Calendar icon December 14, 2023

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 single family 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.

 

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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 Colleen.ai 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. 

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

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 rbp.secondnature.com.

Keep learning

SFR Property Management Problems and Solutions

In recent years, the single-family residence (SFR) rental market has seen significant growth as more property owners recognize the potential for steady income and long-term appreciation. With this rise in popularity comes a unique set of challenges for the rental property managers (PMs) who are tasked with overseeing these properties. Unlike multi-family units, managing single-family homes can present a range of issues that require tailored solutions. Scattered-site properties also present a logistical challenge, as they are by nature harder to service and manage. From finding quality residents to handling unexpected maintenance emergencies, a strategic and proactive approach is required to ensure a smooth and profitable rental experience. Note that even though we here at Second Nature prefer the term "resident" over "tenant" in order to foster the human element, the word "tenant" may still be used occasionally due to its long-standing legal and real estate context. What Are the Most Common Property Management Challenges? The most common problems faced by SFR property managers generally fall into three buckets: finding quality residents; maintenance and repairs; and time management and communication. Let's explore each. #1 Finding Quality Residents One of the most critical aspects of managing SFRs is resident placement. Indeed, inadequate resident screening processes can significantly impact resident retention as well as profitability. That’s because poor screening can lead to high turnover rates (including evictions), increased property wear and tear, and ultimately, financial strain. Additionally, attracting responsible residents who will treat the property with care and adhere to lease agreements can be particularly challenging in competitive rental markets. #2 Maintenance and Repairs Unexpected maintenance issues are a common hassle for SFR property managers. From plumbing leaks to HVAC failures, emergencies can arise without warning, leading to unplanned expenses and logistical challenges. Finding reliable and responsive contractors who are able to address repairs promptly adds yet another layer of complexity. The inability to swiftly manage these issues can result in resident dissatisfaction as well as potential property damage. #3 Time Management and Communication Managing multiple single-family homes requires excellent time management skills. Balancing the diverse needs of residents, coordinating with vendors, and ensuring regular property inspections can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to establish clear and timely communication channels to maintain good resident relationships and efficient operations. However, juggling these responsibilities can lead to lapses in communication, resulting in time-consuming misunderstandings and unresolved issues. Solutions for a Smoother SFR Rental Experience While the challenges of managing SFR rentals are significant, there are effective strategies and tools available to streamline operations and enhance resident satisfaction. Here are some solutions to common property management business problems. Strategic Resident Screening Implementing a robust resident screening process is crucial for minimizing vacancy rates and securing responsible residents. To this end, utilizing professional screening services can help identify prospective tenants by thoroughly evaluating their rental history, credit scores, and background checks. Clear lease terms and expectations should be established from the outset to ensure residents understand the responsibilities and obligations that occupancy brings. Learn more: Tenant Screening Tips for PMs 10 Steps to Onboard New Tenants Proactive Maintenance Proactive maintenance is key to preventing costly emergencies and maintaining the property’s condition. Scheduling regular preventative maintenance inspections allows property managers to identify and address potential issues before they escalate. Building relationships with reputable and responsive repair professionals ensures that maintenance tasks and requests are handled promptly. Consider leveraging technology that allows residents to conduct their own regular inspections to provide early detection of problems and streamline the property maintenance process (learn more). Vendor and Supplier Selection Choosing the right property management service providers and vendors is crucial to successful property management. Establishing relationships with reliable and responsive contractors ensures that maintenance and repair issues are addressed promptly, reducing downtime and inconvenience for renters. It’s essential to vet vendors thoroughly, checking their credentials, references, and reviews to ensure they meet the necessary quality and reliability standards. Building a network of trusted professionals can lead to better service rates, priority scheduling, and consistent adherence to due dates as well as work quality standards. Additionally, negotiating long-term contracts with preferred vendors can offer cost savings and a more streamlined management process. By prioritizing quality vendor and supplier selection, property managers can enhance the overall efficiency of their operations and maintain high tenant satisfaction. Technology and Automation Incorporating technology and automation into property management can significantly enhance efficiency and communication. For instance, online portals for collecting rent payments and addressing maintenance requests simplify transactions and ensure transparency. They can also facilitate incentives for prompt rent payment, follow up on late payments, and generally optimize rent collection with an eye to optimizing cash flow. Property management software can also streamline vendor and tenant communication, track maintenance schedules, and provide detailed financial reporting. These tools not only save time but also build trust and improve resident satisfaction by ensuring quick and effective responses to their needs. Naturally, you will need to conduct a due diligence process of technology selection and provider assessment that addresses pricing, customer support, and support for the features that are mission-critical for your organization. Second Nature’s Outlook Effective property management is essential for maximizing the profitability and longevity of single-family home rentals. By addressing common challenges with strategic solutions, property managers can enhance resident satisfaction, reduce vacancy rates, and maintain the property’s value. Embracing technology and proactive management practices are critical components of any successful SFR business strategy. Property managers are encouraged to explore these solutions and adopt the approaches that best suit their specific needs. Learn more about property management company best practices, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community.

Calendar icon June 7, 2024

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How to Craft a Notice to Tenant to Clean Property [with Template]

Ensuring that rental properties are well-maintained is crucial for property managers and landlords, not only to protect the value of their real estate investment but also to provide safe and pleasant living environments for residents. One important tool for maintaining property standards is a "Notice to Tenant to Clean Property" letter that communicates concerns about cleanliness and outlines necessary actions for residents. In today’s post we’ll cover essential elements you should consider around transparency and effectiveness, as well as a sample letter you can use to craft your own notice. A note on language: Here at Second Nature, we prefer to use the terms "resident" and “residency” rather than “tenant” and “tenancy,” in order to emphasize the human element of property management work. However, there may be instances where terms such as "tenant" are used for legal or industry-standard purposes within documents or communications. In these cases, please understand that our intent remains the same – to provide clear, accurate, and meaningful information to all people involved in the business relationship. What to Do When Your Tenant is a Hoarder? Hoarding can present significant challenges for property managers. It not only poses health and safety risks but can also lead to severe property damage. Here are steps to take when dealing with a hoarding situation: Understand the issue Hoarding is often a complex psychological condition that requires sensitivity and understanding. It’s important to approach the situation with empathy and awareness of the resident’s potential mental health needs. This understanding can guide your interactions and help you manage the situation more effectively. Conduct thorough inspections Regular property inspections are crucial for identifying hoarding behaviors early. These inspections should be conducted in accordance with the lease agreement and local laws. Document any findings with photographs and detailed notes to provide a clear record of the condition of the property. Communicate clearly and compassionately When addressing the issue with the resident, clear and compassionate communication is key. Explain the concerns and the potential consequences if the situation is not addressed. Emphasize that the goal is to ensure a safe and habitable living environment. Provide a formal notice If the hoarding issue violates the lease agreement, a formal "Notice to Clean Property" may be necessary (more on this below). Collaborate with professionals In severe cases, it may be beneficial to involve professionals who specialize in hoarding disorder. This can include social workers, mental health professionals, or professional organizers who can provide the resident with the necessary support to address their hoarding behavior. Follow legal procedures Ensure all actions taken are in compliance with local and state laws. This includes providing the correct amount of notice, following proper eviction procedures if necessary, and respecting the resident’s rights throughout the process. Document all actions Keep thorough records of all communications, inspections, and notices related to the hoarding issue. This documentation can be crucial if legal action becomes necessary and helps protect you as the property manager. By addressing hoarding with a combination of empathy, clear communication, and adherence to legal requirements, property managers can manage these challenging situations more effectively while maintaining the safety and integrity of their properties. Identifying When a "Notice to Clean Property" Letter is Necessary A "Notice to Clean Property" letter becomes necessary under various circumstances. It's essential to recognize these situations in order to maintain the property's value and condition, and to ensure compliance with lease agreements. Routine inspections Routine inspections are an integral part of property management, allowing managers to identify issues early and address them before they escalate. If an inspection reveals unsanitary conditions, excessive clutter, hoarding, or neglect of cleanliness, a formal notice is warranted. This proactive measure helps maintain the property and encourages residents to uphold their end of the lease agreement. Failing to address these issues promptly can lead to severe problems such as mold growth, pest infestations, plumbing issues due to neglected maintenance, and increased costs associated with turnover when a property is vacated. Complaints Neighbor complaints regarding cleanliness issues, such as uncollected trash, odors, or visible clutter, can indicate a need for intervention. Addressing these complaints promptly with a notice demonstrates that management is responsive to concerns and committed to maintaining a harmonious living environment. Ignoring such complaints can exacerbate the problem, leading to pest infestations that can create an unhealthy living environment for residents. Lease violations Most lease agreements include clauses that outline residents' responsibilities for maintaining the property in a clean and sanitary condition. When these clauses are violated, issuing a notice is necessary to enforce the lease terms and remind residents of their obligations. Failing to act on these violations can result in significant property damage, including plumbing issues from unaddressed leaks or blockages, mold growth from damp conditions, and ultimately, costly repairs and renovations needed to restore the property for the next resident. This can also lead to increased turnover costs, as the property may need extensive cleaning and repairs before it can be re-leased. The Importance of Clear Communication Open and effective communication is vital in property management, especially when addressing cleanliness issues. A clear, well-crafted notice helps prevent minor issues from becoming major problems and sets the stage for resolution. Proactive approach Early intervention through timely communication can prevent minor cleanliness issues from escalating into significant problems. Addressing concerns as soon as they are identified shows residents that management is diligent and proactive. Setting expectations A well-crafted notice clarifies expectations for resident maintenance responsibilities. By explicitly stating what is required, renters understand their obligations and the standards of occupancy they must meet. Documentation The notice serves as a documented record of the identified issue and the steps taken to address it. This documentation is crucial for protecting the property manager's interests if further action is needed, such as additional fees or eviction proceedings. Note that property managers can proactively address cleanliness and maintenance issues by clearly setting expectations with new tenants from the outset. This can be achieved by including a detailed cleanliness clause in the lease agreement, conducting a thorough walkthrough of the rental unit at move-in, and providing a welcome packet to ensure each tenant knows their responsibilities. During the initial walkthrough, managers should highlight specific cleaning requirements and standards, demonstrating proper care for different areas of the property. Regular communication, such as periodic reminders and tips for maintaining the property, can further reinforce these expectations and prevent issues from arising, ensuring a smooth and mutually respectful resident-PM relationship. Crafting a Compelling and Effective Notice Creating an effective "Notice to Clean Property" involves several key elements that ensure clarity and encourage compliance. Introduction Begin the written notice with a clear statement of its purpose as a formal notification regarding the property's cleanliness and upkeep condition. Include the property address and the resident's name(s) to avoid any confusion. Specific observations Detail the cleanliness issues observed during the inspection or reported by others. Use clear, descriptive language to ensure there is no ambiguity about the concerns. For example, instead of saying "the property is dirty," specify "dirty dishes are piling up, attracting roaches/pests; or “an abundance of waste materials is creating a health hazard/fire hazard." This also helps differentiate the cleanliness issue from normal wear and tear. Reference to lease agreement (optional) If applicable, cite relevant clauses in the rental agreement that outline the resident’s responsibility for maintaining the property in a clean and sanitary condition. This reference reinforces the legal basis for the notice and the resident's obligations – and helps ensure that you are respecting applicable tenant rights and state laws. Outline of expectations Clearly define the expected level of cleanliness and specific actions required to rectify the situation. A timeframe for follow-up is useful for helping the resident to address the issues, such as a 7-day notice period to clean. This approach gives residents a clear understanding of what needs to be done and by when. Consequences for non-compliance (optional) Briefly outline potential consequences for failure to address the cleanliness concerns within the designated timeframe. This might include increased inspections, withholding of security deposits, or legal action, including a potential order to vacate/eviction notice. Note that although it may well become necessary to instigate an eviction process, it’s important to maintain a professional tone and avoid excessive threats to encourage cooperation. Additional Considerations for Specific Situations Different scenarios may require tailored approaches when issuing a proper notice to clean the property. Health and safety hazards If the cleanliness issue poses a potential health or safety hazard, such as mildew/mold growth, pest infestations, or overflowing sewage, prioritize immediate action. In such cases, involving relevant authorities might be necessary to ensure the issue is resolved promptly and safely. Chronic offenders For residents with a history of neglecting cleanliness standards, consider outlining a stricter course of action. This might include increased inspections or even potential lease termination if the behavior continues. Clear documentation and a consistent approach are essential when dealing with chronic offenses. Delivery Methods and Maintaining Records Ensuring that the notice is delivered and documented correctly is crucial for effective property management. Delivery methods Consider the following methods for delivering the notice: Hand-delivery with a signed receipt: This method ensures the resident receives the notice and acknowledges its receipt. Certified mail with return receipt requested: This provides documented proof that the notice was sent and received. Other methods with documented proof of delivery: Any method that provides verifiable proof of delivery is acceptable. Maintaining records Retain copies of the notice, delivery confirmation, and any relevant communication for your records. This documentation is crucial if further action is necessary and serves as evidence that the issue was addressed appropriately. Free “Notice to Tenant to Clean Property” Template Providing a template can simplify the process for property managers. However, it's essential to note that legal advice is recommended to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations. ``` [Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State, ZIP Code] [Date] [Resident's Name] [Property Address] [City, State, ZIP Code] Re: Notice to Clean Property Dear [Resident's Name], This letter serves as a formal notification regarding the cleanliness condition of the property located at [Property Address]. During a recent inspection conducted on [Date], the following issues were observed: - [Detail the specific cleanliness issues] As per the lease agreement, Section [Lease Section], you are required to maintain the property in a clean and sanitary condition. To rectify the situation, please take the following actions by [Specify Deadline, e.g., 14 days from the date of this letter]: - [List the specific actions required] Failure to address these concerns within the specified timeframe may result in [potential consequences, such as additional fees, increased inspections, or eviction proceedings]. We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Please contact us at [Your Phone Number] if you have any questions or need further clarification. Sincerely, [Your Name] [Title] [Contact Information] ... Promoting a Culture of Responsibility Maintaining a clean and well-kept property is a shared responsibility between residents and property management. By promoting a culture of responsibility, property managers can create a positive living environment that benefits everyone involved. Encouraging residents to take pride in their living spaces and providing resources such as Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package (RBP) can foster this culture. The RBP can include regular maintenance tips, access to cleaning services, or rewards for maintaining high standards of cleanliness. Ultimately, a collaborative approach leads to what we at Second Nature call a "triple win" — residents enjoy a pleasant living environment, owners maintain their investments, and PMs have an easier role to play in maintaining these thriving, beneficial relationships. Learn more about Second Nature’s RBP.

Calendar icon June 7, 2024

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