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Triple Win Property Management Blog

Property Management Outsourcing Services: Example Tasks & Best Providers

Virtual assistants are becoming increasingly important in the property management industry for a number of reasons. First are the associated efficiencies. Property managers often wear many hats, juggling tasks like resident communication, lease agreements, maintenance requests, and advertising. A virtual assistant can handle many of these administrative and repetitive tasks, freeing up the property manager's time to focus on more strategic initiatives. Virtual assistants can also act as a communication "hub" between residents, property management companies, and service providers. They can field calls and emails, schedule appointments, and ensure everyone is on the same page. In the same vein, virtual assistants can help with tasks related to online advertising for vacancies, managing a social media presence to attract potential residents, and even creating basic property videos or photos for listings. It’s important to note that virtual assistants are not a replacement for in-house staff. Instead, they allow staff to focus on important tasks that add value, as opposed to time-consuming manual operations. In today's post, we'll provide concrete examples of how virtual assistants can help property managers, the pros and cons of using these services, and a brief directory of property management virtual assistant service providers. Note on language: In the interest of clear communication, particularly regarding legal matters, this blog post may occasionally use the term "tenant" in reference to residents. While "resident" reflects the valued community we aim to support, service provider agreements and other legal documents today typically use the term "tenant." For the majority of this post, however, we'll utilize the term "resident" to best represent the positive and collaborative atmosphere we aim to cultivate. What is outsourced property management? Outsourced property management refers to the practice of paying for a third-party company or product to handle certain tasks or operations for your property management company. This could include tasks such as tenant screening, resident benefits, renters insurance programs, rent collection, maintenance and repair coordination, lease enforcement, financial reporting, and more. Related: Benefits of Property Management Outsourcing Services Property management is in itself an outsourced service for real estate investors/property owners. Just as property owners often choose to outsource their property management to save time, reduce stress, and ensure they stay profitable – property management companies may outsource several of their services for the same reasons. Property management outsourcing services, whether PropTech products or fully managed solutions, allow property management companies to build efficiencies and focus on quality and growth. Outsourcing certain services can give residents more of what they need and investors more value for their dollar. Example property management tasks you can outsource to virtual assistants The number of tasks property managers can outsource has increased over time, as companies have become more comfortable with geographically dispersed teams, and as virtual assistants themselves have become more sophisticated (better communication skills, task automation capabilities, and access to information). Given that the benefits of outsourcing to virtual assistants are on the rise, here is a sampling of tasks that can currently be outsourced to virtual assistants. Outreach to homeowners for management Virtual assistants can be a property management company's secret weapon for improving homeowner outreach in a few key ways. Given that property managers often manage a large number of properties and homeowners, virtual assistants can handle sending personalized emails, texts, or even making phone calls to homeowners. As indicated above, they can also help manage the property management company's social media presence, posting updates, building trust, and boosting its brand presence to property owners. Property assessments While virtual assistants can't directly conduct rental property assessments, which typically involve a qualified professional inspecting the property's condition, they can provide valuable support throughout the assessment process by gathering and organizing property information crucial for the assessment (for example, details such as square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, year built, major renovations, and past maintenance upkeep records). They can also compile relevant data from property management software or online real estate industry resources. Virtual assistants can also manage the scheduling of property assessors and ensure clear communication between the property owner, property manager, and the assessor. This involves sending appointment reminders, handling any cancellations or rescheduling needs, and keeping everyone informed throughout the process. Once any given assessment is complete, a virtual assistant can help process and organize the assessor's report. This might involve formatting the report, creating digital copies, and ensuring it's easily accessible to the property manager and owner. Creating and presenting management proposals Virtual assistants can be a highly cost-effective asset to property management companies when it comes to creating and presenting management proposals. For instance, virtual assistants can save a lot of time by gathering data on comparable properties in the area, including rental rates, vacancy rates, and recent sales. They can pull this data from industry reports, rental listing websites, or public property records. They can also compile details about specific rental properties under management such as square footage, amenities, maintenance history, and any unique features. This ensures the proposal accurately reflects the property's value and the services offered. In addition, virtual assistants can alleviate the hassle of creating or maintaining templates for management proposals, ensuring consistency in branding and formatting. This saves time and ensures a professional presentation. As far as actual proposal presentation is concerned, virtual assistants can handle the electronic delivery of the proposal to the client and schedule follow-up calls or meetings to discuss the proposal details and answer any questions. If the property manager is competing against other companies, a virtual assistant can help research competitor offerings and identify areas where your proposal can stand out. Determining property rent In addition to the market research capabilities mentioned above, virtual assistants can gather data on rental trends in the target area. This includes vacancy rates, as well as recent rental listings for comparable properties (similar size, bedrooms, amenities) and their advertised rent prices. They can find this information on rental listing websites, property management software, or public rental databases. Virtual assistants can also handle initial communication with investors to understand their rental expectations and any specific goals they might have (e.g., maximizing rent vs. filling the vacancy quickly). Creating and organizing property photos and marketing material Virtual assistants can be a game-changer for property management businesses when it comes to creating and organizing property photos and marketing materials. If professional photography is required, a virtual assistant can schedule appointments with photographers, and even perform basic photo editing tasks like cropping, and adjusting brightness and contrast. This ensures a clean and polished presentation of the property. They can also create file-naming conventions for these photos, in order to make them easily searchable for future use in marketing materials or listings. As far as marketing materials are concerned, virtual assistants can create or maintain templates for various materials, ensuring consistent branding and design across all platforms. This saves time and creates a professional look while delivering cost savings. Advertising the property Virtual assistants can be highly beneficial for property management companies when it comes to advertising their properties. For instance, virtual assistants can create and manage listings on various online rental platforms, ensuring accurate and up-to-date property information reaches a wide audience of potential tenants. They can also optimize listings with relevant keywords to improve search ranking. On the social media channel, virtual assistants can help create targeted ads with eye-catching visuals and compelling descriptions highlighting the property's best features. They can also schedule ad posts and track their performance to optimize future campaigns. In general, virtual assistants can create and manage a content calendar for property promotions. This can include scheduling social media posts, email blasts to potential residents, or even blog posts showcasing the property and surrounding neighborhood. Responding to inquiries Virtual assistants can be the first point of contact for prospective tenants who inquire about a property through listings, social media, or the company website. They can answer basic questions, schedule viewings, and qualify leads to ensure they are a good fit for the property. Likewise, when it comes to responding to inquiries from potential investors, they can assess the lead quality and guide the initial conversation. Vetting resident applications Virtual assistants can be a valuable asset in the vetting process for property management companies. For starters, they can handle the initial processing of rental applications, collecting and organizing applicant information, as well as lease agreements and supporting documents. This frees up property managers to focus on reviewing qualified applications. They can also manage initial communication with applicants. This might involve sending automated emails with application instructions, answering basic questions about the property or application process, and scheduling appointments for viewings. Many property management companies use tenant screening software that virtual assistants can be trained to utilize, ordering credit reports, background checks, and eviction history reports efficiently. Approving a tenant application after review Virtual assistants can play a crucial role in streamlining the post-review approval process for property management companies. Once the property manager approves an applicant, they can handle initial communication with the new resident. This might sending a lease agreement electronically, explaining signing procedures, and collecting e-signatures. Virtual assistants can also coordinate move-in logistics, such as scheduling move-in property inspections, providing information on utility activation, and sending welcome packages with important building information and resident resources. Lease preparation Virtual assistants can help to streamline the process of lease preparation while minimizing the potential for errors. At a minimum, they can gather essential information from the approved application and property details to populate lease templates. This might include resident names, contact details, leasing terms, rent amounts, and security deposit details. Many property management companies use pre-defined lease templates with standard clauses outlining They can then handle initial communication with the approved resident about lease signing. This might involve sending the lease electronically, explaining signing procedures, and answering basic questions about lease terms and conditions. resident responsibilities, maintenance procedures, and lease termination processes. Virtual assistants can ensure these clauses are included in the lease agreement. They can also review completed lease agreements for any typos, inconsistencies, or missing information before sending them to the resident for review and signature. Lease renewals Virtual assistants can also help streamline the process of lease renewal, thereby helping to increase resident retention. For example, virtual assistants can monitor lease agreements and identify upcoming lease expirations. They can then create a timeline for initiating communication with residents about potential renewals, via personalized emails or letters to residents approaching the end of their lease term. These messages can express appreciation for their residency, highlight the benefits of renewing, and outline the renewal process. Virtual assistants can also track resident responses to renewal offers, flagging those requiring further discussion with the property manager. They can also generate reports on renewal rates, providing valuable data for analyzing resident retention strategies. Running tenant background checks While virtual assistants can't legally conduct background checks themselves, they can be a valuable asset in streamlining the process for property management companies. This might include managing the initial steps of collecting and organizing applicant information crucial for background checks. This includes details like full names, Social Security numbers (with applicant consent), and previous addresses. They can also help maintain standardized forms with clear instructions for applicants regarding background check consent. This ensures applicants understand the process and provide the necessary authorization for releasing information to background check companies. Organizing tenant records Virtual assistants can be instrumental in bringing order to record-keeping processes, from data entry and management to record-keeping and accessibility. They can handle the initial data entry of resident information from applications, including names, contact details, emergency contacts, lease details, and pet information. This ensures all crucial information is captured and readily accessible. Virtual assistants can upload and organize various tenant documents electronically. This might include lease agreements, signed addendums, rental history verifications, and maintenance request records. They can also create a filing system for easy retrieval of documents when needed. Note that virtual assistants should be trained on data security and privacy regulations to ensure the confidentiality of resident information – while virtual assistants can manage record-keeping tasks, the property manager should maintain oversight and ensure compliance with data protection laws. Invoicing and accounting Virtual assistants can handle a range of tasks related to recording rent payments, managing maintenance expenses, and categorizing various property management costs For example, virtual assistants can help set up secure online payment portals for residents to easily submit rent payments electronically. On the tracking side, virtual assistants can track incoming payments, reconcile bank statements, and ensure accurate records are maintained. Virtual assistants can then generate basic financial reports for the property manager, summarizing expenses and overall property income. This allows for better financial tracking and informed decision-making. Many property management companies utilize accounting software. Virtual assistants can be trained to use these platforms, automating tasks like data entry and simplifying record-keeping. Best property management virtual assistant services providers Identifying the "best" virtual assistant service provider will of course depend on your specific needs and budget. First, we'd recommend that you determine the specific tasks you want your virtual assistant to handle (e.g., advertising, resident communication, bookkeeping), then conduct research on different providers, and compare their services offered, pricing structures, and experience with property management. Also look to online reviews and ask potential providers questions about their screening processes, and data security measures. We're highlighting a couple of providers below that focus exclusively on property management, as well as a short list of solutions that include property management in their overall focus. Virtual Property Management Solutions VPM Solutions is a platform designed specifically to connect property management and real estate businesses with virtual assistants. Learn more Purple Powered Virtual Assistant Purple Powered Virtual Assistant (PPVA) specializes in providing virtual assistants specifically catered to the property management industry. They focus on connecting property management companies with qualified VAs as well as ensuring those VAs have the necessary skills to excel in the role. Learn more Honorable mentions Virtudesk Virtudesk specializes in virtual assistants for various industries, including property management. They offer a proven track record and a focus on quality service. Learn more MyOutDesk Known for their expertise in real estate and property management, MyOutDesk offers virtual assistants with experience in tasks relevant to the field. Learn more Wishup This company boasts a user-friendly platform, offers flexible pricing plans, and has a quick onboarding process for virtual assistants. Learn more Pros and cons of using property management virtual assistants Overall, virtual assistants can be a valuable asset for property management companies, boosting profitability, resident satisfaction, and business growth. However, careful vetting, clear communication, and training are necessary to mitigate potential downsides related to quality control, local regulations, legal issues, and retention. Pros of using virtual assistants in property management Increased profitability Virtual assistants can handle tasks like advertising and resident communication, freeing up property managers to focus on maximizing rental income and minimizing vacancies. Improved tenant satisfaction Virtual assistants can ensure timely responses to new tenant inquiries and manage resident portals, leading to a more responsive and efficient experience for residents. Streamlined bookkeeping and reporting Virtual assistants can assist with bookkeeping tasks and help generate accurate financial reports, allowing for better financial management. Support for business growth Virtual assistants can handle administrative tasks and marketing efforts, reducing the overhead costs of executing this work, and freeing up property managers to focus on growing their business and taking on new clients. Cons of using virtual assistants in property management Quality control challenges Ensuring the quality of services provided by virtual assistants can be tricky, especially for complex tasks like legal compliance or resident screening. Potential legal issues Data security and privacy become a concern when sharing property information with virtual assistants. Clear contracts and data security measures are crucial. Retention challenges Finding and retaining qualified virtual assistants can be difficult, especially for specialized tasks within property management. Maintaining resident satisfaction Reliance on virtual assistants for initial communication with residents might lead to impersonal interactions, potentially impacting satisfaction. Limited expertise Virtual assistants may not have in-depth knowledge of property management regulations or local real estate market nuances compared to experienced property managers. How PMCs are outsourcing services for better resident experiences Property management companies are always looking for new ways to generate value for themselves, their residents, and their investors. One of the quickest ways to scale and increase return on investment can be through property management service outsourcing. At Second Nature, we’ve pioneered the first-ever fully managed Resident Benefits Package. The goal is to make property management easier for PMs, residents, and investors – and drive value that benefits all three. We call it the Triple Win. Our RBP provides services that residents are proven to pay and stay for – and our team manages every part of the process so property managers can focus on what's important to them.

Calendar icon April 29, 2024

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What Are the Benefits of Hiring Property Management Virtual Assistants?

A property management virtual assistant, or property management VA, is a remote professional who provides administrative, operational, and sometimes technical support to property managers and their teams. As a property management company grows, its workload inevitably increases. In that scenario, virtual assistants can be a valuable asset thanks to their ability to handle repetitive tasks like lease renewals, resident communication, and basic bookkeeping. This frees up property managers to focus on strategic initiatives and resident relations, and allows the company to manage more properties and increase revenue without proportionally increasing staff costs. In today's post, we'll dig into the benefits of hiring virtual assistants for property management companies, from improved efficiency to reduced admin burdens and more. Related: Benefits of Property Management Outsourcing Services Improving operational efficiency and productivity Property management business owners juggle a vast array of tasks, from marketing vacancies to managing resident concerns. Virtual assistants can be powerful allies in this full-time endeavor, boosting operational efficiency and productivity in several key ways. Filed under "streamlining repetitive tasks" are basic operations such as handling routine resident communication via email, phone calls, or text. This might include sending lease renewals, answering basic questions about property policies, and scheduling appointments for maintenance or viewings. Virtual assistants can also support various marketing and prospecting/lead generation functions, including social media management (e.g., the creation of posts publicizing property listings, publishing calendar updates, etc.). Another area where virtual assistants can boost efficiency is in the automation of invoicing for rent payments, sending receipts to residents, and tracking incoming payments. This frees up property managers from manual tasks and reduces the risk of errors. As for more complex processes such as background checks and resident screening, while virtual assistants cannot themselves conduct the checks, they can gather necessary information, initiate renter background check requests with service providers, and follow up on reports. They can also assist with time-consuming tasks such as generating basic real estate business reports on areas like vacancy rates and resident demographics. This data can be valuable for property managers and property owners to identify trends and make informed decisions. Reducing costs by outsourcing back-office operations Back-office operations can quickly become a time and resource drain for property management companies. In this respect, virtual assistants can help generate cost savings by streamlining and managing these essential tasks. In handling routine back-office tasks, virtual assistants free up property managers to focus on high-value activities like strategic planning, resident relations, and property marketing. This increases overall productivity and leads to better financial returns. As indicated above, virtual assistants can also automate repetitive tasks like invoicing, rent collection, and data entry. This minimizes errors and saves time compared to manual processes, reducing the need for staff to correct mistakes. On the resident experience side, virtual assistants can help reduce resident turnover by ensuring timely communication, efficient maintenance request management, and a positive resident experience. This boosts cost-effectiveness in relation to marketing vacancies, new resident screening, and repairs needed to prepare properties for new residents. Reducing the administrative burden Property management companies juggle many tasks that can leave them swamped with administrative duties. Virtual assistants can help tackle some of these time-consuming chores, such as fielding resident inquiries, handling maintenance requests, and even scheduling property inspections, or showings for new residents. This ensures timely responses and frees up the property manager's time for more strategic tasks and business needs. They can also manage the influx of documents, organizing lease agreements, resident applications, and financial records. This keeps everything organized and readily accessible, saving the property manager from the necessity of digging through files. Fixing capacity limitations When property management companies are limited in their staffing resources, a virtual team can act as an extension of the in-house team, effectively breaking through these capacity limitations. For example, by handling routine administrative tasks like resident communication and lease renewals, virtual assistants free up property managers to focus on acquiring new business or managing a larger number of properties. A virtual property management assistant can also serve as a remote team by operating outside regular business hours, meaning tasks like fielding resident inquiries or scheduling maintenance requests can be addressed after hours, improving overall responsiveness and customer satisfaction. In essence, they act as a force multiplier across time zones, extending the reach and capacity of the existing property management team members. Outsourcing non-revenue tasks In sum, virtual assistant services can encompass a wide range of non-revenue property management tasks, workflows, and job descriptions: Administrative duties This can include data entry, scheduling appointments, managing calendars, and filing documents. Resident communication Responding to routine resident emails and calls about things like maintenance coordination, parking inquiries, or noise complaints can be time-consuming. A virtual assistant can handle these initial interactions. Lease management Virtual assistants can support PMs with lease renewals, sending out reminders, processing paperwork, and answering basic resident questions about the lease agreement. Move-in/move-out coordination Scheduling onboarding processes, move-in inspections, collecting pre-move-in information from residents, and processing move-out checklists are all tasks a virtual assistant can handle. Service provider communication Coordinating with cleaning crews, landscapers, and other vendors often involves pricing inquiries, scheduling appointments, following up on requests, and managing invoices. A virtual assistant can help streamline this communication. Report generation Virtual assistants can compile routine reports such as vacancy rates, maintenance requests, and rent collection summaries. The last word At Second Nature, we’ve pioneered the first-ever fully managed Resident Benefits Package. The goal is to make property management easier for PMs, residents, and investors – and drive value that benefits all three. We call it the Triple Win. Our RBP provides services that residents are proven to pay and stay for – and our team manages every part of the process so property managers can focus on what's important to them.

Calendar icon April 29, 2024

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Best Tenant Onboarding Software in 2024

The tenant onboarding process is an opportunity for property management companies to establish positive expectations and create an excellent resident experience. It’s one of the most opportune moments for resident education – in other words, to help them understand key responsibilities and the information they’ll need to take care of the home and their side of the lease, in tandem with investor and property manager responsibilities. It’s also a process with a number of different steps – many of which have traditionally involved cumbersome, manual processes. In today’s post, we’ll examine tools that alleviate these processes, and identify some of the top performers on the market. 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 tenants – 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. What is tenant onboarding software? It’s important to dispel the notion that “tenant onboarding software” is a monolithic category of software applications. There really is no such category, as no single rental property management software will cover everything you need to address. Instead, property management companies are using disparate software tools to solve different pain points during the onboarding process. Indeed, the tenant onboarding process can present a multitude of pains for both property managers and tenants. Below are just a few examples. Cumbersome, time-consuming paperwork Filling out paper applications, manually processing documents, and chasing signatures can eat up valuable time. Communication challenges Back-and-forth messaging, calls, and emails regarding lease agreement details and payments are inefficient and can lead to misunderstandings. Data security concerns Traditional methods that use physical documents pose a risk of data insecurity or outright data breaches. Process inefficiency risks Accurately tracking onboarding tasks such as key handover, utility activation, or maintenance checks can be difficult without proper tools. Lack of transparency Uncertainty about application status or lease details can be frustrating for new tenants. Tenant onboarding software tools alleviate challenges such as these by offering features that translate into a smoother experience for everyone involved, saving time, reducing errors, and fostering better communication. Key features expected of tenant onboarding software There are several attributes that you should expect to find across tenant onboarding software tools, regardless of the specific platform or category. Here are some of the key features: User-friendly interface Clear instructions and intuitive functionality should enable property managers, potential tenants, and tenants (as well as property owners, in some cases) to use the software easily. Mobile accessibility In today's mobile-first world, the ability to access the software and complete tasks like online applications, payments, or maintenance requests on smartphones or tablets is crucial. Secure data management tools The software should ensure that all sensitive applicant and tenant PII (personally identifiable information) is stored securely with encryption and suitable access controls. This is particularly important for SaaS-based applications. Workflow automation Features like automated application processing can significantly streamline the onboarding process. Integration capabilities The ability to integrate with other onboarding tools, accounting software, or background check/tenant screening services in real time can create a more unified workflow. Reporting and analytics Property managers should be able to generate reports on application trends, rent collection rates, or tenant feedback to gain valuable insights. Customer support The onboarding software provider should offer comprehensive resources to support property managers in their usage of the software. This may include tutorials, webinars, or dedicated customer support representatives. Top Tools for Tenant Onboarding From the initial applicant screening stages through to move-in and the tenancy period, we’ll take a look at each step of the tenant onboarding process and popular tools in each category. 1. Applicant screening Property managers often use tenant screening services such as Plaid, Finicity, Pinwheel, and others to conduct rental screening and replace manual document upload and review. As identity fraud becomes more prevalent, identity verification tools are also becoming more sophisticated. Note that Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package includes a $1 million identity protection program and credit building for tenants. These programs protect your tenants and help draw people who want to build responsible financial security. 2. Lease management Property management software solutions like AppFolio or Buildium often include features for lease creation, storage, and e-signing within their suite. Platforms such as DocuSign, PandaDoc, or Dropbox Sign enable property managers to then send lease agreements electronically for secure online signatures. Pay attention to the differing pricing models between these platforms, as they can vary substantially. 3. Rent collection and payment processing For rent collection, PMs typically require certified funds and will accept ACH/debit, or leverage a service like PayNearMe, where residents can pay cash at a local Walmart or convenience store location (while on the PM side, the process remains completely digital). Payment processing is typically handled by property management accounting software, although third-party tools like Zego are used in the SFH space. In addition, tools like EliseAI (a chatbot-type tool for use cases such as leasing, among others) are innovating in this space. 4. Move-in communication and coordination Platforms like AppFolio, Buildium, Propertyware, or Rent Manager provide a central tenant portal to access lease documents, pay rent, submit maintenance requests, and communicate with property managers. As for task management, Tools like Leadsimple, Aptly, or Monday.com can be used by property managers to track and assign move-in tasks, ensuring a smooth transition for new residents. For instance, the onboarding process may include tasks such as orientation calls and/or enrollment of the resident into ancillary products and services such as Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package (RBP). Second Nature also includes a move-in concierge as part of its RBP. 5. Feedback/reputation management tools Tools like Grade.us, opiniion, and Birdeye can be used to gather feedback from tenants after move-in, helping property managers identify areas for improvement. The specific tools you use will depend on your requirements and processes. However, by and large, any of them can be used to transform the tenant onboarding process from a paper-heavy slog into an efficient digital experience. Final thoughts Remember, the onboarding process is the ideal mechanism for enhancing communication, establishing expectations, and creating a positive resident experience. Our top recommendation for ensuring a world-class onboarding and 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.

Calendar icon April 25, 2024

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How to Optimize Property Management 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?

A tenant benefits package is an increasingly important part of the equation today. That’s because today’s residents want their needs proactively anticipated. It’s something they're willing to pay (and stay) for. This makes complete sense: like everywhere else, residents and property investors alike are getting younger in the residential real estate sector – and with this generational shift comes expectations for a certain level of convenience and support. 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 home 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. 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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10 Steps to Onboard New Tenants

The tenant onboarding process is a critical step in ensuring a positive and productive relationship between residents and property managers from day one and usually occurs during the lease signing. 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. As we mentioned, not only does a smooth onboarding experience foster tenant satisfaction, but it also delivers winning conditions for a positive tenant who is excited about their new home. It also recognizes their role as property residents rather than transactional entities and sets a positive tone for their experience with the property. On the part of the property management company, it also demonstrates professionalism and competence, 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 a commonly used industry term, but at Second Nature we're 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. Why is The Tenant Onboarding Process Important? The tenant onboarding process is important because it sets the stage for the entire tenancy experience. Proper onboarding helps make sure that residents are well-informed about their responsibilities, as well as the property management company's expectations, which can lead to fewer misunderstandings and conflicts down the road. It also helps build and maintain a strong relationship between the resident and the property management team, which can lead to higher resident satisfaction and retention rates, which is especially beneficial to PMs. By creating a positive first impression, the onboarding process can significantly impact the long-term success of the rental arrangement for all parties involved. Steps to Onboard New Tenants 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 identify 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 into 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, and 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 receipts for all transactions, and a record of payment history for easy reference. You can also offer the option of 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 the overall electrical and gas safety of your rental property, as well as any potential hazards, they also 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 to once again demonstrate 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 email, 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. Tips to Improve the Tenant Onboard Experience A smooth and efficient onboarding process can set the stage for a positive tenant experience. Below are some helpful tips: Create a property management tenant onboarding checklist A comprehensive tenant onboarding checklist helps ensure that no critical steps are overlooked. This checklist should include all tasks, from initial background checks to the final move-in day preparations. This will help maintain consistency and efficiency in your onboarding process, and ensure that every resident receives the same high level of service. Create a welcome package for new onboarding tenants A welcome package can make new tenants feel appreciated and valued right from the start. It can include practical items such as toiletries, cleaning supplies, baked goods, and information about the local area. Personal touches such as a handwritten welcome note or discounts to local businesses can also enhance the resident’s initial experience, as well as the image of your property management company. Use technology to streamline processes Utilize technology to streamline the onboarding process. Offer online applications, e-signatures for lease agreements, and an online portal for rent payments and maintenance requests. Technology can make the process more convenient and efficient for both property managers and residents, and easier for PMs to manage the status of everything. Personalize the experience Personalizing the onboarding experience can make residents feel valued and welcome. Address them by name, remember important details about them, and provide personalized touches such as a welcome note or small gift. 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

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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

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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. Related: Best Single Family Property Management Software 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 G2.com, 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 G2.com 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

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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

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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. Related: Best Property Management Newsletters. 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 www.secondnature.com 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 www.nest-dc.com. 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 www.baymgmtgroup.com 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 www.rentberry.com 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 www.rentgrace.com. 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 https://www.mesaproperties.net/ 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 www.goldenstatepropertymanagement.com 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 single family property management software, also designed to ease the stress of managing property investments. Visit www.propertymanagementportlandor.com 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 www.goodlifemgmt.com 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 www.luxurypropertycare.com Follow the Second Nature Website to Keep Tabs on the Property Management Industry At SecondNature.com, 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

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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. Also, check out the best property management newsletters to read to level up and grow your business. 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 single family 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 SecondNature.com, 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

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How to Start a 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. Related: Property Management Business Plan Template 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 single family 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 pest control for property management, 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

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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. Pest control for property management 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

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5 Best Online Property Management Courses and Workshops

One of the best available resources to property managers seeking personal and business development is the wealth of online property management courses. These provide opportunities, sometimes for free, to network, to earn designations, to develop specific skillsets, and learn about vendor products that can help your business grow. Certified Property Manager A CPM is a designation accredited by the Institute of Real Estate Management that stands for Certified Property Manager. You may have noticed the CPM designation on many consultants or broker/owners of large companies. The CPM course is a large undertaking, but it’s a very well-renowned designation in the industry. There are eight courses to claim your certification, and the whole thing takes between 12-18 months according to IREM. The course list features eight courses that cover everything from real estate law to maintenance and risk management to team management. The courses focus on real-world application and skillset development, not theory and many property managers have cited the skill development and networking as tools that have advanced their career. Learn more about the CPM Residential Management Professional Just like CPM, you may have seen RMP and MPM listed next to some seasoned property managers on LinkedIn or elsewhere. Both are NARPM designations. RMP is the first accessible one for newer NARPM members, with the requirements being management of over 100 doors for at least a two year period. An RMP designation has a list of requirements that begins with a set of courses you must complete. From there, there are events to attend before you elect your path to course completion. The whole process can be completed in a year, although there is a three-year limit on trying. The RMP process is not just about taking courses. It’s very engaging. The latter stages ask for you to take on a subject matter expertise role as a writer or presenter. The process of claiming a designation is valuable itself, not simply a means to an end. Learn more about the RPM Master Property Manager Property managers with NARPM’s RMP designation can become master property managers if they’ve managed over 500 doors for at least a five-year period. MPM is a high-level designation that is not for the faint-of-heart property manager. Master Property Manager is a simple concept...this is a professional with years of experience and commitment to the industry. This person is one who can be trusted to provide quality service and care to you and your valuable asset. - Andrea Caldwell MPM, RMP, former NARPM President Learn more about the MPM RBP Workshop For property managers looking to grow their profit per door, a resident benefits package can be an incredible tool. Second Nature hosts a monthly workshop for property managers in all stages of managing an RBP. At an RBP workshop, you’ll learn how an RBP creates value and grows profit per door while positively affecting turnover rates, what’s included and how to manage a rollout, and you’ll hear from property managers that have successfully rolled out an RBP. The best part is that it’s completely free. Certified Apartment Manager For multifamily property managers, the CAM, or Certified Apartment Manager, is an industry credential used to demonstrate high levels of competency and expertise in multifamily property management. You can earn this credential through a set of courses and exams offered by the National Apartment Association. With both online and in-person, it's a very accessible credential that covers a long list of topics including occupancy rates, comprehensive marketing plays, sales team management, product readiness, and much much more. Learn more about the CAM

Calendar icon January 16, 2024

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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

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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

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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

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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 single family 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

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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

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