Blog_Header-1

Triple Win Property Management Blog

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

Read more

Property Management Automation: 7 Tasks to Automate in Your Company

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

Calendar icon December 14, 2023

Read more

Property manager using computer

10 Best Property Management Maintenance Software

In the property management world, tech solutions abound. There are so many different players on the market, but sometimes, that wealth can be tough to navigate. When it comes to property management maintenance software, single-family property managers have to identify, first, how they approach maintenance and, second, what tech solution will best support their team, workflows, and operational structure. It’s a daunting task! That’s why Second Nature builds integrated solutions to support residents in preventing issues from ever developing. These solutions reduce maintenance needs through preventive maintenance strategies and take work off the property manager’s plate. But no matter how much prevention you build in with tools like our Resident Benefits Package, you’re always going to need some maintenance management. So, today, we’re going to look at some of the best approaches you can take and the best software available to you for property management maintenance. Property management maintenance software solutions come in two basic categories: Platform Solutions: Property management operations platforms or accounting software that include maintenance support, among other full-service property management solutions. Dedicated Point Solutions: Property management software designed to tackle one specific problem – in this case, maintenance. We’ll explore solutions that fit into both of these categories and how to weigh the pros and cons of each. Related: Best Single Family Property Management Software 1. Property Meld Property Meld is a leader in the small to medium-sized property management business space. It’s a maintenance point solution to optimize work order management, response time tracking, vendor and resident communication, scheduling, and analytics. Its built-in “Owner Hub” helps provide the right amount of transparency to your clients. Perhaps the best feature is the Insights Tool, which helps you track metrics like the median speed of repair, average resident satisfaction, vendor health score, total spend per unit, and more. Pros: The user interface is intuitive for PMs and residents Opening repair tickets takes just minutes Tracking repairs and resident satisfaction is easy and transparent Powerful analytics help you see your success at a glance Cons: If you’re looking for a full-service operations platform, Meld won’t be the solution for you. 2. Lula Lula is another dedicated point solution focused on property maintenance technology. They leverage a network of vetted contractors to make finding the best technicians easy. Lula’s team becomes an outsourced extension of your property management company, troubleshooting, coordinating, and managing maintenance tasks. They operate in over 30 markets in the US and boast results like 80% one-trip resolutions and a net promoter score of 80. Pros: They do the work to vet and provide the vendors You can bring your own vendors in if you want to Integrates with any software Customizable plans for self-service or full-service Cons: May not yet be available in your market Only focuses on maintenance 3. Buildium Buildium is a popular all-in-one solutions platform and property accounting software with excellent management features. The web-based solution and app provide support in accounting and invoicing, communications, leasing, and maintenance activities. Their portals provide tenant support, maintenance management, and templates to make every part of property management easier. Pros: A near-complete solution for property management Excellent tenant and owner portals and communication hubs Analytics and tracking to streamline operations and results A 14-day trial helps you evaluate if it’s a fit Customizable packages Cons: Lack of transparency for owners The listing process isn’t as comprehensive as some users want Can be pricey 4. Mezo Mezo is an AI-driven, cloud-based property maintenance management software. The aim of the app is to take work off your plate by automating maintenance ticket responses, resolutions, and insights. Mezo takes requests directly from residents and uses conversational AI to ask questions in real-time, identify problems, and diagnose the issue. It will support residents in resolving the issue on their own or integrate with your management system to get work orders quickly sent. Pros: Residents can get help immediately when they have issues and potentially resolve themselves with Mezo’s chatbot support Technicians arrive with Mezo’s analysis and diagnosis, allowing them to come prepared and resolve issues quicker Integrates with most PMS options Cons: Doesn’t integrate with all other PM tech solutions As a newer technology, still has some bugs and gaps 5. Lessen Lessen, formerly SMS Assist, is an enterprise-level solution providing tech-powered renovations and maintenance at scale. It’s an end-to-end platform for maintenance operations with a vetted vendor network and provides everything you need for maintenance or turning projects. PMs simply use the app to request projects, deploy Lessen network pros, track progress and checklists, check for quality control remotely, and process payments – all in one slick tech solution. Pros: Excellent, seamless tech that’s easy to use and deploy A fully vetted vendor network takes that work off your plate An established brand that has worked out the “kinks” in service Cons: More ideal for more enterprise companies who need scale (rather than smaller SFR PMs) 6. AppFolio AppFolio is a full-service rental property management platform solution that is very popular with single-family property management companies. The web-based app streamlines and automates every stage of real estate management, including management, training, marketing and leasing, maintenance, accounting, reporting, and communications. For maintenance, AppFolio includes workflow automation, work order managemen toolst, online maintenance request, mobile inspections, and more. Pros: Easy-to-use technology with great UX Fully mobile and automated Customizable dashboards and advanced reporting Cons: An expensive platform if all you need is a maintenance point solution Customer service is not always available for maintenance line 7. Rentvine Rentvine is a full-service property management platform that focuses on communication support between PMCs, residents, and clients. The platform streamlines application and tenant screening, inventory management, accounting with a manager’s ledger and client money tracked separately, marketing, leasing, and – of course – maintenance. The app tracks all your work orders from start to finish and supports communication between residents, property managers, and vendors throughout. Pros: Easy to use with excellent customer support Owner and tenant portals work seamlessly Excellent accounting process Cons: Has fewer features than some competitors but is continuously improving 8. DoorLoop DoorLoop is another full-service property management software that provides all the features a property manager needs to manage their portfolio. You can handle accounting, maintenance, listings, marketing, client success, and more, all from the app. For property management maintenance, their software helps manage work orders, handle vendor payments, and track the process from start to finish. Pros: Intuitive, streamlined UX that’s user-friendly Great customer service Excellent integrations Cons: Expensive if all you need is a maintenance point solution rather than a full platform Some functionalities are still being developed 9. FTMaintenance FTMaintenance is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) point solution platform designed for maintenance managers, executives, and technicians. While it’s not specifically designed for property management, the software streamlines work order management, vendor payments, tracking, and more. For some PMs, this could be the added solution they need to focus simply on complex maintenance jobs. Pros: Robust work order tracking Excellent mobile app for vendors and maintenance managers Analytics and organization Cons: Not designed specifically for property managers, focused more on commercial properties Complex if you are not tech-savvy 10. Latchel Latchel is a property maintenance point solution that helps automate maintenance communication, scheduling, work orders, etc. Your residents message the Latchel team directly on the Latchel platform and get an immediate response to begin troubleshooting the issue. If the problem requires a maintenance visit, the Latchel team will deploy that and follow up with the resident. Pros: Fast response times Easy to use for maintenance communication Cons: Many reviews say the issues didn't get fixed correctly App is great for communication but sometimes requires the PM to step in and manage How Second Nature Helps with Property Management Maintenance When it comes to maintenance, at Second Nature, we’re always looking to empower the resident. Our Resident Benefits Package provides solutions that minimize maintenance needs and costs in the first place. From HVAC/air filter delivery to on-demand property management pest control to rental rewards, we aim to incentivize residents to care for their property and take work off the property manager’s plate. We also work closely with other property management software providers to ensure you have everything you need for success in your SFR property management business. Learn more about the Second Nature RBP and how it can bring ease to your work.

Calendar icon November 17, 2023

Read more

How to Optimize Your Tenant Move-in Checklist

We get a lot of questions here at Second Nature about the ideal tenant move-in checklist. After all, whether you're new to the realm of property management or a seasoned expert, one common goal unites us all: creating an excellent resident experience. The move-in process marks the beginning of your resident’s journey, and it's an opportunity to make a great first impression. A well-crafted resident move-in checklist can make this process smooth, efficient, and stress-free for all parties involved. In this article, we're talking to a leader in the single-family rental property management space to help us delve into the essentials of a resident move-in checklist, its benefits, and how it can enhance the overall resident move-in experience. Let's dive in and discover how a simple checklist can streamline your move-ins. Interested in reading more about resident experience management? Read our 2023 State of Resident Experience Report. Meet the Expert: Janet Sprissler, Broker/Owner, Rent 805 Janet Sprissler has over 20 years of experience in property management and a philosophy of working with residents to bring them value and help communities thrive while providing investors with a positive net operating income. She started her career in Los Angeles with 24 units and grew to a multi-family fixer for over 400-unit buildings throughout Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties. Janet left multifamily to consult with single-family residential managers to bring her problem-solving philosophy to life. Starting Rent 805 has been a lifelong dream of hers to bring investments, housing, and a positive impact in the property management community. Janet also received the 2023 Triple Win Property Management Award for Leadership in Resident Experience. What is a Tenant Move-In Checklist? A tenant move-in checklist is a detailed document that records the condition of a rental property at the time a resident moves in, serving as an essential tool to prevent potential disputes over property damage during the lease period. Some consider this a landlord-tenant agreement but can be between property managers and residents, as well. This checklist is a lifeline for both property managers and new residents. From the state of the kitchen appliances to the condition of the flooring, this checklist serves as a comprehensive record of the property's state. Other names for the checklist could include: Move-in move-out checklist Inspection checklist Tenant walkthrough checklist Rental inspection checklist Move-in inspection checklist Move-out inspection checklist Rental walkthrough checklist Think of it as a snapshot in time, providing a clear reference point for both parties. It's not just a piece of paper; it's a roadmap to a smooth tenancy for everyone involved. Now, that's a win-win! Note on Language: At Second Nature, we like to say “resident” rather than “tenant,” but will use the terms interchangeably since many property managers have official terminology around these checklists. Benefits of Using a Move-In Checklist Using a well-crafted checklist has far-reaching benefits for property owners, property managers, and property residents. We’re breaking down the benefits based on each of these perspectives. Benefits for Property Owners Protection of Property: A move-in checklist includes a detailed property inspection, protecting owners from damage disputes at the end of a lease. Compliance with Local Laws: Some jurisdictions require move-in checklists for legal protection. Maintenance Tracking: Early identification of maintenance issues can help property owners address them proactively. Benefits for Property Managers Streamlined Process: A move-in checklist provides a clear process, helping property managers to stay organized and ensure all essential tasks are completed. Improved Communication: A checklist sets clear expectations for the move-in process, promoting transparency and minimizing misunderstandings with residents for the lease agreement. Property Protection: By signing off on a detailed checklist, property managers ensure their good work is documented and any issues can be clearly identified as resident responsibility. This is critical when it comes to the security deposit if there is damage. Increased Efficiency: Using a checklist can speed up the move-in process, maintenance before move-in, etc., saving property managers valuable time. Benefits for Residents Clarity and Transparency: A checklist provides residents with clear expectations of what the move-in process involves and their responsibilities. You will have a document of pre-existing damage and know what repairs are needed, plus what’s just normal wear and tear. Peace of Mind: A detailed property inspection at move-in provides a record of the property's condition, protecting residents from unjust damage claims. It also helps them ensure any open issues are repaired. Smooth Transition: A well-organized move-in process can ease the stress of moving, enhancing the resident’s initial experience and ensuring they move into a space that’s ready for safe living. What should be on a Move-In Checklist? With those benefits, it’s clear that having a move-in checklist is critical for any property manager. Some states require property owners to provide new residents with a renter move-in checklist. So, what should you include? Is anything optional? While legally, you may have some leeway, Janet Sprissler says that if you want to truly focus on the best experience, nothing is optional. “Everything with us is a must,” Sprissler says. “That’s why it’s a checklist, you have to check everything off. I don’t have any nice-to-haves on my checklist because everyone is treated the same. We don’t do for one new resident what we won’t do for the other.” Here are the primary things that property managers include in a move-in checklist. Depending on your type of property, real estate investor preferences, and location, this list may change slightly. A comprehensive resident move-in checklist should include: Details of the Resident and Landlord/Property Manager: Full names, addresses, and contact information. Property Details: Full address of the property, the date of the inspection, and the move-in date. Room-by-Room Assessment: This is the bulk of the checklist. An evaluation of each room's condition, including walls, flooring, windows, countertops, faucets, doors, light fixtures, and any furniture or appliances. This should include specifics like paint condition, carpet stains, appliance functionality, etc. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc. Include all rooms, such as: Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Bedroom(s), Bathroom(s), Laundry Room, etc.‍ Exterior Assessment: Notes on the condition of the property exterior, including yard, light fixtures, fencing, roof, gutters, and driveway. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc.‍ Utilities: Information about the functionality of utilities such as electricity, water, gas, heating/cooling systems, and internet. You can also include information about a move-in concierge in a Resident Benefits Package through Second Nature.‍ Safety Features: Status of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, locks, and any security systems. Note if anything needs repair, updates, etc.‍ Signatures: Both the resident and property manager should sign and date the document to confirm their agreement on the property’s initial condition.‍ Photographs: Include clear photos of each room and any existing damages to provide a visual record and clarify any potential disputes. Remember, this is a basic checklist, and depending on the property type and local landlord-tenant laws, there may be additional items to include. How to Optimize Resident Move-in Experience A checklist is the foundation of a wonderful move-in experience. But it’s just the starting point. How does a property management company set itself apart from others in the move-in experience? Here’s where we went to Janet Sprissler and others in our Triple Win Property Managers community for input. Use the Right Tools It’s easy to forget a step if you don’t have tools that help automate your process and keep your whole team on the same page. The most important thing? “You don’t forget a step!” Sprissler says. “Without a checklist, you’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail,” she continues. “You will drop things, things will be missed, they’ll move in, and there’s going to be a problem. When you set the tone that ‘this is going to be a hot mess,’ you’re setting yourself up to have disgruntled residents, and disgruntled residents never take care of the property well.” Sprissler especially recommends Monday.com for tracking the checklist and process with your internal team and tools like Tenant Turner to help on the resident side. They use zInspector to ensure they are on top of property inspections. “I’m not big on a bunch of papers around,” she says. “I want to see it all automated, I want any of my team members to be able to dive into Monday.com and see what’s missing or needed right away. That system runs so much, I’m a huge fan of it.” Treat all Residents with Equal Care Sprissler says focusing on making residents feel that “WOW!” is critical to their longevity and care for the property. At her company, they focus on seamless processes, transparent communication, and even gifts! The key is that every resident gets that same treatment. “New residents MUST have a move-in gift,” Sprissler says. “They must all get the procedures we’ve set ahead of time. They must receive their birthday gift, they must receive access to our First of the Month Club. We do a move-in concierge through Second Nature – they must have that touch point. We don’t ever say, ‘Hey, this is going to happen,’ and then it doesn’t happen.” Design the Ideal Move-in Process We asked Sprissler how they create an ideal resident experience throughout the move-in process, and this was her top recommendation. “We make it seamless. SEAM. LESS,” she said for emphasis! “On the move-in side, our new residents go through Tenant Turner to get onto the property with an access code. Move in and move out is on Tenant Turner. We make it very simple for them to get access to the property. We don’t play around with it.” “At every stage of the process, prospective and new residents have had conversations with us so that they’re set up, and they know what’s going to happen next.” For Sprissler, it’s about thoughtful touches that give residents a sense of a VIP experience. “For example, people get hungry!” Sprissler says. “We have pizzas delivered on a moving day. One of our move-in questions is ‘What’s your favorite pizza?’” Be Willing to Go Above and Beyond Added touches – like the pizza on move-in day – go a long way to establishing the best resident experience and behavior. “When tenants have those touches, it makes life better. It just does,” Sprissler says. They provide birthday gifts and move-in gifts and will add items for pets or children customized to those residents. “People often say, ‘How are you recouping that?’” Sprissler says. “I’m recouping that by having great units when I walk through the door. You cannot pay someone to take care of a unit. But if they feel the worth of themselves and how you feel about them, they take great care of the unit.” Provide a Move-In Concierge Second Nature includes a move-in concierge as part of the Resident Benefit Program. Sprissler says this is one of the best parts of a seamless move-in. “We use a move-in concierge through Second Nature,” Sprissler says. “People really like it when they’re being reached out to, and all of that is handled. Moving is one of the top five stressors people experience in life. You have to realize as a property manager that you have to take some of that pressure off them. Take it off their plate! Are you making a better experience by piling stuff up on them?” “When people come into my office and say this is the best experience I’ve ever had, I know we’ve done our job,” Sprissler says. Provide a Renter’s Insurance Program Making sure that residents have insurance coverage from day one is key. You never know when something could happen, and protecting residents is the foundation of a good experience. Second Nature’s RBP includes a renter’s insurance program that has 100% compliance across its use. Sprissler is one of the people who use this program, and she says it’s critical to have for her residents. Set Clear Expectations and Incorporate Incentive Fees Sprissler recommends requesting a tenant ledger so you have the clearest information about the resident before move-in. “You can see if they’ve been charged for maintenance requests, you can see what day they pay – it really is a black and white of how they treated that previous unit,” she says. And then, of course, that clarity should be reciprocated. Sprissler emphasizes transparency upfront and excellent follow-through. Be clear, but also show that you are willing to listen. “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” Sprissler says. “I have Rent 805 rules and regulations, and any delinquency is heavily fined. Those are behavioral fees. For example, my late fee is very high, but then it’s also part of my resident benefit package to forgo that one time during the life of the tenant being in the unit. It just sets expectations.” Ultimately? “If you use good software that does a good job of screening, these questions are all resolved for you.” Final Thoughts Remember, a move-in checklist is not just a document; 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 July 24, 2023

Read more

How to Create Self-Service Tenant Onboarding Workflows

A tenant self-service onboarding workflow is a system that enables new residents to complete the onboarding process by themselves using online portals, automated communication workflows, and chatbots, with minimal involvement from property management teams. Why automate? Automation can provide smaller property management companies with an edge by streamlining processes, improving communication with residents, and reducing manual workloads. By leveraging tech tools such as single-family property management software, online portals, and automated workflows, smaller companies can increase efficiency, provide better customer experiences, and compete with larger players in the industry. Implementing tech is especially important – let’s actually say it’s imperative – in today's digital age, where residents expect instant communication and online access to property information. By embracing tech solutions, smaller property management companies can not only keep up with industry trends but also stay ahead of the competition. Today we are talking with a leader in property management who has also been an early adopter of some of the most innovative new AI and tech solutions for the property management industry – Wolfgang Croskey. Wolfgang shares some of the best ways to automate your resident onboarding process and how to avoid pitfalls along the way. Key Learning Objectives: Do I need to implement self-service workflows for resident onboarding? What are the greatest benefits of implementing this automated process? What are the pitfalls of tech and automation in resident onboarding? How do I create self-service onboarding workflows? Meet the Expert: Wolfgang Croskey, Founder & President of How’s My Rental Wolfgang Croskey has been working in real estate since he was a little kid. From stuffing envelopes, unclogging toilets, and serving notices to creating leases, he has touched on all aspects of property management. He is a well-respected member of NARPM, a servant leader to his community, and, to top it all off, a father of 6. Wolf has been a board member and president of the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce, where he is currently the CEO, providing leadership and direction to the Chamber in their daily activities. He is also the Founder of How's My Rental, a site-awareness servicing California landlords as well as the founder of The Perfect Tenant, a Master Leasing Company. A Note on Language: At Second Nature, we prefer the term “residents” over “tenants.” It’s our belief that focusing on the people in every interaction helps us to create better, more valuable, and more profitable business strategies in the long run. Property management is all about focusing on what residents and investors – human beings – want and need! But through this article, you’ll see us use both “tenants” and “residents” due to the fact that many parts of our industry are very technical and require accurate terminology. Why should you implement tenant self-service onboarding workflows? Tenant, or – as we prefer to say here at Second Nature – resident onboarding is an essential aspect of property management. But as any PM will tell you, it can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. That's why a resident self-service onboarding workflow can be a game-changer for property managers. By providing residents with online self-service portals, automated communication workflows, and chatbots, self-service onboarding workflows can reduce the need for manual work, streamline the onboarding process, and improve tenant experiences. According to Croskey, property managers across the country are adopting self-service workflows and automation – but there’s still a lot of room for growth. “There is a growing trend towards adopting self-service onboarding workflows in the property management industry, driven by the numerous benefits they provide, such as reduced manual work, faster lease execution, and improved resident experience,” Croskey says. “However, there may be some pushback from property managers who are hesitant to adopt new technology or concerned about potential security risks. Addressing these concerns through education and demonstrating the benefits of automation can help encourage wider adoption.” As we’ve mentioned before, Croskey has called automation the “great equalizer.” How? According to Croskey, “It allows us to compete with these nationwide companies and to provide not only the same level of service but to be able to pivot and adapt much quicker than those larger companies can. So for me, you're a smaller company, AI and Automation Tech is that equalizer that's going to allow you to shine just as well as these larger companies.” Are there disadvantages to adopting more automation? Croskey says there are areas of vulnerability for PMCs looking to automate their processes more deeply. The issue? Not having those processes right in the first place. Croskey says he’s seen many property managers assume that AI is going to fix their problems. “The reality is, if you don't have your policies, procedures, and processes in place, there is no tool on earth that's going to be able to save your bacon,” says Croskey. “Look at McDonald’s: At one point, some team had to roll up their sleeves and make the process of how to build the Big Mac. And it probably took quite a while to do that. But now that it's done, they haven't changed the Big Mac for at least 40 years. It's still the same nasty hamburger.” With a chuckle, Croskey continues: “A lot of times, myself included, we try to find technologies that can help us avoid that initial work. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, and you’ve got to get through that.” How to create tenant self-service onboarding workflows So, let’s say you’ve accepted that building self-service workflows gives massive advantages to your PMC. And let’s say you’ve established your processes in a way you’re confident is efficient, legal, etc. Now how do you create the automation to help new residents help themselves? Here’s what Croskey advises, in his own words. To create a resident self-service onboarding workflow, property managers should consider the following steps: Select Software: “To optimize your property management process, it's crucial to select software that offers robust onboarding automation features such as online applications, tenant screening, and digital lease signing.” Integrate Workflows: “Ensure the workflow is tailored to your needs and seamlessly integrates with your existing accounting, maintenance, and communication platforms.” Implement Data Security: “It's equally important to implement stringent data security protocols to safeguard resident information during the onboarding process.” Equip Resident with Resources: “Finally, equip residents with the necessary resources to familiarize themselves with the self-service workflow and provide comprehensive training to your team to ensure a smooth transition.” With those steps in place, let’s look at some of the specific aspects of the onboarding process that property managers can start with when building self-service tools. Virtual tours Croskey explains that AI-powered chatbots can provide virtual property tours – answering questions, and offering additional information to potential residents in real-time. Here’s how it works: Prospective tenants can access an online customer portal or chatbot that offers virtual tours of the property. They can interact with the chatbot to select a specific unit or area of the property they want to tour. The chatbot or other AI tech can then use VR or AR technology to provide a 360-degree view of the selected area. Prospective tenants can move around and explore the space as if they were physically there. The chatbot can also provide additional information about the property, such as floor plans, rental rates, and amenities. Rental application Nearly all automated property management solutions can provide automated rental applications. Here are some tips on how to ensure you’re deploying it effectively: Provide residents with an online portal where they can submit their rental applications and supporting documents electronically. This can include personal information, employment history, rental history, and financial statements. Use automated workflows to guide residents through the application process and send notifications when additional information or documents are required. Implement electronic signature software to enable residents to sign and submit rental agreements and other legal documents online. Integrate the rental application process into your property management software to streamline the process and reduce manual workloads. Beyond that, Croskey explains that “Chatbots can guide residents through the online application process, answering questions and providing support as needed.” Tenant verification Property managers can make tenant verification self-service by implementing tenant verification software into their property management system. These software solutions will help by: Leveraging an online portal where residents can submit their information and documents for verification, including rental history, employment verification, and credit checks. Using chatbots or automated workflows to guide residents through the process, answer questions, and provide them with updates on the status of their applications. Implementing secure authentication measures to ensure only authorized individuals can access and submit sensitive information. Lease negotiation Here are some steps to make lease negotiation automated or self-service: Property managers can create an online lease agreement platform accessible to residents via a unique login and password. The platform can provide residents with the ability to view and select available properties and rental units, along with the associated lease terms and rental rates. Residents can submit a lease application online, which can include information such as their employment history, income, and rental history. The platform can automatically screen the application, verifying information such as credit score, employment status, and income. Once the application is approved, the resident can negotiate lease terms such as the lease duration, rental rate, and security deposit directly with the property manager via the online platform. The online platform can use AI to generate a lease agreement that reflects the negotiated terms, which can be reviewed and signed by the tenant and property manager online. Property services onboarding Getting residents set up with all the services, utility connections, etc. that they need can be a hassle for everyone. You can end up answering several calls and questions, while they may spend hours on the phone trying to identify what they need and how to get it. Self-service onboarding can make a huge difference. One example is Second Nature’s Movie-In Concierge, part of our full-service Resident Benefits Package. In one phone call, residents find out what their best options are and can even get help simplifying setup. An experienced concierge confidently guides multiple people every day to properly set up their utilities. We’ve also automated filter delivery to ensure residents replace filters on time, which saves them roughly $15 per month in HVAC fees. Document management Property managers can make document management self-service by providing tenants with an online portal where they can access, upload, and sign documents. Here are some steps to make document management self-service: Property managers can create an online portal accessible to residents via a unique login and password. Set up permissions so residents can upload documents such as lease agreements, rental applications, and move-in checklists to the online portal. Property managers can upload documents such as rental payment receipts, notices, and lease addendums to the online portal. The online portal can provide residents with the ability to digitally sign documents, eliminating the need for paper-based signatures. Property managers can use automated workflows to track document submissions, ensure that all documents are complete, and send reminders to tenants who have outstanding documents. The online portal can be integrated with the property management software, ensuring all documents are properly filed and easily accessible. Croskey adds that “AI can help organize, store, and retrieve documents related to the onboarding process, streamlining the experience for both property managers and residents.” Resident communication Here are some steps to automate resident communication and ensure residents can help themselves to the info they need. Property managers can create an online portal that can provide residents with information about their lease, rent payments, and property services, as well as the ability to submit service requests and communicate with the property manager. Chatbots or other AI tools can provide instant communication to residents during the onboarding process, answering questions and addressing concerns efficiently. Property managers can use automated workflows to send reminders to residents about rent payments, lease renewals, and move-in/move-out procedures. The portal can provide residents with the ability to report maintenance issues, request repairs, and track the status of their requests. Property managers can use automated workflows to manage and track service requests, assign tasks to maintenance staff, and ensure the timely completion of service requests. The portal can provide residents with access to a knowledge base or FAQs, where they can find answers to common questions about their lease and the property. Maintenance coordination AI and chatbots can help coordinate move-in inspections, maintenance requests, and repairs, ensuring a smooth transition for new residents. The best way to do this is to implement a maintenance management system that integrates via an API with the resident communication platform. Property managers can provide new residents with access to the online portal, where they can submit maintenance requests and track the status of their requests. The portal can include a list of frequently requested maintenance tasks and allow residents to select the task and provide details about the issue. You can use an automated workflow to assign maintenance tasks to the appropriate staff member, schedule the task, and notify the resident of the scheduled date and time. The maintenance staff can update the status of the task on the portal, allowing the resident to track the progress of the repair. You can use data analytics to identify recurring maintenance issues and proactively address them before they become larger problems. Finally, you can provide residents with the ability to rate and provide feedback on the maintenance staff's performance, allowing property managers to continuously improve their service. What are some of the best tools for implementing self-service onboarding workflows? Several automation tools have emerged as industry leaders in resident onboarding. The best tool for your property management business will depend on your specific needs and requirements, says Croskey. He recommends looking into some of the more popular options online, including: AppFolio: AppFolio is a comprehensive property management software that offers automated tenant onboarding, including online applications, screening, and lease signing. Buildium: Buildium provides an end-to-end resident onboarding solution, including application management, tenant screening, and electronic lease signing. LeadSimple: LeadSimple provides a process-oriented solution to onboarding a tenant. By using reactive templated emails, tenants have the ability to select options and then drive the process along. What does the future of self-service onboarding look like? We asked Croskey, and he answered: As technology advances, self-service onboarding workflows can become even smarter by: Personalized onboarding experiences: AI can analyze resident data to tailor the onboarding process based on individual preferences and requirements. Integration with IoT devices: The onboarding process can be integrated with smart home devices, enabling residents to set up utilities, internet, or other services through voice assistants or other IoT interfaces. Enhanced data security: Advanced encryption and AI-driven security measures can better protect resident data during the onboarding process. Automated compliance checks: AI can automatically verify that leases and other documents comply with local, state, and federal regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues. Final thoughts: Just get started! Croskey says the key is to start learning how to use automation and AI now – and make sure you provide your team with the training and support they need. “My recommendation is just to get started and try these new tools,” he says. “And as you grow more confident, make sure to do your team justice by providing them training and providing them opportunities to learn how to use these tools as well. It’s not fair to say, ‘Okay, starting tomorrow, we're using this brand new tool, have a nice day.’ Really focus on some training.” You can learn more by listening to our podcast with Wolfgang: Everything You Need to Know about Practical AI for Property Management. We’re keeping our fingers on the pulse of this space – stay tuned for more!

Calendar icon June 28, 2023

Read more

Receive articles straight to your inbox

How Property Managers Can Automate Rent Collection

Automated rent collection is a system that enables property managers to collect rent payments from residents via electronic means such as online portals, direct debit, ACH, direct deposit bank transfers, or debit card/credit card payments. This simplifies the rent collection process, saves time, and minimizes errors associated with manual processes and payment reminders. It also provides residents with a convenient and secure way to make payments, leading to increased satisfaction and retention rates. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the best online rent payment systems, the best strategies to automate rent collection, and how to implement these strategies. We’ve got insights from Wolfgang Croskey, a leader in the industry. Today's Expert: Wolfgang Croskey, Founder & President of How’s My Rental What is automated rent collection? Automated rent collection leverages single family property management software to streamline the process of receiving rent payments from residents. While traditionally, rent collection might involve paper checks or manual online payments, automated rent collection automates these steps, thus alleviating the issue of late rent payments. Residents can schedule recurring payments or make one-time payments (or partial payments) electronically through the software, allowing the software to automatically debit the designated bank account on the due date, eliminating the need for manual processing and the potential for missed payments or late fees. Best automated rent collection apps for property managers 1. SecondNature At Second Nature, our focus is on improving the lives of both residents and property managers. That's why we've designed digital solutions aimed at adding value and alleviating rent collection challenges for all parties involved. With our Resident Benefits Package, we offer a range of features designed to encourage timely rental payments and assist residents in bolstering their credit, safeguarding their identity, and maintaining financial stability. Learn more now 2. Buildium Buildium is a property management platform that provides a range of features, including online rent payments, payment processing, tenant communication, maintenance tracking, and financial reporting. While Buildium does not publicly disclose specific pricing information, its website indicates pricing is based on the number of units you manage. Learn more about Buildium 3. AppFolio AppFolio is a cloud-based property management software that offers online rent collection, security deposit, tenant screening, property inspections, and accounting/bookkeeping software features. AppFolio’s pricing structure is tiered, with the specific cost depending on the number of units you manage and the features you require. Learn more about AppFolio 4. Avail Avail is a cloud-based rent collection tool that allows PMs to automate rent, send rent reminders, track payments, and manage rental properties. The pricing for Avail depends on the number of units you manage, with increased discounts for larger portfolios. Learn more about Avail 5. Rentec Direct Rentec Direct is a software platform for property managers that offers features such as online rent payments, tenant screening, lease tracking, and maintenance management. Rentex Direct pricing scales with the number of units you manage, with economies of scale for larger portfolios. Learn more about Rentec Direct 6. Latchel Latchel is a cloud-based solution designed specifically for single-family home and small portfolio landlords. It offers functionality that automates and centralizes various aspects of single-family property management, including resident support, maintenance management, online rent collection, video-based troubleshooting, and a resident portal. Specific pricing details are available via a consultative process. Learn more about Latchel 7. DoorLoop DoorLoop is a cloud-based solution designed to cater to a variety of property types, including single-family homes and multi-tenant buildings. It offers tools to streamline property management tasks, including marketing and leasing units, screening and managing tenants, processing rent payments and managing leases, tracking maintenance requests and coordinating repairs, and generating financial reports for property owners. Pricing is tiered based on the features you require. Learn more about DoorLoop 8. YardiBreeze Yardi Breeze is a cloud-based solution offered by Yardi, a venerable company in the real estate and property management industry. The software offers features designed to streamline tasks typically encountered by landlords or property managers, including marketing and leasing vacant properties, screening and managing residents, processing rent payments and rental applications electronically, tracking maintenance requests and repairs, and generating financial reports for owners and real estate investors. For quotes, contact Yardi Breeze directly. Learn more about YardiBreeze 9. RentRedi RentRedi is a mobile-first property management software that allows landlords to collect rent payments online, screen tenants, and manage maintenance requests through a user-friendly app. RentRedi’s pricing structure is subscription-based and ranges from $12/month (paid annually) to 29.95/month (pay-as-you-go). Learn more about RentRedi Benefits of Automated Online Rent Collection Rent collection software offers a variety of benefits that are specific to SFR property management companies. After all, the impact of reducing workload and saving time adds up, especially when you need to devote so much of your energy to operations across a dispersed area. Here's a closer look at the advantages: Reduced workload and time savings Automating rent collection eliminates the need to chase individual payments, freeing up time for tasks that can be time-consuming, such as inspections or maintenance coordination. Fewer late payments With on-time automated payments, rental income (and therefore cash flow) becomes more predictable. This allows for better financial planning and budgeting for property maintenance, repairs, or unexpected expenses. Simplified accounting and record-keeping For property managers, autopay eliminates the need for manual rent collection processes and reduces the risk of late notifications or missed payments. Rent collection features also help streamline accounting processes by providing accurate and up-to-date records of rent payments. And of course, recurring payments can be set up to occur automatically, saving property managers time and reducing the need for follow-up with tenants. No more existential dread around rent time! Reduced risk of errors Manual processing of checks or cash can be error-prone. Automatic rent collection minimizes the risk of human error in recording payments, ensuring accurate financial records and avoiding potential miscommunications or disputes. Improved security Automated rent collection platforms typically use secure payment processing systems to safeguard sensitive financial information. This provides peace of mind for property managers and residents alike, as their payment data is protected from unauthorized access or fraud. Potential for scalability Even for smaller companies managing a few properties, automated rent collection lays a foundation for a more efficient system. As your portfolio grows, the automation remains in place, simplifying rent collection regardless of the number of properties you manage. In fact, Wolfgang Croskey says automation can level the playing field. “Technology is the great equalizer,” he says. “It allows us to compete with these nationwide companies and to provide not only the same level of service but to be able to pivot and adapt much quicker than those larger companies can. So for me, you're a smaller company, AI and Automation Tech is that equalizer that's going to allow you to shine just as well as these larger companies.” Enhanced resident communication and satisfaction For residents, recurring rent payments provide a convenient and hassle-free way to pay rent on time every month. It eliminates the need to remember to make a payment, reducing the risk of late fees and improving their credit score by building a consistent payment history. Property managers who are reporting rent payments to credit bureaus (such as TransUnion) as part of a Resident Benefits Package can use this as a massive incentive for residents to automate payments. Additionally, tenants can set up recurring payment options using their preferred payment method, making it easy and flexible for them to manage their finances. The other component of improving the resident experience is offering mobile app-based automatic payment methods. That’s why allowing residents to pay rent with Apple Pay or Google Pay is gaining popularity across the property management industry. Zelle is another payment service that can help with ACH payments without transaction fees. PayPal and Venmo are other mobile payment platforms. With these mobile payment apps, renters can pay their rent using their mobile devices. It’s a win for residents because they can easily make automatic payments on the go using their smartphones without the need for a physical wallet or a business day visit to a bank or property management office. Additionally, these mobile payment methods are highly secure, as they use biometric authentication to ensure the transaction is authorized by the account owner, minimizing the risk of fraud and identity theft. A note on credit card payments It’s important to note that some property management companies have experienced the rare but profoundly irritating (and costly) phenomenon of chargeback claims in relation to rental payments made by credit card. If you’re in the market for software that supports automated rent payments, this is an important issue that you should raise with the sales representative. Use Second Nature to Automate Rent Collection At Second Nature, we’ve built digital products around creating ease for residents and property managers – adding value and reducing headaches for everyone involved. Our Resident Benefits Package provides services that incentivize on-time rent payments and support residents in building credit, protecting their identity, and remaining financially sound. Rent doesn’t have to be stressful for everyone involved. In fact, using the right tools, rent collection can become as easy as – you guessed it – Second Nature. (We had to.)

Calendar icon May 3, 2023

Read more

AI Property Management: Tools, Benefits, and Challenges for the Industry

AI property management is one of the buzziest terms in the industry right now. Artificial intelligence through algorithms as a concept has existed for a long time, but with the sudden virality of chatbots like ChatGPT, members of many different industries are suddenly wondering how AI will affect their business and how they can harness it. The same is true in property management, an industry that has already seen something of a tech revolution in the last decade. We sat down with Wolfgang Croskey, President of The Perfect Tenant, to discuss how AI will help property managers and how it could hurt them. If you don’t know where to start with AI, Croskey does. In this article, he breaks down the practical applications of AI in property management with us. Key Learning Objectives: What can and can’t Artificial Intelligence do for property managers? How can you get the most out of AI tools? What should you NOT try to do with AI? What specific programs can you use right now? Where is AI technology headed? Meet the Expert: Wolfgang Croskey, President of The Perfect Tenant Croskey has 20+ years of experience in the property management industry and is currently the President of The Perfect Tenant. Croskey is an early adopter of artificial intelligence in the property management space. Even though AI may feel like it’s in its infancy, and it technically is, there are already a number of programs that PMs can and are using to harness the power of the technology. What is AI in Property Management? AI property management is a business strategy for real estate or property management companies to streamline, simplify, and improve their processes through software automation. New technology uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to speed up workflows, day to day tasks and even help with predictive analytics and marketing tools. In its current state, artificial intelligence can best serve property managers by streamlining administrative work. It’s calendar clearing, essentially, by giving you more time to work on your business because you have less work to do in your business. As Croskey has implemented AI solutions into his business, he’s noted how much more time his property managers have to be property managers. Croskey says, “Now, with the time we have, our property managers call an owner every day just saying, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’” Croskey’s team is able to devote more time to elements of a great resident and investor experience. It’s ironic to think that AI is helping you forge stronger relationships with clients, but it’s true. With more time to devote to opening lines of communication and being proactive in doing so, PMs can build that experience that’s the primary differentiator in modern property management. That’s what it means to work on the business. “Can AI replace a property manager? No. Because at the end of the day, what is a property manager hired for? To provide solutions for crazy problems. And that's what we do. But if your whole day is filled with all this admin work, how are you going to have the energy and time to solve crazy problems? Use these tools to unload as much admin stuff as possible, so you can really focus on the property manager’s true value proposition, which is solving crazy problems and helping owners make money.” How to Use AI for Property Management So, how do you actually use these programs to cure your team of their grunt work pains? Let’s look at some of the top business areas and use cases for AI property management. AI for Marketing With the rise of natural language processing tools like ChatGPT, creating unique marketing collateral has never been easier than it is right now. “If you are still wasting your time writing creative property descriptions, you just need to stop,” says Croskey. “Nobody reads them anyway. I’ll buy you lunch if you actually leased property because someone said, ‘You know what? That marketing description was phenomenal. That’s why I want to lease this house.’ Nobody has ever said that, so why would you spend a lot of time on it?” Croskey believes that tools like ChatGPT can spit out a perfectly viable description provided correct details of the property. He also says that a description, being something that is necessary but not critical, is a perfect candidate for time-saving via AI. “So the marketing and the copy is the thing you need to start right now. There's no reason not to do that. Nobody expects a property manager to be mighty in Word and to be a great writer. That's not why they come to our business. I'm not saying turn out garbage, but save time and have an AI tool like chatGPT or Jasper write the copy. Even if you don't use it 100%, it saves you a lot of time in that brainstorming.” Beyond property descriptions, these tools are helping create blog content and other native web content for all sorts of businesses. Whether it’s long-form SEO writing for your website or short social posts, AI can give you at least a good template to work with. You should still make sure what you’re publishing represents your company as intended, but AI can get you really close to the finish line very quickly. In a data-driven world where marketing is increasingly multifaceted, there are a number of other areas where AI tools can lend support. For instance: Crayon is a competitive intelligence tool that can help property managers track competitor activities on and off their websites, from pricing changes to new ad campaigns. Copy AI is a writing assistant tool (similar to Grammarly) that helps property managers craft copy for listings as well as supporting marketing content. ManyChat is a chatbot platform that can be used to interact with potential clients via AI-generated text, thus saving time in property management operations. It can also be used to create text for bots, or to improve existing copy. Synthesia is an AI-driven video creation tool that can help property managers produce high-quality, engaging marketing videos without expensive equipment or specialized skills. It generates human-like AI avatars that appear to be voicing your script. When it comes to the digital experience, Evolv AI identifies points where potential renters are dropping off, and provides recommendations designed to improve the buyer journey and create revenue opportunities faster. AI for Email Language processing can also help with direct communication with clients, and Croskey has leveraged the same tools for that purpose as well. With so much communication being templated – particularly via email – things can get stale for the readers. But regularly updating email templates and follow-up communication falls under administrative work that you’d really rather not be doing. “Maybe once a year, take your templates, throw them into one of these AI tools, and say, ‘Hey, can you rewrite this?’ You’re just kind of freshening up,” Croskey says. “You could ask it to rewrite something with a more friendly tone or add some comedy to it or different things. And so now, each year, the point of the message is the same, but you're kind of making it new and exciting. “I can only imagine as an owner – especially if the owner has, let's say, 10 properties, and now the odds getting those different talk trigger emails is higher – that's gotta be so boring. I mean, most people don't read their emails anyways. So you might as well have some fun with it. Maybe you say, hey, this year, we want all the templates of our emails to be in the tone of Snoop Dogg. You may laugh, but you could do that, right?” Along similar lines, AI tools such as SeventhSense's optimize email delivery times for each recipient in your database, to boost deliverability as well as target engagement. AI for Scheduling Croskey has also leveraged AI tools for more robust management of his work calendars, maintenance requests, onboarding, etc. Most people have a scheduling app, but Croskey has started a real-time AI tool to go a step further. “The biggest problem with any basic scheduling app is the concept of priority, right? Apps without AI integrations simply look at free and busy times. For example: ‘Oh, this person wants 30 minutes. Let me find the next open spot for 30 minutes and plug them in there.’ But let's say you wanted an hour with me. If I didn't manually intervene, you probably wouldn't be able to get the hour for like two weeks because finding an hour-long spot is not going to happen. But I want to give you priority, so I had to override my account and say you know what, let's do 8 am.” To solve this, Croskey has enlisted a tool called Reclaim.ai that’s designed to make scheduling decisions based on priority instead of just available time slots. We’ll talk more about it in the next section. Other AI in Property Management Use Cases In many ways, property management represents a sweet spot for the use of AI-based assistance tools, thanks to its blend of content-rich, regulatory-intensive processes. Benefits include speedier content creation, automation of error-prone manual drudgery, and data-driven defenses against fraud and compliance lapses. Applications include: AI for generating listing descriptions AI for automating lead generation AI for property analysis and search AI for fraud detection and compliance monitoring AI for leasing AI for accounting Property Management AI Tools You Should Try Croskey has used a number of AI programs to help with administrative and communications work. He goes into detail about each of them here. Chat GPT and Jasper Chat GPT is a natural language processing tool publicly available at openai.com. It will write things for you while including whatever tone, keywords, structure, concepts, etc., you ask it to. One of the drawbacks of ChatGPT (free version) is its limit on a concurrent number of users. You can’t use it if too many other people are currently using it. Jasper is a paid alternative that relieves you of this issue, and a paid version of ChatGPT now exists as well. Grammarly Croskey says: “The other tool is Grammarly,” Croskey says. “Grammarly on the paid level is a game changer. Because what you can do, as a company, you can establish the tone of communication for your company. Do you want it super serious and academic? Do you want it funny, more casual? You can create all those rules, and then as you're writing, Grammarly integrates itself into your web browser. Whether you're using Google Docs or LeadSimple or Asana, or anything else, it's in there. You can have it on your mobile device, too. “So anywhere you're writing, it’s making suggestions not just to make it grammatically correct but ‘Hey, this message may be interpreted as being too serious.’ Or ‘This message may be interpreted as being too direct.’ That's huge.” Reclaim.ai Reclaim.ai is a smarter scheduling app. According to Croskey: “Reclaim.ai is smart scheduling because it does the traditional scheduling, but then it has the ability to help you with your habits.” “If you, for example, want to have a 30-minute lunch every day, you can go ahead and do that. And what it will do is it will find 30-minute chunks, but if an appointment comes in that you say is more important by using some rules, it will then move it around for you. So you can put in habits, but now they just released the ability for priority. “You can have different scheduling links, and so I have a high-priority one. If [a client] wants to meet with high priority, he gets a different link, and [reclaim.ai] will say ‘anything from this link trumps everything else,’ and it will start moving things around to give them the priority.” “Let's say you use Google task lists, you can have it automatically go in there. So you say this task needs to be done by the 23rd, and I need 30 minutes. It finds the task, and as things trump it, it will move it around, but eventually, it gets to the point where it says, ‘You know what, you're out of moving time, this is stuck now in order for you to hit this deadline.” KeyPilot from Keyway KeyPilot is the AI co-pilot component of the Keyway investment platform. It's designed to research properties, draft investment memos, predict asset valuation, and analyze contracts, based on unstructured data from presentations, spreadsheets, and other documents. The upshot is that the tedious tasks of research, analysis, data entry, and writing are alleviated, which means that real estate teams have faster access to the data they need for fully informed decision making. Use cases include acquisition recommendations, draft investment memos, document summaries, and asset management recommendations. Elise AI MeetElise uses AI technology to support property management communications and operations processes. The principal use case for MeetElise is its ability to answer questions in real time, which helps property managers deliver better customer service to prospects, thereby boosting the odds of conversion. MeetElise can be configured to automatically answer frequently asked questions across email, text, and voice call channels. This enables prospects and renters to conveniently get the information they're looking for, while alleviating the need for property managers to constantly monitor their inboxes. Saleswise AI Saleswise is an AI platform that property managers can use to create content such as emails, sales scripts, social media posts, and listing descriptions. It also incorporates image tools that can be deployed for virtual room visualization and remodeling. Saleswise acts on live listing data and neighborhood insights, and outputs are customized based on the user's professional profile and client notes. GetFloorPlan AI GetFloorPlan AI creates detailed 2D and 3D floor plans, as well as 360° virtual tours. Property managers can upload floor plans or sketches and receive rendered materials within 30 minutes. This is a quick and easy way to enhance property listings as well as customer engagement. Epique Epique AI helps property managers generate content, streamline workflows, and improve marketing efforts. Along with content such as blog posts, Epique AI also generates images, newsletter campaigns, lead generation ideas, realtor biographies, and Instagram material. Additional capabilities include broker advice and state-specific legal assistance. EasyListing.info EasyListing.Info is an AI tool for creating compelling, SEO-optimized property listings in seconds. Property managers simply supply details such as the address and property type and EasyListing.Info will generate a listing description tailored to their needs and target audience. Property managers are also prompted to highlight five to ten key features of their property, which are then incorporated into the listing. This shortcuts the overall listing creation process, and boosts listing findability. What You Shouldn’t Automate with Artificial Intelligence While AI can solve tons of issues and make work better, there are still functions that are better accomplished by a human being. Think about it this way: Have you ever used a power drill? It’s a pretty useful tool. If you measure correctly, mark your holes cleanly and accurately, use the right screw, and apply the right amount of pressure, a power drill will help you hang something on the wall. But if you just throw your drill at the wall and hope for the best, it will only leave you with a beat-up wall. This is a story about artificial intelligence. AI is a tool. It’s not a magic bean. If used incorrectly, AI can do more harm than good. Here are two common pitfalls of over-dependence on AI. Creating Business Policies and Procedures Croskey says: “The reality is that if you don’t have your policies and your procedures, there is no tool on earth that is going to save your bacon. You gotta roll up your sleeves, and you gotta get through that. Look at McDonald’s. At one point, somebody had to roll up their sleeves and make the process of how to build the Big Mac. It probably took quite a while to do that, but now that it’s done, they haven’t changed the Big Mac for at least 40 years. It’s still the same nasty hamburger.” Property management AI can help you repeat your processes, but it can’t create them for you, and it can streamline them, but it can’t optimize them for success. For example, say you’re writing a blog post for your website. You still need to do your research on what topics create the best opportunities for you to generate organic website traffic. You still have to decide what stance, if any, you’re taking on the subject. You still have to decide what tone you want your content to take. This is the information that can then be fed to AI to rapidly create the content. But the macro decision-making still has to be you. That’s the single biggest mistake you can make here, expecting the tool to use itself. Overreliance on technology is kind of an innate vulnerability with tools so robust. Croskey is quick to clarify that such a mistake can lead to notification overload, where you can’t keep up with everything that all these tech tools are delivering to you. You still have to be aware of what’s going on in your business. Training Personnel The veteran PM also notes that, just like with any new tech, proper training for the team is of critical importance. “Really do your team justice by providing them training, providing them opportunities, not just saying, ‘Okay, starting tomorrow, we're using Jasper, have a nice day.’ Really do some training.” For training, Croskey recommends the non-AI tech tool, Loom. You can create screen recordings and build a library of training materials for your team. “Loom does provide transcripts of the videos, too,” Croskey says. “You could take those transcripts and say, ‘Hey, chatGPT, Could you write me a summary of this?’ And it will do it. So now you can put that summary in your email.” A big part of AI implementation is understanding what’s actually happening. This may seem tedious and unnecessary, but people leave companies for less. You can’t just have one person in charge of AI with everybody else completely unaware of how it’s working for the business. Croskey likened this scenario to one employee holding bank login info and then leaving the company. It’s a headache that can be avoided with solid education of the team. Future of A.I. in Property Management: Where Does AI Go Next? As of now, the strategies above outline how Croskey and other PMs are finding value in artificial intelligence. AI will continue to evolve, and the technology is going to build advancements more for PMs in the future, especially with integrations with property management software. “Right now, all the AI is around language because I think it’s probably easier,” Croskey says. “I think the next step is going to be the math and numbers side, being able to look at your numbers, your portfolio, your financials, and start making recommendations from that.” Croskey predicts that AI could aid in ROI analysis and decision-making, essentially doing analytics of data points associated with specific properties and identifying trends and associations within your portfolio that can help you increase the profitability of your doors. The last place you’ll see AI reach, according to Croskey, is the maintenance realm. “There's a reason why nobody has really fully nailed down maintenance,” he says. “There are just so many variables and one-off things that it's hard to get a machine to learn that. For example, work orders come in, and the tenant says, ‘Oh, my toilet is leaking.’ Well, is it leaking from the floor? Is it leaking underneath? Is it just running? So there are three variables right there. Is it a low-flow toilet? Is it not a low-flow toilet? There are variables there. There are just all these things that can be going on that make maintenance hard. So I think that maintenance is going to be later in life.” Final Thoughts AI property management tools are nothing to be afraid of and can be a massive support to streamlining business processes, workflows, and day-to-day operations. Many leaders in property management are already leveraging AI apps and products to make their work better. The true benefit of AI is that it can automate busy work and repetitive tasks – freeing you up to be strategic, focus on relationships, and build better resident experiences. AI tools help PMCs keep up and compete with commoditization, as well. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to stay up to date on these AI conversations. We’ll keep the conversation going and continue to deliver the best insights from experts across the industry. ‍ Hear more from Wolfgang Croskey and other PMs who have used AI on the Triple Win Property Management podcast.

Calendar icon April 10, 2023

Read more