concrete reasons why property managers should offer tenant benefit packages. We'll turn to these now. Ancillary revenue Some tenant benefit packages include optional services or add-ons that can generate additional revenue streams for the property manager. This might include things like renter insurance or HVAC filter delivery. Resident experience Tenant benefit packages deliver numerous savings and value to tenants, beyond the value they would get if they were obtaining the same benefits "à la carte." Additionally, by offering additional services and conveniences, benefit packages can make tenants feel valued and more satisfied with their living experience. For instance, maintenance hotline requests, tenant portals, and air filter replacements all make life easier. Add-on services like identity theft protection can offer a sense of security. And discounted renters insurance coverage, utility concierge services, or other perks can save tenants money. Decrease tenant turnover and vacancy rates In a competitive rental market, tenant benefit packages can be a major differentiator toward boosting retention rates and reducing vacancy rates. Properties that offer these packages can also attract a wider pool of qualified tenants, and potentially command higher rents. Note that certain benefits in the package, like online rent payments and maintenance requests, can automate tasks and free up the property manager's time. This allows them to focus on more value-added initiatives. How does the tenant benefits package improve the tenant experience? Tenant benefit packages can significantly improve tenant satisfaction in several ways, by making life easier, more convenient, and potentially more affordable. For instance, if an online portal (a baseline feature for most property management software) is included for rent payments and maintenance issues and requests, this eliminates the hassle of writing checks or waiting on hold to speak with someone about a clogged drain. In other words, tenants have the peace of mind of knowing they can manage their tenancy 24/7 from the comfort of their own devices. Some packages might include features like filter delivery services or regularly scheduled HVAC maintenance. This frees tenants from having to remember these tasks – and ensures their apartment is well-maintained. Certain packages might also offer "verified vendor" services – in other words, a vetted vendor network that can help provide a more secure feeling to residents when service providers are on-site. On the financial side of things, a benefits package might offer discounts with local suppliers for various goods and services, or on a renters insurance policy obtained through the property manager (with applicable waivers for residents who have their own insurance). This can save tenants money on a necessary expense. Some packages also help residents with their credit scores via credit reporting and credit building services, so they can transition from renting to home buying when the time is right. The idea is that the credit reporting program reports on-time rent payments automatically to all credit bureaus, helping residents build their credit simply by paying their rent on time. Some benefit packages include resident rewards programs that represent a powerful and positive incentive for on-time rent payments, including gift cards or cash. As far as living perks go, packages sometimes include added benefits such as access to fitness centers or community events. This provides tenants with additional spaces to relax, socialize, or stay healthy. Packages can include security deposit alternatives that serve to provide a means for residents to be financially liable for damages without having to pay a significant lump sum upfront, such as pure insurance, surety bonds, and ACH authorization programs. Ultimately, tenant benefit packages create a more professional and responsive image for the property management company, which helps tenants feel valued and allows them to experience a smoother, more stress-free rental experience. What are the mistakes to avoid when offering tenant benefits packages? Property management companies should take care to avoid certain pitfalls when implementing tenant benefit packages to ensure they are providing true value to tenants as well as delivering profitability to the PM company itself. For instance, it's important to ensure that the services you're offering are actually relevant to your target renters. For example, young professionals might appreciate discounts on gym memberships, while families might prefer pet-sitting services. You should also take care to clearly communicate what's included and not included in the package to new residents. Don't oversell the benefits – focus on how they genuinely improve the living experience. It's also very important to set realistic expectations for response times on standard maintenance requests, emergency maintenance requests, or virtual concierge services. Likewise, be clear on all available payment methods, as well as rent due dates, late fee structures, and any associated payment processing fees. If your package includes services from third-party vendors, ensure that these vendors are reputable and reliable. Research their customer service record and responsiveness to ensure a smooth partnership and a positive experience for tenants. Above all, regularly monitor the usage of different benefits within your benefits package. This can help you refine your offerings and ensure you're not spending where spending is not required. Looking for a Resident Benefits Package? If you’re looking for a “plug and play” resident benefits package, Second Nature’s RBP is the way to go. Designed to be easy to implement and simple to use, all the services it includes are managed by Second Nature – which means there’s no day-to-day upkeep required from the property manager: Second Nature keeps it running. It’s a simple way to grow your business and create great experiences that residents will pay and stay for. Learn more about our fully-managed Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

Read more

10 Steps to Onboard New Tenants

For property management companies, new tenant onboarding represents a cornerstone of the "Triple Win" philosophy we advocate here at Second Nature. That's because an optimal process benefits all parties. First, a smooth onboarding experience fosters tenant satisfaction and delivers winning conditions for a positive tenant relationship with their new home. It recognizes their role as property residents rather than transactional entities, and sets a positive tone for their experience with the property. It also demonstrates professionalism and competence on the part of the property management company, which not only boosts your brand, but also enhances your ability to attract potential tenants in the future. Finally, it protects the real estate property owner: Clear communication of lease terms, expectations, and maintenance procedures helps reduce the risk of issues such as late payments, property damage, or misunderstandings. But how do you actually optimize the onboarding process? Today we'll look at standardized procedures you should implement to ensure consistency and a positive outcome for all. Note on language: "Tenant onboarding” is an industry term used from time to time. But we here at Second Nature are trying to evolve the word "tenant." We’ve seen the incredible work property managers do day in and day out to make renters feel like they’re so much more than just a tenant – they’re residents. Making renters feel like residents isn’t just philosophical, it also encourages them to invest in care for their home and add value to the property. This is why, at Second Nature, we prefer to call tenants “residents.” Like you, we think of them as people first – making your property their home. 1. Run background checks, collect and verify all tenant information The onboarding process starts with thorough tenant screening and background checks on prospective renters. The process of ensuring the accuracy of tenant information can be time-consuming, so this is where you will realize the greatest efficiencies as you optimize the process. Start by leveraging screening and credit check/credit score service providers to assess a tenant's financial responsibility and ability to meet rent payments, as well as identifying any prior evictions or tenancy issues. Criminal background checks, run in accordance with fair housing laws and anti-discriminatory practices, can uncover potential red flags that may represent risks to the property or other tenants. You should also use standardized application forms that clearly request information such as: full legal name, contact details, and date of birth employment information and income verification (via recent paystubs or employer contact details) previous rental history, including contact details of prior landlords emergency contact information Directly contact previous landlords and employers to confirm details provided by the prospective tenant, and verify the government-issued photo ID (driver's license or passport) they supply to confirm their identity. Consider offering an online application portal where tenants can submit their information and upload documents securely. This allows for faster processing and reduces manual data entry (and therefore reduces the risk of errors). Again, ensure that all screening processes comply with fair housing laws to avoid discrimination based on protected characteristics. 2. Explain the lease and sign the agreement It's critical for all parties that you be transparent and clear about lease terms. To achieve this clarity in a repeatable, standardized way, consider structuring the process as four distinct stages: (i) Pre-signing review Schedule a dedicated time with the tenant to review the lease agreement. In the agreement itself, it's important to use clear, concise, plain language that avoids legal jargon. Explain each clause, addressing key points like rent amount and due date, security deposit details and return policy, allowed usage of the property and any restrictions (such as pets or modifications), maintenance responsibilities of both the tenant and the property manager, and termination clauses/notice periods. (ii) Addressing concerns After the pre-signing review, proactively invite questions and address any areas of confusion or concern. Have supplementary materials and any other necessary information readily at hand, such as property manuals or tenant handbooks. (iii) Lease signing process Consider offering the option of secure e-signatures for a convenient and efficient signing experience, but do ensure readily available hard copies of the lease for traditional in-person signing preferences. (iv) Post-signing follow-up: Present tenants with a signed copy of the lease agreement for their reference. At that point, you should outline the next steps, such as payment details (more on that below) move-in date and procedures, utility setup details, and contact information for maintenance requests or emergencies. 3. Collect payments and security deposits An efficient tenant onboarding process will prioritize secure and convenient methods for tenants to submit their security deposit and rent payments. Naturally, this starts and ends with clear communication. If you have not covered this in the context of the lease agreement, do so now: Clearly outline all available payment methods, as well as rent due dates, late fee structures, and any associated payment processing fees. It's helpful to provide flexible payment methods. Options include secure online portals (whether hosted on your site or by a third-party payment processing provider) that allow tenants to pay using debit cards, credit cards, or e-transfers. This option presents multiple advantages, including automatic recurring rent collection, online receipt for all transactions, and a record of payment history for easy reference. You can also offer the option for direct bank transfers between the tenant's account and the accounts of your property management company. For technology-averse tenants, you may find it necessary to offer traditional payment methods such as cashier's checks or money orders, which provide a secure way for tenants to submit payments without the risk of personal check bounces. When it comes to security deposit handling, compliance is key. You must adhere to all local and state regulations regarding security deposit amounts, holding periods, and interest accrual (if applicable). It's helpful to hold security deposits in a separate account designated solely for this purpose. This demonstrates transparency and protects tenant funds. 4. Share copies of electricity and gas safety certificates While some regulations require property managers to make electricity and gas safety certificates available on request, in certain jurisdictions, the property management company may be legally obliged to provide them during the onboarding process. Always consult with local regulations and ensure compliance to avoid any legal issues. In any case, by proactively providing copies of safety certificates, clearly explaining their purpose, and maintaining proper records, property management companies demonstrate a commitment to tenant safety and uphold a high standard of professionalism. This fosters trust and transparency throughout the tenancy. While the certificates indicate overall the electrical and gas safety of your rental property, as well as any potential hazards, emphasize the tenant's responsibility to report any observed issues or concerns promptly. 5. Schedule move-in To efficiently schedule the move-in, inquire about the tenant's preferred move-in date and time frame during the lease agreement signing process. If you're offering a few available move-in windows, strive to accommodate their preferred date and time, as this demonstrates your commitment to tenant satisfaction. If the tenant's preferred date is unavailable, propose options that minimize disruption, such as an earlier or later move-in time within the same day. Once a mutually agreeable move-in date and time are established, send a confirmation email or document outlining the details as well as a move-in checklist. Note that Second Nature includes a move-in concierge as part of its Resident Benefit Program. 6. Prepare the property for move-in day The onboarding process culminates in a meticulously prepared property for the tenant's arrival. Start by conducting a pre-move-in inspection and cleaning. This covers the entire property, including: Floors, windows, and all surfaces. Appliances Bathrooms and kitchens Ensure that all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operational, and have fresh batteries. Also, address any outstanding maintenance or repair requests, and verify that all applicable utilities are functioning properly. You'll want to take any meter readings in the presence of the tenant during the move-in process. Consider providing small "welcome amenities'' (toilet paper, tissues, light bulbs, and so on), as well as a welcome packet that includes contact details, important property information, trash collection schedules), and emergency procedures. Such gestures foster a sense that the property is being managed with care. 7. Deliver keys and share property manager contact information While the process of delivering keys and sharing contact information may seem trivial, it's an excellent occasion for once again demonstrating your professionalism and care for the property. First, coordinate a convenient time for the tenant to pick up their keys. This can occur during a move-in walkthrough or previously. Consider offering flexible options for key collection, such as collection of keys from the property management office, or secure drop-off at the property, if this is feasible. Maintain a record of the specific keys issued to the tenant. If the property utilizes key fobs or electronic access systems, ensure the tenant receives proper instructions and activation procedures. As far as contact information goes, provide the tenant with various contact methods, including any dedicated phone lines for tenant inquiries and maintenance requests, email addresses for non-urgent communication, and access to an online tenant portal (if applicable) for rent payments, maintenance requests, and communication. If you have not already done so, outline your operating hours and response timeframe for inquiries and maintenance requests. Provide a separate after-hours emergency contact number for urgent situations. 8. Leave a welcome message, card, or gift pack for the tenant While not essential, incorporating a personalized touch during the onboarding process can significantly enhance the tenant's experience. For instance, a brief handwritten note left at the property upon move-in adds a personal touch, as does a warm welcome email. Such a message can express that the tenant has chosen your property, offer availability to answer questions, and reiterate important contact details for the tenant's reference. Professional greeting cards with similar messages are also an effective way of enhancing your brand, particularly when co-branded with local restaurants and grocery stores to offer discounts or coupons. Another option consists of gift packs containing small, practical items such as basic toiletries, coffee/tea/baked goods, or cleaning supplies. Ensure that any message, card, or gift reflects a professional tone and avoids overly personal greetings. 9. Follow up after one week with the onboarded tenant to get feedback An optimal onboarding process extends beyond the initial move-in. Following up with the resident after a week demonstrates your company's attentiveness and professionalism, and goes a long way toward boosting retention rates. Schedule a follow-up call or email approximately one week after the tenant has settled in (at which point they will have become well acquainted with the property). A call allows for a more personal touch and enables the tenant to voice any concerns directly, while an email gives them the flexibility to respond at their convenience, as well as providing a written record of the communication. Sample wording might go along the lines of: "I hope you're settling in well at [property address/name]. Is there anything we can help you with?" or "We hope everything is going smoothly after your move-in last week. Do you have any questions or concerns we can address?" Remind the tenant of the various contact methods available for the property management company, and address any raised concerns promptly to demonstrate your willingness to assist in resolving issues. You may also wish to consider incorporating a brief tenant satisfaction survey into the follow-up e-mail, if you've chosen this approach. This can provide valuable insights into areas where the onboarding process can be further improved. 10. Schedule periodic rental inspections with the tenant A crucial aspect of responsible property management involves conducting periodic inspections. Here's a professional approach to scheduling these inspections while fostering a positive relationship with the resident. Clear communication is paramount. It's important that you outline the frequency and purpose of inspections within the lease agreement, and explain the rationale behind inspections, emphasizing property maintenance and ensuring tenant safety. Of course, you'll reserve the right to conduct immediate inspections in case of emergencies or suspected violations of the lease agreement. However, prioritize informing the tenant whenever possible, and always adhere to local and state regulations regarding the frequency and notification requirements for rental inspections. Before scheduling an inspection, provide ample written notice. This allows residents to prepare the property and minimizes disruption. As necessary, work with the tenant to find a mutually agreeable date and time for the inspection. Allow the tenant to be present during the inspection, and limit the inspection to the essential aspects, avoiding intrusion into personal belongings (download our rental inspection checklist to ensure you’re covering all the bases). Then, provide the tenant with a copy of the inspection report, highlighting any findings or maintenance needs. Final thoughts Remember, an onboarding process is not just a series of steps; it's a tool to enhance communication, establish expectations, and create a positive resident experience. Our top recommendation for ensuring a world-class resident experience is to build a resident benefits program. Second Nature has pioneered the only fully managed Resident Benefits Package for single-family property managers. Learn more about resident experience management in our State of Resident Experience Report, or explore the benefits of a Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon March 20, 2024

Read more

Woman on laptop reading PM newsletter

7 Best Property Management Newsletters

Property managers fill many roles and hold many responsibilities. That’s why it can be helpful for them to subscribe to leading industry newsletters and publications. These publications deliver strategic time-savings by providing focused, often actionable updates on market news such as real estate market fluctuations, investment property trends, and resident demographics. They can also keep you informed about updates to legal considerations related to rental properties, so you have a longer runway to adapt to any changing requirements. Finally, they’re an ideal way of keeping tabs on the latest in best practices and tech advancements, so your operational toolbox always has the best tools available, for what can often be a challenging role. In this post, we’ll survey some of the top newsletters in the industry, and provide quick takeaways about what makes each worth the read. 1. Second Nature's Triple Win Newsletter Our very own bi-weekly newsletter is a fun and informative digest of all things property management, with a focus on our "Triple Win" approach, which favors conditions that benefit residents, property management companies, and owners alike. We make it engaging and helpful, with sample content including articles such as "Improving Delegation with the 'Who' Not 'How' Approach," "Property Management Horror Stories," and "How to Install and Manage Processes in Property Management," plus interviews with industry veterans, our take on the best of social media, and the occasional PM-focused meme. Subscribe here 2. Peter Lohmann's Newsletter Peter Lohmann is the CEO & principal broker of RL Property Management, a residential property management company located in Columbus (Ohio). His weekly newsletter has 5,000 subscribers, and according to a recent social media posting on Twitter/X, focuses on “sharing everything that works as we grow our property management business.” A testimonial from one newsletter subscriber describes the content as “honest, objective, and eye-opening,” and this does appear to be the brand of the email newsletter, as it is written in a personable, conversational tone that covers a wide range of meaningful content and marketing strategies, ranging from how daunting it can be to hire a new COO, to extended discussions around client churn (using data from his own company), as well as spotlights on conferences, local events, and new technology. Subscribe here 3. PlanOmatic Monthly Beaker PlanOmatic provides photos, floor plans, and 3D tours for single-family rental property owners and property managers. Their monthly newsletter, The Monthly Beaker, bills itself as “everything you need to know about SFR, once a month, in one place.” Although it is still a fairly “young” publication at just over a year old, it has already garnered over 750 LinkedIn subscribers to go along with their email list. It’s easy to see why – the format makes it a lot of fun to read, with an introductory editorial segment delivered in a conversational tone that nevertheless provides a significant quantity of information. This is typically followed by a series of quick hits consisting of proprietary insights into the SFR space, important data from around the sector, and final bullets providing key takeaways (“Everyone knows this stuff and you should too”) from the property management industry. Subscribe here 4. National Rental Home Council As the non-profit trade association of the single-family rental home industry, the National Rental Home Council (NRHC) publishes a wealth of resources for its different target audiences. NRHC’s intent is to support legislative and regulatory frameworks that incentivize housing providers to augment and enhance accessibility to a range of fair housing options for both homeowners and renters. This means its resources are designed to be of interest to a variety of different stakeholders within the rental market. Members receive a weekly Briefing Report on the single family rental home industry, the Quarterly NRHC Newsletter, and a Weekly Newsletter featuring national coverage and news alerts. For non-members, the NRHC issues regular news releases, as well as resources including FAQs, reports and primers, fact sheets, and videos. With archives dating back to 2015, this site is a valuable and well-established industry resource. Visit the website 5. The Evernest Newsletter Evernest’s focus is on single-family houses, condos, small multi-family buildings, and HOA management. It manages over 15,000 properties for over 6,000 owners, and its HOA and Association division serves over 17,000 homeowners. As for the Evernest Newsletter, its email list consists of over 18K landlords and real estate industry investors, all signed up to receive educational content for DIY landlords and real estate investors. This real estate newsletter also publishes content related to new podcast episodes from the Evernest team, articles and videos, and community content as well as information about upcoming events. Subscribe here 6. Jordan Muela’s Newsletter Jordan Muela has been in the property management industry for over 10 years, and is currently CEO of LeadSimple and co-founder of ProfitCoach. He started his now bi-weekly newsletter in 2021, which counts 4k property manager subscribers, and focuses on “people, process, and profit,” as he puts it. With catchy headlines and informative content, it’s worth browsing his page of posts to get a sense of his coverage. Sample headers include “Why what triggers you is a gift,” “There's a simple test to understand how aggressive your fees are,” “It's ok to want to quit,” and “2023 National PM Pricing Report”: suffice it to say that it’s all highly varied and readable stuff. Subscribe here 7. Marc Cunningham In addition to running the PM Build website, Marc Cunningham is the President of Grace Property Management & Real Estate. He's regularly featured in national real estate publications and podcasts, holds multiple designations, invests in residential and commercial real estate, and was named the 2018 national property manager of the year by Think Realty. At PM Build, Marc publishes a monthly video newsletter that addresses current topics and trends in the real estate property management space. With accessible topics such as “How To Deliver Bad News To Owner-Clients, “Top Tip To Be Successful In The Property Management Business," and “6 Numbers To Measure The Success Of Your PM Business,” his content is of immense value for new and seasoned property management companies alike. Watch episodes here Hungry for more news? Visit Second Nature’s Triple Win Property Management Blog

Calendar icon March 15, 2024

Read more

Woman listening to property management podcast

5 Best Property Management Inspection Software

Property management inspection software is designed to simplify and streamline the process of conducting property inspections. Typical features of this property management software include customizable inspection templates, mobile compatibility, photo and video capture, scheduling capabilities, and report generation functionality. More broadly, inspection software is an important tool for establishing "Triple Win" conditions that benefit residents, property managers, and investors alike. That's because it improves overall operational efficiency and promotes proactive/preventative maintenance, while also helping to improve transparency. In a nutshell, it’s an indispensable tool for property management companies looking to deliver high-quality services and maintain property value. Today, we’ll provide an overview of some of the best property management inspection software currently available. A note on language: Developers of property management inspection software often refer to "tenants” in their workflows, and for the sake of cohesion, we’ll be picking up on that term in this software review. But here at Second Nature we regularly see the incredible work property managers do day in and day out to make renters feel like they’re so much more than just a tenant – they’re residents. Making renters feel like residents isn’t just a philosophy, it’s also a business decision that encourages them to invest in care for their home and add value to the property. This is why, at Second Nature, we prefer to call renters “residents.” Like you, we think of them as people first – making your property their home. Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Property Management Inspection Software The inspection solutions on this list were selected from top-ranked inspection software on sites such as Capterra and G2, as well as sites devoted to property management solutions. Note that all inspection tools come with pros, cons, and distinctive features. In today’s overview, we’ll confine ourselves to outlining core features, as well as positioning and pricing. However, for true apples-to-apples comparisons of property management inspection software, you should evaluate its performance in the context of real-life requirements and conditions. In particular, focus on the following aspects in your assessments: Workflow templatization Workflow templatization in property management inspection software refers to the process of creating templated automations that sequence common inspection tasks and steps. Essentially a user-friendly "smart inspection checklist," these workflow templates reduce the likelihood of inspection oversights or errors when assessing property conditions. They can include areas and elements to focus on during the inspection process, as well as evaluation criteria. Ideally, users can customize workflow templates as required. Ease of tenant communication Features that focus on ease of communication are central to improving the resident experience, as they streamline communication, save time, and enhance the overall process for both parties. Examples might range in complexity from simple direct messaging capabilities to automated translation features. How fast it is to complete an inspection While workflow templates can help make inspections more efficient, other factors also considerably impact overall process optimization, including features like automatic appointment scheduling, the extent of offline data access, the degree to which report generation is automated, and more. Inspection report readability Readability is key to creating transparent communications and positive overall experiences for everyone involved in the process. Different factors include the general layout and formatting of property inspection reports and inspection data, clarity and concision of language, and accessibility considerations that promote inclusivity for any reader. Customization options No one size fits all out of the box. That’s why inspection software ideally allows user to tailor the app to their specific requirements. Customization capabilities might refer to branding options, changes to the user interface, reporting format, workflow triggers, and more. Ease of syncing between mobile and desktop Not all server capabilities are created equal, which is why it can be helpful to evaluate whether or not information can be seamlessly accessed, updated, and shared across the software’s mobile app and desktop platform. Ultimately, seamless syncing enables better property management practices. Areas to consider include data update latency, offline functionality, consistency of feature accessibility across platforms, security of data transfer, and conflict resolution in case of simultaneous data changes. Value-add services In the context of property management inspection software, "value-add services" refer to any additional services that complement the core inspection capabilities of the software. These services can be offered by the software vendors themselves, or via third-party partnerships. Examples might include yard services associated with HOA compliance, pet screening, or Second Nature’s very own air filter delivery service. Best Property Management Inspection Software 1. zInspector Billed as “the most powerful and affordable property inspection toolkit in the market,” zInspector is designed as a collaborative field-to-office solution for the property management, real estate, and construction trades. Features include the option to upload unlimited date- and time-stamped photos and videos, offline inspection capabilities, and unlimited options for customizing templates. zInspector also provides a number of tenant-directed features, including move-in/move-out inspections as well as periodic and renewal inspections, and remote tenant signing. Property inspection companies can brand zInspector capabilities within their own app, or simply customize zInspector with their logo and color palettes. Featured zInspector integrations include AppFolio, Rent Manager, Rentvine, PropertyWare, Rentec Direct, and Google Drive. Pricing ranges from free (for up to 5 doors) to the “Max” plan at $110 per month. 10% discounts are provided for annual subscriptions. According to users on, the zInspector property inspection app is “super easy to learn and use,” with “thorough options for evaluating all our units upon turnover, from our smallest and most basic efficiencies to massive 6-bedroom single-family homes.” Learn more about zInspector 2. RentCheck RentCheck is a popular solution for the scattered site property management market. It’s designed to help save time for property management teams by eliminating the need for in-person inspections. In that vein, the mobile app version (available in Android and iOS versions) allows residents to complete inspections (move-in and move-out as well as periodic) using their mobile devices, without having to coordinate with a property manager. Features of the software include the ability for property managers to customize home inspections, set reminders, generate reports, and compare new and existing reports side-by-side. Pricing options range from a free version for up to 10 doors to an enterprise tier that includes advanced API and customization features. Per Capterra, RentCheck scores extremely well (4.7 out of 5) for ease of use, value for money, and customer service. Learn more about RentCheck 3. HappyCo HappyCo is more fairly characterized as a platform rather than an inspection software solution. It’s billed as a “real-time multifamily operations platform” that aims to help property owners and managers unlock more accurate valuations, better returns, and higher property value. The function of its Happy Property suite is to streamline leasing, renewal, and maintenance tasks, and this includes core inspection functionality, including scheduling, notifications, and work order generation. It integrates with several other technologies, including AppFolio, MRI, RealPage, Rent Manager, and Yardi. Pricing is determined based on a consultative process with the HappyCo team. Reviewers on call out its simplicity and ease of use. Learn more about HappyCo 4. Onsight PROS OnSight PROS is an in-person service for property managers, landlords, and insurance companies. However, they leverage an app to streamline the inspection process. Different types of inspections include move-in/move-out (MIMO) inspections, periodic inspections, acquisition inspections, and exterior inspections (roof, gutters, landscaping, and fencing). Inspection reports can be customized and branded as needed. The service coverage area is nationwide, and pricing for the service is determined based on a consultative process with the OnSight PROS team. Learn more about OnSight PROS 5. SnapInspect Designed for a wide range of markets, including multifamily, residential, commercial, vacation rentals, and student housing, SnapInspect incorporates features such as video recording, custom reports, and custom property inspector workflows. A free trial of the software is available, and multifamily pricing starts at $199 per month, which includes iOS and Android apps, Google and Dropbox sync, report customization, and scheduling & automation options. SnapInspect reviews on G2 describe SnapInspect’s customer service as “above and beyond,” and refer to the app’s user-friendliness. Learn more about SnapInspect Property Management Inspection Software by Second Nature Inspection software by Second Nature is currently in the works! As always, our goal is to create an experience that will benefit property management companies, residents, and investors alike. Drop us a line if you’d like to be among the first to learn about our upcoming release - or take a tour of our Resident Benefits Package to explore the Triple Win experience we’re offering you right now.

Calendar icon March 13, 2024

Read more

7 Property Management SEO Tips to Drive Leads and Increase Revenue

Imagine that your prospective residents are searching for a rental property online. They'll type in terms like "houses for rent" or possibly even "property management companies near me." The websites that appear at the top of the search results are the ones that search engines such as Google consider most relevant and useful. That's the power of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. This is a bit like having a big, brightly lit sign outside your office. The better optimized your property management website is, the higher it ranks in search results, increasing the chances of potential residents finding you online, which in turn increases leads, inquiries, and ultimately revenue. A well-executed SEO strategy can also help you save costs in other property management marketing areas, as well as boosting your brand's credibility (ranking well in Google search results helps instill trust in potential residents). Now, if you talk to an SEO consultant, odds are good that they'll present a laundry list of recommendations that include references to such terms as "long-tail keywords," "SERPS," "meta descriptions," and “alt tags,” which may not mean much to you. The good news is that you really don't need a lot of technical expertise to significantly improve your online visibility, rank well in search engine results pages, and attract more potential tenants. In fact, a bit of focused marketing effort is generally all it takes to boost your website ranking, and possibly end up on the first page of organic search results, depending on the competitiveness of your local market We'll guide you through some tactical tips you can use to successfully build your SEO ranking step by step. Optimize for local search with GoogleMyBusiness Page Setting up a location-specific Business Profile on Google is free, and boosts your chances of appearing in local searches for property management services. Think of this “local SEO” as a digital storefront that helps potential leads easily find accurate and useful information about your property management business. Here's how to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) page for local search: Claim and verify your business listing Start by claiming your GMB profile: Search for your company on Google Maps. If it already exists, claim it. If not, create a new listing. Google might send a postcard, phone call, or email with a code to verify. Verification is crucial, as it proves you're the rightful owner of your business listing. Complete your profile in detail - Company name: Use only your official business name, with no additional keywords. - Address and phone number: These must match how they appear on your website and across other online listings. - Category: Choose the most accurate primary category, like "Property Management Company." You can add additional categories if they are relevant. - Hours of operation: Keep these updated, including special hours or holiday closures. - Website and photos: Add your website link and high-quality photos of your properties, office, and team. Complete your "From the Business" description Briefly explain what your company does, the areas you serve, and what makes you unique. Include keywords related to property management and your location, like "[City name] property management" or "rental properties in [neighborhood]". Encourage and respond to reviews Positive reviews with keywords boost your ranking. Ask satisfied tenants to leave reviews. It's best to address both positive and negative reviews professionally and promptly, as this demonstrates your commitment to customer service. Share updates Promote new listings, community events, special offers, or company news in Google Posts. Include links to your website or booking forms to increase leads and website traffic. Remember that regularly updating your GMB profile indicates that your business is active, boosting search rankings. 2. Create a blog to write about the pain points of your audience A blog is a lot like having a knowledgeable property manager available 24/7 to answer questions and guide potential tenants. This kind of website content is also an ideal way to promote a brand of openness and transparency, which is critical for building "Triple Win" conditions. At Second Nature, we often refer to these conditions in the context of a business philosophy that benefits property managers, residents, and property owners alike. From an SEO perspective, a blog helps attract more search traffic, since each blog post will focus on relevant keywords and specific phrases that potential clients might be searching for, like "tips for first-time renters in [your city]" or "how to prepare your apartment for a move-out inspection." In this vein, you may find it helpful to conduct some keyword research to find out what kind of information is truly useful to your market, but resist “keyword stuffing” in the name of organic traffic gains and lead generation. Sincere content is good content and vice versa. A blog gives you a platform to regularly add fresh, relevant content (this is a ranking factor that Google has always loved), and establishes you as an authority on issues that are of concern to your target audience, such as maintenance tips, tenant laws, the local rental market, and more. Blog posts also allow you to naturally link to other relevant pages on your website, improving navigation and helping users find what they need. 3. Optimize landing pages with above-the-fold CTAs Any time you direct prospects to a key page on your website, the "above-the-fold" area is like the prime display area - it's what visitors see the moment they enter the room, without needing to scroll down. A CTA (call to action) is your eye-catching sales pitch. These days, it's usually a button yelling "Schedule a viewing!" or "Get a demo!" So why does this kind of on-page SEO matter? Search engines like Google love websites that provide a good user experience. A prominent CTA makes it super easy for visitors to take the next step and shows search engines they found what they were looking for. Plus, when someone who’s interested in your services can easily find ways to contact you or learn more, you're more likely to turn them from a casual browser into a potential tenant. Search engines notice that, too. 4. Fix site speed and user experience issues If your website was a rental property, site speed is like the time it takes a resident to find their home and get inside. A website that’s afflicted by pages with slow loading times is like a hidden property with a rusted-out lock – potential residents get frustrated and leave. When we're talking about user experience, we're really talking about how easy it is for them to find what they need once they're inside. If your website is confusing or has broken features, it's like an apartment with leaky pipes and no furniture – residents won't want to stay. If people land on your site and quickly leave (this is called "bouncing"), it tells the Google algorithm that your site might not be useful or relevant, harming your rankings. The longer people stay on your site, clicking around and checking out different listings, the better signal it sends to Google that your site is providing value. 5. Use your network to build backlinks naturally to the website Backlinks are links from other websites pointing back to your own website. High-quality backlinks from relevant websites within your network tell search engines that you're a trusted and authoritative source of information in your industry. This kind of “link building” can boost your search engine rankings and help more potential leads easily find your property management services online. Note that poor-quality backlinks can hurt your reputation, so it’s worth keeping tabs on the sites that are linking back to yours. There are a few different ways to use your network to build natural backlinks. If you sponsor a community event or partner with a local business, see if they'd link to your website on their event page or partner section. Offer to write a helpful article for a local real estate blog or community website in exchange for a link back to your website. If you're a member of an industry association or listed on reputable directories, make sure those websites link back to yours. Backlinks from relevant websites are one of the metrics that tell search engines you're a trusted and authoritative source of information in your industry, and help boost your search engine results. 6. Share your best content on social media Social media is a key part of any modern digital marketing strategy. After all, any time someone likes, shares, or comments on your social posts, it helps spread the word about your company. Sharing interesting articles, local news, or industry news helps boost your online presence and build your reputation as an engaged and knowledgeable property management company. Now, social media won't directly boost your search rankings overnight. In fact, it's a very long-term play. But it's a great way to build your reputation as a helpful resource and increase interest in your services, which indirectly helps your SEO efforts in the long run. 7. Incentivize customers to get reviews on your business profile Search engines like Google value websites with lots of positive, recent reviews. It shows your business is active, trustworthy, and provides a good experience. Essentially, they're online testimonials that tell Google your business deserves a top spot in search results. And the more good reviews your company has, the more likely you are to show up higher in search results for things like "property management near me." Plus, there is such a thing as actual star power: A high star rating next to your business name in search results acts like a magnet, attracting more searchers, clicks, and potential customers to your website. To incentivize reviews, you can simply make a polite request after a successful move-in or a resolved issue. You can also offer small discounts for future services (so long as this complies with applicable business regulations). Looking for more business insights from the Second Nature team? Get in touch, or stay tuned to our blog, podcast, and events.

Calendar icon March 13, 2024

Read more

Receive articles straight to your inbox

Woman on laptop reading PM websites

10 Best Property Management Websites for Property Managers

One important approach that property managers can take to keep up to date with current industry trends and approaches is to maintain a watchlist of different property management websites. That's because these sites often reflect best design practices and website templates as well as content sharing ideas. Today we'll cover some of the top property management websites, all considered favorites and regularly featured on “Top 10” lists in the industry, with a focus on what makes each one distinctive, whether from a design optic or a content perspective. 1. Second Nature It may seem odd for us to mention ourselves first on this list, but we are genuinely proud of our brand and messaging! After all, we’re in this business for a reason – and that’s why the content of the Second Nature website is so squarely people-focused, with an emphasis on solutions that improve the lives of residents, investors, and property managers alike. There’s a robust business principle underpinning this “Triple Win” philosophy: residents want their needs proactively anticipated, and they're willing to pay (and stay) for that service. This is particularly true for a younger generation that is attuned to the convenience offered by services such as Uber and Amazon. That’s why the language used on the website reflects a humanistic approach that goes beyond transactional basics, preferring “residents” rather than “renters,” for example, or “home” rather than “rental property.” It’s also why Second Nature’s “Resident Benefits Package” is front and center, and designed to give residents, investors, and property management businesses a win. Accordingly, like all successful marketing, Second Nature’s value proposition is not only tangible – it’s personal. Visit to learn more. 2. Nest DC The Nest DC website also focuses on the families behind the doors and the people behind the investment portfolios. Although residential real estate management is associated with a certain gravitas, the language as well as the overall branding of the Nest DC website plays off of a certain “avian” riff and is designed for easy readability. Where most sites incorporate an “About Us” page, for instance, Nest DC features an “About the Birds” content piece. It’s all done with serious intent, however, and the website design is sleek, clear, and user-friendly. Visit 3. Bay Management Group As soon as you hit the homepage of the Bay Management Group website, it’s clear that its primary target audience consists of real estate investors and property owners. That said, the site does host an impressive library of instructional and advisory videos for tenants, property managers, and landlords, as well as investors. With the tagline “property management that’s a cut above the rest,” home page testimonials, and a blue-toned web design of the sort favored by financial institutions to connote trustworthiness, the focus is on differentiation through delivery of high-quality property management services to deliver reliable rental income. Beyond its primary “free property management analysis” feature, other web functionalities include a blog, owner portal, tenant portal, and various program application options. Visit 4. Rentberry Rentberry is a global rental platform describing itself as a “transparent and secure home rental platform that connects tenants and landlords.” With the tagline “Renting done right – finally,” its principal focus is on prospective tenants and landlords. Top-level navigation includes online rent payments/rent collection. It also includes tenant screening functionality as well as options to search listings for vacancies or create a property listing. Among the usual resources (blog, help center, FAQ, contact information), Rentberry also features pricing guides for both tenants and landlords to help streamline the onboarding process. Visit 5. Grace Property Management & Real Estate Based in Denver (Colorado), Grace Property Management & Real Estate focuses on both residential and commercial properties in Denver. Although the company was founded in 1978, its online presence boasts astute use of online marketing tools and property management solutions, to say nothing of search engine optimization, with numerous calculators and other resources available from the top-level menu. Like many companies with a strictly regional presence, Grace Property follows the tendency of including full social media and phone contact information in the header. Visit 6. MESA Properties MESA Properties gives its geographical focus the hero image treatment, with the tagline “Servicing the Inland Empire, Eastern San Gabriel Valley and High Desert.” Below the header, it also bills itself as “an owner-centered property management company.” Accordingly, much of the functionality on offer from the top-level navigation is focused on professional property manager services and resources for owners, but it does include resources for tenants, including maintenance request options, and portal login. Visit 7. Golden State Property Management The Golden State Property Management website presents with the tagline “Total property management of the most comfortable homes in the South Bay,” as well as two prominent feature buttons aimed at residents (“Pay Rent”) and potential residents (“Search Vacancies”). With straightforward top-level menu options, mobile-friendly design, and high-contrast navigation elements, this site is exemplary in its simplicity. Visit 8. Sleep Sound Property Management Sleep Sound Property Management takes aim at the stress of managing the rental process, and as such takes on an advisory persona in its content. With the word “guarantee” appearing over 10 times on the homepage alone, the message is clear: this is a company devoted to providing great property management services in support of maximizing investment returns. Its “Why Choose Us” page also highlights its investments in cloud-based property management software, also designed to ease the stress of managing property investments. Visit 9. Good Life Property Management The website of this San Diego-based property management company is one of the only companies in the industry to highlight customizable user elements (color and font size) in the header of every page of its website. From the marketing perspective, this sends an important signal that the company is serious about finding ways to partner effectively with its community of investors and tenants. Visit 10. Luxury Property Care Luxury Property Care bills itself as “Florida’s only full-service property management and investment concierge for residential and commercial properties.” Its focus on offering high-end services is reflected in its mission statement: “Treat yourself to the luxury you deserve and let us handle every aspect of investing in off-market real estate and building a first-class rental empire with ease.” It’s also reflected in the website design scheme, with black and gold color elements being a popular way for brands to convey notions of elegance and prestige. Visit Follow the Second Nature Website to Keep Tabs on the Property Management Industry At, you’ll find an abundance of resources designed to keep you up to date on events, analysis, and expert perspectives in the field – all geared toward helping property managers create a “Triple Win” that benefits residents, investors, and property managers alike: Triple Win Property Management Blog Triple Win Property Management Podcast Triple Win Property Management Events Learn more about Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package, which is designed to generate revenue and establish Triple Win conditions for your residents, investors, and business.

Calendar icon February 26, 2024

Read more

10 Best Property Management Blogs to Read and Learn From

As a property manager, one of the best ways to stay attuned to the latest trends, technologies, and strategies in the field is to read industry blogs across a range of property management websites. That's because the content of these blogs often consists of shared best practices and practical tips from peers and other experts. They also help you keep abreast of any regulatory changes and compliance requirements that may inform your business decisions and strategies. Today we'll cover some of the top property management blogs, with a focus on what each site brings to the table. 1. Second Nature The SecondNature blog provides insights on a wide range of topics related to property management, including market trends, technology, resident retention, and more. Its focus is primarily on a “Triple Win” philosophy, which expresses the idea that residents, property managers, and investors can go beyond transactional basics to create new, mutually winning experiences. In that vein, sample blog post titles include “How to Start a Resident-focused Property Management Company in 13 Steps,” “9 Ways to Improve Your Resident Experience,” and “How to Craft a Lease Renewal Letter that Wows Your Residents.” With top categories ranging from “Operational Efficiency” to “Resident Experience” and “Homeowner Insights,” the SecondNature blog is a valuable, highly readable resource for property owners and managers alike. Visit the SecondNature blog 2. Bay Management Group Blog The Bay Management Group manages over 6,000 units throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Its blog reflects this partially regional focus, with categories including “Owning a rental property in Maryland,” “Owning a rental property in Pennsylvania,” and the like. However, much of the content is broadly relevant to the property management business, with articles including “7 Ways to Ensure Your Potential Tenant’s References are Real,” “Tips for Successful Real Estate Partnerships” and “What is the Renter’s Bill of Rights and How Does It Protect Tenants?” This is a great blog that hosts archives going back to July 2012, making it one of the more venerable sites in this list. Visit the Bay Management Group Blog 3. Nest DC Blog Nest is a Washington management firm that focuses on homes and residents in and around Maryland, with expertise in single family homes, condos, multifamily housing, and mixed-use property in high-density, urban environments. Its clean, stripped-down design dispenses with the standard trappings of blogs such as tags and categories, and features both job listings and articles, with sample titles including “Important Factors for Real Estate Investing,” “Best Practices for Tenant Screening,” and “A Guide to the Eviction Process in Washington DC.” Visit the Nest DC Blog 4. Buildium Blog The property management software company Buildium publishes blog posts and other resources on a wide range of property management topics, from accounting & taxes to legal considerations, to marketing tips and the latest news from Buildium. Clearly, the content is aimed at a broad segment of the property management community, including rental property owners, property maintenance professionals, and real estate investors. Sample blog post titles include “The ins and outs of HOA reserve fund accounting,” “The best rent payment app in 2024: Comparing 8 online rent payment systems,” and “The 5 best multifamily property management software solutions in 2024.” Visit the Buildium Blog 5. Appfolio Blog Another software company, Santa Barbara (California)-based AppFolio focuses on SaaS for the real estate market. You do not need to be a user of the Appfolio software to find its blog relevant – in fact, much of the content focuses on issues of broad interest to property management and property investment groups, with sample blog article titles including “Three Leasing KPIs Every Property Manager Should Track to Optimize Their Business,” “4 Ways to Strengthen Vendor Relationships,” and “Your Ultimate Guide to Leasing Season: How to Maximize Occupancy and Efficiency.” Visit the Appfolio Blog 6. BiggerPockets BiggerPockets is positioned as a complete resource for anyone looking to succeed in real estate investing. Thus, its blog is squarely focused on matters relating to property investment and rental income, with titles that reflect that focus (e.g., “12 Ways To Make Passive Income From Real Estate Investing,” “High Credit Borrowers Get Punished and New Landlord Laws Put Tenants First,” and “2024 Rental Market Outlook: Is a Shift Coming Next Year?”) However, it also provides a number of articles with potentially broader interest to property management services (e.g., “Put THIS in Your Lease Agreement (So Tenants Don’t Break It!)” “9 Ways Your Property Management Tool Can Improve Your Business,” and “The Rise and Fall of the American Shopping Mall”). Visit the BiggerPockets blog 7. Rentometer Blog Rentometer provides a number of offerings around its collection and analysis of approximately 10 million rental records annually. The Rentometer blog is an extension of this capability, and aims to provide marketing insights to help manage real estate businesses. Its blog publications date back to 2018, and provide perspectives on remote property management, tools for growing real estate businesses, and more. Sample titles include “6 Tips for Communicating Rent Increases,” and “How to Use Rent Comps When Setting Your Rent Price.” Visit the Rentometer Blog 8. Propertyware Blog Like Buildium, Propertyware is an acquisition of the RealPage corporation but it continues to maintain a blog featuring news, trends and tips on single-family rental properties. Sample titles include “10 Tips For Maintaining Electrical Safety At Your Rental Homes,” “What’s Hot: Tankless Water Heaters for Rental Housing,” and “How Rental Property Software Helps in Processing Security Deposits.” The blog has also compiled different article series under various themes and topics, making it easier to navigate the wealth of information on offer. Visit the Propertyware blog 9. Rent Manager Blog The Rent Manager blog is largely focused on news about this property management software developed by London Computer Systems (LCS), and features tips and best practices for users, as well as news on feature enhancements. However, the blog also includes a dedicated category for property management trends, with articles such as “The Benefits of AI for Residential Property Management,” “Why Lowering Renewal Rents is a Smart Move for Multifamily in 2024,” and “Resident Screening: The Lost Art of the Reference Check.” Visit the Rent Manager blog 10. All Property Management Blog The All Property Management Blog reflects its identity as a marketplace of property management services, with articles aimed at real estate investors as well as property managers. Blog categories include property management tips and advice, product reviews, and content related to property taxes and finances. Sample titles include “How to Rent Out an Apartment: The Go-To Guide for New Landlords,” “Top 10 Rental Listing Syndication Websites and Time-Saving Tips,” and “5 Successful Rental Property Management Strategies.” Visit the All Property Management Blog Follow the Second Nature Blog, Podcast, and Events to Keep Tabs on the Property Management Industry At, you’ll find an abundance of resources designed to keep you up to date on events, analysis, and expert perspectives in the field – all geared toward helping property managers create a “Triple Win” that benefits residents, investors, and property managers alike: Triple Win Property Management Blog Triple Win Property Management Podcast Triple Win Property Management Events Learn more about SecondNature’s Resident Benefits Package, which is designed to generate revenue and establish Triple Win conditions for your residents, investors, and business.

Calendar icon February 21, 2024

Read more

Property manager marking startup checklist

How to Start a Resident-focused Property Management Company in 13 Steps [Startup Checklist]

From the Second Nature perspective, focusing on a high-quality resident experience is the secret sauce to standing out in a crowded property management industry. That’s because happy residents lead to higher retention rates, more on-time payments, better care for the property, and shorter vacancies. Our property management checklist can help ensure you build that strategy into the DNA of your company from the beginning. This property management startup checklist is intended to help you orient your company toward a resident focus from the get-go. In the absence of a checklist, it’s all too easy to get caught up in real estate and rental property considerations that do not reflect long-term winning conditions for all stakeholders. 1. Write a Property Management Business Plan In some ways, a property management business plan is a document intended for potential clients and investors. And certainly, it can help you concretize start-up costs and get funding for the business (learn more on what’s needed to get SBA financing). But in many more important respects, it’s a structured foundation for you to gain insights into what residents are looking for, which in turn will help crystalize the type of clients you want, what types of property you’ll manage, and what kind of property management company you are. You’ll find a property management business plan template here, but in broad terms, here is a framework of the distinct components: Executive Summary Company Overview Market Analysis (Industry, Customer, and Competitive Analysis) Services Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy Operations Management Management Team Financial Plan Growth Opportunities Each component will lay the foundation for your future resident-focused success. 2. File Your Property Management Business In order to correctly file and pay your business taxes, you’ll need to register your property management business and choose a type of legal entity. This step is important, as it can also impact the protection/exposure of any personal assets, associated paperwork, or even the way in which you raise funds for your business. Note that it is certainly possible to change your business structure once it's established, but this can be a convoluted and high-stakes process. For property management businesses, different legal entity options are possible. Common legal structures include Limited Liability Company (LLC), S-Corporation (S-Corp), and C-Corporation (C-Corp). An LLC offers personal asset protection, while S-Corps and C-Corps provide additional legal safeguards. The choice involves considerations such as pass-through taxation for LLCs (where business income passes directly to the business owner's personal tax return) or potential double taxation for C-Corps, which can be mitigated via accounting measures. Other options include sole proprietorships as well as partnerships, where taxes and business liabilities are the responsibilities of the individual owners. Once you’ve identified your new business for tax purposes, you can get a free Employer Identification Number from the IRS. Which type of legal entity you select ultimately depends on your appetite for control, flexibility, and complexity. Learn more about how to structure your property management company. 3. Setup Bank Account for Your Property Management Business Opening a business bank account will help you build credit for your own property management company, maintain separation between your personal and business finances, and streamline tax accounting. It may also be required by law, depending on state laws applicable to your business structure. Some banks offer account features, flat fee or zero fee structures, and services that are particularly beneficial for new businesses and small businesses, so it is worth taking the time to shop around rather than defaulting to the same bank you use for your personal accounts. 4. Setup Accounting for Your Property Management Business With the help of OnSightPROS, we've developed a rental inspection checklist template for single-family rental property management companies. Use this template to build out your checklist. Not all accounting is equal. Property management accounting deals specifically with the financial management of rental properties. It helps property managers track rental income, manage expenses, handle tenant deposits, and produce financial reports. Essentially, property management accounting helps you maintain accurate and comprehensive financial records for each property you manage. Property management accounting consists of two components. The first is corporate accounting, which is similar to the kind of accounting done at any company. The second is trust accounting, which is specific to property management. This kind of accounting relates to the client funds that you hold, including security deposits, rent, and funds intended for property upkeep and repairs. Managing rental properties can be daunting when it comes to accounting and finance management, but that certainly doesn’t make it a show-stopper. Learn more about property management accounting, as well as accounting software and property management software that can make it significantly easier. 5. Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business The licenses and permits required for property management businesses vary depending on your location, but common requirements can include a real estate broker license (which often involves an exam-based accreditation as well as potential background checks), a property management license, a leasing agent license, and a business license, as well as any other locally required permits. 6. Secure Liability Insurance Liability insurance is important to keep your business running on solid foundations. In fact, it’s essential, as it protects not just you but your investor’s assets and your resident’s safety. At Second Nature, insurance is so important to us that we incorporate an insurance product into our resident benefits package. General liability insurance for property managers safeguards against potential financial liabilities arising from physical risks. It typically covers expenses related to repairs, replacements, legal fees, and medical bills, and is applicable to both residential and commercial properties. Coverage can include bodily injury, medical payments, physical damage, reputational harm, and even copyright infringement in relation to marketing efforts. Note that Second Nature's renter insurance program ensures 100% compliance and liability coverage protecting you, your property investors, and your residents. 7. Hire Your Team Hiring the right team has a huge impact on your ability to achieve the business targets you’ve established in your business plan. Note that “right” doesn’t simply mean “qualified.” That’s because who your employees are is fundamentally more important than what they’ve achieved. After all, you’re setting the stage for them to deliver the best work they’ve ever done in their careers to date. The hiring process begins by understanding what characteristics you’re looking for. For any given candidate, how do they build the new skills required to address new situations? How do they handle challenges when things get tough? And perhaps most importantly, what is their response to failure? Insights into these questions will help galvanize a people-focused approach that is truly a value-driven team. After all, at Second Nature, we want to generate value for ourselves, our investors, and our residents—and we want people who buy into that approach. Get more Second Nature hiring tips on building a people-focused team. 8. Create Solid Pricing Structure and Property Management Contracts Once you hire a team. establishing a good pricing structure for your business and creating all the legal documents required to run the business should be the priority. That's because the right approach can generate value beyond management fees for property managers, their investors, and their residents, which reflects Second Nature’s “triple win” focus. General rental property management fees include collecting the month’s rent, following up on arrears, organizing property maintenance and repairs, and keeping up-to-date on legal issues. Much of the profit in property management comes from driving better value for investors and residents, and pricing for that value. After all, people are willing to pay for better quality experiences in their homes. Additional fees, which will help drive company growth, should be communicated during the onboarding process and lease agreement. In other words, they are never about hidden markups. They’re about charging for value and driving great habits. Fees can be applied on the resident side (for instance, paper lease setup fees, lease renewal fees, late fees, or special programs fee) as well as on the investor side for a number of property management services (inspection fees, vendor screening fees, rent protection or eviction fees). Again, fees help you drive value for both your investors and your residents, and support your business at the same time. Note that because regulations vary across regions, it may not always be possible to charge fees for certain types of services. That's why it's important to discuss any fee and contract proposals with an attorney before implementing them. 9. Execute the Marketing Plan Set Out in Your Business Plan While it’s true that businesses thrive on referrals and word of mouth, it’s executing on your marketing plan that will help drive more consistent revenue — and help you capitalize on the market research you conducted to assemble your business plan. As with so many other things, the marketing landscape has changed enormously in just a short time. We’re now living in an era when an active, well managed online presence is critical. This means that a robust marketing strategy is more than simply managing a social media account (although this too is important). It also includes investing in search engine optimization for your website, executing on content creation and distribution strategies, conducting networking events, and advertising online. For optimal property management marketing, where work often stays within specific regional areas, it’s also important to maintain a presence in local business listings. 10. Network with Fellow Property Managers and Owners to Expand Your Business We touched on networking in the context of a marketing plan, but for new business owners in particular, networking can be a valuable source for those first few clients. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunities for establishing your business name, ranging from local vendor fairs to national property management conferences and events with thousands of attendees. In addition, there are numerous property management associations that provide opportunities for networking, education, and advocacy for property management professionals. The business and personal development opportunities available through such options present great avenues to expand and optimize your property management business. 11. Write a Resident Retention Strategy - and How You Can Improve the Resident Experience You should be thinking about the resident experience from the very start. After all, in an industry where churn is the norm, an effective retention strategy pays its own way. To be truly effective, however, it’s key to recognize that “resident retention” is not simply a one-dimensional number at the bottom of a spreadsheet. The “triple win” approach to resident retention asks the question: “How do we create experiences so good that residents never want to leave?” Answering that question maximizes residential property owner ROI and boosts property manager success. In other words: A win for residents is a win for investors is a win for property managers. In the same vein, we often hear from professional property managers that a Resident Benefits Package (RBP) is a powerful way to retain residents over the long term. RBPs can help with resident satisfaction and resident retention rates. After all, a proactive, differentiating approach to resident retention means building experiences that people will pay and stay for. This is a useful lens with which to examine the full property manager/resident journey, from move-in to collecting rent payments to move-out, for opportunities to generate resident retention ideas—and deliver those wins. 12. Create SOPs to Handle Complaints, Disputes, and Requests Once you have the first few properties under your management, it’ll be important to ensure processes and procedures are in place to handle complaints, disputes, excessive maintenance requests, rent collection issues, and tenant problems. In such cases, rather than automatically assuming the resident is the problem, some property managers approach resident issues as behaviors that can be changed. That’s because the root cause is often addressable and the behavior changeable. This emphasis on the people element pays off — and lets you focus on how to adjust “bad” behavior through benefits and rewards, rather than just being transactional. This reframing aside, one of the best ways to deal with complaints and disputes is to avoid them in the first place, which often comes down to non-discriminatory tenant screening processes and background checks. Other standard operating processes include documenting all incidents and updates thoroughly, calling law enforcement in the case of illegal activity, implementing eviction processes if necessary, and staying current and compliant with local laws and regulations. 13. Create and Execute a Strategy to Improve the Resident Experience Once again, improving the resident experience goes a long way in retaining the residents and creating ancillary revenue streams. From the get-go, you can actively ensure great first impressions with services such as move-in concierges or coordinators. After all, a resident who's had a positive move-in experience is a happier one. Happier residents stay longer, pay on time, take care of the property, and make positive recommendations. Throughout the residential journey, other strategies for improving the resident experience include on-demand pest control, credit reporting, and resident rewards. Above all, one of the cornerstones of a great resident experience is responsiveness. This responsiveness is a two-way street! It covers improved maintenance service and response times, as well as opportunities for residents to provide feedback through resident surveys. By setting up this kind of feedback loop, you demonstrate to your residents that their voices matter, which instills a sense of ownership and care that often lead to better property care and longer tenancies. Property Management Startup Checklist It’s famously said that property managers are in the business of helping many different people with many different things. And sometimes, this can feel like a lot to tackle, especially at the startup phase. That’s why we’ve assembled this property management startup checklist to help you begin: Write a Property Management Business Plan File Your Property Management Business Set Up a Bank Account for Your Property Management Business Set Up Accounting for Your Property Management Business Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business Secure Liability Insurance Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business Hire Your Team Create Solid Pricing Structure and Property Management Contracts Execute the Marketing Plan Set Out in Your Business Plan Network with Fellow Property Managers and Owners to Expand Your Business Write a Resident Retention Strategy — and How You Can Improve the Resident Experience Create SOPs to Handle Complaints, Disputes, and Requests Create and Execute a Strategy to Improve the Resident Experience How Second Nature Helps Run a Property Management Company Profitably At Second Nature, we focus on creating “triple win” experiences for residents, property managers, and investors. This helps property management companies go beyond transactional basics and create new, professional, and holistic experiences that generate growth all around. We didn’t invent this stuff, and we’re certainly not rowing against the tide! Companies like Google, Uber, and Amazon have already changed how consumers think. A convenient experience is no longer a luxury—it’s an expectation. Accordingly, for property management profitability and growth, experience is the winning strategy. That’s the insight that led us to create the Second Nature resident benefits package (RBP). It’s a foundational tool to create unforgettable resident experiences and keep your property management company on a growth path. Learn more now.

Calendar icon February 13, 2024

Read more

7 Common Tenant Complaints and How to Deal with Them

Before we get to common tenant complaints, let’s get a property management complaint clear: It can feel like the only time tenants are responsible is when they have a “complaint.” We’ve had plenty of property managers express this frustration! The key for property managers is to put a plan in place to proactively prevent issues that might lead to resident complaints. By offering residents valuable services and deploying proactive strategies, property managers can avoid a lot of the headaches of dealing with complaints. Of course, no matter how well you anticipate problems, they will inevitably arise. So, today, we’re sharing our findings from conversations with property management companies on the ground. We’re outlining the top seven tenant complaints they shared with us and the best process to resolve rental complaints or disputes. Common Tenant Complaints We polled a group of single-family property managers, asking them to list the most common tenant complaints their companies deal with. We’ve grouped the specific complaints into broader categories. Without further ado, here are the top seven. 1. Maintenance issues Maintenance issues were by far the most common tenant issues listed. From plumbing and water backup complaints to water heater or furnace issues to regular wear and tear. Perhaps the most important factor in these types of complaints is response time. Maintenance issues are unavoidable to some extent, so the way in which a property manager deals with them when they occur makes all the difference. Property managers often use property maintenance software to help automate and manage responses to maintenance requests. Platforms like Property Meld can help optimize work order management, response-time tracking, communication, scheduling, and more. Another key to managing maintenance complaints is to ensure you have preventive maintenance strategies in place. This can be a resident rewards system that encourages residents to take preventive measures themselves. An air filter subscription is another way to ensure critical maintenance issues pop up less frequently. We include both of these services in the Second Nature Resident Benefits Package (RBP) and have seen them prove quite effective. 2. Aging appliances While you might wrap this into maintenance issues, it comes up enough to warrant its own category. Aging or malfunctioning appliances are some of the top renters’ complaints we hear about from property managers. As with other maintenance issues, the key is a quick response time and quick resolution. Property managers can use similar maintenance software tools to respond to and schedule repairs with appliance vendors. A preventive strategy here is to ensure that all appliances are up to date when you have a transition between residents. 3. Utility costs None of us love paying for utility costs, and this is another top complaint we’ve heard property managers report from their residents. Residents may complain about the rising cost of heat in winter or air conditioning in summer. Property managers have different approaches to utility bills. Some will put the utilities in their name or the property owners’ name and then bill it back to the resident during occupancy (which eliminates the headache of transitioning between tenants). Others will put everything in the residents’ names when they move in. Still others will take a hybrid approach – for example, putting water in the owners’ name and energy and internet in the residents’. Whatever way you slice it, though, the rising cost of energy and utilities is a headache. One way to help residents through this is by providing services that help build their financial security and reward them for on-time bill payments, etc. A Resident Benefits Package achieves this by giving residents services they value and are willing to pay a little extra for. For example, the Second Nature RBP includes a move-in concierge service that helps residents find the best prices for utilities in their area and set them up without the hassle. It’s all done in a single phone call. 4. Rent concerns Residents may also complain about strict rent payment deadlines or rent increases. There are a few ways to address this. First, it’s critical to set expectations from the very start. Let residents know what rent deadlines will be and help set up an easy payment system to remove barriers to on-time payments. For rent increases, you can give them the option of locking in a rate for a longer-term lease. Once expectations are set, you are in a better position to enforce them. Another great way to approach resident rent concerns is to give them incentives for paying rent on time and help them build financial stability through those payments. In our RBP, we provide credit reporting services to ensure that every on-time payment benefits the residents’ credit. And our resident rewards program gives residents perks for on-time payments, too. 5. Pests Another common reason residents might reach out is to address pest problems like bed bugs, cockroaches, mice and other rodents, etc. These rental complaints must be addressed immediately to avoid a pest issue becoming a pest infestation. Property managers typically have trusted vendor relationships with pest control and exterminators in place to deal with pests immediately should any issues arise. While preventive measures like sprays can be somewhat effective, we’ve found that the ROI just isn’t there for most property management companies. A better strategy is to have on-demand pest management services available to deal with the issue if and when it happens. On-demand pest control nips the problem in the bud, and you’re not overpaying for services you don’t need. 6. Safety Feeling safe in our own homes is critical to our quality of life. Safety concerns may not always be a property manager’s responsibility, but tenants may still reach out about them. While PMs can always recommend security systems, the key here is simply to ensure the property is in good condition. At a move-in inspection, ensure all locks are in working order, windows close and lock properly, and outdoor lighting is in good condition. States also may have laws concerning locks, keys, and security, which property managers should be familiar with. Another great way to invest in resident safety is to provide renter’s insurance. A renter’s insurance program can give residents peace of mind about risks and protect the owner from unexpected loss of income or property damage. One more increasingly important factor in safety? Identity protection. Cybercrime occurrences have surpassed home burglaries in the past three years. With identity protection, you can provide a valuable service to residents and a buffer to their finances while they get restoration. 7. Communication gaps Lack of communication can cause big issues. Setting expectations from the start, and keeping residents regularly informed of important updates and information, is key to their satisfaction. From their welcome letter and lease agreement to renewal notice to move-out instructions, every touchpoint matters in ensuring residents are getting the best experience and value from your property management company. With communication, it’s critical to track your teams’ response times when handling tenant complaints and how quickly tenant issues are resolved. Any time you receive communication from a resident, your team should respond promptly and with the best service possible. This brings us right into our next section, where we’ll outline in more detail how that communication should progress. How to deal with tenant complaints in your rental properties Here are a few different tactics and processes to have in place at your property management company to take care of renters’ complaints before they become a sticking point or damage the relationship. Never ignore a complaint Any property manager can tell you that ignoring a complaint is possibly the worst thing you could do. Not only will it lead to disgruntled residents, but ignoring serious issues like maintenance problems, pests, or safety can lead to escalating problems that could cost your clients a lot of money. Even if a complaint doesn’t have merit, property managers should respond with a clear explanation to ensure residents know they were heard. Get as much information as you can When your team first receives a complaint, they should ask lots of questions to ensure they fully understand the issue. Get all the information you can so that you can get to a solution. There are plenty of software tools on the market that can help with this step. For example, Mezo is an AI-driven property management software that takes requests directly from residents and uses conversational AI to ask these questions in real time. This helps identify the actual issue, help the residents resolve it themselves, or escalate it to the right vendor. Be empathetic in your communication You’ll get much further with residents if your approach is empathetic rather than combative. If they’re happy, they’re more likely to stay, to pay on time, and to be an easier customer to deal with. Train your team to listen and respond with empathy and excellent customer service. Explain the steps to resolution Overcommunicate and keep your tenant in the loop. Explain the steps that will be taken to resolve their issue. Follow up after to ensure that they are satisfied. You can use software tools to help track this and support communication through a dashboard, automation, etc. Take preventive measures to avoid repeat issues where possible If it’s within your power, set up preventive measures and reassure your residents that similar issues won’t arise again – or that you’re ready for them when they do. Again, some useful strategies could include an air filter delivery service, on-demand pest control, and more. Communicate value Remind your residents of the value you provide them! Got a pest complaint? Remind them that on-demand pest control is already part of their resident benefits package – an add-on value that not every property will include. Of course, you don’t want to be exploitative about this, but a successfully resolved issue is an opportunity to communicate the value of the property they’ve chosen. How to resolve rental disputes when complaints go unaddressed Though it should be rare, disputes will occasionally arise between tenants and property managers or owners. If a dispute does arise, it’s critical to know the laws in your area and to seek legal advice about tenants’ rights and what you’re required to do by law. Here are a few key ways to deal with rental disputes: Keep communication open: Initiate open and clear communication with the resident. Encourage them to express their concerns and provide details about the unresolved issues. This dialogue can help in understanding the problem better. Document everything: Keep detailed records of all communication, including emails, letters, and notes from conversations. Documentation is essential for legal purposes and can serve as evidence if the dispute escalates. Inspect the property: Have a thorough inspection of the rental property to assess the validity of the complaints. Document any issues found during the inspection, and share the findings with residents. Offer solutions: Propose viable solutions to address the specific complaints. Work collaboratively with the resident to find mutually agreeable resolutions. This may involve repairs, maintenance, or other actions to remedy the situation. Legal consultation or mediation: As we mentioned, given the variation in state laws, it's crucial to seek legal advice. You may also want to consider a professional mediator before taking more serious legal action. Follow proper procedures: Adhere to any applicable eviction or dispute resolution procedures outlined in your state's landlord-tenant laws. Failing to follow proper procedures may lead to legal consequences. Document resolutions: Once a resolution is reached, document the agreed-upon actions in writing. Both parties should sign the agreement, creating a legal record of the terms agreed upon to avoid future misunderstandings. Remember, the specifics of these steps may vary based on your location and the unique circumstances of the dispute. Always consult with a legal professional to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations. How Second Nature helps deal with tenant complaints and rental disputes One of the best ways to address inevitable complaints is to ensure you have a good relationship with your residents. Keep communication open, set clear expectations, and be responsive. It’s also important to ensure that you offer a great resident experience overall. Second Nature’s goal is to help property managers provide the best resident experience possible. To that end, we’ve developed a robust and customizable Resident Benefits Package that helps support preventive strategies, rewards responsible resident behavior, and protects residents’ financial stability. Learn more about the benefits of an RBP and how we’re helping property managers drive resident satisfaction.

Calendar icon January 18, 2024

Read more

Residents looking at lease renewal documents

How to Craft a Lease Renewal Letter That Wows Your Residents [Free Template]

What if we told you it's possible to craft a lease renewal letter that makes everyone happy – even when you raise the rent? That’s right! It’s absolutely possible, and it’s all about positioning. How do you choose pricing? How do you then position and present your lease renewal offer? How do you do this in a way that promotes clarity, builds trust, and drives the business results you’re after? That’s what we’re covering in today’s topic: Crafting a lease renewal letter. We’ll dig into what it is, what you should include, and why an effective letter is so important for all stakeholders. We’ll also provide an example and a template you can use yourself. What is a lease renewal letter? A lease renewal letter is a document sent by a landlord or a property manager to notify residents that their lease is nearing its end, and to present the terms of a new lease or simply give the option to renew. It should be sent to tenants at least 60-90 days before the lease’s expiration date to give them advance notice of changes and enough time to make their own decisions. Your lease renewal notice should give residents a clear understanding of the timeline and their options and ideally make it easy for them to renew their lease – if that’s what you and the investor want. If you don’t want to renew or are pursuing an eviction, you will follow a different process. What does a lease renewal letter include? At its most basic, a lease renewal letter is just a statement of the ending of an old lease and the beginning of a new one. But a really successful letter should do more than that. The goal of a lease renewal letter should be to present any changes in a way that makes it clear to the resident why those changes are happening, and how it can be a benefit to all parties. It should smooth out the transition and position the renewal in a way that – as we said above – promotes clarity, builds trust, and drives the business results you’re after. Are you raising rent this year? (You probably should be increasing rent each year, according to the market.) How can you position this change in a way that satisfies your investors and your residents? One example is to include a clear comparison of the cost of moving vs. renewing. Another great way to position those changes is to outline resident benefits that are included in the lease. A resident benefits package can drive unique value for residents to renew. These are all important considerations in framing the letter. With that in mind, here are the practical components of a lease renewal letter: Personalization Like any formal document, you should include your name and address, and the resident’s full name and the property address at the top. Also, put the date the letter is being sent. This is important for your records, but also to demonstrate respect and professionalism in the document. Lease expiration date Start with a clear statement that their current lease is coming to a close and include the exact expiration date of their current lease. New lease terms Outline the new lease agreement and terms of the lease, including the duration of the renewed lease. The resident should be able to read the letter and understand exactly what is changing from the original lease. Your goal is to help them make an informed decision based on those changes. Description of the benefits included with the lease If you’re offering something like a Resident Benefits Package, the lease renewal letter is a great opportunity to remind residents of those benefits. Concisely and clearly outlining the value they get from the RBP is a great way to position yourself for success in the next year. The lease renewal letter is also an excellent opportunity to introduce a resident benefits package if it’s new to your residents. Outline the valuable benefits and how it will drive better quality of life, improve financial stability, and even cut long-term costs for your residents. Rent increase (if applicable) Another part of the new lease terms might be a rent increase. The amount of a rental increase should be based on the market in your area. In this section, it’s extra important to add context for the resident. Include the estimated cost of moving, the market trends, and other factors that go into the rent increase. Help them understand that you’re not fleecing them! Give enough clear context to explain that the increase ensures that you and the investor can afford to continue to offer the high-quality home and benefits they’ve become accustomed to. A Note about Rent Increases: This is a tricky subject for a lot of property managers. For self-managing landlords, sometimes the topic of increasing rent can feel daunting. After all, what if the resident doesn’t like the increase and decides to move? That’s a lot of cost and effort for turnaround if you just have one rental property to manage and it’s not your full-time job. The problem, though, is that if you’re not incrementally increasing rent, one day, you’ll discover a big gap between your rental price and the market price. Then you’re faced with an even messier situation of bumping up the price by a lot. Even among professional property managers, this question can get tricky. Some people just raise the rent by an arbitrary amount. However, the ideal approach is to evaluate the market in your area and ensure that your properties are in line with that pricing. Why is a lease renewal letter important for tenants and landlords? Remember, we’re aiming to provide clarity, build trust, and drive business results. A letter at the outset of a new lease can do all three of these things. For tenants in a property, a lease renewal letter helps set out all the factors they need to consider when making a decision for their coming year. It helps reduce disruptions in their living situation and sets them up for success and satisfaction in their next lease term. For the real estate investor, a renewal letter is critical to achieving any necessary new agreements, rent increases, etc. A well-composed letter will help reduce turnover (and thus turnover costs) and increase satisfaction. And, for a property management company, a lease renewal letter gets everyone on the same page, ensures consistent rental income, and can position a new lease as a triple win for residents, investors, and property managers. Lease renewal letter template and how to customize it Here's how to customize the template for your own use: Date and contact information Since this is a legal document, include the date and your contact information at the top. Below that, include the current tenant’s name and the address of the property in question. Make sure to personalize the salutation as well, such as: “Dear [Tenant First Name] [Tenant Last Name].” Friendly introduction and framing Write a friendly greeting that establishes the value they provide to you. This, of course, can be tweaked for different residents, depending on your experience with them. But an example is that you can thank them for being wonderful tenants and explain that this letter is to make the renewal process as easy and frictionless as possible for them. Then, to frame what's coming, explain that your company aims to make their resident experience the best it can be and list a few of the updates you're making to services or benefits, or simply review what you've been offering. Key details about lease expiration Clearly outline the end of their current lease term with the lease end date. You can include reminders on what was included with that existing lease and explain that you are happy to renew with them for another year (or whatever lease term you want). Terms and conditions of the new lease Next, clearly outline the terms and conditions of the new lease. What is the duration of the lease? Has anything changed in what the residents are agreeing to? This is where you’ll also include any rent increases. You can customize this for your area, but it’s good to address resident expectations here. Give context on the cost of a move and the changing cost of property/maintenance/rentals/etc. in your market, and how that affects the changes in rent amount. Next steps for the resident Explain what you need next from the resident. Typically, all you need is for them to sign the letter and return it to you. Let them know how they can reach you with questions or requests. Signature Sign off with a friendly goodbye and include your signature along with your printed name and the date again. Next steps after sending a lease renewal letter Okay, so you’ve sent your brilliantly crafted, perfectly positioned lease renewal letter. What’s next? Well, the resident may simply sign on the dotted line and send it back. Or they may have questions, requests, or negotiations. The third option is they may let you know they don’t intend to renew. Here’s how to deal with those scenarios. Consider tenant requests It’s completely reasonable to expect that some residents will have questions about the letter or may even contact you with requests to make changes to the new lease terms. Property managers should be prepared to field those requests, be open-minded to reasonable ones, but also be ready to explain if a request can’t be accommodated. Showing some flexibility is a great way to get resident buy-in, but ultimately the decision isn’t always up to you. Be ready again with context and positioning to explain the changes in a positive way. You made the changes to benefit everyone, so make that clear when communicating with residents. What to do if a tenant declines You have different options if a tenant declines to agree to the new terms. You could change the tenant’s lease terms, transition to month-to-month, etc. Or, you can proceed with a non-renewal and prepare the property for listing and getting a new resident. This should trigger your team’s move-out processes. Request a written notice of the resident’s intent, establish a move-out date and move-out instructions, including what will happen with the security deposit. Then, your team will want to begin the process of marketing for a new tenant. Legal considerations Lease renewals must comply with state and local laws, avoid discrimination, and be clear about the rights and responsibilities of both parties. If you are terminating a lease in a state that requires a “just cause,” you need to provide a legitimate reason for not renewing the lease. The key is to know the requirements in your jurisdiction. It’s also a good idea to have a lawyer review your lease renewal template before you make it standard across your properties. Final thoughts When it comes time to renew a lease, you have a unique opportunity for positioning with your residents. A lease renewal letter is your chance to reconnect on terms, update expectations, increase rent if needed, and more. And the way you compose that letter – and the way you position the changes – can make all the difference in your renewal rate and resident satisfaction. It’s also the perfect opportunity to introduce a Resident Benefits Package and remind residents how your role is to add value to their living situation. Use our guide above to ensure your lease renewal notice is clear, helps build trust, and helps drive business outcomes for you and your investor clients.

Calendar icon January 9, 2024

Read more

Property Management Insurance Guide for PMs

A recent study by Orchid on property manager insurance found that while 80-90% of property managers require residents to carry insurance, only about 41% of residents actually have or retain that required coverage. Kind of crazy, right? Especially when you consider that that gap represents a huge exposure to risk for both the property manager and their investor. Insurance for property managers is a must – it protects not just you but your investor’s assets and your resident’s safety. At Second Nature, insurance is so important to us that we wrap an insurance product into our resident benefits package. So, today, we’re looking at property manager insurance and why it’s so important to get into the nitty-gritty details. ‍ Key Learning Objectives: What is property management insurance? Why do property managers need insurance (risks and liabilities)? What types of insurance are important for property management companies? Should property managers require residents to have insurance? How do you choose the best property manager insurance? How much does property management insurance cost? Examples of property management insurance coverage claims What our tenant liability insurance product can cover What is Property Management Insurance? Property management insurance is protection for property managers against the risk of damages or claims against you from residents or clients. In other words, insurance for property managers ensures that you, as the professional property manager, are covered in the case of liability claims, legal proceedings, or losses from perils like fire, vandalism, or burglary. Property manager insurance can also include tenant liability insurance, or your leases may require that renters are insured in some form. We’ll talk more about tenant liability insurance below. Why Property Managers Need Insurance Property managers are responsible for a lot. Managing people’s homes means that property managers take on considerable risks. Claims of injury or property damage can lead to serious financial losses if you aren’t protected. Property management insurance coverage reduces that risk exposure and keeps you from paying out the cost of wrongful eviction claims, injuries, property damage, etc. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need insurance. We talk a lot about the Triple Win and how property managers should aim to build services and products that delight residents, protect investors, and retain talent on their teams. But even with the best service, everyone inevitably hits some speed bumps. Maybe a resident isn’t happy with an eviction notice, a maintenance item slipped through the cracks, or a property simply got unavoidable damage. Property management company insurance ensures you’re not liable for the costs of these inevitable parts of life. What are the Types of Insurance Property Managers Should Buy? At Second Nature, we’ve worked with professional property managers across the country and seen several different approaches to insurance. But no matter where you manage property, there are some standard types of insurance that property managers should buy or require. Here are some of the basics. General Liability Insurance General liability insurance for property managers covers physical risks for which you might become financially liable. It will typically help cover repairs, replacements, legal fees, and medical bills. You can get it for residential or commercial property. General liability coverage can include coverage for claims like like: Bodily injury: If a resident decides to sue for an injury they sustained on the property. Medical payments: If someone gets hurt on your property and holds the property manager responsible for the injury, the PM could be liable for covering their medical costs. Property damage: If you or one of your employees caused damage to the property. Reputational harm: This helps cover you financially if someone sues you for libel, slander, wrongful eviction, privacy violations, etc. Advertising injury or copyright infringement: This typically refers to coverage if you ever faced a lawsuit for copyright infringement in your marketing. Errors and Omissions Insurance or Professional Liability Insurance Known as both professional liability insurance or E&O insurance, this type of property management insurance protects Property Management companies (PMCs) from claims about mistakes in their professional services. Errors and omissions insurance willy typically cover legal fees if there was a mistake in a contract or if there were any – well – damaging errors or omissions in any communication. It may also cover errors in service, omissions in information, negligence, or even inaccurate advice. Like with any insurance, ideally, you’ll never need this! However, it is best to protect your company from such financial risks if any of your clients decide to make a case against you. Cyber Liability Insurance Cyber liability insurance helps protect you from financial losses due to cyberattacks or data breaches. Cybersecurity is a top focus of business leaders for 2023 and should also be a strong consideration for property management leaders. PMCs handle sensitive personal data from both residents and clients. Should your company ever experience a data breach, fraud, or other cybersecurity threats, this insurance will help recoup your losses. Worker’s Compensation Insurance Every business with employees – whether it’s one or many – needs worker’s compensation insurance. Worker’s comp covers the costs of employee injury while at work. It also can protect business owners from employee injury lawsuits. Even sole proprietors may use worker’s comp insurance to cover work injury costs that health insurance might not cover. In most states, businesses without worker’s compensation insurance will be fined. Be sure to know your state’s laws. Deposits and Damage Coverage Deposits and damage coverage is a payment the resident submits up-front to be given back at the end of a lease, assuming they haven’t damaged the property. There’s a lot of innovation in this space, with new products and services providing security deposit alternatives. Many of these are pure insurance, covering damages for a monthly fee. Vacation Rentals Owners’ Insurance Vacation rental owners’ insurance covers the investor for any vacation rental property they own. This coverage protects against losses in case of robbery, fire, vandalization, or other damages, whether the building is vacant or occupied. While property owners should have their own policy, sometimes property managers can extend coverage for some losses as part of their license. Tenant Discrimination Insurance While we don’t know any property managers in our network who would intentionally discriminate against residents, it’s smart to have this type of insurance as well. Discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc., is illegal. But that doesn’t mean you’re automatically protected from a discrimination suit. This type of insurance can protect you in case a disgruntled former resident attempts to sue, no matter how baseless the allegations are. Tenant discrimination claims can lead to serious financial risk and expensive lawsuits. Coverage for such claims are generally excluded from General Liability policies. Be sure to review your existing policy to determine your exposure and add additional coverage as needed. ‍Renter’s Insurance Renter’s insurance – or H04 insurance – is essentially a financial safety net for residents and their belongings. Renter’s insurance should include three distinct types of coverage: Property Damage/Liability Insurance: Plans typically provide around $100K in coverage, though different properties may require different coverage (pools, for example, increase coverage) Contents and Belongings Coverage: For any damaged or stolen belongings they would like covered. Usually, this will be around $10K of coverage, but residents can opt for higher coverage. Loss of Use/Additional Living Expenses: For any costs a resident incurs for living expenses in the vent the residence is uninhabitable. We recommend residents seek contents and belongings coverage that provides replacement cost value (RCV) rather than actual cash value (ACV), as ACV may not offer sufficient coverage. For example, if you have a 10-year-old laptop that gets damaged, ACV would only cover the value of your 10-year-old laptop at the time of the damage. RCV would cover the value of replacing it with a new laptop of a similar kind and quality. Should Property Managers Require Renter’s Insurance? Do property managers need to require their residents to carry renter’s insurance, or in the least, tenant liability insurance? Most professional PMs would say absolutely yes. Remember, 80-90% say they require their residents to carry insurance coverage. So, why do only 41% of residents retain that coverage? Often it’s simply a matter of insurance lapsing without anyone noticing. Or a resident might submit paperwork that’s out of date or decide to end their policy without thinking they need to let you know. Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a backup plan. If a resident’s insurance lapses, you could be liable for damage during that time. At Second Nature, we provide tenant liability insurance as part of our Resident Benefits Package (RBP). This feature allows property managers to offer price-competitive insurance coverage that applies to all residents with one basic group rate. We’ve seen 100% insurance compliance among property managers using our RBP. How to Choose the Best Property Management Insurance Plan As you choose your property managers' insurance plan, it’s important to consider the risks you want covered and any liabilities you might face. Here are a few best practices for selecting a property management business insurance plan. 1. Consider your niche and your needs. What is your property management business niche? What kind of properties do you manage? What is their value? What risks or liabilities are you most concerned about? Do you have employees, or are you a sole proprietor? It’s also important to consider your goals and how your business services and objectives might change over the coming year. If you need a new type of insurance soon, include that consideration in your search. 2. Establish your budget and review prices Get a good idea of what’s on the market and how much it costs. Consider the level of coverage you need vs. what you feel you can afford. Make sure you’re building those insurance fees and deductibles into your pricing structure. 3. Compare vendor specialties Some insurance companies focus on offering several types of insurance, while others dial down into a specialty. Often, just like with property management, going with the specialist vendor will ensure better coverage and service, however, it may also cost more. 4. Use your network This is where your network really becomes useful. The SFR property management community is an open, generous group of folks. Most will be more than willing to share their insurance experiences, what has worked, what hasn’t, and their favorite vendors. Ask around within your network for advice. Also, make sure to read reviews of any potential insurance companies and see if they have property management clients. 5. Always talk to your attorney Of course, this is probably the most important practice. Never make any insurance decisions without discussing them with your attorney! They will be best able to help you navigate legal requirements, your greatest risks and liabilities, and what type of coverage makes the most sense for your PMC. How Much Does Property Management Insurance Cost? The cost of property management insurance will fluctuate based on what you decide you need. Your level of risk also affects the cost of insurance. Insureon gives several estimates of standard costs for property management and real estate insurance. The following average prices are based on Insureon’s customers’ policies, subject to change at any time: General Liability insurance costs, on average, about $30/month for a $1 million per-occurrence limit and a $2 million aggregate limit. Errors and Omissions insurance can cost, on average, around $55/month with a $1 million per-occurrence limit and a $1 million aggregate limit. Worker’s Compensation insurance can cost, on average, about $50/month or $600-$620/year. Cyber Liability insurance can cost, on average, a median of $140/month, depending on the sensitivity of the information. The average prices listed above will vary based on the PMC, properties covered, and the type of coverage and limits requested. Again, property managers should consider which type of coverage they need and then build those costs into their pricing structure. Examples of Property Management Insurance Coverage Claims Let’s look at a few examples of common property manager insurance coverage claims. How does insurance help when you face a crisis like damage, injury, or a lawsuit? Here are a few examples of common types of claims. Wrongful Eviction That’s one no property manager wants to see! But it takes just one disgruntled former resident to bring a wrongful eviction suit against a PMC – even if the claim is unreasonable. An example of this could be a resident approved with excellent references, but after move-in, begins disturbing the peace in the neighborhood. Maybe they get noise complaints late into the night or transgress community guidelines. Another example would be a resident who is not making rent payments on time. In those cases, the property manager would then deliver formal notice of the problem and take the proper steps to legally evict the resident if necessary and allowed by law. It’s still possible that the resident could sue for wrongful eviction. However, as long as you document your process clearly with your attorney, and follow all legal requirements, your insurance should cover the costs that may result from the lawsuit if such coverage is included within your policy. Loss of Rental Income Here’s a good example of coverage for loss of rental income: Our built-in tenant liability insurance plan provides coverage to a PMC in the event one of their properties is unrentable due to a covered loss caused by a resident. For example, if a property that is covered by our plan is damaged due to a fire caused by the resident and the PMC is unable to rent that property out for a few weeks, they can file a claim under the Loss of Use endorsement and receive up to $1k. Property Damage Property damage could be covered differently based on the type of coverage – either by the renter’s insurance, the PMC’s, or the investors’ general liability insurance. So, here’s a real-life example from one of Second Nature’s partners: A resident went out of town, and when he returned after two days, he found that the back sliding door with two glass panels was cracked on one side. It’s tempered glass, so the PM didn’t know if it was from heat, intentional damage, or something else. In this case, if the damage were caused by a covered peril (fire, smoke, water, explosion, collapse, etc.) or resident negligence, the PM’s master insurance obtained through our offering would help cover the cost. An investor’s property insurance should also cover property damage for the same causes. Pet Damage or Dog Bites Pet liability insurance helps cover any damage done by pets to the property – or injury caused by the pet to anyone else. Under our tenant liability insurance benefit, pet damages and dog bites are covered up to $25k. We have one of the only insurance policies that cover any dog breed as long as the property manager approves the dog. Animal liability covers the cost of any suits filed and medical expenses up to the policy’s limit. How Second Nature Helps with Your Resident’s Insurance Coverage At Second Nature, we know how valuable your investors’ assets are – and how much risk you take on as a property manager. While insurance can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game, we aim to make every opportunity a win for everyone involved. That’s where our tenant liability insurance product comes in. We offer PMCs a fully managed tenant liability insurance plan that helps ensure compliance and that you, your investor, and your residents can rest easy knowing you’re covered for damage or harm. With our tenant’s liability insurance, we’ve seen our partner PMCs go from: Only 41% of residents covered → 100% of residents covered Portal administration → Fully managed for you Leasing team tracking certifications → 100% certificate management Higher premiums → lower premiums Implementation and vendor management → 1 RBP, 1 Invoice Derrick Scott, from IMG put it this way: “I don’t know if people grasp just how important the ‘fully managed’ part of that is. We’ve seen property managers whose residents’ insurance lapsed, but no one knew about it. Unfortunately, the resident had a claim during the three-month period they didn’t have insurance. So the property manager took on that liability. “Being fully managed means transferring some of that liability to get that done – and ensuring you have coverage. I see that as a massive benefit.” Every property manager knows insurance matters, but that doesn’t make it any less of a headache. If you want to learn more about how we can partner with you to make that part of your life simpler, check out the details on our Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon January 5, 2024

Read more

Property manager meeting with client

6 Reasons Property Managers Should Choose Clients Carefully and Why

Finding the right property management clients can make or break your business. Experienced property managers often declare this with vigor: “Be very specific and selective about who your customers are.” A simple idea, yet one that can feel tricky to execute. And like many things, there is no one-perfect-strategy-fits-all here. The right action plan likely depends on your situation. So here are six next-layer ideas that might help. 1. Push up or push out toxic property management clients Ok, let’s say you’ve made that grit-your-teeth, pain-in-the-keester client list. What’s next? Sure, you could just politely fire them. And if nothing is stopping you, then nothing is stopping you. But there’s another approach that doesn’t torpedo all your revenue all at once: raise prices. Some will leave. Great. Some will stay and pay. This makes it easier to afford resources that mitigate the distraction. You can keep doing this until the premium is worth it or they’ve parted ways. 2. When the exact opposite advice might work best (for a stage) Let’s say you haven’t been at this for years. You’re newer, just starting out. Being super specific about a customer this early could work. But it also could be the right advice at the wrong time. Yes, you could say you’re only working with class-A, single-family rentals with intentional investors who have 2-20 units and don’t live in your market. Yet, while you have a specific idea, the reality is that it usually takes time and hard work to hone your business to actually deliver a service distinctly for this customer. And after getting some reps in, you may learn that you have strengths and competencies naturally built for a different investor profile, a different asset type, etc. Or, you discover a new market opportunity you didn’t see before. I heard an analogy once that early on, you try a wider net. The net pulls up all kinds of fish. Grouper, tuna, mahi, probably seaweed too. Then you start to realize which one you’re really a match for. And you start adjusting your net and where you fish, just for tuna. Or, you realize you want a different net tailor-made for shrimp or crab. Doing this for months can be a good way of learning through doing what’s good and bad. What complexities do you want to take on, and which do you want to avoid? But be sure you do start tightening the net eventually. The suffering comes from not monitoring and tightening when you’re ready. This wide net approach not being time- or stage-bound turns a thoughtful trade-off into the drag weight everyone warns against. 3. Powerful team incentives Maybe you’re in the owner's seat, less involved in the day-to-day. It’s your team that’s bringing new clients on, and they’re responsible for handling good and bad-fit customers. So, let’s say you want to drop bad clients because they’re keeping you from the next level, but you’ve invested in staff and need to replace the revenue. Raising prices is one way. But here’s another: For every 2-4 good-fit clients the team adds, they get to drop one bad-fit client. It may feel good to fire bad clients all at once, right away. But if the business is in the investment or break-even stage, tying it to replacement clients can be a responsible way to mitigate risk to cash flow. This approach motivates the team to not just find any new client or just the ”easy” client. It focuses them on the most valuable clients. And as more are brought in, you can responsibly filter out the worst fits. Empowering employees to improve their own experience at work by putting clear guardrails in place can be a powerful motivator for change. They now have a productive path that gives them agency, as opposed to feeling hopelessly stuck with a bad client until one of them leaves. Perhaps commission changes for better-fit clients are a worthy consideration. A great incentive structure is usually marked by whether or not people “game it.” And your business still wins. That’s a good segue to… 4. Shift your marketing and sales You can address the existing client base, but if your acquisition strategy never changes, they will keep coming in. So, how do you get upstream of the problem in your sales and marketing? Great marketing attracts who you are for and repels who you are not. Help your team understand both the ideal profile AND the anti-profile. Green flags and red flags. And it’s not just about what you’re messaging, it also can tie to where you find clients and invest in acquisition channels. Ask yourself: Do your best-fit customers come from realtor referrals? Client referrals? Which realtors or clients? Do they come inbound from your content marketing? Instead of spreading your budget all around, focus resources on places and programs that attract your best customers and tighten up less reliable channels. This doesn’t have the immediacy of other approaches, but the impact over time can be significant. The same applies to sales. Great sales processes quickly qualify out vs. wasting time with poor-fit prospects. And they prioritize the Glen Garry leads. Even a simple A-B-C grading with entry and exit criteria is a great place to start. When tracking marketing and sales KPIs as blended, it treats all activity as equal. Reality is different. Some leads are 20%-1000% more valuable. Putting policies and processes in place to prioritize and treat them appropriately is a win. 5. Is it possible to be too specific? Most property managers say they once worried about being too specific with ideal client profiles but then were surprised that the problem was almost always in not being more specific. Well, it’s a balance. Here’s an example description: “We work with rental property owners who want a more passive experience in real estate.” That’s very broad. This sounds like a sea of other companies trying to win the same customer. That makes it harder to pick you. How about his: “We work with Cincinnati SFR owners who are full-time OB/GYNs and want to hold for at least a full market cycle.” Ok, this is much more specific. Probably in ways that don’t really matter. For example: Why OBs vs. doctors in general? Or doctors vs. busy, high-income professionals? Do they really have different problems that would materially change your offering or go-to-market? But let’s stick with it, for example’s sake. Your messaging could definitely sound like nobody else. Let’s say it did work more efficiently, and you win 40% of leads instead of 25% with this targeting. I asked Perplexity AI (replacing Google search for me) how many OB/GYNs there are in Cincy. It’s 322 or 478, depending on the source. Let’s say 200 own or would invest in real estate. Some number less for just single-family rentals. Some already have a PM and are happy. How many are willing and want to hold for a full market cycle? This is likely not a viable business strategy for a dedicated PM business. It’s too specific a pool, and growth will likely be too slow even if you close 50% of leads. 50% of 100 is a lot less than 25% of 10,000. So, it helps to think about the tension between the size of the prize (market opportunity) and the opportunity to design and earn a distinct position in it (differentiation strategy). Thinking about both sides can help you find a sweet spot to commit to and focus on organizing around. If you map your market, you can ask and answer: What’s the smallest niche of the market that supports your business goals and model? What’s the biggest opportunity you can credibly develop and win in the near term? How might you expand as you win to keep growing toward your ultimate vision? You can see how a couple of years later, you can expand or add an adjacent customer profile (accidental landlords, new location, new property type, etc.) or adjacent new services (RBP, brokerage, in-house maintenance, etc.) to add dollars to the same customer base to grow. 6. Focus on wallet-share vs. market share Ok, so what if you want to remove problem clients but don’t want to raise prices, risk cash burn, wait until the team can add better replacement property management clients first, or test changes in your funnel or team’s comp? You might feel stuck, but there’s another way to add the revenue and profit you need to confidently pull the trigger without investing more in acquisition or relying on efficiency improvements to justify it. That’s adding more revenue per unit in a way that increases your customer lifetime value. If your ancillary revenue and profit per unit go up, you can afford to let clients go without risking churn. Second Nature helps property managers do this through a fully managed resident benefits package. Industry benchmarking studies show the average PMC profits $10-17/mo per unit. Every lease with an RBP can replace the profits at risk or more. And RBP isn’t the only ancillary revenue opportunity. Pet rent is another good example if you haven’t implemented it yet, amongst others. What are your thoughts? The goal of this article is not to be prescriptive; it’s to spark thinking about key considerations and paths to get there. To that end, did you find this content useful? Anything you can add that’s missing? Connect with us in our Facebook group or get in touch! We’d love to hear your input.

Calendar icon January 4, 2024

Read more

Single family home

What is Rent Guarantee Insurance? Limitations & Top Providers

Ah, rent. It's the financial fuel that keeps rental properties rolling. But what happens when that fuel line gets clogged? Even if a resident comes with a great payment history and credit, life happens. Maybe it’s a job loss, an economic slump, or even identity theft – whatever the reason, most property managers will experience lapsed rent payments at some point. For property managers, stalled rent means your clients’ property is suddenly a financial risk rather than the asset it should be. Enter a new(ish) solution that provides a safety net for property managers and owners: rent guarantee insurance. Think of it as a stopgap for your investors in case of missed rent, leaving them financially secure while you can take your next steps thoughtfully. Rent guarantee insurance is an owner benefit that many savvy property managers have begun to include in their suite of services to entice new investor clients. So, let's break down the rent guarantee magic. In this blog post, we'll be your tour guide through the maze and answer questions like: What is rent guarantee insurance, and why should you care? What does this type of insurance cover? When should you offer it? What are the limitations or risks of rent guarantee insurance? Who are the top providers of rent guarantee insurance in the U.S.? This service is all about reducing risk for owners, which is a massive value proposition for any property management company to offer their clients. We’ll also talk about some measures you can take to protect residents (and, therefore, owners) beforerent delinquency becomes an issue. We’re all about helping customers reduce risk. Here’s a great way to do it. What is rent guarantee insurance? Rent guarantee insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to protect property owners from financial loss caused by resident rent default. Essentially, it acts as a safety net, stepping in to cover missed rent payments for a predetermined period if a renter fails to fulfill their lease obligations. Think of it as a financial backstop, ensuring a property’s rental income remains stable even when a tenant falls into arrears. Let's break it down with an example: You may have a resident who passes your credit check and other screening with flying colors. But then, they experience identity theft and have their assets frozen for a certain period of time. Rent guarantee insurance would help to cover the unpaid rent while they’re getting back on their feet. In this case, it can help them stay where they are while they get their financial accounts restored – and protect your clients’ cash flow over that time. In other scenarios, the outcome may not be quite as sunny (fully restored and still a resident!). Let’s say there’s an economic downturn, and one of your residents loses their job. While no one wants to evict a resident, you may find your hands tied. With rent guarantee insurance, you can offer your owners the peace of mind that they won’t lose money during the eviction process. Providing services like this can set you apart from other property management companies and help drive leads. How does rent guarantee insurance work, and who needs it? Rent guarantee insurance is a benefit for property owners and is one option that property managers can offer their clients as part of a suite of services. It also can provide peace of mind to property managers, knowing their investors won’t be paying out of pocket if a renter stops paying. Here’s how it works: An insurance company offers coverage for a monthly premium. As a property manager or owner, you can pay that yourself or build it into the rental cost. Then, if a renter ever stops paying rent for nearly any reason, you can file a claim with the insurance company and get that missed rent paid while the resident is still delinquent. Rent guarantee insurance isn't a one-size-fits-all magic button for every property manager and owner. It’s most explicitly valuable for property owners who: Have new or unproven tenants: For first-time renters or those with limited rental history, the risk of default can be higher. Own multiple properties: Managing numerous rentals comes with a higher exposure to potential tenant issues. Rent guarantee insurance distributes that risk. Own high-value properties: The financial impact of missed rent can be particularly painful for owners of expensive properties. Rent guarantee insurance acts as a financial shock absorber. But rent guarantee insurance can be a good idea for anyone, depending on their risk appetite. Why is rent guarantee insurance important? Rent guarantee insurance can be a critical way to protect your clients’ – and therefore your – financial stability. For a monthly (or yearly) premium, you can ensure peace of mind in case a resident has a significant life change, moves out suddenly, or simply fails to pay rent consistently. This type of insurance can also take care of the hassle of following up with residents who have stopped paying and even starting the eviction process. Whether or not you opt for rent guarantee insurance, one of the best ways to ensure you’re protected is to focus on protecting your residents’ ability to pay rent. At Second Nature, we provide support for this through our Resident Benefits Package. Our identity protection feature ensures that if residents are ever the victim of identity theft, their missed rent payments are covered. Credit building helps ensure residents build financial security, and our renter’s insurance program helps cover other liabilities on the property side, including loss of rental income in covered scenarios. What does the rent insurance guarantee typically cover? Rent guarantee insurance is solely focused on protecting property owners from loss of income if a resident falls behind or defaults on rent payments. Since rent is the primary pipeline of income for a real estate investor, this is critical coverage if that kind of loss happens. Property owner’s insurance covers damage to a property but not loss of rent. That’s why this type of insurance is unique. Rent guarantee insurance won’t cover certain scenarios, like if there is a failure on the property owner’s sign to comply with a lease or keep the property habitable. A Note About Eviction Protection: Some services that offer rent guarantee insurance also include eviction protection, but not all do. Eviction protection specifically covers the costs of an eviction. Rent guarantee insurance may not involve an eviction at all (for example, in the case of identity theft, the resident may just suspend payments for one or two months while their finances are restored). Or, eviction costs may not be included in the rent guarantee policy. Property managers can include both rent guarantee insurance and eviction protection in their suite of owner services. Limitations of rent guarantee insurance Of course, rent guarantee insurance has its limitations, just like any type of insurance. Here are a few of the limitations to consider before you decide to pay for this coverage. Not all residents will be approved: Insurers do just as much due diligence as you do. They likely will refuse to cover a tenant with a history of defaulting on payments or a low credit score, etc. They may have different standards than you have established for your PMC. Insurance may take time to kick in: Most rent guarantee policies will kick in after a full month or more of non-payment. You may be on the hook for this. However, you may be able to use the security deposit to cover this, depending on local regulations and your lease agreement. Premiums can be pricey: Rent guarantee insurance can cost around 5-7% of your annual rent payments. Of course, you can find ways to fold this added cost into residents’ monthly rent payments, but you will need to be conscious of whether this tarts pricing you out of the market. You may promise more than you can deliver: Always be careful when marketing a service as a “guarantee.” We’ve seen property managers get in trouble when they can’t deliver on a “guarantee.” You may let down owners, or you may even get in trouble from a regulatory standpoint. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, even (or especially!) with insurance. Another risk? Thinking you can offer this yourself without an insurance license. Recently, a property manager in Texas got dinged by the Texas Department of Insurance for offering things like “pet guarantees” and “rent guarantees” without being licensed to offer insurance. That’s why it’s important to use a real insurance provider when you decide to offer rent guarantee insurance. And that leads us to our next section: The best providers for this service right now. Best rent guarantee insurance providers Here are the top rent guarantee insurance carriers available right now. 1. Steady Rent Steady Rent is geared specifically for property managers in the single-family rental space. They help property managers provide risk protection to their investors – you help them protect their rental properties, all while improving your bottom line. They provide two services: rent advance and an owner benefits package. Rent advance provides up to 12 months of rent payments upfront, regardless of resident payment. Property managers also receive their fees upfront. This is only available for investors working with property managers who are already partnered with Steady, and the property must meet certain requirements. Steady’s benefit package allows owners to access the Rent Advances, as well as rent protection of up to two months of rental payments if a tenant defaults. 2. TheGuarantors TheGuarantors focuses on rent guarantor insurance along with innovative risk management solutions for property owners, renters, brokers, and property managers. The company’s promise to residents is that they can help them get into a property they want but might not otherwise be accepted for. For investors and property managers, the promise is to reduce risk and strengthen their bottom line. They offer rent coverage, deposit coverage, and renters insurance. The fees are paid for by residents, so it adds no cost for investors or property managers. The company also says it will step in to help work with residents who have stopped paying rent. The downside is that some residents say the insurance comes at too high a price, and the user experience is not as good as comparable services. 3. Nomad Nomad is another property management software company that focuses on a rent guarantee. Their team also helps manage the details of marketing, screening, leasing, and any issues that arise with rent payments. The service is more applicable to self-managing landlords who need support in each step of the leasing process. The way Nomad’s process works is they manage the lease for you and pay you rent on time every month. For larger or more established property management companies, this won’t be the ideal solution as it likely won’t be flexible enough to your needs. 4. Home365 Home365 is a property management solutions company in the same vein as Nomad. They offer a “one rate” to the owner that covers rent guarantee, leasing and renewal fees, eviction fees, repairs and maintenance fees, and tenant turnover costs. They guarantee 12 months of full rent every year, with a rate subject to a deductible per incident. They have a platform for property managers and investors and a separate platform that helps residents find homes that are a good fit. 5. SureVestor SureVestor is a "landlord insurance" brand that helps cover unexpected costs for property owners. They partner with property managers to give a discounted price on their services. Their full coverage includes Scheer Landlord Protection Insurance, which covers malicious damage up to $35,000, loss of rent coverage, eviction costs, sheriff fees, legal expenses, etc. They also offer $1M liability coverage for property managers, up to $100,000 in tenant liability coverage, and a security deposit alternative service. 6. Tenantcube Tenantcube is a property management software solution that includes a rent guarantee in its package of services. They provide a rental management platform that helps support tenant screening, automated rent collection, lease templates, and management software. Their rent guarantee will make up payments when a tenant stops paying up until the tenant vacates the property. You can rely on coverage for up to one year or $60,000 in covered rent. They also support reimbursement of eviction legal fees up to $1,500 and malicious damage protection up to $10,000. Tenantcube is generally a good solution for more self-managing landlords who need support managing their properties – rather than established property management companies that need a more sophisticated solution. 7. World Insurance World Insurance’s rent guarantee covers renters if they involuntarily lose their jobs or otherwise can’t pay rent on time. They provide up to $60,000 of guaranteed rent as well as damage protection of up to $10,000 and eviction cost coverage. This service is geared towards renters themselves, and there are fairly high standards for who will be accepted. Approval can take a long time. 8. Insurent Insurent is a lease guarantor company available in some parts of the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, California, and a few other states. Renters can use the service to get approval in homes they otherwise would not qualify for, as long as they meet certain criteria like creditworthiness, employment, etc. For property managers and investors, it can support filling a property more quickly with residents who seem like good renters but might need a little extra coverage or a guarantor. This might include people like first-time renters who need to build a rental history. 9. Rent Rescue Rent Rescue is an arm of Next Wave Insurance Service. They reimburse rental owners for up to six months of lost rental income due to nonpays, including skips or eviction, and up to three months if the default is due to a court order, military deployment, or death of a sole tenant. It is available in most states. The idea of Rent Rescue is to close the gap between the moment that a resident stops paying rent and when you can finally resolve the issue. It’s a rent default insurance to help keep your cash flowing during this period. They also provide up to $1,000 in legal expenses to pursue eviction.

Calendar icon January 3, 2024

Read more

Property manager handing new residents the keys to their new home

What is Security Deposit Insurance? Pros and Cons [+Best Providers]

Security deposits are an industry standard for property management. But new innovations are helping reduce some of the traditional pain points associated with security deposits. Here’s the thing; For property managers and investors, security deposits provide critical protection from financial fallout if the rental property is damaged. For renters, though, paying a security deposit upfront can pose a prohibitive cost, and an expensive security deposit can make it harder for the property manager to fill vacancies. Enter security deposit insurance – a modern solution that's reshaping rental agreements. We’re diving into everything you need to know about security deposit insurance: how it's different from the traditional security deposit, the pros and cons, and the scoop on the best providers out there. So, whether you're a seasoned property management business owner or just getting started, we’ve got you covered. (And that was an insurance pun.) What is security deposit insurance? Security Deposit Insurance is a coverage that residents purchase, which covers potential damages or unpaid rent during their lease period. Instead of paying a hefty upfront cash deposit, residents pay a fee for this insurance, which typically costs a fraction of the traditional deposit amount. For example, imagine a tenant moving into a home where the usual security deposit is $1,000. With security deposit insurance, instead of paying this amount upfront, the tenant might pay an insurance fee of $50 each month for a 12-month lease. This fee provides coverage to the owner for the duration of the lease, similar to a standard deposit, but at a lower cost to the tenant. This system not only eases the financial burden for tenants but also provides property managers and owners with coverage against potential lease violations, making it a potentially attractive option for both parties. What is the difference between a traditional deposit and security deposit insurance? A traditional security deposit is a lump sum paid by the resident to the owner (or held by the property manager) at the beginning of the lease. It’s often the cost of one month’s rent or another negotiated amount. The security deposit acts as a safeguard for the property manager in case of any damage to the property by the end of the tenancy. If there is significant damage, the property manager and owner can withhold refunding the deposit, depending on local and state laws that govern the use of security deposits. Security deposit insurance, on the other hand, gives residents a way to avoid paying that large lump sum at the beginning of their lease. Instead, they can pay for insurance. Like any insurance policy, they pay a monthly premium for coverage. The premium will be considerably less than a one-time security deposit. When a resident has security deposit insurance, their property manager can file a claim to the insurance company over things like lost rent or damages. The resident doesn’t get any of their monthly payments back at move out. Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of security deposit insurance. What are the benefits of security deposit insurance? Security deposit insurance provides benefits to renters, property managers (or a landlord), and property owners. Here are a few of the top benefits. 1. Reduces the upfront cost of move-in and protects residents' ability to pay rent We’ll just say it plainly: Moving is a huge, stressful life event that costs a LOT of money. One of the major costs of moving into a new rental home is the traditional security deposit. Renters may be paying two times or more the amount of monthly rent just to sign a lease. Security deposit insurance solves that upfront-cost challenge by providing a service at a much lower monthly cost. From the property management perspective, that means residents can keep more of their money to ensure they pay rent on time, and they may be happier to cover other fees like pet deposit fees, a resident benefits package fee, etc. 2. Helps reduce vacancies Because security deposit insurance removes one of the biggest financial barriers to signing a new lease, it can be a great way to reduce a property’s time on the market. By advertising that you accept security deposit alternatives like insurance, you can differentiate your properties on listings and fill them more quickly. 3. Covers unpaid rent This is one of the best benefits for property managers and owners. Traditional security deposits typically can’t be used until the end of a tenancy. But with security deposit insurance, property managers can file a claim over unpaid rent. The insurance typically will cover this. Some states allow property managers to cover missed rent payments with a security deposit, but some do not. If you’re in one of the states that don’t, you may want to consider allowing security deposit insurance. 4. Claims can be made at any time during the lease Like the coverage for unpaid rent, security deposit insurance can cover claims at any time throughout a resident’s lease. You don’t necessarily have to wait to be reimbursed for damage. What are the drawbacks of security deposit insurance? Of course, there are a few risks to security deposit insurance and reasons you may not want to make it an option for your residents. Here are some of the cons of security deposit insurance. 1. Not all claims will be accepted When you, as the property manager, submit a claim for coverage of unpaid rent or property damage, the insurance company may not decide to cover it. Each claim is evaluated at the time of loss to determine if coverage is applicable. Things like normal wear and tear are not covered. Plus, you’re not the one who gets to make the final decision. 2. Not all insurance providers or products are reliable This is true particularly because the industry itself is a newer innovation. Residents may pay monthly premiums but then find the coverage is not all that great. All of us have probably had some kind of experience like this with other types of insurance, too. Some claims aren’t covered, and some insurance companies promise a lot and deliver very little. 3. Residents are on the hook for monthly payments Generally, security deposit insurance is cheaper than a cash security deposit. But if the lease is long-term, the monthly payments may end up being more expensive than just paying a lump sum at the beginning of the lease. For property managers, you want to consider if it’s ideal for your residents to have an additional monthly fee they’re responsible for on top of rent. 4. It can be a hassle Nobody likes submitting or following up on insurance claims. It’s a hassle! The process is often clunky and slow and requires a lot of management. It may take weeks or months to get paid for a claim. Property managers may also need to put time and energy into educating residents or clients about how the security deposit insurance works and the differences in their options. (Or you could show them this article!) Best security deposit insurance providers Security deposit insurance is fairly new to the SFR property management world. Here are three of the best security deposit insurance products on the market right now. 1. LeaseLock LeaseLock is the category leader in this particular security deposit alternative space. In October 2023, the company surpassed $9 billion in insured leases. LeaseLock offers a modern solution in security deposit insurance, replacing traditional cash deposits with a unique insurance model. Their insurance coverage provides property managers with protection while easing the upfront financial burden for residents. The monthly cost to the resident is generally around $30, with $5,000 in coverage for unpaid rent and damage. 2. Obligo Obligo was launched in New York and helps property managers reduce their risks while making security deposits more affordable for renters. Residents pay a small monthly fee for the service while Obligo sets up secure billing authorization between property managers and the resident. The property manager is then authorized to charge the resident for damages up to a pre-set maximum. It’s essentially the same as the type of pre-authorization hold that a hotel might place on a guest’s credit card. Residents won’t be charged unless they cause damage or miss rent, and they will only be charged up to a certain amount. Some residents will not qualify for Obligo’s services, depending on credit rating, etc. The company has a high trust rating on Trustpilot. 3. Rhino Rhino offers a slightly less straightforward insurance model but is a leading solution in security deposit alternatives. Through a surety bond model, their service provides robust protection for property owners while significantly reducing move-in costs for residents. Rhino is sued in over two million homes in the U.S. and claims to save renters over 90% on moving costs. Some former customers complain about unreliable costs and being on the hook for claims. Final thoughts Security deposit insurance is reshaping the rental landscape, offering benefits for both residents and property managers. Providers like LeaseLock, Rhino, and Obligo are at the forefront of this change, providing innovative solutions that ease financial burdens and streamline rental transactions. As the industry evolves, these services may become a new standard in property management. The goal is to make life easier for renters, owners, and property managers. At Second Nature, our goal is the same. We help property managers provide the best residential services and solutions, all while building opportunities for ancillary revenue. We provide a package with solutions like renters insurance, credit reporting, and resident rewards, all built to help protect a resident’s financial stability and reduce risk to your property management company. Plus, it’s completely handled for you, so your team can focus on what they do best: manage your properties.

Calendar icon December 21, 2023

Read more

Tenants holding their cat

Pet Screening 101: How Top Property Managers Do It

Pet screening: it’s a big part of a property manager’s responsibilities, but – as any PM will say – it can also be a major headache. More residents have pets now than ever before. According to the 2023-2024 American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) National Pet Owner Survey, 66% of U.S. households own a pet. That means property managers are dealing with pets more often than not. On the flip side, investor clients may be reticent to allow pets on their properties. The result? It can be tough to fill vacancies in properties where pets aren’t allowed or the screening standards are too restrictive. So, how do you handle these situations? How do you push for more pet-friendly policies if you need to fill vacancies? How do you protect yourself and your investors from risk? In this article, we’re sharing the best advice we’ve gotten about pet screening, why it’s important to do it well, the steps to a good pet screening process, and a pet screening checklist. What is pet screening? Pet screening is the thorough evaluation of a prospective tenant's pet before approving their lease application. Essentially, it’s a pet background check. It's not just about keeping furry friends out of your pristine property; it's about minimizing risks, following any service animal requirements and ensuring you are protected from any potential damage. A thoughtful pet screening process allows you to delve into the true compatibility between a pet, its owner, and your rental property – and to ensure you’re prepared for any associated risks. A note about assistance animals: It’s important to distinguish that we’re talking about pets not assistance animals. If you’re dealing with an assistance animal, you should not have the word “pet” anywhere on the lease. This may sound odd to laypeople, but an assistance animal is legally considered a disability device, not a pet. Assistance animals include service animals, emotional support animals, etc. How you deal with assistance animals – both service and support – is guided by your local laws. Property managers should familiarize themselves with the Fair Housing Act, specifically the FHEO-2020-01 Assistance Animals Notice from HUD, for guidance on assistance animals. These animals are regulated through guidance by the ADA and ESA. But for animals that are simply there as beloved pets, you need to set up your own standards for pet screening – and understand where reasonable accommodation must be made. Why is pet screening important? Properly setting expectations and standards for pets – and screening any new pets at the home you manage – creates a number of benefits for you, the resident, and the investor. Here’s why it’s so important: Property protection One of the primary reasons for pet screening is to protect the property from potential damage. Pets can sometimes cause significant wear and tear beyond the usual scope, like scratched floors, damaged fixtures, or stained carpets. By conducting a thorough pet screening, property managers can assess the risk each pet poses to the property. This process often involves checking the pet’s breed, size, temperament, and history of behavior. Understanding these factors helps in making informed decisions about whether to permit the pet and setting appropriate pet deposits or pet rent to cover potential damages. Neighborhood comfort and safety Ensuring the safety and comfort of your residents – and their impact on the neighborhood – is a top priority, and pet screening plays a crucial role in this. Some pets may pose a safety risk, especially if they have a history of aggression. By screening pets, property managers can prevent potentially dangerous situations, ensuring that you don’t end up having to deal with complaints or legal repercussions. Other pets may simply be a nuisance. Excessive barking in the backyard can bring noise complaints, etc. Risk mitigation Pet screening is a proactive measure to mitigate various risks associated with allowing pets on the property. These risks include potential legal liabilities in case of pet-related incidents, such as bites or property damage. Having a detailed pet policy and screening process in place can protect the property management company from legal disputes and financial losses. Moreover, it ensures that pet owners are responsible and aware of their obligations, which include taking care of their pets. Incorporating a comprehensive pet screening process not only safeguards the physical property but also contributes to the overall well-being and safety of the home, neighbors, etc. How to conduct a pet screening According to Victoria Cowart, Director of Education and Outreach at, the most important factor in your pet screening process is consistency. “The best policies are the ones consistently applied,” Cowart says. “That’s the greatest challenge I see in the industry.” Here are the steps to a successful pet screening process. 1. Document all pet rules and regulations Start with establishing the rules on your properties. Remember, you should be consistent in how those rules are applied across all of your portfolio, so don't make a rule unless you’re willing to enforce it equally. Make sure that all prospective residents are clear on the rules, restrictions, and fees associated with pet ownership. Do you charge a pet fee like a pet deposit fee? Make that clear from the start. 2. Have the right tools at your disposal While the pet screening process is very precise and should be taken seriously, you can also use tools and third-party services to help make it easier. is one pet screening service that supports property managers in pet screening. Instead of leaving you with all the decisions to make, Pet Screening does it all for you. They have an in-depth questionnaire and screening process. In the end, they provide you with a FIDO score that assesses everything you need to know about the pet. 3. Provide a pet screening application For any prospective residents who are pet owners, the next step is to have them start the application process. This is the key part of the pet screening process. When outlining the content of your pet screening application, Cowart says to focus on two pillars: liability and responsibility. Liability will focus on the animal’s history. Responsibility is more like a “tenant screening” that will focus on the owner’s habits. “You need to know how much the resident is doing to ensure their pet doesn’t have an adverse impact on the rental and on the community,” says Cowart. “Are they picking up after their animal? Do they walk them on a leash? Do they take them to the vet regularly?” The application should include pet profile details like: Age Height and weight Breed/type of pet Medical history Spayed/Neutered Length of ownership Housetraining status History of obedience training Behavioral issues Vaccination status (and proof of vaccination) Previous history of aggression Veterinarian information (See our full checklist below for more.) Many property managers focus on breed restrictions, but the evidence shows that breed is less of a factor in a pet’s behavior than you might think. The animal’s history and the owner’s behavior are more important to look for red flags of whether a dog is aggressive or not. Breed or weight questions should always include greater context. 4. Conduct a pet interview Not all property managers will feel the need to do this. However, having a member of your team meet the animal in person may be something your investor-clients want or that you feel helps establish a better relationship and limit liability. This is also more common in apartment complexes or multifamily housing. For single-family property managers, the pet interview isn’t necessarily as important. However, if you do conduct a pet interview, it’s important to confirm that the pet you’re meeting matches the description in the application. Pay attention to how well it listens, how it approaches you, and whether it shows any signs of aggression. 5. Ensure you are complying with all laws Before approving or denying a pet, do a final check to make sure you’re following all local, state, and federal laws. This is most important when considering assistance animals. Even homes with a no-pet policy will often need to accept assistance animals. 6. Include pet rules in the lease You should have a pet addendum ready for your lease signing. Walk the new residents through these. They shouldn’t be surprised by anything if you follow Step 1 and are clear with them on rules and fees from the beginning. If you require a pet security deposit, that should be given at this time as well. 7. Make sure pets are covered through insurance A big reason people deny pets is because they feel unsure about the risks and they don’t have a way of addressing them. That’s what insurance is for, but here’s the rub: A lot of pet owner policies exclude a lot of breeds, which can limit the number of residents you can approve at your properties. At Second Nature, we provide a renter’s insurance program that covers dog bits for all dog breeds. It’s one of the few programs on the market that doesn’t include breed restrictions. Second Nature’s renter’s insurance program (a part of our Resident Benefits Package) covers all breeds that the property manager approves. What are the benefits? Residents with household pets have stronger lease retention than residents without pets as a group. Furthermore, residents with aggressive breed dogs have a higher lease retention than residents in general. Fewer properties are available to those residents because most people are saying no to their pets. You can be the one who says yes – and gets a happier resident who wants to stay longer and be a responsible pet owner. With the right coverage, you can: allow more residents to apply reduce vacancy costs fill homes faster have a stronger lease retention over time increase opportunities for ancillary revenue. It’s a win for the pet owner, a win for you, and a win for your clients. Pet screening checklist Here’s a brief checklist to help you keep track of what you need to know about pets. Share this with prospective residents to help them prepare what they’ll need. Pet Resume: Include your pet’s breed, age, weight, and a brief description of their temperament. Mention any training your pet has received, especially obedience or socialization training. Vaccination and Health Records: Provide up-to-date vaccination records. Include any regular flea, tick, and worm prevention treatments. Spay/Neuter Confirmation: If applicable, provide documentation confirming your pet is spayed or neutered. Behavioral Information: Disclose any known behavioral issues and the steps you’re taking to address them. Include information about your pet’s typical behavior around people and other animals. References: Provide references from previous landlords or neighbors, especially if you’ve lived in a rental with your pet before. A letter from a veterinarian attesting to your pet’s good health and behavior can also be helpful. Pet License: Show proof of a current pet license, if required by local laws. Pet Insurance: Consider obtaining pet insurance that covers any damages your pet might cause. Second Nature provides this as part of a Resident Benefits Package. Residents can opt into the coverage or provide their own. Photos of Your Pet: Include recent photographs of your pet for easy identification. Agreement to Rules and Regulations: Acknowledge and agree to any pet policies or rules set by the property management. Final thoughts Pet screening doesn’t have to be a major headache. With the right tools and a standardized process, you can make it easier on your team and easier on prospective residents. The goal, after all, is to find residents who will care well for their pet and the property – and hopefully stay for the long term. At Second Nature, we provide extensive pet coverage in our Resident Benefits Package. The goal is to reduce liability for you and make it easier to accept good pets, regardless of their breed. Rest easy knowing you and your residents are covered.

Calendar icon December 20, 2023

Read more

Property Management Automation: 7 Tasks to Automate in Your Company

Property management automation refers to using technology and software to automate various tasks and optimize processes related to managing properties. It can involve using property management software to streamline tasks such as rent collection, applicant screening, property maintenance requests, and accounting, among others. If it sounds great, you’re right! The point is to reduce the amount of time and effort property managers need to spend on manual tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks that add value to their business. According to Pete Neubig, Co-Founder and CEO of VPM Solutions: “You have better communication, and things are getting done more efficiently for your residents, so they're happier. If the resident is happy, they will most likely re-sign the lease, which obviously is a win for the owner. And [it’s a win] for the property management company because now we're making more money because we're…reducing churn and capturing some opportunities to make more revenue.” At Second Nature, we think of automation and outsourcing as two sides of the same coin. Either way, you're getting your time back. That's why our focus is making life better for residents and easier for property managers. Our suite of resident services helps support a better resident experience, driving up retention and making investors happier, too. And, since we fully manage every part of it, we also make life easier for you, the property manager. That's a "triple win." With that said, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of property management automation: the seven tasks you can most easily automate and the seven tools to help you get there. Which property management tasks should you automate? Automation might make us think of manufacturing lines or robots, but in the modern workplace, automation is simply a catch-all term for tech tools that can instantly streamline your work process. Automation tools handle time-consuming, repetitive tasks, speeding up the workflow process, creating fewer mistakes, and freeing us up to do more valuable work. Without automation, we find ourselves losing time with busy work like: Manually entering data Writing and sending emails Phone calls and followup Keeping track of to-do lists Fixing mistakes in spreadsheets or other work Reminding team members how to do day-to-day tasks Think about the last month when you took the same action repeatedly – or saw the same situation and made the same decision – or got the same question and shared the same information. If a task is easily duplicated and policy/rule-based, automation is coming for it. Here are a few of the most common areas where PMs are standardizing and applying automation tools. 1. Rent collection Online rent payments can automate reminders to tenants, reduce errors, and increase on-time payments to collect rent without creating any additional work for the PM. Tools like and EliseAI are innovating this space. Both are chatbot-type tools that help automate things like rent collection by automating communication about delinquency and the followup process. The tools communicate directly with your residents for you with rent payment reminders, support, and more. 2. Property inspections Using an automated checklist on a handheld device can help you stay mobile and get inspections done in less time. Automation can instantly generate reports, so you don’t have to worry about returning to the office and entering all that data. Tools like RentCheck and OnSight Pros can either automate or outsource this work for you as a property manager. RentCheck is a software tool that you and your staff can use for photos, checklists, workflows, and more. There's also a native app that residents can use to do inspections themselves. Then, it will compile a clean, easy report that you can sent to your investors. OnSight Pros isn't exactly an automation, but it has the same impact on your workflow. They have a network of professionals who do property reviews in person for you. They're not available in every market, but you can check their website for available service areas. 3. Maintenance requests A 24/7 maintenance portal means you don’t have to take calls every time they come in, and you can quickly and easily triage maintenance requests. Tools like Property Meld help automate work requests, vendor communication, scheduling, and more. Mezo is another newer tool on the market that provides conversational AI to interact with your residents, scope the maintenance issue, support self-service, and help deploy the right professional if needed. With a tool like this, you can eliminate multiple trips out to the property or even have it fixed by the residents themselves. 4. Accounting and bookkeeping Bookkeeping was one of the first areas of automation when computers entered the scene. It's hard to find a professional property management business that doesn't use property accounting software. Tools like RentVine help automate fees, statements, financial tracking, and more. Most property management software platforms provide accounting features, and everyone uses them somewhat differently. You can use integrations, layer in vertical tools, and more. However, a lot of the actual accounting can't be truly automated. Instead, you can outsource to companies like Bynnd and Reconcile Daily who will do the accounting work for you. 5. Digitizing paperwork Property managers are always on the go. Digitizing records and process management is a game-changer. This one is pretty straightforward. Most property management software works with cloud-based documents and tracking or integrates with services like DocuSign, etc. 6. Managing new accounts With integrations, you can add new properties, trigger automatic processes, and reduce vacancies more quickly. For example, after entering a new property in your CRM, automation can launch a new property checklist and notify your whole team. For example, you can set up an integration where a new lead comes in as "won" through LeadSimple and Zapier automatically starts a new property checklist in Process Street, populates the data from the sales process, and assigns the checklist to the right person on your team. All automated. 7. Communication Email is the most common form of communication, and yes, it is automation. Some PMs are using even more streamlined workflow communication like Slack, Leadsimple, or HelpScout. Automation can feel alarming to some at first, but the best property managers are embracing it. They’re quick to do the hard work of developing policies, documenting the process, and then using tools to systemize their expertise and automate the work. The result is more reliable and likely less expensive than people doing it. Solutions like LeadSimple provide communication tools across customer types so you can set up automation for clients and residents. Property management automation tools After identifying the processes you want to automate, the next step is to adopt the best tools available to property managers. We’re seeing buzz from PMs across the industry using automation tools at every stage of their operations. One of the more visible examples out there is Peter Lohmann, CEO of RL Property Management. He has outlined several no-code tools that he uses to automate his property management business. No-code tools are easy for anyone, and most can “talk” to other software through APIs. Here are some of the tools we like the best and how Lohmann has used them for his PMC: 1. LeadSimple LeadSimple is a sales and operations CRM geared towards property and real estate management. You can approve a rental application in the CRM and trigger other automations like emails, checklists, and more. LeadSimple recently added workflow automation and an inbox product that works like a ticketing system. 2. Zapier Zapier is a workflow automation app that connects all your other apps. For example, when you mark a new property in your CRM, it can “zap” your checklist software to start a “New Property Checklist.” 3. Process Street Process Street is an automated checklist software that gets your entire team on the same page. You can assign management tasks, mark priorities and completions, schedule, and more. It also has email templates that can be automatically populated from your CRM. 4. Slack We all know Slack. Slack is the communications app that puts your whole team in one place, sets up groups, streamlines topics, and more. Zapier can automatically send notifications through Slack about new accounts and assignments. 5. Mailchimp MailChimp automates and sends professional emails. Through integrations, you can connect it with your CRM and other automations, so emails are automatically populated and triggered at the right time. 6. Airtable Lohmann explains that he has transitioned all non-financial data from their legacy system into Airtable, where they have control of it and can connect it to other tools. 7. Buildium Buildium is a property management software for PMs with 50+ doors in their portfolio. With a monthly fee, you can use Building to set up recurring rent payments with credit cards or ACH and use other property management features. Benefits of automating property management workflows and processes Professional property managers don’t just manage property; they manage projects, workflows, and processes. Here are some of the top benefits of implementing automation tools to improve those processes and workflows. Improved efficiency Automated property management processes can drastically reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks, allowing your team to focus on more strategic activities. Use rent collection as an example: Instead of manually tracking payments, an automated system can collect payments electronically, keeping records updated in real-time. Minimized errors Automated workflows minimize the chance of human error in tasks like accounting, tenant screening, or maintenance scheduling, ensuring accuracy and consistency. For instance, in accounting, automating calculations and data entry can reduce errors that may occur due to manual entry, ensuring the accuracy of financial records. Increased resident satisfaction Automation can speed up response times to maintenance requests, rent payment processing, and communication, leading to a better tenant experience. Using maintenance as an example here: Tenants can submit requests online, the system can automatically assign a service provider, and update the tenant with progress in real-time. Enhanced communication Automated reminders and notifications keep all stakeholders, from tenants to service providers, informed and engaged, improving communication. For example, automated reminders can notify tenants about upcoming lease renewals or rent due dates, ensuring they're well-informed and reducing late payments. Scalability Automated systems allow for easier scaling of operations as your property portfolio grows. It's much simpler to manage increased workloads when processes are automated. As your property portfolio grows, an automated system can easily handle adding new tenants, properties, and corresponding data, without requiring more administrative effort. Real-time reporting With automation, real-time reporting becomes possible, providing valuable insights into your business's performance and enabling better decision-making. An automated system can provide real-time occupancy rates, rental arrears, or maintenance costs, enabling you to make data-driven decisions. Cost savings By streamlining operations and reducing manual labor, property management automation can lead to significant cost savings in the long run. By automating routine tasks like tenant screening or lease agreement generation, you can save administrative time and associated labor costs. Regulatory compliance Automated systems can help ensure compliance with housing laws and regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues. For example, automated system can update you on changes to housing laws and ensure all lease agreements are compliant. Remember, automation doesn't mean losing the personal touch that sets your business apart. Instead, it's about freeing up time and resources to focus more on those areas that truly require a human touch. What is an example of an automated property Management system? One innovative example of automated property management is right here at Second Nature. Our service helps manage and automate the resident experience to be the best that it can be. Our Resident Benefits Package allows property managers to deliver premium services – without the hassle of managing the programs in-house. The RBP offers benefits that residents pay and stay for, like rent reporting, renters insurance, filter delivery, identity protection, resident rewards, and even a move-in concierge. With the RBP, you can essentially automate resident happiness. How Second Nature helps with automation Automation sets professional property managers apart. As automation is adopted across the industry, professional PMs are more likely to build the right systems and put together the right tools faster than people who aren’t as motivated or skilled. At Second Nature, we believe in the power of innovation, and we see it every day in property managers around the country. Our tools, like the Resident Benefits Package, aim to bring more ease and automation to your work processes so you can get out there and grow your business. Learn more about our benefits and tools at

Calendar icon December 14, 2023

Read more

How to Build a Lead Generation Engine for a Property Management Company

Navigating the world of property management can often feel like a high-wire balancing act, particularly when it comes to property management lead generation. But fear not! The path to success becomes clear when you understand your target market, communicate effectively, and employ savvy lead-generation strategies. More good news: We know a guy who happens to be an expert in scaling up residential property management companies – Jeremy Pound, CEO of RentScale. We reached out to Jeremy to talk about the ins and outs of how to approach successful customer acquisition strategies for residential property managers. In this article, he’ll help guide us through key steps, providing actionable insights to help you attract and secure your ideal property management clients. Let's turn those potential leads into lucrative opportunities! Meet the Expert: Jeremy Pound, CEO of RentScale Jeremy Pound is the CEO of RentScale, the largest sales consulting and coaching company in the residential property management industry. They’ve trained over 400 companies on how to successfully grow their property management business by becoming “new customer machines.” He is also the publisher of Strategic PM - The Magazine for Property Management Entrepreneurs and Executives. 1. Define your ideal target market Not every prospect is a fit. And the key to growth is targeting the right people with your marketing strategies. When first starting out, a property manager might focus on pure hustle and price. But eventually, that’s no way to scale for profitability. (On that subject, Pound recommends the excellent management book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” by Marshall Goldsmith.) “Something I talk about all the time is that the opposite of ideal fit client is a misfit,” says Pound. “You want to work hard to avoid those misfits, which means you need to label the right-fit clients, know who they are, and describe them. That's the best way to grow: not just getting more net clients, but getting better and better quality clients.” In short, build high-quality leads by defining your ideal customer. Pound outlines the specific types of property management investor clients: Experienced investors: “There are different types of experienced property owners. Are you going after those who value risk aversion and peace of mind? Maybe you're charging a little more and adding more ancillary services, but you're protecting them from all the things that can go wrong. Or are you going after really aggressive risk-takers who are looking to optimize every dollar possible?” Accidental landlords: “Are you built to serve accidental landlords? Oftentimes homeowners move on, they move up, or they downsize, and they look to keep their very valuable properties as rental properties.” Working professionals: “Maybe you’re going after working professionals, such as high earners who are building a portfolio as property investors. They got the real-estate investing bug, they know that maybe they don't want to pull their money into 401K and index funds, and so they're actually using new property to build a portfolio for retirement.” Out-of-town investors: “Are you really built to serve out-of-town real estate investors? There are a lot of people, myself included, trying to build a diversified national portfolio of single-family rentals, and [some PMCs] are really built to serve that person because they need somebody local who's an expert and understands that local market. Once you define your ideal customer, which is the most important step, everything comes from there, Pound says. 2. Clarify how you are built to serve those clients best According to Pound, the simplest next step is to build your processes and procedures around that target ideal client. “Everything we do should be a story around why all of our policies, our pricing, our procedures are all built to best serve that client,” he says. “I like to call this ‘avoiding the commodity tax.’ If you go out and spend money on advertising, or if you're buying new leads, or you're trying to spend money on SEO as if you're just a commodity and you've got nothing exciting to say – no sharp story, no compelling positioning – then you're basically paying the commodity tax.” “You're going to have to buy all these leads, and most of those people are not going to buy from you,” he continues. “You might be buying 10 leads to close one deal, or you might be spending a bunch of money on advertising that's just going over everybody's head. Nobody's paying attention to it because it's not exciting.” This brings us to the next strategy… 3. Use dog whistle language Pound emphasizes that what catches our attention is the uncommon, the novel, and the specific. Our marketing should cultivate that specificity. Here’s how: “A term that we like to use around here is Dog Whistle Language,” Pound says. “If you know a dog whistle, only a dog can hear it. So when you know who your client is, it allows you to speak Dog Whistle Language – their language.” “I always try to enter the conversation that's already happening in their mind. If we have a very specific client, we know the problems that they're trying to solve, we know the frustrations they have and the goals they have. So let's just enter the conversation that's already happening in their mind! That’s going to make your content marketing less expensive and way more effective, and it's going to make your sales process even better.” “If we can say what our prospects are already thinking, but we can say it better with more clarity, then they're going to key into that.” Ask yourself: What are they already thinking? What is the problem they're trying to solve? What are the frustrations they have? Then, describe it even better than they can, says Pound: “That has been proven to create trust, to create authority. and to make them remember you.” 4. Understand demand generation vs. demand fulfillment “We want all our clients generating demand for their service,” Pound says. Demand fulfillment is “just going out and buying pay-per-click ads because people are already searching for your product.” This is a commodity-based approach. Let’s say something needs a new roof. They’re just going to type “roofer Boca Raton.” Pounds says that’s demand fulfillment: “You're just fulfilling the demand that's there, right? You're just hoping to get lucky. You're spending as much money as possible and just showing up.” Instead, Pound says, “Demand generation might be going out and talking to people about how if they've had any storm damage, they might be able to get their roof replaced through their insurance.” “There's a lot of examples of this in property management,” Pound says, “especially when you're going out, and you're teaching people to invest in real estate – actually going out there and creating the market for your product. It's more sophisticated, but it's way more profitable, and you have way more control over that than just sitting around and playing the demand fulfillment game.” Pound gives an example of a PMC going after high-net-worth individuals. “Let’s say you’re in Florida, where Publix is headquartered, you might be going after all the executives at Publix. You’re basically saying, ‘Look, there are other ways to pay for your kids' education. There are better ways to save for retirement. You can live a better life if you get involved in real estate investing.’” That’s demand generation. 5. The Buyer’s Pyramid: Have campaigns for each level of the buyer’s journey Source: "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes ‍ Time to get into the Buyer’s Pyramid. The top 3% are in the demand fulfillment mindset. They know what they need, they’re searching for the service or product, and they’re ready to buy. Then there’s 7% that are loosely open or becoming open to the idea of needing a product or service. As Pound says, “Maybe they're kind of frustrated with their property manager, but they're not so frustrated yet that they're ready to go search on Google.” That’s the moment to hit them with direct mail, email marketing, cold calling, or messaging that enters the conversation that’s already happening in their mind. Pound says to aim to say what they were thinking better than they can say it. Then they may move up into the 3% who are ready to make a decision. Below that is 30% of the potential market that isn’t aware of the existence of your product. They may be renting their homes or about to sell and simply don’t know that property management services exist. Then there's another 30% of the market that just misunderstands. Pound elaborates: “Maybe they’ve been self-managing forever, and they think that property managers just take a piece of the pie rather than make the pie bigger.” “Really good property managers explain to their prospects that they don't just take a piece of the pie,” Pound says. “Really good property managers actually expand the pie. They get more money for the property either by being able to charge more through marketing or reduce vacancy and turnover – and therefore, they're able to actually reduce all the losses that you would have from a rental property.” In the end, you can focus on each of those separate types of prospects and build campaigns that speak directly to them. 6. Track the numbers and optimize: Unit Acquisition Cost & ACV To optimize your acquisitions, it’s key to understand your numbers. That’s obvious, but how do you do it, and what are the most important numbers to track? Pound points to unit acquisition costs (UAC), customer lifetime value, and annual contract value (ACV). “We have monthly recurring revenue for months and months, if not years and years,” Pound says. “So you have to understand some of these numbers.” Unit Acquisition Costs (UAC): “How much does it cost you to acquire a door?” Annual Contract Value (ACV): “How much does each customer bring me annually?” Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): “How much does each customer bring me over their entire lifecycle as my client?” Pound breaks down how CLV affects your judgment on UAC. If a customer stays with you for five years and you're making $200 a month, their lifetime value is going to be $12,000. “You start to understand that you're willing to invest a little bit more than you thought to acquire that customer,” Pound says. This brings us to…. 7. Build the list and lower your costs You want to be always building your list of potential clients and client referrals. “Think about that buyer's pyramid,” Pound says. “Think about attracting and courting those people that are lower in the pyramid before they're ready to buy. We can actually acquire those people for pennies on the dollar versus the really high expense of going after Google pay-per-click or buying leads.” “Let’s say one day, a major life or business event will happen that will turn a prospect into a buyer today. Instead of having to go to Google to look for you, where you have to spend $17 per click, they already look to you for advice and help because you’ve courted them over time. When the life or business event happens, they’re ready to buy from us.” 8. Sweat equity or check equity It takes investment to create clients. In the end, Pound says, that investment decision comes down to: “sweat equity or check equity.” Sweat equity = time spent Check equity = money spent “Some entrepreneurs and business owners have more time than money, and they're going to want to spend money on advertising that works,” Pound says. “On the other hand, some entrepreneurs or property management owners have more time than money, and they're going to want to invest their time.” Sweat equity could look like: Networking with referral partners Direct outreach (outbound) to investors Calling FSBOs Partnerships Facebook Groups Forums Hosting events or going where the investors are Social Media (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, FB, Bigger Pockets) Organic online marketing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Webinars Check equity could look like: Direct mail Digital marketing (Google ads/PPC, YouTube, LinkedIn, Bigger Pockets, FB) Radio and TV Pay-per-lead Outdoor Hosting premium events with recognized speakers Final Thoughts In the end, getting qualified leads and new business is all about targeting and positioning. As Pound says, “The punchline at the end of the day is: If you’re going to spend money and time, you might as well be positioned. You might as well have the right language – the dog whistle – so you can get more out of every ounce of your sweat equity or every penny of your check equity.” For more insights from leaders like Jeremy, check out our Triple Win Podcast for residential property managers. Or, here are a few places to keep reading about growing your PMC: How to Create a Property Management Business Plan [Free Template] 15 Strategies to Grow Your Property Management Business Marketing Ideas for Property Management Companies

Calendar icon December 12, 2023

Read more

Property manager talking on the phone

20 Ways to Get More Property Management Leads

Here's something that might seem surprising about today's housing market: High mortgage rates for buyers could actually mean better property management leads for property management companies. That's right, we said it! Consider this: As high rates cut into the ultimate value a seller can get for their property, many homeowners are renting out their properties rather than selling them. That in turn creates a growing demand for skilled property management. The situation presents an advantageous landscape for property managers looking to expand their client base and get property management leads. And that's exactly what we're talking about in today's article: property management lead generation. We're exploring 20 effective strategies to tap into this market potential, from leveraging referrals and business networks to harnessing the power of digital marketing. Let's dive into how you can capitalize on the current market trends through property management marketing and secure more clients for your property management business. 1. Referrals This is a great step for new businesses. You can get referrals to new clients from friends and family, local BNI groups, realtors, and other clients. Leverage your existing network and ask for referrals. Satisfied clients and professional contacts can often provide recommendations to potential leads. You can also create ancillary revenue by charging a referral fee for your own referrals. 2. LinkedIn Another good one for new business, use LinkedIn to connect with potential clients, join industry groups, and share valuable content. It's a powerful platform for B2B lead generation. 3. Event Marketing New companies can host or attend industry events to network with potential property management clients. These can range from local real estate meetups to larger industry conferences. 4. Cold Calling While it may seem old-fashioned, cold calling can still be effective, especially if you’re just getting started. Just ensure you're targeting the right property owners and property investors in your local market and offering clear value. 5. Facebook Facebook, and other social media marketing, is effective for new and growing companies. Use targeted Facebook advertising or post in local groups to reach potential clients. Consider running ads targeting landlords or real estate investors. For growing companies, use advanced targeting options in Facebook Ads to reach a larger, more specific audience. Consider retargeting ads to website visitors or people who have interacted with your content. 6. Podcasts Podcasts also work well to launch your first marketing strategies or to help boost a growing company that has plateaued, or just needs a fresh take and new leads. Start a podcast or guest on existing ones (like our Triple Win Podcast). Discuss industry topics to establish your expertise and reach a larger audience. 7. Local Businesses & Strategic Partnerships When you’re just getting started, it’s a great idea to partner with local businesses that serve the same market. For example, a local moving company might recommend your services to new residents. You can also join local clubs and the Chamber of Commerce and attend meet-ups to build a network that refers high quality leads and clients. 8. Direct Mailing New companies should send targeted direct mail campaigns to potential leads. This could include newsletters, postcards, or informational brochures about your services. 9. Niche Forums Launching a new business requires support and community. Participate in online forums related to property management or real estate. Answering questions and sharing insights can help attract potential clients. 10. Read Local Listing Reviews Looking for your first few clients? Monitor local listing reviews such as on Google and Yelp to find landlords who may be having trouble with their properties. Reach out to offer your services. 11. Browse Newspaper Ads Another great way to find those first 10 or 20 clients is to look for rental listings or properties for sale. Reach out to the owners to offer your property management services. 12. Content Marketing Now we’re getting to a strategy for a growing and established company. Create valuable content on your website and social media channels. This can include blog posts, infographics, or eBooks that provide insights to property owners. A good example of content marketing for lead generation is Realty Medics. 13. Google Ads (PPC) Established PMCs can run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Google to appear in search results for relevant keywords. This can help attract landlords or property owners searching for management services. This is one of the best online marketing strategies. 14. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) A great step for companies looking to keep growing is to optimize your website for SEO and content with relevant keywords to rank higher in search results, increasing visibility and attracting organic traffic. 15. Email Marketing Worried about your company’s growth plateauing? Nurture your existing email list with regular newsletters or updates, providing valuable information and promoting your services to encourage conversions. 16. YouTube (Videos and Ads) Create educational videos on property management topics or advertise on relevant channels to reach a wider audience on YouTube. This is ideal for a company that already has a network of clients, but could also help you start out. 17. Webinars Once you have an audience established, host webinars on relevant topics to provide value to your audience. This can help position your company as an industry expert and attract potential leads. 18. TV Ads Depending on your budget, consider TV advertisements. Although more costly, they can reach a wide audience and increase your brand visibility. These are ideal for large companies. Single-family rental property managers aren't typically going to go this route. 19. Billboard Ads Like TV ads, SFR property managers likely won't be using TV ads, but it certainly is a strategy in the larger property management world. Outdoor advertising, like billboards, can help increase local visibility for companies that already have an established reputation. However, it’s best suited to companies targeting property owners in specific geographical areas. 20. Pay-per-Lead Services Use services that sell qualified leads. While this involves upfront costs, it can provide a stream of potential clients who are actively seeking property management services. Final Thoughts For more insights about lead generation strategies, check out our Triple Win Podcast for residential property managers. Or, here are a few places to keep reading about growing your PMC: How to Create a Property Management Business Plan [Free Template] 15 Strategies to Grow Your Property Management Business Marketing Ideas for Property Management Companies

Calendar icon December 6, 2023

Read more

Security Deposit Alternatives for Property Managers and Residents

Thirty-billion dollars. That’s a lot of money! It's also how much is currently sitting, collecting dust, doing absolutely nothing for property managers across America. Where is this money hanging out? If you guessed security deposits, you win. What is a security deposit? A security deposit is a one-time, refundable payment made by a tenant before moving into your single-family rental home. It acts as financial insurance against potential damages, unpaid rent, or cleaning fees incurred during their tenancy. Security deposits represent an enormous amount of money, constantly changing hands in the SFR community. Traditional security deposits exist for good reasons but aren’t ideal for everyone. They can cost well over the first month's rent for residents and can be a hassle for property managers and investors. If you’re at all familiar with our Triple Win approach and resident benefits, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that, yes, there is a different way. That's why today, we're talking about security deposit alternatives: What they are and, in particular, how to choose one over the other. Types of security deposit alternatives Security deposit alternatives that are beginning to go mainstream aim to lower the barrier to rental for residents. This lower barrier, in turn, increases ROI for the owner and boosts the PMC’s bottom line. It’s one of the best examples out there right now of a triple win. First though, what are they? Alternatives to security deposits are not one size fits all. They can vary based on business size, strategy, and state and local laws, and there are several different ways to apply them. The general concept is roughly the same, though. Offer your residents a small recurring fee that buys them the privilege of not having to pay a lump-sum security deposit. You can achieve this goal in four different ways. Pure insurance Surety bonds ACH authorization In-house program Insurance, surety bonds through a bond company, and the ACH authorization are all available through third-party vendors, which are increasing in popularity. Pure insurance This is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a deposit covering potential damages, the resident takes out a policy with an insurance company to cover any damages. The resident pays a small premium, and on move-out, the policy covers any damage to the property up to a certain amount. Pure insurance is great for the resident, who pays a premium and then bears no financial responsibility for damages after move-out. Inherent in that approach, however, is a flaw that makes the pure insurance play tough to buy into as the industry's future. It doesn't incentivize the resident to take care of the property, as they won't owe any additional money for any damage they cause. This flaw leads to higher premiums, leaving insurance as a less effective way to keep costs down. Surety bond The surety bond business model is not new. Still, it's become more popular as vendors have modernized the enrollment experience thanks to over $150M of VC investment into the category. Surety bonds are agreements between two parties managed by a third party, known as the surety. In the case of property management, the contract is between you as the property manager and the resident. It states that the resident agrees not to damage the property and agrees to cover damages should they be responsible. In case of a contract breach at the end of the lease, the surety pays out the sum required to the property manager, then bills the resident the cost of the damages. Surety bonds attempt to incentivize the resident to take care of the property, which is more than a pure insurance program will do, but there's not a definitive set of evidence yet that this is highly effective. It's still a challenge to educate some residents that this isn't an installment plan or insurance product. In many cases, that falls on the property management team. Another concern with the surety bond model is the post-move-out collection results. The majority of damages due from the resident never get collected, which leaves the model with potential recourse ahead: Vendors figure out how to collect a higher percentage Vendors increase monthly pricing Vendors expand into other, more profitable products Less reliable claims payouts Layoffs or other financial controls More investment requested for more runway The jury is still out on whether surety bonds have the unit economics to win the category. ACH authorization The ACH (Automatic Clearing House) authorization is a popular alternative. It mirrors the method hotels have used for years to compensate for incidentals and applies it to long-term rentals. Residents permit a financial institution to directly draft money up to a certain amount to cover damages and draw from your bank account. The ACH authorization does check the box of incentivizing proper treatment of the home, and the vast majority of money due from claims is collected. So far, this method seems to be getting the best results in post-move-out collections. A fair critique is not 100% of residents qualify for this, and the ones that don't must pay a traditional deposit, so it isn’t a complete solution in some people’s minds. In-house program Todd Ortscheid, CEO of Revolution Rental Management, built his alternative program in-house. Ortscheid spoke on this topic in an episode of Triple Win LIVE in February. “We offer the resident two different options. You can either pay the security deposit amount based on your [application] score, or the alternative is you can pay a monthly security deposit waiver fee,” says Ortscheid. “What the waiver fee is doing is buying you the privilege of not having to pay a security deposit upfront.” Ortscheid clarifies that his implementation of this program is neither insurance nor a refundable installment towards a security deposit. However, there is debate among other PMs and their attorneys about what compliance risks there could be here. Some property managers also struggle to get comfortable with the financial liability. When deciding to outsource or DIY, we recommend considering three things: How much of a difference can scale make now? Over time? How large is the skill or expertise gap here? Over time? Is this the best investment of my time? Will it be later? Security deposit alternative companies and what they offer The traditional security deposit is the OG of rental insurance, a reliable one-time payment typically equal to one month's rent. It works like a financial handshake between resident and property manager/owner, acting as a safety net for unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear. While it carries no monthly cost for residents and offers full refunds for responsible renters, it also doesn't offer revenue sharing for investors or the flexibility of newer alternatives. Here's what to expect from a traditional security deposit product, and the baseline we'll be comparing alternatives to: Model: Traditional Up-front cost to resident: Equal to established cash deposit Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? N/A Payments refundable to resident? Yes Resident held accountable for funds? N/A We reached out to Peter Lohmann, co-founder and CEO of RL Property Management, to get the rundown on security dispositive alternative products. Here are some of the most popular security deposit alternative services, the type of product they offer, and pros and cons of each. Note: The major downside for most of these security deposit alternative products is that they focus on multi-family rental (MFR) communities rather than single-family rentals (SFR). Most also have nonrefundable fees. 1. LeaseLock LeaseLock is a popular security deposit alternative program. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Lease Insurance Up-front cost to resident: None Monthly cost to resident: $29 for standard plan Unpaid rent & damage coverage: $5,000 for standard plan Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes but Lease Lock says they don’t pursue 2. Obligo Obligo is a billing authorization alternative to security deposits. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Bill Authorization Up-front cost to resident: First year’s total fee (variable) Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes 3. Rhino Rhino offers the surety bond model for security deposit alternatives. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Surety Bond (non-pooled) Up-front cost to resident: None Monthly cost to resident: Variable Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? Yes, if over 10K units Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes, but Rhino says they don’t always pursue 4. TheGuarantors, Jetty, and SureDeposit These three companies – The Guarantors, Jetty, and SureDeposit – all offer an alternative to security deposits in the form of a surety bond. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Surety Bond (pooled) Up-front cost to resident: 17.5% of month’s rent Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes The cost of a security deposit alternative Security deposit alternatives costs don’t necessarily save money for the resident, but they offer a choice that many residents prefer – not giving up a big chunk of cash right at the start. In general, the cost structure for security deposit alternative companies is either a low monthly fee or an annual fee. For most PMs, you can include the cost in a Resident Benefits Package, or it’s billed directly to them by a vendor. The cost can depend on the property's value, the rent and deposit amount, the resident’s credit, etc. Fees are calculated based on the amount of rent, amount of deposit, credit score of the renter, and the value of the client. Security deposit alternative fees can often be as low as 5% of rent. So, for a rent of $1500 a month, a resident might pay: $75 per month (5%). In some larger apartment communities, residents may pay even less – typically $8-$30 per month. Advantages of security deposit alternatives The concept of a security deposit alternative is that is helps lower the barrier of entry for residents who may not want to put down a massive one-time chunk of cash – and it helps protect the investor by filling vacancies more quickly, and incentivizing good care of the property. Here’s a breakdown of more specific advantages. 1. Avoid large deposits for residents Ortscheid says: “When I first started doing this, my assumption was the only people who will take this are the people with the worst scores. “What we actually found was our very first person who signed up for it was someone with an 800+ credit score. He was the CEO of a publicly traded company and had millions in the bank. So I asked why he took the waiver option, and he said, ‘I would rather pay monthly than give you a big chunk of my money.'” 2. Get more options All of these programs can be relatively simple to administer and offer choice to the resident. They can choose options and payment methods like credit cards, ACH, etc. According to Ortscheid: “About 70% of the people we rent to now select the security deposit waiver option.” Giving residents more options helps them feel more secure and in control and boosts their satisfaction overall. 3. Reduce vacancies Perhaps the investor sees the most significant win from security deposit alternatives. And, given the PM’s fiduciary responsibility to the investor, an investor win is usually a win for you. The biggest thing here is the attractiveness of the program to the resident. A security deposit alternative is something you can and should advertise in your listings. It adds a differentiating factor to your listing that moves the needle for many prospective residents, which helps keep your days-on-market low. Revolution Rental Management has been sitting at an average of about ten days on the market over the last year. And as we all know, minimal vacancy equals increased ROI for investors. 4. Get fewer damage claims at move-out Additionally, some property managers claim the lack of a deposit drives fewer damage claims at move-out. This reduction in claims helps to protect the investor’s assets more than a deposit does. Again, this may seem counterintuitive, but Birdy Properties reports this scenario playing out since they moved away from security deposits two and a half years ago. “There is this philosophy out there from residents. Most people believe ‘you’re not going to give me my money back. And since I’m not getting my money back, I’m not going to clean up too well because if I do all that work, you’ll still keep my money anyway. Well, now, you were nice enough to let me move in and not have to give you all this money. Everything has gone well, and now it’s time for me to leave and I can recognize that if I don’t leave the property in good shape, I’m going to have to pay for it.’” “We’ve watched the numbers,” continued Birdy. “We have seen a reduction in overall move-out claims. What it’s costing to turn a property over has gone dramatically down, and we have almost eliminated the turnover cost to the owner. That is the most vulnerable time for us as property managers because that’s when the investor decides if they want to keep this asset any longer.” The speed with which Birdy Properties can roll in another resident with minimal costs keeps the property investors happy, which prevents the PM from losing inventory while maintaining great service and relationship with the client. This great relationship comes from a service residents love, so it all works together to benefit every party. Best practices are developing that will drive triple-win experiences. Disadvantages of security deposit alternatives Of course, there are also disadvantages to security deposit alternative services. These issues may effect your residents' overall experience or your investor's satisfaction with their margins. Before signing up for any alternative security deposit product, you need to be sure you know what you’re getting into. Do your research and ask question to evaluate things like: what happens if a resident ends their lease early; what damages are owed after move-out and who pays them; how to dispute charges; monthly or yearly fee obligations; etc. Here are a few disadvantages to keep in mind. 1. Payments are not refundable While the advantage to residents is that they don't have to pay it all right away, the disadvantage is that they won't be refunded for their payments. 2. Disputes may be more difficult to resolve Since security deposit alternative programs involve a third party, you must involve another agreement with the lease and contracting stage. If there is an eventual dispute, it may be tough to get it resolved. Residents may not be held accountable in the way you and your investor needs. Or, from the resident side, they may not get the service they want. 3. Security deposit alternatives don't save money Some products may seem like they're advertising dollars saved. But ultimately, these alternatives aren't intended to save money. They simply help residents' keep money in their savings for a longer period of time, rather than making one big deposit all at once. Despite these disadvantages, we've seen security deposit alternatives pick up in popularity recently. As long as residents, investors, and PMCs know exactly what is and isn't promised, it can be a benefit to everyone involved. ‍ How 1,000+ professional management companies create Triple Win experiences Security deposit alternatives are an innovative solution that solves problems for residents, investors, and property managers. For residents: A quality alternative lowers the barrier for residents and give them more choice and agency in the rental process. For investors: A quality alternative can boost your listings’ marketability and reduce vacancy costs. For property managers: A quality alternative with more relevance for residents and investors – creates new value with an opportunity to monetize and eliminate administrative pains of traditional deposits. That’s what we call a triple win! Learn more about how we create resident experiences that people pay and stay for – and share your trips and tricks in our Facebook Group!

Calendar icon December 1, 2023

Read more