Calendar icon May 17, 2023

How Property Managers Can Address An Evolving Industry

“PropTech companies are making the mechanics of property management easy – rent collection, maintenance, screening, the day-to-day mechanics of property management. Thirty years ago, that’s what a property manager did. Now though, when it comes to things like benefits packages, pet guarantees, and rent guarantees with security deposit alternatives – these are all things you can’t do with software. Software doesn’t solve this problem, especially for landlords trying to manage their own smaller-scale properties. The fact that we manage a lot of properties as opposed to just being a software solution, we can offer much more value.”
- Revolution Rental Management CEO Todd Ortscheid


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The basics of property management, that is collecting rent, conducting maintenance, and listing and filling properties, have never been easier. The wave of investment into the industry in the form of proptech companies, as described above by Ortscheid, has stimulated this change. This is a good thing in some respects, but it also poses new challenges for PMCs. As technology makes property management’s core competencies easier, the need for an owner to hire someone to do those core competencies decreases. The service is being commoditized, which is to say that the ability to differentiate your business simply by being proficient at those core competencies is approaching zero.This creates a need for property managers to offer something beyond the core competencies, to offer something that can’t be easily replicated by technology or the accidental landlord using that technology. Thus, the focus for the property manager has changed. Good property management is no longer just taking on screening, renting, maintenance, and so on for the client. Good property management is now about maximizing the investor’s ROI via innovative value-creation programs that technology cannot duplicate.‍


"So the advent of resident benefits packages really grew out of that. There was just more demand to be something more. This took property managers from being just a kind of a lackey to really being the professionals, to understand the laws, to understand who protects our clients and income streams.”

- Formatic Property Management CEO Matthew Tandy


So how do you as a property manager offer something more in order to protect your clients and their income streams? You start upstream with the resident.


“The experience of the tenant is paramount in this industry. Our product is tenants. It's not all the systems. It's not all the organization. Our product to the homeowner is the tenant. Now we can go into psychological studies about making tenants happy and how they treat products better and treat the properties better, but you can have that conversation just from a logical standpoint with your homeowner. Let's talk about the resident experience in your property. And if we give them the best experience possible, they're going to feel appreciative of this address and of you as a landlord, and of us as a property manager. The better experience you can give them, the more likely they are to take better care of your property, pay you on time, stay in your property, and lower your vacancy costs. It's like a literal triple win in this case.”
- RevUp Consultant Jonathan Cook


Obviously, the resident is the source of the monthly income for the investor, so protecting that income stream and maximizing ROI from it means protecting the resident’s interests. You need them to stay. Making the property and the rental experience as good as possible for the resident incentivizes them to stay, and less turnover means less lost vacancy and turnover costs to the property’s owner. A winning experience for the resident becomes a winning experience for your clients. Property managers have gotten ahead of the curve in the evolving market by redefining the resident’s role in the business. They’re not just a necessity anymore. They’re an opportunity to install a resident experience program that creates value for investors that the investors don’t have the capacity to create themselves. This committed evolution from a service provider to an experience provider is making all the difference for America’s top PMCs.


Related: State of Resident Experience Study


Four Keys to A Successful Resident Experience Platform

1. Create value

This is the single most important part of an ancillary income program. Ancillary services are not just money grabs. Treating them as that will have undesirable long-term consequences. To be sure, there is money to be made for you as the property manager, but unless you’re also creating a desirable situation for residents, you’re not helping your clients, which threatens the long-term viability of your business. Vision is important here. Creating that undeniable value for your residents is the origin point of this entire strategy. It is the cornerstone without which the whole thing crumbles. There’s a long list of pretty easily accessible programs that are proving to be welcomed by residents, including things like air filter delivery, credit-reporting tools, security deposit alternatives, resident rewards, gifting programs, home-buying assistance, and more.

2. Convenience

Residents perceive value in a number of different ways, but one of the big ones, especially in modern America, is through convenience.

“What I'm seeing from our residents, whether they're paying $3,000 a month in rent or $1,000 a month in rent, the number one thing that they look for is ease and convenience. They don't want complicated instructions. They just want simple, they want right now. They want contact free, they don't want to talk to people. That's what our residents want. So everything we do from showings to moving into the experience after they move in is all revolved around design for that expectation.”

Skyline Properties Broker DD Lee


Delivering convenience really means making the obligations of the resident as easy as possible to fulfill. The resident is required by the lease to pay rent, they’re required by the lease to keep their air filter changed, they’re required by the lease to have renters insurance. A great resident experience doesn’t require a huge dog and pony show. Just making these basic things as easy as possible will thrill residents, especially considering how common negative perceptions of property managers can be.

3. Protect the asset

Certain convenience programs for residents can also serve to create value for the investors by protecting their asset. Services like filter delivery and comprehensive auto-enroll renters insurance help minimize maintenance and the risk of charges coming back to the client. Studies actually show that filter delivery service decreases the number of HVAC maintenance tickets. This is not only a convenient service for residents, eliminating their need to go to the store and buy a filter, but it also extends the life of the HVAC system, which is one of the most expensive things in a home to replace.

4. It all adds up

When you can create a ton of value for your residents, you can keep those residents in the properties. When you can show your clients that you can not only rent their properties, but rent them to residents who will stick around and take care of the property, while also providing services that make taking care of the property easy, you’re offering them more than technology can create. That’s how you differentiate your business in the modern era.

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How to Optimize Operational Frequency with Processes and Software

Property management software is currently helping property managers establish efficient and reliable processes at a higher rate than ever before in the PM industry. With that development in the proptech industry has come the development of tech for self-managers that has changed the capacity of the accidental landlord. Thus, the demand for efficiency at scale has risen in order to separate the professional from the amateur, and the establishment of processes that allow such a thing has become a critical topic for professional property managers. Optimizing property management processes Carter Fleck of Triton Property Management, a growth-oriented firm out of northern Virginia that is approaching 300 units with larger goals for 2024, joins us to share his expertise on process definition. Fleck is the General Manager responsible for operations and strategic growth, and he has been developing effective processes to ensure efficiency at Scale at Triton, and in the process, he has garnered an understanding of how to do so. “A lot of failing,” says Fleck. “In the early days, we were getting a lot of good and bad feedback, but typically the bad feedback is what you adjust off of.” Fleck believes that assumptions are the enemy when it comes to defining procedures and sourcing software for your PMC. “The image that we use is if you're going to build a sidewalk before people even start walking on a field, it's kind of dumb. You have to see where people will walk first, and then you'll build a gravel path. So number one, you see where they walk, see where their intentions are in the grass, then you build a gravel path. And then eventually, once that walkway is established, that's where you build your processes and procedures.” The analogy is a visualization of the concept that you have to see how people operate before you can establish processes to make how they operate more efficient. Fleck encourages the negative experiences of process breakdown and cites them as the only way to really nail down what your processes should look like. “Over time, between the tenants giving feedback and owners giving feedback, we adjusted our processes. It's a mix between figuring out where the owners walk and where the tenants walk, and then building paths that align.” Fleck details an example of how Triton adjusted its process after an assumption it made got challenged: "We had an assumption that payment plans were helpful for residents," says Fleck. "And so the way we handled delinquency is we would reach out to them and would be like, ‘you need to pay this. Do you have a payment plan option?’ And they would always say yes. Our process was we'll put you on a payment plan, we'll invite you to a payment plan, you'll accept the payment plan, and then we'll monitor the payment plan. That in itself was a lot of work, but we thought it was doing well. But some of the owners that we had managed for mentioned that another property manager doesn't allow any payment plans. And if you're not fully paid up by the end of the month, then the eviction process starts if you’re over $500 due. So we're like 'alright, well, we'll serve you in that we'll change our processes.' And we did, and our delinquency percentage shrunk significantly. So, consistently, by the end of every month, we're around 5% APR. Whereas with payment plans we're like 5 to 10%.” Fleck obviously credits seeing the assumptions in motion as what prompted the need for process iteration, and he firmly believes that making too many of these assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes growing property management companies make. Like any business experiencing growth, process definition is critical to achieve efficiency at larger volumes. What Fleck is essentially advocating for is processes based on what you know, not what you think, and there is a big distinction. Managing property management software Fleck has installed both general and tech-based processes, and cites that understanding of how people interact with processes as the key in both areas. "They don't focus on user experience. That's really important. Number one, how the tenants like the tech, but specifically how the people who are using the tech are gonna adopt it. So when we were choosing a rent inspection software, we had so many people recommend one, software and I, we almost pulled the trigger on it. But then I was like, let's do a trial run on both these two. And we chose the other one because it was way better user experience for property managers. So user experience, both for us and for residents." Tech is a tool that is ultimately as good as its users, and if it's not used correctly or at all, its potential is wasted. An over-reliance on technology can actually go hand-in-hand with an under-reliance, as both often spring up from a lack of understanding of how to choose, implement, and manage it. In this vein, Fleck can't recall many property managers who operate with too much tech. As long as you're not purchasing redundant software and you've done and continue to do your due diligence, tech-based process can make your business more efficient. "I more often find myself having that conversation," says Fleck. "When I'm talking to property managers in my sub-market, who aren't connected with like a NARPM, who aren't connected with like a Crane group, or who aren't connected with a Second Nature, aren't connected to the tune of what the property management industry is doing and the cutting edge of it, I'm just like, 'you could save so much of your time and you could scale this so much more if you only even if you just had tenant Turner, or if you had LeadSimple.'" No matter what your story is a property manager, if growth is in the cards, so is process and technology refinement. Hopefully, Fleck's experience in these areas can help you stay efficient and organized as door counts grow.

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

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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

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