Calendar icon January 4, 2024

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.

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

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.

 

Happier residents

 

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.

Keep learning

How to Optimize Operational Frequency with Processes and Software

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

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

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Why offer a tenant benefits package?

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

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

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