Triple Win Property Management Blog

Why offer a tenant benefits package?

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

Calendar icon April 2, 2024

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Property manager marking startup checklist

How to Start a Resident-focused Property Management Company in 13 Steps [Startup Checklist]

From the Second Nature perspective, focusing on a high-quality resident experience is the secret sauce to standing out in a crowded property management industry. That’s because happy residents lead to higher retention rates, more on-time payments, better care for the property, and shorter vacancies. Our property management checklist can help ensure you build that strategy into the DNA of your company from the beginning. This property management startup checklist is intended to help you orient your company toward a resident focus from the get-go. In the absence of a checklist, it’s all too easy to get caught up in real estate and rental property considerations that do not reflect long-term winning conditions for all stakeholders. 1. Write a Property Management Business Plan In some ways, a property management business plan is a document intended for potential clients and investors. And certainly, it can help you concretize start-up costs and get funding for the business (learn more on what’s needed to get SBA financing). But in many more important respects, it’s a structured foundation for you to gain insights into what residents are looking for, which in turn will help crystalize the type of clients you want, what types of property you’ll manage, and what kind of property management company you are. You’ll find a property management business plan template here, but in broad terms, here is a framework of the distinct components: Executive Summary Company Overview Market Analysis (Industry, Customer, and Competitive Analysis) Services Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy Operations Management Management Team Financial Plan Growth Opportunities Each component will lay the foundation for your future resident-focused success. 2. File Your Property Management Business In order to correctly file and pay your business taxes, you’ll need to register your property management business and choose a type of legal entity. This step is important, as it can also impact the protection/exposure of any personal assets, associated paperwork, or even the way in which you raise funds for your business. Note that it is certainly possible to change your business structure once it's established, but this can be a convoluted and high-stakes process. For property management businesses, different legal entity options are possible. Common legal structures include Limited Liability Company (LLC), S-Corporation (S-Corp), and C-Corporation (C-Corp). An LLC offers personal asset protection, while S-Corps and C-Corps provide additional legal safeguards. The choice involves considerations such as pass-through taxation for LLCs (where business income passes directly to the business owner's personal tax return) or potential double taxation for C-Corps, which can be mitigated via accounting measures. Other options include sole proprietorships as well as partnerships, where taxes and business liabilities are the responsibilities of the individual owners. Once you’ve identified your new business for tax purposes, you can get a free Employer Identification Number from the IRS. Which type of legal entity you select ultimately depends on your appetite for control, flexibility, and complexity. Learn more about how to structure your property management company. 3. Setup Bank Account for Your Property Management Business Opening a business bank account will help you build credit for your own property management company, maintain separation between your personal and business finances, and streamline tax accounting. It may also be required by law, depending on state laws applicable to your business structure. Some banks offer account features, flat fee or zero fee structures, and services that are particularly beneficial for new businesses and small businesses, so it is worth taking the time to shop around rather than defaulting to the same bank you use for your personal accounts. 4. Setup Accounting for Your Property Management Business With the help of OnSightPROS, we've developed a rental inspection checklist template for single-family rental property management companies. Use this template to build out your checklist. Not all accounting is equal. Property management accounting deals specifically with the financial management of rental properties. It helps property managers track rental income, manage expenses, handle tenant deposits, and produce financial reports. Essentially, property management accounting helps you maintain accurate and comprehensive financial records for each property you manage. Property management accounting consists of two components. The first is corporate accounting, which is similar to the kind of accounting done at any company. The second is trust accounting, which is specific to property management. This kind of accounting relates to the client funds that you hold, including security deposits, rent, and funds intended for property upkeep and repairs. Managing rental properties can be daunting when it comes to accounting and finance management, but that certainly doesn’t make it a show-stopper. Learn more about property management accounting, as well as accounting software and property management software that can make it significantly easier. 5. Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business The licenses and permits required for property management businesses vary depending on your location, but common requirements can include a real estate broker license (which often involves an exam-based accreditation as well as potential background checks), a property management license, a leasing agent license, and a business license, as well as any other locally required permits. 6. Secure Liability Insurance Liability insurance is important to keep your business running on solid foundations. In fact, it’s essential, as it protects not just you but your investor’s assets and your resident’s safety. At Second Nature, insurance is so important to us that we incorporate an insurance product into our resident benefits package. General liability insurance for property managers safeguards against potential financial liabilities arising from physical risks. It typically covers expenses related to repairs, replacements, legal fees, and medical bills, and is applicable to both residential and commercial properties. Coverage can include bodily injury, medical payments, physical damage, reputational harm, and even copyright infringement in relation to marketing efforts. Note that Second Nature's renter insurance program ensures 100% compliance and liability coverage protecting you, your property investors, and your residents. 7. Hire Your Team Hiring the right team has a huge impact on your ability to achieve the business targets you’ve established in your business plan. Note that “right” doesn’t simply mean “qualified.” That’s because who your employees are is fundamentally more important than what they’ve achieved. After all, you’re setting the stage for them to deliver the best work they’ve ever done in their careers to date. The hiring process begins by understanding what characteristics you’re looking for. For any given candidate, how do they build the new skills required to address new situations? How do they handle challenges when things get tough? And perhaps most importantly, what is their response to failure? Insights into these questions will help galvanize a people-focused approach that is truly a value-driven team. After all, at Second Nature, we want to generate value for ourselves, our investors, and our residents—and we want people who buy into that approach. Get more Second Nature hiring tips on building a people-focused team. 8. Create Solid Pricing Structure and Property Management Contracts Once you hire a team. establishing a good pricing structure for your business and creating all the legal documents required to run the business should be the priority. That's because the right approach can generate value beyond management fees for property managers, their investors, and their residents, which reflects Second Nature’s “triple win” focus. General rental property management fees include collecting the month’s rent, following up on arrears, organizing property maintenance and repairs, and keeping up-to-date on legal issues. Much of the profit in property management comes from driving better value for investors and residents, and pricing for that value. After all, people are willing to pay for better quality experiences in their homes. Additional fees, which will help drive company growth, should be communicated during the onboarding process and lease agreement. In other words, they are never about hidden markups. They’re about charging for value and driving great habits. Fees can be applied on the resident side (for instance, paper lease setup fees, lease renewal fees, late fees, or special programs fee) as well as on the investor side for a number of property management services (inspection fees, vendor screening fees, rent protection or eviction fees). Again, fees help you drive value for both your investors and your residents, and support your business at the same time. Note that because regulations vary across regions, it may not always be possible to charge fees for certain types of services. That's why it's important to discuss any fee and contract proposals with an attorney before implementing them. 9. Execute the Marketing Plan Set Out in Your Business Plan While it’s true that businesses thrive on referrals and word of mouth, it’s executing on your marketing plan that will help drive more consistent revenue — and help you capitalize on the market research you conducted to assemble your business plan. As with so many other things, the marketing landscape has changed enormously in just a short time. We’re now living in an era when an active, well managed online presence is critical. This means that a robust marketing strategy is more than simply managing a social media account (although this too is important). It also includes investing in search engine optimization for your website, executing on content creation and distribution strategies, conducting networking events, and advertising online. For optimal property management marketing, where work often stays within specific regional areas, it’s also important to maintain a presence in local business listings. 10. Network with Fellow Property Managers and Owners to Expand Your Business We touched on networking in the context of a marketing plan, but for new business owners in particular, networking can be a valuable source for those first few clients. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunities for establishing your business name, ranging from local vendor fairs to national property management conferences and events with thousands of attendees. In addition, there are numerous property management associations that provide opportunities for networking, education, and advocacy for property management professionals. The business and personal development opportunities available through such options present great avenues to expand and optimize your property management business. 11. Write a Resident Retention Strategy - and How You Can Improve the Resident Experience You should be thinking about the resident experience from the very start. After all, in an industry where churn is the norm, an effective retention strategy pays its own way. To be truly effective, however, it’s key to recognize that “resident retention” is not simply a one-dimensional number at the bottom of a spreadsheet. The “triple win” approach to resident retention asks the question: “How do we create experiences so good that residents never want to leave?” Answering that question maximizes residential property owner ROI and boosts property manager success. In other words: A win for residents is a win for investors is a win for property managers. In the same vein, we often hear from professional property managers that a Resident Benefits Package (RBP) is a powerful way to retain residents over the long term. RBPs can help with resident satisfaction and resident retention rates. After all, a proactive, differentiating approach to resident retention means building experiences that people will pay and stay for. This is a useful lens with which to examine the full property manager/resident journey, from move-in to collecting rent payments to move-out, for opportunities to generate resident retention ideas—and deliver those wins. 12. Create SOPs to Handle Complaints, Disputes, and Requests Once you have the first few properties under your management, it’ll be important to ensure processes and procedures are in place to handle complaints, disputes, excessive maintenance requests, rent collection issues, and tenant problems. In such cases, rather than automatically assuming the resident is the problem, some property managers approach resident issues as behaviors that can be changed. That’s because the root cause is often addressable and the behavior changeable. This emphasis on the people element pays off — and lets you focus on how to adjust “bad” behavior through benefits and rewards, rather than just being transactional. This reframing aside, one of the best ways to deal with complaints and disputes is to avoid them in the first place, which often comes down to non-discriminatory tenant screening processes and background checks. Other standard operating processes include documenting all incidents and updates thoroughly, calling law enforcement in the case of illegal activity, implementing eviction processes if necessary, and staying current and compliant with local laws and regulations. 13. Create and Execute a Strategy to Improve the Resident Experience Once again, improving the resident experience goes a long way in retaining the residents and creating ancillary revenue streams. From the get-go, you can actively ensure great first impressions with services such as move-in concierges or coordinators. After all, a resident who's had a positive move-in experience is a happier one. Happier residents stay longer, pay on time, take care of the property, and make positive recommendations. Throughout the residential journey, other strategies for improving the resident experience include on-demand pest control, credit reporting, and resident rewards. Above all, one of the cornerstones of a great resident experience is responsiveness. This responsiveness is a two-way street! It covers improved maintenance service and response times, as well as opportunities for residents to provide feedback through resident surveys. By setting up this kind of feedback loop, you demonstrate to your residents that their voices matter, which instills a sense of ownership and care that often lead to better property care and longer tenancies. Property Management Startup Checklist It’s famously said that property managers are in the business of helping many different people with many different things. And sometimes, this can feel like a lot to tackle, especially at the startup phase. That’s why we’ve assembled this property management startup checklist to help you begin: Write a Property Management Business Plan File Your Property Management Business Set Up a Bank Account for Your Property Management Business Set Up Accounting for Your Property Management Business Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business Secure Liability Insurance Obtain Required Licenses and Permits for Your Property Management Business Hire Your Team Create Solid Pricing Structure and Property Management Contracts Execute the Marketing Plan Set Out in Your Business Plan Network with Fellow Property Managers and Owners to Expand Your Business Write a Resident Retention Strategy — and How You Can Improve the Resident Experience Create SOPs to Handle Complaints, Disputes, and Requests Create and Execute a Strategy to Improve the Resident Experience How Second Nature Helps Run a Property Management Company Profitably At Second Nature, we focus on creating “triple win” experiences for residents, property managers, and investors. This helps property management companies go beyond transactional basics and create new, professional, and holistic experiences that generate growth all around. We didn’t invent this stuff, and we’re certainly not rowing against the tide! Companies like Google, Uber, and Amazon have already changed how consumers think. A convenient experience is no longer a luxury—it’s an expectation. Accordingly, for property management profitability and growth, experience is the winning strategy. That’s the insight that led us to create the Second Nature resident benefits package (RBP). It’s a foundational tool to create unforgettable resident experiences and keep your property management company on a growth path. Learn more now.

Calendar icon February 13, 2024

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Property Management Insurance Guide for PMs

A recent study by Orchid on property manager insurance found that while 80-90% of property managers require residents to carry insurance, only about 41% of residents actually have or retain that required coverage. Kind of crazy, right? Especially when you consider that that gap represents a huge exposure to risk for both the property manager and their investor. Insurance for property managers is a must – it protects not just you but your investor’s assets and your resident’s safety. At Second Nature, insurance is so important to us that we wrap an insurance product into our resident benefits package. So, today, we’re looking at property manager insurance and why it’s so important to get into the nitty-gritty details. ‍ Key Learning Objectives: What is property management insurance? Why do property managers need insurance (risks and liabilities)? What types of insurance are important for property management companies? Should property managers require residents to have insurance? How do you choose the best property manager insurance? How much does property management insurance cost? Examples of property management insurance coverage claims What our tenant liability insurance product can cover What is Property Management Insurance? Property management insurance is protection for property managers against the risk of damages or claims against you from residents or clients. In other words, insurance for property managers ensures that you, as the professional property manager, are covered in the case of liability claims, legal proceedings, or losses from perils like fire, vandalism, or burglary. Property manager insurance can also include tenant liability insurance, or your leases may require that renters are insured in some form. We’ll talk more about tenant liability insurance below. Why Property Managers Need Insurance Property managers are responsible for a lot. Managing people’s homes means that property managers take on considerable risks. Claims of injury or property damage can lead to serious financial losses if you aren’t protected. Property management insurance coverage reduces that risk exposure and keeps you from paying out the cost of wrongful eviction claims, injuries, property damage, etc. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need insurance. We talk a lot about the Triple Win and how property managers should aim to build services and products that delight residents, protect investors, and retain talent on their teams. But even with the best service, everyone inevitably hits some speed bumps. Maybe a resident isn’t happy with an eviction notice, a maintenance item slipped through the cracks, or a property simply got unavoidable damage. Property management company insurance ensures you’re not liable for the costs of these inevitable parts of life. What are the Types of Insurance Property Managers Should Buy? At Second Nature, we’ve worked with professional property managers across the country and seen several different approaches to insurance. But no matter where you manage property, there are some standard types of insurance that property managers should buy or require. Here are some of the basics. General Liability Insurance General liability insurance for property managers covers physical risks for which you might become financially liable. It will typically help cover repairs, replacements, legal fees, and medical bills. You can get it for residential or commercial property. General liability coverage can include coverage for claims like like: Bodily injury: If a resident decides to sue for an injury they sustained on the property. Medical payments: If someone gets hurt on your property and holds the property manager responsible for the injury, the PM could be liable for covering their medical costs. Property damage: If you or one of your employees caused damage to the property. Reputational harm: This helps cover you financially if someone sues you for libel, slander, wrongful eviction, privacy violations, etc. Advertising injury or copyright infringement: This typically refers to coverage if you ever faced a lawsuit for copyright infringement in your marketing. Errors and Omissions Insurance or Professional Liability Insurance Known as both professional liability insurance or E&O insurance, this type of property management insurance protects Property Management companies (PMCs) from claims about mistakes in their professional services. Errors and omissions insurance willy typically cover legal fees if there was a mistake in a contract or if there were any – well – damaging errors or omissions in any communication. It may also cover errors in service, omissions in information, negligence, or even inaccurate advice. Like with any insurance, ideally, you’ll never need this! However, it is best to protect your company from such financial risks if any of your clients decide to make a case against you. Cyber Liability Insurance Cyber liability insurance helps protect you from financial losses due to cyberattacks or data breaches. Cybersecurity is a top focus of business leaders for 2023 and should also be a strong consideration for property management leaders. PMCs handle sensitive personal data from both residents and clients. Should your company ever experience a data breach, fraud, or other cybersecurity threats, this insurance will help recoup your losses. Worker’s Compensation Insurance Every business with employees – whether it’s one or many – needs worker’s compensation insurance. Worker’s comp covers the costs of employee injury while at work. It also can protect business owners from employee injury lawsuits. Even sole proprietors may use worker’s comp insurance to cover work injury costs that health insurance might not cover. In most states, businesses without worker’s compensation insurance will be fined. Be sure to know your state’s laws. Deposits and Damage Coverage Deposits and damage coverage is a payment the resident submits up-front to be given back at the end of a lease, assuming they haven’t damaged the property. There’s a lot of innovation in this space, with new products and services providing security deposit alternatives. Many of these are pure insurance, covering damages for a monthly fee. Vacation Rentals Owners’ Insurance Vacation rental owners’ insurance covers the investor for any vacation rental property they own. This coverage protects against losses in case of robbery, fire, vandalization, or other damages, whether the building is vacant or occupied. While property owners should have their own policy, sometimes property managers can extend coverage for some losses as part of their license. Tenant Discrimination Insurance While we don’t know any property managers in our network who would intentionally discriminate against residents, it’s smart to have this type of insurance as well. Discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc., is illegal. But that doesn’t mean you’re automatically protected from a discrimination suit. This type of insurance can protect you in case a disgruntled former resident attempts to sue, no matter how baseless the allegations are. Tenant discrimination claims can lead to serious financial risk and expensive lawsuits. Coverage for such claims are generally excluded from General Liability policies. Be sure to review your existing policy to determine your exposure and add additional coverage as needed. ‍Renter’s Insurance Renter’s insurance – or H04 insurance – is essentially a financial safety net for residents and their belongings. Renter’s insurance should include three distinct types of coverage: Property Damage/Liability Insurance: Plans typically provide around $100K in coverage, though different properties may require different coverage (pools, for example, increase coverage) Contents and Belongings Coverage: For any damaged or stolen belongings they would like covered. Usually, this will be around $10K of coverage, but residents can opt for higher coverage. Loss of Use/Additional Living Expenses: For any costs a resident incurs for living expenses in the vent the residence is uninhabitable. We recommend residents seek contents and belongings coverage that provides replacement cost value (RCV) rather than actual cash value (ACV), as ACV may not offer sufficient coverage. For example, if you have a 10-year-old laptop that gets damaged, ACV would only cover the value of your 10-year-old laptop at the time of the damage. RCV would cover the value of replacing it with a new laptop of a similar kind and quality. Should Property Managers Require Renter’s Insurance? Do property managers need to require their residents to carry renter’s insurance, or in the least, tenant liability insurance? Most professional PMs would say absolutely yes. Remember, 80-90% say they require their residents to carry insurance coverage. So, why do only 41% of residents retain that coverage? Often it’s simply a matter of insurance lapsing without anyone noticing. Or a resident might submit paperwork that’s out of date or decide to end their policy without thinking they need to let you know. Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a backup plan. If a resident’s insurance lapses, you could be liable for damage during that time. At Second Nature, we provide tenant liability insurance as part of our Resident Benefits Package (RBP). This feature allows property managers to offer price-competitive insurance coverage that applies to all residents with one basic group rate. We’ve seen 100% insurance compliance among property managers using our RBP. How to Choose the Best Property Management Insurance Plan As you choose your property managers' insurance plan, it’s important to consider the risks you want covered and any liabilities you might face. Here are a few best practices for selecting a property management business insurance plan. 1. Consider your niche and your needs. What is your property management business niche? What kind of properties do you manage? What is their value? What risks or liabilities are you most concerned about? Do you have employees, or are you a sole proprietor? It’s also important to consider your goals and how your business services and objectives might change over the coming year. If you need a new type of insurance soon, include that consideration in your search. 2. Establish your budget and review prices Get a good idea of what’s on the market and how much it costs. Consider the level of coverage you need vs. what you feel you can afford. Make sure you’re building those insurance fees and deductibles into your pricing structure. 3. Compare vendor specialties Some insurance companies focus on offering several types of insurance, while others dial down into a specialty. Often, just like with property management, going with the specialist vendor will ensure better coverage and service, however, it may also cost more. 4. Use your network This is where your network really becomes useful. The SFR property management community is an open, generous group of folks. Most will be more than willing to share their insurance experiences, what has worked, what hasn’t, and their favorite vendors. Ask around within your network for advice. Also, make sure to read reviews of any potential insurance companies and see if they have property management clients. 5. Always talk to your attorney Of course, this is probably the most important practice. Never make any insurance decisions without discussing them with your attorney! They will be best able to help you navigate legal requirements, your greatest risks and liabilities, and what type of coverage makes the most sense for your PMC. How Much Does Property Management Insurance Cost? The cost of property management insurance will fluctuate based on what you decide you need. Your level of risk also affects the cost of insurance. Insureon gives several estimates of standard costs for property management and real estate insurance. The following average prices are based on Insureon’s customers’ policies, subject to change at any time: General Liability insurance costs, on average, about $30/month for a $1 million per-occurrence limit and a $2 million aggregate limit. Errors and Omissions insurance can cost, on average, around $55/month with a $1 million per-occurrence limit and a $1 million aggregate limit. Worker’s Compensation insurance can cost, on average, about $50/month or $600-$620/year. Cyber Liability insurance can cost, on average, a median of $140/month, depending on the sensitivity of the information. The average prices listed above will vary based on the PMC, properties covered, and the type of coverage and limits requested. Again, property managers should consider which type of coverage they need and then build those costs into their pricing structure. Examples of Property Management Insurance Coverage Claims Let’s look at a few examples of common property manager insurance coverage claims. How does insurance help when you face a crisis like damage, injury, or a lawsuit? Here are a few examples of common types of claims. Wrongful Eviction That’s one no property manager wants to see! But it takes just one disgruntled former resident to bring a wrongful eviction suit against a PMC – even if the claim is unreasonable. An example of this could be a resident approved with excellent references, but after move-in, begins disturbing the peace in the neighborhood. Maybe they get noise complaints late into the night or transgress community guidelines. Another example would be a resident who is not making rent payments on time. In those cases, the property manager would then deliver formal notice of the problem and take the proper steps to legally evict the resident if necessary and allowed by law. It’s still possible that the resident could sue for wrongful eviction. However, as long as you document your process clearly with your attorney, and follow all legal requirements, your insurance should cover the costs that may result from the lawsuit if such coverage is included within your policy. Loss of Rental Income Here’s a good example of coverage for loss of rental income: Our built-in tenant liability insurance plan provides coverage to a PMC in the event one of their properties is unrentable due to a covered loss caused by a resident. For example, if a property that is covered by our plan is damaged due to a fire caused by the resident and the PMC is unable to rent that property out for a few weeks, they can file a claim under the Loss of Use endorsement and receive up to $1k. Property Damage Property damage could be covered differently based on the type of coverage – either by the renter’s insurance, the PMC’s, or the investors’ general liability insurance. So, here’s a real-life example from one of Second Nature’s partners: A resident went out of town, and when he returned after two days, he found that the back sliding door with two glass panels was cracked on one side. It’s tempered glass, so the PM didn’t know if it was from heat, intentional damage, or something else. In this case, if the damage were caused by a covered peril (fire, smoke, water, explosion, collapse, etc.) or resident negligence, the PM’s master insurance obtained through our offering would help cover the cost. An investor’s property insurance should also cover property damage for the same causes. Pet Damage or Dog Bites Pet liability insurance helps cover any damage done by pets to the property – or injury caused by the pet to anyone else. Under our tenant liability insurance benefit, pet damages and dog bites are covered up to $25k. We have one of the only insurance policies that cover any dog breed as long as the property manager approves the dog. Animal liability covers the cost of any suits filed and medical expenses up to the policy’s limit. How Second Nature Helps with Your Resident’s Insurance Coverage At Second Nature, we know how valuable your investors’ assets are – and how much risk you take on as a property manager. While insurance can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game, we aim to make every opportunity a win for everyone involved. That’s where our tenant liability insurance product comes in. We offer PMCs a fully managed tenant liability insurance plan that helps ensure compliance and that you, your investor, and your residents can rest easy knowing you’re covered for damage or harm. With our tenant’s liability insurance, we’ve seen our partner PMCs go from: Only 41% of residents covered → 100% of residents covered Portal administration → Fully managed for you Leasing team tracking certifications → 100% certificate management Higher premiums → lower premiums Implementation and vendor management → 1 RBP, 1 Invoice Derrick Scott, from IMG put it this way: “I don’t know if people grasp just how important the ‘fully managed’ part of that is. We’ve seen property managers whose residents’ insurance lapsed, but no one knew about it. Unfortunately, the resident had a claim during the three-month period they didn’t have insurance. So the property manager took on that liability. “Being fully managed means transferring some of that liability to get that done – and ensuring you have coverage. I see that as a massive benefit.” Every property manager knows insurance matters, but that doesn’t make it any less of a headache. If you want to learn more about how we can partner with you to make that part of your life simpler, check out the details on our Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon January 5, 2024

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6 Reasons Property Managers Should Choose Clients Carefully and Why

Finding the right property management clients can make or break your business. Experienced property managers often declare this with vigor: “Be very specific and selective about who your customers are.” A simple idea, yet one that can feel tricky to execute. And like many things, there is no one-perfect-strategy-fits-all here. The right action plan likely depends on your situation. So here are six next-layer ideas that might help. 1. Push up or push out toxic property management clients Ok, let’s say you’ve made that grit-your-teeth, pain-in-the-keester client list. What’s next? Sure, you could just politely fire them. And if nothing is stopping you, then nothing is stopping you. But there’s another approach that doesn’t torpedo all your revenue all at once: raise prices. Some will leave. Great. Some will stay and pay. This makes it easier to afford resources that mitigate the distraction. You can keep doing this until the premium is worth it or they’ve parted ways. 2. When the exact opposite advice might work best (for a stage) Let’s say you haven’t been at this for years. You’re newer, just starting out. Being super specific about a customer this early could work. But it also could be the right advice at the wrong time. Yes, you could say you’re only working with class-A, single-family rentals with intentional investors who have 2-20 units and don’t live in your market. Yet, while you have a specific idea, the reality is that it usually takes time and hard work to hone your business to actually deliver a service distinctly for this customer. And after getting some reps in, you may learn that you have strengths and competencies naturally built for a different investor profile, a different asset type, etc. Or, you discover a new market opportunity you didn’t see before. I heard an analogy once that early on, you try a wider net. The net pulls up all kinds of fish. Grouper, tuna, mahi, probably seaweed too. Then you start to realize which one you’re really a match for. And you start adjusting your net and where you fish, just for tuna. Or, you realize you want a different net tailor-made for shrimp or crab. Doing this for months can be a good way of learning through doing what’s good and bad. What complexities do you want to take on, and which do you want to avoid? But be sure you do start tightening the net eventually. The suffering comes from not monitoring and tightening when you’re ready. This wide net approach not being time- or stage-bound turns a thoughtful trade-off into the drag weight everyone warns against. 3. Powerful team incentives Maybe you’re in the owner's seat, less involved in the day-to-day. It’s your team that’s bringing new clients on, and they’re responsible for handling good and bad-fit customers. So, let’s say you want to drop bad clients because they’re keeping you from the next level, but you’ve invested in staff and need to replace the revenue. Raising prices is one way. But here’s another: For every 2-4 good-fit clients the team adds, they get to drop one bad-fit client. It may feel good to fire bad clients all at once, right away. But if the business is in the investment or break-even stage, tying it to replacement clients can be a responsible way to mitigate risk to cash flow. This approach motivates the team to not just find any new client or just the ”easy” client. It focuses them on the most valuable clients. And as more are brought in, you can responsibly filter out the worst fits. Empowering employees to improve their own experience at work by putting clear guardrails in place can be a powerful motivator for change. They now have a productive path that gives them agency, as opposed to feeling hopelessly stuck with a bad client until one of them leaves. Perhaps commission changes for better-fit clients are a worthy consideration. A great incentive structure is usually marked by whether or not people “game it.” And your business still wins. That’s a good segue to… 4. Shift your marketing and sales You can address the existing client base, but if your acquisition strategy never changes, they will keep coming in. So, how do you get upstream of the problem in your sales and marketing? Great marketing attracts who you are for and repels who you are not. Help your team understand both the ideal profile AND the anti-profile. Green flags and red flags. And it’s not just about what you’re messaging, it also can tie to where you find clients and invest in acquisition channels. Ask yourself: Do your best-fit customers come from realtor referrals? Client referrals? Which realtors or clients? Do they come inbound from your content marketing? Instead of spreading your budget all around, focus resources on places and programs that attract your best customers and tighten up less reliable channels. This doesn’t have the immediacy of other approaches, but the impact over time can be significant. The same applies to sales. Great sales processes quickly qualify out vs. wasting time with poor-fit prospects. And they prioritize the Glen Garry leads. Even a simple A-B-C grading with entry and exit criteria is a great place to start. When tracking marketing and sales KPIs as blended, it treats all activity as equal. Reality is different. Some leads are 20%-1000% more valuable. Putting policies and processes in place to prioritize and treat them appropriately is a win. 5. Is it possible to be too specific? Most property managers say they once worried about being too specific with ideal client profiles but then were surprised that the problem was almost always in not being more specific. Well, it’s a balance. Here’s an example description: “We work with rental property owners who want a more passive experience in real estate.” That’s very broad. This sounds like a sea of other companies trying to win the same customer. That makes it harder to pick you. How about his: “We work with Cincinnati SFR owners who are full-time OB/GYNs and want to hold for at least a full market cycle.” Ok, this is much more specific. Probably in ways that don’t really matter. For example: Why OBs vs. doctors in general? Or doctors vs. busy, high-income professionals? Do they really have different problems that would materially change your offering or go-to-market? But let’s stick with it, for example’s sake. Your messaging could definitely sound like nobody else. Let’s say it did work more efficiently, and you win 40% of leads instead of 25% with this targeting. I asked Perplexity AI (replacing Google search for me) how many OB/GYNs there are in Cincy. It’s 322 or 478, depending on the source. Let’s say 200 own or would invest in real estate. Some number less for just single-family rentals. Some already have a PM and are happy. How many are willing and want to hold for a full market cycle? This is likely not a viable business strategy for a dedicated PM business. It’s too specific a pool, and growth will likely be too slow even if you close 50% of leads. 50% of 100 is a lot less than 25% of 10,000. So, it helps to think about the tension between the size of the prize (market opportunity) and the opportunity to design and earn a distinct position in it (differentiation strategy). Thinking about both sides can help you find a sweet spot to commit to and focus on organizing around. If you map your market, you can ask and answer: What’s the smallest niche of the market that supports your business goals and model? What’s the biggest opportunity you can credibly develop and win in the near term? How might you expand as you win to keep growing toward your ultimate vision? You can see how a couple of years later, you can expand or add an adjacent customer profile (accidental landlords, new location, new property type, etc.) or adjacent new services (RBP, brokerage, in-house maintenance, etc.) to add dollars to the same customer base to grow. 6. Focus on wallet-share vs. market share Ok, so what if you want to remove problem clients but don’t want to raise prices, risk cash burn, wait until the team can add better replacement property management clients first, or test changes in your funnel or team’s comp? You might feel stuck, but there’s another way to add the revenue and profit you need to confidently pull the trigger without investing more in acquisition or relying on efficiency improvements to justify it. That’s adding more revenue per unit in a way that increases your customer lifetime value. If your ancillary revenue and profit per unit go up, you can afford to let clients go without risking churn. Second Nature helps property managers do this through a fully managed resident benefits package. Industry benchmarking studies show the average PMC profits $10-17/mo per unit. Every lease with an RBP can replace the profits at risk or more. And RBP isn’t the only ancillary revenue opportunity. Pet rent is another good example if you haven’t implemented it yet, amongst others. What are your thoughts? The goal of this article is not to be prescriptive; it’s to spark thinking about key considerations and paths to get there. To that end, did you find this content useful? Anything you can add that’s missing? Connect with us in our Facebook group or get in touch! We’d love to hear your input.

Calendar icon January 4, 2024

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Security Deposit Alternatives for Property Managers and Residents

Thirty-billion dollars. That’s a lot of money! It's also how much is currently sitting, collecting dust, doing absolutely nothing for property managers across America. Where is this money hanging out? If you guessed security deposits, you win. What is a security deposit? A security deposit is a one-time, refundable payment made by a tenant before moving into your single-family rental home. It acts as financial insurance against potential damages, unpaid rent, or cleaning fees incurred during their tenancy. Security deposits represent an enormous amount of money, constantly changing hands in the SFR community. Traditional security deposits exist for good reasons but aren’t ideal for everyone. They can cost well over the first month's rent for residents and can be a hassle for property managers and investors. If you’re at all familiar with our Triple Win approach and resident benefits, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that, yes, there is a different way. That's why today, we're talking about security deposit alternatives: What they are and, in particular, how to choose one over the other. Types of security deposit alternatives Security deposit alternatives that are beginning to go mainstream aim to lower the barrier to rental for residents. This lower barrier, in turn, increases ROI for the owner and boosts the PMC’s bottom line. It’s one of the best examples out there right now of a triple win. First though, what are they? Alternatives to security deposits are not one size fits all. They can vary based on business size, strategy, and state and local laws, and there are several different ways to apply them. The general concept is roughly the same, though. Offer your residents a small recurring fee that buys them the privilege of not having to pay a lump-sum security deposit. You can achieve this goal in four different ways. Pure insurance Surety bonds ACH authorization In-house program Insurance, surety bonds through a bond company, and the ACH authorization are all available through third-party vendors, which are increasing in popularity. Pure insurance This is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a deposit covering potential damages, the resident takes out a policy with an insurance company to cover any damages. The resident pays a small premium, and on move-out, the policy covers any damage to the property up to a certain amount. Pure insurance is great for the resident, who pays a premium and then bears no financial responsibility for damages after move-out. Inherent in that approach, however, is a flaw that makes the pure insurance play tough to buy into as the industry's future. It doesn't incentivize the resident to take care of the property, as they won't owe any additional money for any damage they cause. This flaw leads to higher premiums, leaving insurance as a less effective way to keep costs down. Surety bond The surety bond business model is not new. Still, it's become more popular as vendors have modernized the enrollment experience thanks to over $150M of VC investment into the category. Surety bonds are agreements between two parties managed by a third party, known as the surety. In the case of property management, the contract is between you as the property manager and the resident. It states that the resident agrees not to damage the property and agrees to cover damages should they be responsible. In case of a contract breach at the end of the lease, the surety pays out the sum required to the property manager, then bills the resident the cost of the damages. Surety bonds attempt to incentivize the resident to take care of the property, which is more than a pure insurance program will do, but there's not a definitive set of evidence yet that this is highly effective. It's still a challenge to educate some residents that this isn't an installment plan or insurance product. In many cases, that falls on the property management team. Another concern with the surety bond model is the post-move-out collection results. The majority of damages due from the resident never get collected, which leaves the model with potential recourse ahead: Vendors figure out how to collect a higher percentage Vendors increase monthly pricing Vendors expand into other, more profitable products Less reliable claims payouts Layoffs or other financial controls More investment requested for more runway The jury is still out on whether surety bonds have the unit economics to win the category. ACH authorization The ACH (Automatic Clearing House) authorization is a popular alternative. It mirrors the method hotels have used for years to compensate for incidentals and applies it to long-term rentals. Residents permit a financial institution to directly draft money up to a certain amount to cover damages and draw from your bank account. The ACH authorization does check the box of incentivizing proper treatment of the home, and the vast majority of money due from claims is collected. So far, this method seems to be getting the best results in post-move-out collections. A fair critique is not 100% of residents qualify for this, and the ones that don't must pay a traditional deposit, so it isn’t a complete solution in some people’s minds. In-house program Todd Ortscheid, CEO of Revolution Rental Management, built his alternative program in-house. Ortscheid spoke on this topic in an episode of Triple Win LIVE in February. “We offer the resident two different options. You can either pay the security deposit amount based on your [application] score, or the alternative is you can pay a monthly security deposit waiver fee,” says Ortscheid. “What the waiver fee is doing is buying you the privilege of not having to pay a security deposit upfront.” Ortscheid clarifies that his implementation of this program is neither insurance nor a refundable installment towards a security deposit. However, there is debate among other PMs and their attorneys about what compliance risks there could be here. Some property managers also struggle to get comfortable with the financial liability. When deciding to outsource or DIY, we recommend considering three things: How much of a difference can scale make now? Over time? How large is the skill or expertise gap here? Over time? Is this the best investment of my time? Will it be later? Security deposit alternative companies and what they offer The traditional security deposit is the OG of rental insurance, a reliable one-time payment typically equal to one month's rent. It works like a financial handshake between resident and property manager/owner, acting as a safety net for unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear. While it carries no monthly cost for residents and offers full refunds for responsible renters, it also doesn't offer revenue sharing for investors or the flexibility of newer alternatives. Here's what to expect from a traditional security deposit product, and the baseline we'll be comparing alternatives to: Model: Traditional Up-front cost to resident: Equal to established cash deposit Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? N/A Payments refundable to resident? Yes Resident held accountable for funds? N/A We reached out to Peter Lohmann, co-founder and CEO of RL Property Management, to get the rundown on security dispositive alternative products. Here are some of the most popular security deposit alternative services, the type of product they offer, and pros and cons of each. Note: The major downside for most of these security deposit alternative products is that they focus on multi-family rental (MFR) communities rather than single-family rentals (SFR). Most also have nonrefundable fees. 1. LeaseLock LeaseLock is a popular security deposit alternative program. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Lease Insurance Up-front cost to resident: None Monthly cost to resident: $29 for standard plan Unpaid rent & damage coverage: $5,000 for standard plan Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes but Lease Lock says they don’t pursue 2. Obligo Obligo is a billing authorization alternative to security deposits. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Bill Authorization Up-front cost to resident: First year’s total fee (variable) Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes 3. Rhino Rhino offers the surety bond model for security deposit alternatives. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Surety Bond (non-pooled) Up-front cost to resident: None Monthly cost to resident: Variable Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? Yes, if over 10K units Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes, but Rhino says they don’t always pursue 4. TheGuarantors, Jetty, and SureDeposit These three companies – The Guarantors, Jetty, and SureDeposit – all offer an alternative to security deposits in the form of a surety bond. Here’s how they stack up: Model: Surety Bond (pooled) Up-front cost to resident: 17.5% of month’s rent Monthly cost to resident: None Unpaid rent & damage coverage: Equal to established cash deposit Revenue share with property investor? No Payments refundable to resident? No Resident held accountable for funds? Yes The cost of a security deposit alternative Security deposit alternatives costs don’t necessarily save money for the resident, but they offer a choice that many residents prefer – not giving up a big chunk of cash right at the start. In general, the cost structure for security deposit alternative companies is either a low monthly fee or an annual fee. For most PMs, you can include the cost in a Resident Benefits Package, or it’s billed directly to them by a vendor. The cost can depend on the property's value, the rent and deposit amount, the resident’s credit, etc. Fees are calculated based on the amount of rent, amount of deposit, credit score of the renter, and the value of the client. Security deposit alternative fees can often be as low as 5% of rent. So, for a rent of $1500 a month, a resident might pay: $75 per month (5%). In some larger apartment communities, residents may pay even less – typically $8-$30 per month. Advantages of security deposit alternatives The concept of a security deposit alternative is that is helps lower the barrier of entry for residents who may not want to put down a massive one-time chunk of cash – and it helps protect the investor by filling vacancies more quickly, and incentivizing good care of the property. Here’s a breakdown of more specific advantages. 1. Avoid large deposits for residents Ortscheid says: “When I first started doing this, my assumption was the only people who will take this are the people with the worst scores. “What we actually found was our very first person who signed up for it was someone with an 800+ credit score. He was the CEO of a publicly traded company and had millions in the bank. So I asked why he took the waiver option, and he said, ‘I would rather pay monthly than give you a big chunk of my money.'” 2. Get more options All of these programs can be relatively simple to administer and offer choice to the resident. They can choose options and payment methods like credit cards, ACH, etc. According to Ortscheid: “About 70% of the people we rent to now select the security deposit waiver option.” Giving residents more options helps them feel more secure and in control and boosts their satisfaction overall. 3. Reduce vacancies Perhaps the investor sees the most significant win from security deposit alternatives. And, given the PM’s fiduciary responsibility to the investor, an investor win is usually a win for you. The biggest thing here is the attractiveness of the program to the resident. A security deposit alternative is something you can and should advertise in your listings. It adds a differentiating factor to your listing that moves the needle for many prospective residents, which helps keep your days-on-market low. Revolution Rental Management has been sitting at an average of about ten days on the market over the last year. And as we all know, minimal vacancy equals increased ROI for investors. 4. Get fewer damage claims at move-out Additionally, some property managers claim the lack of a deposit drives fewer damage claims at move-out. This reduction in claims helps to protect the investor’s assets more than a deposit does. Again, this may seem counterintuitive, but Birdy Properties reports this scenario playing out since they moved away from security deposits two and a half years ago. “There is this philosophy out there from residents. Most people believe ‘you’re not going to give me my money back. And since I’m not getting my money back, I’m not going to clean up too well because if I do all that work, you’ll still keep my money anyway. Well, now, you were nice enough to let me move in and not have to give you all this money. Everything has gone well, and now it’s time for me to leave and I can recognize that if I don’t leave the property in good shape, I’m going to have to pay for it.’” “We’ve watched the numbers,” continued Birdy. “We have seen a reduction in overall move-out claims. What it’s costing to turn a property over has gone dramatically down, and we have almost eliminated the turnover cost to the owner. That is the most vulnerable time for us as property managers because that’s when the investor decides if they want to keep this asset any longer.” The speed with which Birdy Properties can roll in another resident with minimal costs keeps the property investors happy, which prevents the PM from losing inventory while maintaining great service and relationship with the client. This great relationship comes from a service residents love, so it all works together to benefit every party. Best practices are developing that will drive triple-win experiences. Disadvantages of security deposit alternatives Of course, there are also disadvantages to security deposit alternative services. These issues may effect your residents' overall experience or your investor's satisfaction with their margins. Before signing up for any alternative security deposit product, you need to be sure you know what you’re getting into. Do your research and ask question to evaluate things like: what happens if a resident ends their lease early; what damages are owed after move-out and who pays them; how to dispute charges; monthly or yearly fee obligations; etc. Here are a few disadvantages to keep in mind. 1. Payments are not refundable While the advantage to residents is that they don't have to pay it all right away, the disadvantage is that they won't be refunded for their payments. 2. Disputes may be more difficult to resolve Since security deposit alternative programs involve a third party, you must involve another agreement with the lease and contracting stage. If there is an eventual dispute, it may be tough to get it resolved. Residents may not be held accountable in the way you and your investor needs. Or, from the resident side, they may not get the service they want. 3. Security deposit alternatives don't save money Some products may seem like they're advertising dollars saved. But ultimately, these alternatives aren't intended to save money. They simply help residents' keep money in their savings for a longer period of time, rather than making one big deposit all at once. Despite these disadvantages, we've seen security deposit alternatives pick up in popularity recently. As long as residents, investors, and PMCs know exactly what is and isn't promised, it can be a benefit to everyone involved. ‍ How 1,000+ professional management companies create Triple Win experiences Security deposit alternatives are an innovative solution that solves problems for residents, investors, and property managers. For residents: A quality alternative lowers the barrier for residents and give them more choice and agency in the rental process. For investors: A quality alternative can boost your listings’ marketability and reduce vacancy costs. For property managers: A quality alternative with more relevance for residents and investors – creates new value with an opportunity to monetize and eliminate administrative pains of traditional deposits. That’s what we call a triple win! Learn more about how we create resident experiences that people pay and stay for – and share your trips and tricks in our Facebook Group!

Calendar icon December 1, 2023

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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. 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 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

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Property manager filling out rental inspection check list

Property Management Rental Inspection Checklist [Free Template]

In single-family property management, there's a hero tool that stands between you and potential disputes, wear and tear issues, and even costly oversights. It's not a fancy gadget or software for single-family property management – it's a Property Management Rental Inspection Checklist. Now, someone who isn't in property management might think, "It's just a checklist, right?" But professional property managers know that without it, everything can kind of fall apart. Throughout this article, we'll dive deep into what rental inspections are, their undeniable importance, the key items you shouldn't overlook, and – because we love making your life easier – we're gifting you a comprehensive checklist template. Stick around to have all your pressing questions answered in our FAQ section and discover how Second Nature can be your partner in acing rental inspections. What is a Rental Inspection? A rental inspection is a systematic evaluation of a rental property's condition carried out by the property manager, landlord, or a dedicated inspector. It’s not just a casual walkthrough of the premises. The inspector will thoroughly assess, every nook and cranny of the property – from the foundation to the roof, from the plumbing to the electrical fittings – is thoroughly assessed. The primary goal? To ensure that the property meets all safety and maintenance standards, that the residents are complying with their lease agreements, and that potential issues are identified and addressed before they escalate into major, costly problems. Think of it as a health check-up, but for properties. It provides an objective snapshot of the property's current state and offers insights into areas that might need attention or repair. Why Are Rental Inspections Important? Rental inspections play a crucial role in the property management world, and here’s why: Resident Experience: A well-maintained property is a happy home for residents. When renters see that the property management company is proactive about upkeep, it fosters a sense of value and respect. This can translate to longer tenancies, on-time rent payments, and even positive word-of-mouth referrals. (Learn more about this in our State of Resident Experience Report.) Protection of Assets: Your rental property is a significant investment on the part of your client. Regular inspections ensure it remains in top condition, preventing minor issues from escalating into costly repairs, and protecting your clients’ real estate investments. Safety Assurance: By checking everything from electrical fittings to potential structural issues, inspections make certain the property is safe for habitation. No landlord wants to be on the receiving end of lawsuits or liabilities. Lease Compliance: Regular inspections ensure that tenants are adhering to the terms of their lease, such as not making unauthorized alterations or keeping pets when they aren’t allowed. Predictive Maintenance: Rather than always being in a reactive mode, inspections help in predicting potential issues. This way, you can schedule maintenance tasks before problems arise, which can be more cost-effective in the long run. Property Value Preservation: A well-inspected and maintained property not only attracts and retains quality tenants but can also help maintain or even increase its market value over time. In essence, rental inspections aren’t just a formality; they're a pivotal tool in ensuring the long-term success of your property management endeavors and in enhancing the overall resident experience. What to Include in a Rental Inspection When you're planning a rental inspection, your approach should be methodical and thorough. As Janet Sprissler, Broker/Owner at Rent 805, puts it: “There are no optional parts of the checklist. 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 resident what we won’t do for the other.” Organizing your checklist by room or space is a practical way to ensure no corner is overlooked. For each item listed within these spaces, always include a status, such as "Good," "Requires Maintenance," or "Replaced." This helps in keeping track of the condition and any changes over time. You should also consider what type of inspection you’re conducting and may want to tweak what you include depending on where the property is in its rental cycle. Different types of inspections include: Move-In Rental Inspection: Conducted right before a resident moves in, the move-in inspection serves as a benchmark for the property's condition at the start of a lease. It helps to document the existing state of the property, from the functionality of appliances to the appearance of the interior and exterior. This documentation can be invaluable in resolving potential disputes over damages when the resident eventually moves out. Move-Out Rental Inspection: Carried out once the resident vacates, this inspection compares the property’s condition to its state during the move-in inspection. It identifies any damages or changes that have occurred during the tenancy. Based on this, you can decide what portion of the security deposit needs to be returned. Routine Rental Inspections: These are regular checks conducted during a resident’s lease period. Typically done every six to twelve months, routine inspections monitor the ongoing condition of the property. They're also a great way to catch and address issues early, as well as to ensure lease compliance. “Drive-By” Rental Inspections: These are less invasive checks where property managers drive by the property to ensure its exterior is in good shape and being maintained appropriately. This type of inspection is less about detailed checks and more about getting a general sense of the property's outward appearance and ensuring no major lease violations are visible. For single-family property managers, these inspects may be less frequent since properties are often spread out from each other geographically. As you create your rental inspection report, remember that every property is unique. While categorizing by room ensures thoroughness, it's essential to adjust and add specific items tailored to each property’s unique features and needs. And always remember, communication is key. Ensure that residents are aware of inspections, their purpose, and the schedule to foster a transparent relationship. Property Management Rental Inspection Checklist With the help of OnSightPROS, we've developed a rental inspection checklist template for single-family rental property management companies. Use this template to build out your checklist. General Overview Date of Inspection: Inspector Name: Tenant Name: Address: Previous Inspection Date: Front Exterior Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Mailbox: Functional door and flag, no damage Lawn and garden: Well-maintained landscaping free of debris, no bald grass spots Driveway and walkways: No cracks or obstacles Fencing: In good condition, no damage Exterior lighting: All bulbs functioning Windows/Screens: Clean, no cracks, seals intact, screens intact Walls/Siding: No damage or cracked/peeling paint or caulking, no insect damage Downspout/Splash Blocks: Attached properly Light Fixtures: No missing bulbs or broken fixtures Roof/Trim/Gutter: No visible damage or leaks, discoloration, holes, clogged or loose gutters Rear Exterior Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Lawn and garden: Well-maintained, free of debris, no bald grass spots Patio/Walkways: No cracks or obstacles BBQ Grill: Set away from house, not under awnings Rear Door: Weather stripping intact, locks installed as needed Possible Hazards: Trampoline, open fire pit, swing set Pool: Clean, clear water, no damage, fence and lock in place Fencing: In good condition, no damage Exterior lighting: All bulbs functioning Windows/Screens: Clean, no cracks, seals intact, screens intact Walls/Siding: No damage or cracked/peeling paint or caulking, no insect damage Downspout/Splash Blocks: Attached properly Light Fixtures: No missing bulbs or broken fixtures Roof/Trim/Gutter: No visible damage or leaks, discoloration, holes, clogged or loose gutters Entry Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Patio/Porch: No cracks in concrete, railing, stair intact Front door exterior: No scratches, chipping, stains Locks/Keyless Deadbolts: Check for installation, functioning correctly Front door interior: No gaps in weather stripping, clean Walls and ceiling: Clean, no signs of mold or damage Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Flooring: No damage, carpets clean Lighting fixtures: Operational Electrical outlets: All functioning, no visible damage Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Living Room Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Door/Door stops: Fully functional Walls and ceiling: Clean, no signs of mold or damage Ceiling fans: Working properly Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Flooring: No damage, carpets clean Lighting fixtures: Operational Electrical outlets: All functioning, no visible damage Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Kitchen Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Door/Door stops: Fully functional Flooring: No damage, carpets clean Walls and ceiling: Clean, no signs of mold or damage Lighting fixtures: Operational Cabinet under sink: No leaks with running water, no standing water Countertops/Backsplash: Clean, no damage, caulking intact Cabinets: Doors/drawers work, no damage Sink/Faucet: No leaks, drains well, spray hose works Pantry: Shelves intact, walls clean, lights functioning Appliances (oven, fridge, dishwasher, microwave, etc.): Clean, functional Exhaust fan: Functional, no excessive noise Electrical outlets: Functioning, GFCI where required Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Hallway/Stairway Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Door/Door stops: Fully functional Railings: No loose or missing spindles Walls and ceiling: Clean, no signs of mold or damage Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Flooring: No damage, carpets clean Lighting fixtures: Operational Electrical outlets: All functioning, no visible damage Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Bedrooms (repeat for each bedroom) Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Walls and ceiling: Clean, no damage or mold Ceiling fans: Working properly Flooring: No damage, carpets clean Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Lighting fixtures: Working Door/Door stops: Fully functional Electrical outlets: All functioning Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Bathrooms (repeat for each bathroom) Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Door/Door stops: Fully functional Flooring: No damage, no sagging floorboards or discoloration Walls and ceiling: Clean, no damage or mold Exhaust fan: Working properly Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Lighting fixtures: Working Toilet: Flushes correctly, no leaks Sink/Faucet: Drains well, no leaks Cabinet under sink: No leaks with running water, no standing water Shower/bathtub: Drains well, faucets work, no mold Towel bars: Present and functional Mirrors: Clean, no damage Electrical outlets: Functioning, GFCI installed Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Utility Spaces (if applicable) Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Door/Door stops: Fully functional Flooring: No oil stains or cracks Electrical outlets: Functioning, GFCI installed Lighting fixtures: Working Walls and ceiling: Clean, no damage or mold Closets: Shelves stable, no stains or damage to walls Blinds/Drapes: Fully functional and clean Cabinet under sink: No leaks with running water, no standing water Windows: Open and close easily, locks work Washer/dryer: Functional, no leaks Water heater: No visible damage, no leaks HVAC system: Operational, air conditioning filters clean, no moisture issues around drip pan Satellite dish: Attached to house correctly Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Garage (if applicable) Status: [Good / Needs Maintenance / Poor] Smell test: No odors from animals, smoke, waste, must Interior door/Door stops: Fully functional Garage door opener: Functions correctly Flooring: No oil stains or cracks Walls and ceiling: Clean, no damage or mold Lighting: Functional Electrical outlets: Functioning, GFCI installed Windows: No damage, hardware intact, no evidence of moisture Storage areas: Organized, no damage Smoke alarm/Carbon monoxide alarm: Up to code, batteries good, working order Additional Notes: Space for the inspector to make any additional comments or observations. Signature: Inspector’s signature, date. FAQ Here are a few frequently asked questions about rental inspections. Q: How often should you conduct rental inspections? A: The frequency of rental inspections can vary based on several factors, including local regulations, lease agreements, and the specific needs of the property. Generally, here's a recommended guideline: Move-In Inspection: Once, right before a new resident moves in. Move-Out Inspection: Once, immediately after the resident vacates. Routine Rental Inspections: Typically, every six to twelve months. It's a balance between ensuring the property is being maintained without being overly intrusive to your residents. Drive-By Rental Inspections: These can be conducted more frequently, perhaps quarterly, since they are less invasive and don’t require entering the property. However, always consult your local laws and regulations, as some areas might have stipulations on how often you can inspect a rented property. Also, it's crucial to provide residents with proper notice before any inspection, respecting their privacy and rights. Q: Can a tenant refuse a rental property inspection? A: While rental inspections are essential for property managers, tenants have rights, and their privacy must be respected. Generally, a resident cannot outright refuse a rental property inspection if: It's Stipulated in the Lease: Most rental agreements or leases have clauses that allow for periodic inspections by the property manager or landlord, given proper notice. Adequate Notice is Given: Many jurisdictions require landlords to provide a specific amount of notice (usually 24-48 hours) before entering the property unless there's an emergency. The Inspection is Conducted at a Reasonable Time: Inspections should be scheduled during reasonable hours, avoiding early mornings, late nights, or any time that might intrude on the tenant's reasonable expectation of quiet enjoyment. However, if a resident has a valid reason like health concerns, religious reasons, or personal issues, it might be possible to reschedule the inspection to a more convenient time. Always be sure to check local laws and regulations as tenant rights can vary by jurisdiction. Open communication and understanding between both parties can help mitigate any concerns or conflicts. Make Property Management Easier with Second Nature At Second Nature, our goal is to make property management easier for professional property managers. We built our Resident Benefits Package to support property management companies in delivering the best resident experience on the market. From a move-in concierge to air filter subscriptions to rent reporting, we deliver the services that residents will pay for – and stay for. Learn more about our RBP today!

Calendar icon November 6, 2023

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Property manager meeting with future tenants

10 Strategies to Become a Successful Single-Family Property Management Business

Navigating the world of Single-Family Property Management requires a blend of industry know-how, proactive strategies, and a keen understanding of both investors and residents. What is a single-family property management business? At its core, the business revolves around managing standalone properties for individual property investors, ensuring the rental property is maintained, tenanted, and profitable. But how do you optimize for success in this space? In this post, we'll uncover 10 pivotal strategies to elevate your single-family property management business, from staying updated on industry trends to streamlining your operations for maximum efficiency. 1. Keep up with the trends in Single-Family Property Management The dynamic landscape of single-family property management is constantly innovating and growing in response to various economic, technological, and societal factors. Property managers in the single-family space (vs. multifamily properties or even commercial real estate) also tend to be entrepreneurial, innovative, and adaptive. It’s what we love about this community! But some "trends" have staying power, and the key to long-term success is identifying those and adapting your services to the modern consumer. Over the past decade or so, the way we do commerce and services has been upended by technology and the convenience economy. The same is true in property management. In the words of Jonathan Cook at Revolution Rental Management: “I think ten years ago, property managers were only concerned with collecting rent and keeping tenants from doing damage to properties. It was a much more adversarial relationship than it is today. Today, the best PMs know that resident experience is vital to minimizing vacancy and creating a resident that strives to be a higher quality tenant.” So, let’s look at several trends that have emerged that are shaping the industry’s direction. The Convenience Economy: Sometimes we call this "the Amazon effect." Consumers and residents alike are looking for the easy button. They're looking for everything from online rental listings they can scroll from their couch to online rent payment services that make paying as easy as the click of a button. Technological Advancements: Today, property managers are leveraging technology more than ever. From smart home systems that enhance resident experience to advanced, AI-driven property management software that streamlines operations, staying abreast with technological trends is crucial. The key to staying on top of these transformations is to ask the right questions. Pay attention to general business trends. What are consumers demanding? What is new in technology that you could adapt to your business strategy? Running a property management business is just that: a business endeavor. Keep your eyes sharp on trends in commerce and get involved in the conversation of how that affects good property management. (Check out our Triple Win Podcast for regular interviews, updates, and tips from experts in the SFR property management industry!) 2. Understand your ideal investors in single-family property management When diving into professional property management, just like any other business, it's essential to identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) early on. You will get so much further by "niche-ing down" than spreading your company too thin. What kind of property and client are you ideally set up for or prepared to work with? Once you define your target audience, you can then be ruthless in saying no to anyone who falls outside that definition. Here are a few ways to explore the various dimensions of property investor clients: Level of Experience: Property investors are not all created equal. Individuals get into property ownership for different reasons. You can see experiences ranging from an accidental landlord who never intended to be an investor all the way to a sophisticated or institutional investor, and every shade of the spectrum in between. It's very difficult to build a business that serves all customers across all levels of sophistication. They'll have different needs for how much education they need, how they want you to handle things, and how they want pricing to work. Property Types: You should also define what type of property you want to manage, which will help you assess if a new investor is a fit or not. We're assuming since you're reading this that you're interested in single-family rentals. But within that category, there is still so much variation. Are you looking to manage luxury homes with higher rent, lower demand, and longer vacancies? Are you more interested in workforce housing with more demand and lower rents? Or maybe you're a specialist in Section 8 housing. Whether Class A, B, or C housing, it's very hard to specialize in all property types. Sure, all SFR homes are unique, but it's key to identify the general characteristics of the homes you'd like to manage (or already excel in managing). Then, you and your team are dealing with more consistent situations. Compatibility Fit: You also need to make sure the investor as an investor fits with your approach. And we don't just mean personalities. Have a list of questions that help define what type of investor you can work with. In his podcast Owner Occupied, Peter Lohmann (co-founder & CEO of RL Property Management) talks to Marc Cunningham (President and Owner of Grace Property Management & Real Estate) about their lists, which include questions like: 1) Is the investor financially stable? 2) Is the investor emotionally stable? 3) Are they realistic in expectations? 4) Are they willing to trust us as the expert? Cunningham says his company can manage any property if the owner is right. Define what's important to you and stick to your guns. As Lohmann says in the podcast, "The easiest way to deal with a horrible owner client is to never onboard them in the first place." The goal is to filter out the people who are not a fit before you get into a contract with them. "When you're first starting out in this business, you chase everything," Cunningham says. "But as you grow and become successful, you need to slide that bar on your 'yes' and 'no' and start saying no." In short, nailing the definition of what type of investor and property you want to work with will help you find the right clients and ultimately succeed with them. You're not saying yes to every person who is looking for property management; you're looking for a specific type of customer. 3. Make sure your rental application requirements are clear Are you getting applicants who don't end up being a fit for your properties? It's possible the requirements are not clear on the listing or application. Is your advertising penetrating where it's going to reach qualified residents? Do potential applicants know what credit score they need, income requirements, and more? Of course, how you advertise and where varies widely by the market in your area. Some property managers say they would never use Craigslist, and others swear by it. Understand the market in your area and make it clear from your listings what is required to be accepted as a renter. You'll save everyone frustration with transparency and clarity. 4. Simplify rent collection and accounting processes You know the old saying, "Time is money.” It's particularly true in the rental property management game. Think about it: Every hour you spend chasing down a rent check or struggling with complex accounting software is an hour taken away from growing your business, networking, or improving other operational aspects. Simplifying your rent collection means introducing online payments, setting up auto-pay options, and even mobile payment methods. Modern residents love the ease of digital transactions. Making their lives easier often equates to faster, on-time payments and a heightened sense of trust. One way to simplify rent collection is to incentivize on-time rent payments. Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package does just that by offering credit reporting and rental rewards to ensure that residents receive value for paying on time. As the property manager, it’s work off your plate! It's also a good idea to standardize your rent collection and use tools to support your team. New tech services like and EliseAI can fully automate your rent collection communications. As for accounting, streamlined property management software solutions can auto-generate reports, offer real-time financial insights, and make tax season a breeze. By embracing these upgrades, you’re not just benefiting internally by saving time and resources – you’re showing current and potential residents that you value efficiency and are in tune with modern conveniences. The result? Higher resident satisfaction, a more enticing pitch to potential property investors, and an overall smoother business operation poised for growth. 5. Prevent vacancies with effective resident communication and engagement activities Remember when you first fell in love with your favorite coffee shop or that little bookstore around the corner? It wasn't just about the coffee or the books—it was the overall experience, the atmosphere, and the feeling of being recognized and valued. The same principle applies to a residential property management company. Resident communication isn't just about sending rent reminders or maintenance updates. It's about cultivating a relationship. Providing resident benefits, gifts, support services, and timely communication go a long way to showing residents you care about their home. Engagement programs like loyalty rewards or recognizing special occasions can also be game-changers. Looking for more inspiration on resident retention? Dive deeper into our resident retention ideas article to explore various strategies that will help keep your properties filled and your community thriving. 6. Automate single-family property management workflows Ever find yourself drowning in spreadsheets, buried under a to-do list a mile long, or juggling multiple software platforms? Surely we all have! The solution? Breathe easier with automation. The beauty of running a full-service property management firm in the 2020s is that there's likely a tool or system for nearly every task in property management, from rent collection to resident communication. Our property management tech stack article is a treasure trove of tools and platforms designed specifically for property managers. By implementing these solutions, you can automate repetitive tasks, reduce human errors, and free up time to focus on more value-driven aspects of your business. Think about it: a streamlined application and screening process, automated rent reminders, and digital maintenance requests—all working like clockwork without your constant intervention. Beyond the tools themselves, consider the integration possibilities. When your property management company software talks seamlessly with your accounting system or marketing platform, the result is a cohesive and efficient workflow. Need more insights into the power of automation? Dive into our in-depth automation-related articles to discover how you can revolutionize your day-to-day operations. 7. Invest in regular rental inspections Investing in regular rental property inspections isn't just about ensuring your property is in good shape—it's also a strategic move to bolster the relationship with your residents and maintain the value of your client’s investment. Here's the deal: Consistent inspections offer a proactive approach to property maintenance. They can catch small maintenance issues before they balloon into costly repairs. Got a minor leak? Catch it early, and you're saving both money and potential damage to a resident's belongings. But it's not all about damage control. Regular check-ins also send a clear message to your residents: you care about their well-being and the condition of the property they call home. It's an opportunity to foster open communication, showing residents that their feedback is valued. Moreover, well-maintained properties tend to attract and retain quality residents. Those who know their property manager is on top of things will likely stay longer and treat the property with respect. Plus, when it's time to find a new resident, you've got a spotless track record of upkeep to show off. In short, consider inspections as a small investment now that can yield big returns in resident satisfaction, property value, and overall peace of mind. 8. Create a referral program to increase your portfolio Word of mouth? It's powerful. And in the property management game, it's gold. Imagine this: your current clients, satisfied with your stellar services, singing your praises to friends, family, and colleagues. Now, what if you could incentivize that process? Enter the referral program. Happy real estate investors are your best brand ambassadors. They've experienced firsthand the quality of your management, and their endorsement carries weight. So, why not reward them for bringing in new business? A referral program can do just that. Start by offering incentives. For your investor clients, perhaps it's a discounted management fee for a month. The point is to offer something tangible that'll get folks talking and referring. But there's more to it than just the direct business benefits. A referral program demonstrates that you value the relationships you've built. It tells your clients that their trust and loyalty don't go unnoticed. Lastly, an added bonus: with every successful referral, you not only grow your portfolio but also create a network of investors who are invested in your success. It's a win-win, driving growth for your business while strengthening the bond with your current clientele. 9. Find new investment properties and pitch them to your current clients You're already managing a portfolio of properties for your investors, ensuring they get solid returns and have few hassles. But here's the question: What if you could amplify those returns for them and simultaneously grow your business? Actively seeking out new investment properties is more than just scouting real estate; it's an art of opportunity. By identifying lucrative properties that align with your investors' strategies, you're essentially providing them with golden opportunities on a platter. And guess who they'll want managing these new assets? That's right, you. When you present these potential investments to your current clients, it accomplishes a few things. Firstly, it reinforces your role as a trusted partner in their financial journey, showing them that you're proactive and always on the lookout for ways to amplify their wealth and boost their cash flow. It's not just about maintaining what they have; it's about growing it. Secondly, every new property they acquire based on your pitch naturally expands your management portfolio. This approach helps scale your business, fostering client trust and loyalty along the way. Remember, in the property management world, being static isn't an option. By constantly seeking growth opportunities for your clients, you're also carving out a pathway for your own business's expansion. 10. Invest in marketing activities for short vacancy cycles Imagine a prime property in a stellar location, decked out with all the bells and whistles...sitting vacant. The eerie silence echoing in those empty halls isn't just the sound of missed opportunities – it's also the sound of revenue trickling away. Maybe that was a little dramatic. But the real estate game is as much about visibility and appeal as it is about bricks and mortar. The quicker you can get a property off the market and into the hands of a reliable resident, the better for everyone involved. This is where strategic marketing steps in. Investing in a robust property management marketing strategy does more than just showcase a property; it strategically positions it in front of the right eyes. With targeted campaigns, engaging visuals, and compelling copy, you can ensure your property doesn’t get lost in the sea of listings. Use social media, virtual tours, and local advertising to create a buzz. Moreover, effective marketing helps paint a lifestyle. When potential residents can visualize themselves in a space, they're more likely to take the leap. By consistently shortening vacancy cycles through effective marketing, you not only ensure a steady revenue stream but also enhance your reputation as a go-to property manager who gets results. In essence, marketing isn't an expense; it's a pivotal investment. It's the bridge that connects empty properties with eager residents, ensuring your business always stays on the move. Increase revenue from your SFR property management business with Second Nature Optimizing your single-family property management business is not a one-size-fits-all solution. From engaging with the right investors to fine-tuning marketing endeavors, the path to success is paved with multifaceted, dynamic approaches. But the key to it all is creating a better experience: for residents, investors, and your property management team. That’s why, at Second Nature, we’ve built a Resident Benefits Package that supports SFR property management businesses. Each benefit is designed to meet resident needs and investor priorities while taking work off your team’s plate. In the dynamic world of SFR property management, adaptability and efficiency are kings. With Second Nature by your side, you’re not just keeping pace with the industry; you’re setting the benchmark. So, as you work towards crafting a business that stands tall and resonates in the market, remember: Your success is our second nature.

Calendar icon October 31, 2023

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How Resident Benefits Packages Benefit Owners and Investors

In today's competitive property market, ensuring a standout resident experience isn't just a nicety—it's a necessity. Enter the Resident Benefits Package, an innovative tool embraced by savvy property management companies to elevate the living experience for residents. But the advantages aren't limited to just happy residents. For property owners and investors, these packages can translate into tangible, profitable outcomes. From reducing overall costs to bolstering a property's reputation and value on the market, the strategic deployment of a Resident Benefits Package can directly contribute to a stronger return on investment for owners. In this article, we'll delve into the top ways that a Resident Benefits Program not only benefits residents but also significantly boosts the bottom line for property owners. Why Focusing on Resident Experience is the Key to Success At Second Nature, we’ve seen that when residents win, investors also win. Here’s why: Resident retention is key to winning in real estate investing. And the cost of resident turnover is increasing. In rental management, expenses are up, and the cost of turning a property has almost doubled in four years. Hard materials and labor costs have gone up precipitously. With rent also increasing, it means greater lost revenue while a home sits vacant. At the same time, the market from the owner’s side is getting more competitive. The pandemic days of properties getting snapped up within hours are no longer. The demand has cooled, and it's taking longer to fill properties, and it’s more expensive with each turnover. What does all this mean? Resident retention is increasingly important. Studies continue to show that resident retention and lease renewal is influenced by renter satisfaction. But creating an excellent resident experience is HARD. There are hundreds of experience-critical moments happening over the course of a long-term customer journey, and each of them poses its own unique challenges and opportunities. That’s where the Resident Benefits Package comes in. An RBP is a collection of innovative solutions to some of the most persistent problems in resident experience. A Resident Benefits Package is an answer to the question: How do we make an experience so good that residents never want to leave? By packaging solutions that improve resident satisfaction, the RBP also drives results for investors. The Second Nature RBP includes the following services: Filter Delivery Service Identity Protection Resident Credit Building Renters Insurance Resident Rewards Move-in Concierge On-Demand Pest Control Let’s dive into how each of these services leads to better outcomes for property owners. The Value of a Resident Benefits Package for Property Owners While the Resident Benefits Package is a resident-facing product, the benefits extend beyond residents to generate value for property managers and property owners, too. It’s a Triple Win. Here are six of the top benefits to owners of implementing an RBP. 1. Drives Resident Retention A Resident Benefits Package (RBP) isn’t just a set of perks—it's a holistic approach to improving the living experience of residents, ensuring they stay longer in your property. By focusing on resident experience, property managers can earn better returns on investment for their investor clients – because of resident retention. Here's how each feature of your RBP impacts retention: Air Filter Delivery Service: The National Rental Home Council (NRHC) found that a filter delivery subscription reduced HVAC-related work orders by 38%. Reducing 38% of no-air calls in hot summers and cold winters means reducing 38% of negative experiences that could make residents want to move. Also, average savings of $177 per year on energy bills alone more than pays for the program cost. Clean air being as easy as opening the front door helps residents breathe easy and stay healthy. Happier, healthier residents make for healthy investments, too. Resident Identity Protection: Identity theft actually passed home burglary in 2021 and continues to rise. In an age where identity theft is a pressing concern, offering residents an identity protection service is a critical way to keep them safe. Advanced AI technology actually monitors the dark web and helps prevent issues before they occur. A $1M policy and a team of restoration specialists are there to keep good residents protected from a bad situation turning into delinquency or even eviction. In short, it protects residents’ ability to pay rent and support a long-term lease. Resident Credit Building: This service actively helps residents improve their financial health. Our credit building program is shown to save residents hundreds to thousands per year on car payments and credit cards. Plus, renewing residents can get back reporting up to 24 months at no extra cost, which puts even more incentive on renewing. Renters Insurance Program: OK, so there’s insurance, then there’s triple win-surance. Our purpose-built master policy covers property damage and legal liability but also coverage for residents' personal belongings. There are even unique coverages not often found in retail policies, like rental income loss in the event a covered peril leads to rent concession. And residents get the benefit of bulk pricing, saving a few dollars off the average premium. If residents want to get their own policy, our program monitors any 3rd party policies so there are no lapses in coverage. Closing that compliance gap means eliminating risk and exposure for you and your property. Resident Rewards Program: Second Nature’s rewards program incentivizes positive behavior like timely rent payments. Just by paying rent on time, residents avoid late fees and earn $150+ in gift cards and rewards points. Instead of feeling like rent is a drain, now they are building and earning. Move-In Concierge: Property managers know an important insight: Within the first 60 days of renting, barring a life event, many residents have already decided whether they will renew or not. That’s why move-in and the first few weeks are so critical to retention. By offering a move-in concierge service, you're easing this transition. This service can assist with utilities, internet, TV, and more, making the move smoother and setting a positive tone right from the start. On-Demand Pest Control: A comfortable living space is one free of pests. But preventive sprays are really a luxury, not an ROI. On-Demand Pest Control eliminates disruptive, big expenses – and brings fast, quality service to stop infestations at one-third the cost of preventive sprays. This high-value approach ensures responsibilities are transparent and accounted for so owners don’t get stuck with bills that shouldn’t be their responsibility. In essence, every feature of the RBP is carefully chosen to add value to the resident's experience. When residents perceive value, feel protected, and benefit financially, they're much more likely to renew their lease, underscoring the importance of a comprehensive RBP in property management. 2. Reduces Costs Yep, you heard us correctly! Integrating a resident benefits program is an effective way to reduce investor costs over the long run. For residents, the benefits of the RBP save them money over their alternatives. Here's how it works in terms of cost reduction: Lower turnover costs: With added benefits that cater to residents, turnovers become less frequent. The cost of finding new tenants – think advertising, showings, and screening – can quickly add up, not to mention potential lost revenue from vacant units. An RBP can keep existing residents happy and more likely to renew, thereby minimizing these costs. Maintenance savings: One of the most cost-saving pillars of the Second Nature RBP? Our Filter Delivery Service. The average cost of HVAC repairs has increased by nearly 50% year over year. Preventing emergency maintenance issues has never been more important. An HVAC filter delivery subscription can cut costs up to $300 per property per year and reduce HVAC maintenance requests by nearly 40%. Emergency expense savings: Services like on-demand pest control ensure residents get transparency and cover their lease responsibility, so owners don’t get stuck with a bill they aren’t supposed to. Reduced premiums: With a renters insurance program that ensures 100% compliance, many investors are able to get a discounted rate because there’s less risk of expenses falling on their policy. 3. Increases On-Time Payments On-time and early rent payments are critical to the overall success of your financial investment in property. A Resident Benefits Package is a tool to increase the resident behavior you want to see – starting with consistent, timely payments. For example, by implementing a rewards program for early or on-time rent payments, property managers tap into a powerful motivational tool. While late fees provide an important incentive, a carrot approach helps drive the best outcome for everyone. Everyone appreciates acknowledgment for their timely actions, and residents are no exception. The prospect of earning rewards serves as a tangible incentive for current residents to ensure each month’s rent is paid promptly. Rent day becomes rewards day. Of course, on-time rent payments don't just benefit property investors, they can also bolster the credit profiles of residents. With a credit building program built into an RBP, each punctual payment is reported to credit bureaus, allowing residents to progressively build or enhance their credit scores. Knowing that their timely payments contribute to their financial well-being provides residents with another compelling reason to always pay on schedule. The savings residents get on rewards, auto loans, credit card interest, etc., makes it easier for them to be able to afford rental payments – and increases – over time. Credit reporting protects both the residents and property owners. 4. Protects Your Assets Let’s jump into a story for a minute. A landlord we know onboarded a new resident last year and asked that resident to show proof of insurance before they moved in. All good to go, they signed the lease and moved in. The problem? The policy later lapsed. After that date, there was a house fire. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the home was a total loss. A triple-lose situation of the biggest proportions – for the resident, the property manager, and the property owner. Maybe you know people who have been through similar situations. Or maybe you have yourself. That’s why the Second Nature Benefits Package includes a renters insurance program that ensures 100% compliance. We specifically designed it to generate triple-win protection. The program includes a master policy that residents can opt into or requires them to carry their own insurance policy. 96.3% of Second Nature residents are enrolled in a master policy or the custom HO4 we offer in our program. 3.7% of residents bring their own approved policy. In addition, our renter’s insurance includes protections for the property owner, like Rental Income Loss protection. Another benefit is that you can generally get a discount on your own property insurance if this kind of program is in place. Wins all around. 5. Improves Financial Value Real estate is obviously an asset. But consider this, too: The asset to a rental property owner is your revenue from the property. Sure, real estate itself can appreciate, but you can also look at it a different way – your residents’ income and ability to pay rent is also an asset you want to protect. That’s where identity protection comes in. In 2021, cybersecurity threats passed home burglary in the level of risk it poses to Americans. In 2021, one in eight Americans were victims of identity fraud, equaling up to $52 billion in losses. Identity theft has a massive impact on people’s financial security and their ability to pay rent. Our $1 million identity protection, with proactive dark web monitoring, is there to protect your residents and keep you from having to penalize or even evict a resident who is affected at no fault of their own. Another bonus: Residents at your properties have peace of mind. 6. Increases ROI A Resident Benefits Package focuses on the most streamlined ways to get residents products and services that make leasing rewarding, effortless, and predictable. Bundling services together in a benefits package results in substantial cost and time savings compared to procuring each service individually. A bundled approach minimizes administrative burdens and streamlines processes, further reducing operational costs. The savings generated from this efficient approach can be passed on to the residents, thus boosting the property's value and, consequently, the investor's ROI. An example of this is on-demand pest control. Pest control is often buried in lease agreements and is unclear. Some agreements cover preventive sprays (which are expensive!), but less than 20% of issues are dealt with through those services. It’s a luxury cost that some people will want to pay for, but it’s certainly not an ROI proposition. An RBP with on-demand pest control, on the other hand, protects the investor for 50-70% lower cost. Residents get the kind of pest control they really need – on-demand – so when they have an actual issue, they can immediately file a claim. This prevents issues from escalating into bigger issues and infestations – situations where the cost too often falls on the investor. Costs are lower, residents are happier, and your properties and financials are safer. These services also manage compliance for you. Different states have different laws regarding who is responsible for pests, the resident or the investor. Pest control services through an RBP will ensure you are always in compliance. Why RBPs are Essential to Triple Win Rental Experiences A Resident Benefits Package isn't just a compilation of services – it's a holistic approach to property management services that replaces negative resident experiences with positive ones. For property investors, the advantages are clear: cost savings, increased retention, timely payments, protected assets, and an elevated return on investment. Beyond the numbers, it’s about cultivating a relationship where residents feel valued, supported, and eager to stay. As the landscape of property management evolves, those who prioritize resident experience are looking at long-term returns on those investments. A peek into the future: An innovative and parallel service that property managers can provide is an Investor Benefits Package (IBP)™️. The IBP should provide an investor experience platform™️ that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. Learn more at the link.

Calendar icon October 10, 2023

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Property Management Profitability: FAQs on Profit Margin

Property Management profitability is, of course, how much money a property management company keeps of their revenue after their expenses. But Daniel Craig, the CEO of ProfitCoach, wants PMCs to think of profitability far more expansively. “We recommend that you think about profit as the opportunity to reinvest in the business,” Daniel says. “Your business isn’t just a machine that makes a profit; it's a machine that turns profit reinvested into more profit.” In other words, profit is a virtuous cycle that, once started, can deliver increasing ROI, better value, and better business. The big question is: How do property management companies increase profitability? That’s what we connected with Daniel to talk about. We’re sharing some of Daniel’s insights on property management profits and experiences we’ve gathered over years of working with property management companies across the country. Key Learning Objectives: How property management companies increase profit How long it usually takes to become profitable Common mistakes property management companies make when trying to build profit How to optimize operating costs How to find the right residents and property investors Tools for helping to increase profitability Meet the Expert: Daniel Craig Daniel Craig is the CEO of ProfitCoach, which provides property management entrepreneurs with financial knowledge, tools, and strategies to drive greater profits. How do Property Management Companies Make Money? In the most basic terms, property management companies make money through real estate investors paying for the services they offer. The more value a PMC can drive for its property investors and residents, the more revenue they generate. The profit, of course, is how much is left over after paying all your expenses. “We've worked with hundreds of residential property management companies and seen a wide variety of profitability levels,” Daniel says. ProfitCoach and NARPM started benchmarking profits with the NARPM Financial Performance Guide and Daniel says they’ve seen a significant shift in the past few years. In 2017, the average profitability in the property management space was 6%, and the top 25% of performers’ profitability was 25%. In 2021, the average profitability was 11%, and the top performers were 32%. The important nugget in these benchmarks? Seeing what’s possible. Many rental property managers may not realize they could strive for anywhere from 25% to 32% profitability. But if the target is that high, how do you get there with your business? At ProfitCoach, Daniel and his team have outlined the “Three Steps to 3X Profitability.” 3 Steps to 3X Profitability Here’s what Daniel has to say about the three steps to 3X your profitability. 1. Get Clear PMs need to get clear on where they are, where they want to be, and what they can achieve. It’s important to know: What’s possible across the industry Trends in your local market How you compare If you're not clear on the potential, then you're not going to be clear on what you should strive towards. If you're not clear on where you are today, you're not going to be clear on whether you need to change. 2. Define Your Target Compare your performance to the latest NARPM numbers and benchmarks and determine your target for each of the six Do-or-Die metrics. Maybe the benchmark isn't your target, and that's fine, but you need to know what's possible. Many people go through their business lives without engaging the possibilities. They operate within certain boxes, and those boxes need to be compared to what other people are doing. Then you can adjust your perspective of what's possible and set realistic targets. Next, build a realistic financial forecast that helps you chart the course from where you are to where you want to go based on your financial goals. 3. Stay on track Now it’s time to bring the team into the conversation and basically say, “Here’s our roadmap. What specific tactics and strategies will we enact to accomplish the financial shift we need in each of these six areas of our business?” And once you have those defined, measure your progress against your goals monthly or quarterly. Engage your whole team in the conversation and engage a coach to help you define a financial performance improvement action plan and hold you accountable. How Long Does it Take for a PMC to Increase Profitability? According to Daniel, businesses should give themselves between one to three years. “We've seen companies make massive changes in 12 months, and we've seen companies make massive changes across several years,” Daniel says. “But generally speaking, I would say to give yourself one to three years to make a major shift – if you want to go from an average company to a benchmark company.” How to Set Up a Property Management Business For Profitability Setting up your business for profitability is often about avoiding the most common mistakes other businesses make. We asked Daniel about where he sees professional property managers most often go wrong. Daniel says three major mistakes affect how profitable your business is. 1. Financial Fog Daniel defines financial fog as “Not having clarity on where you are, where you want to go, or what's possible in the industry.” “One of the cool things about this industry is that it's such a unique opportunity,” Daniel says. “I don't think that many property management owners realize the extent to which they can drive profit in this industry. They often don’t have a clear sense of what the real opportunity is.” 2. Financial Isolation “At ProfitCoach, we believe that finance should be done in community,” Daniel says. “We are advocates of what we call community-driven finance, which is essentially engaging with community-based benchmarks, community-based best practices, and community-based scoring.” Community-driven finance helps individual rental property managers and businesses know how they’re stacking up against top performers. It also helps generate value for everyone, where each PMC can benefit from best practices from those top performers. “One of the wonderful things about the property management space is that it truly is a community space in which there is a lot of idea sharing,” says Daniel. “We think that when you bring that idea sharing into a conversation that is also numbers-based, you can begin to see the strategies and tactics that will be most effective as indicated by the data.” “Staying in financial isolation is a huge mistake,” he says. 3. Not Being Mission-Driven Being mission-driven is all about thinking in terms of customer lifetime value. Sure, it’s possible to get a quick win on pricing, but it may cost you in the long run if you’re not thinking about lifetime value. Rather, Daniel says, “you want to make sure that your approach to pricing, marketing, everything in your business is values- and mission-driven.” “What is your mission as it relates to your employees? What is your mission as it relates to your stakeholders? What is your mission as it relates to your owners/investors? What is your mission as it relates to your tenants/residents?” How to Reduce Operating Costs to Increase Profitability So, once you’ve considered the three steps to 3X your profit and evaluated the pitfalls of profitability – what next? How do you actually optimize your operating costs and increase profitability? Daniel advises every PMC to adopt the NARPM Accounting Standards Chart of Accounts for their bookkeeping. He says the best part of using the NARPM Chart of Accounts to optimize your profit is the six “Do-or-Die” metrics. These property management KPIs are critical to business success: Profitability Direct Labor Efficiency Ratio Revenue Per Unit Unit Acquisition Costs Churn Expenses as a Percent of Revenue “It’s critical that property managers get a clear line of sight on how they stack up in terms of specific rental property management metrics that have an operational connection.” For example, an income statement will tell you how much revenue you have but won’t tell you how much revenue per unit you have. By building off your income statement with the PM-specific metrics, you’ll be able to tie it to a more operational connection. For example: From profitability to profit per unit From revenue to revenue per unit From sales and marketing spend to unit acquisition costs In this way, you can understand on a per-unit basis how your business is performing operationally. Daniel says: “The problem with the standard income statement is that it doesn't often give property management owners and entrepreneurs a lot of clarity on specific operational shifts that they need to make in your business. When you implement the NARPM Chart of Accounts, you can then implement a whole suite of metrics that does give you that operational clarity and insight to drive action and improvement in your business.” How to Increase Profitability in Property Management Increasing profitability takes time and should be done in a few different steps across your business model. These steps are the same whether you are a large or small business. Daniel breaks down the work between developing your pricing, labor, expense, and growth models. Look at Your Pricing Model Your pricing model is a significant driver of profitability. Getting your pricing right is one of the pillars of profitability. A few things to consider as you are managing properties: How does your pricing compare to the local market in your area? Are you offering any property management services that you should charge management fees for? What are you doing beyond rent collection that you should charge a flat fee for? Are there more services you could offer and charge for their value? How is your cash flow? Daniel cautions that it can take time. “If you roll out a new pricing model to tenants and owners, it takes time to implement. You should give yourself about a year to get that fully implemented.” Look at Your Labor Model Your labor model is the next big thing, as labor is your biggest expense and could also be a driver of inefficiency if you don’t have it right. Daniel recommends asking: Do we have all the right people in the right seats on the bus? Do we have the right mix of U.S. talent versus global talent? Do we have retention strategies in place? Do we have the right systems in place to enable each team member to be maximizing their productivity and their effectiveness in the organization? Again, these questions may lead to significant strategic shifts that you should give yourself time to implement. Look at Your Expense Model This one is a little bit easier but just as important. You can trim expenses fairly quickly once you identify where to cut back. Are you spending too much on overhead? Could you engage property management software to help with bandwidth? In some cases, changing your expense model may take some time – for example, if you need to renegotiate a long-term lease. Look at Your Growth Model Evaluating and updating your growth model is another opportunity for maximizing profitability. Once you’ve identified and set your targets, here are some potential next steps for growth: Finding and hiring a high-performing business development manager Get a new sales process in line Dial in your lead generation strategies so that you have enough leads for that BDM Etc. Again, this shift may take several months or years to integrate into your business processes fully. Launch a Residents Benefit Package Ultimately, one of the best ways to increase profit and influence your bottom line is by considering where you can add more value for your residents and residential property investors. Daniel recommends starting small tweaks to your Revenue Per Unit. “We have seen repeatedly that a 10% improvement to revenue per unit can easily result in a 100% increase in profit per unit. So, look for ways to get small wins on value creation, value communication, and value realization.” Daniel says one of the quickest and most practical ways to adjust Revenue Per Unit is to implement a Resident Benefits Package. (And we didn’t even put him up to it!) “A resident benefits package alone can result in that 10% bump to revenue per unit, which can result in that 100% increase to profit per unit. This profitability can result in more fuel to your freedom, more fuel to your mission, and realizing all the things you went into business for in the first place.” How to Find Profitable Residents & Investors and Keep Them Happy Daniel says they’ve seen significant profitability gains when a company identifies the right-fit and wrong-fit clients. “We have seen significant profitability gains come about for those who are looking through the client list, finding the misfits accelerating, and then getting those misfits out of their portfolio so that they can bring in the right-fit clients who are going to be a better fit from a value proposition perspective. Getting rid of low-performing clients and then backfilling those with the right kind of clients is a great way to improve profitability.” Daniel says that this goes back to being mission-driven. By identifying your point of view on your industry, your values, etc., you can build a “why” for your company that can help you define the right new clients for your business. Daniel uses his own company as an example: “At ProfitCoach, we believe in community-driven finance. If we come into contact with a potential client who's all about financial isolation – they don't want to share their numbers with anybody, they don't want to engage in a community conversation, they don't wanna learn from the best practices in the industry – that's not a good fit for us.” So, the two questions to define are: What is your point of view? What is the value proposition that comes out of that? Based on that value proposition, there will be a certain set of criteria that will define what a right-fit client is and what a wrong-fit client is. Learn more about SecondNature’s Resident Benefits Package, which is designed to generate revenue and “Triple Win” conditions that benefit residents, investors, and property managers alike.

Calendar icon June 28, 2023

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How to Create Property Management Business Plan [Free Template]

There are as many different perspectives on property management business plans as there are different PM businesses. But one thing holds true – in the classic adage usually attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower – it’s not the plan that matters so much as the planning. Outlining a detailed business plan isn’t just important for defining your own goals, it’s key to communicating those to potential clients and investors. It also requires deep insight into what residents want and are willing to pay for. Whether you’re new to property management, have been managing properties for years and are ready to start your own business, or own property management business but are looking for greater investment, we’ll cover important topics to address business plan creation. We’ll explain why business planning can be so important, as well as who to target with your plan. We’ll also share a free template to get you started. Key Learning Objectives: How to identify and find your ideal clients How to articulate your value proposition What to include in your business plan How to outline your business plan A free property management business plan template Meet the Expert: Peter Lohmann, CEO RL Property Management What to Know before Creating a Property Management Business Plan Not to get too deep down the rabbit hole, but the first step to creating a high-quality business plan is – you guessed it – to make a plan for the plan. For entrepreneurs, planning is the key to success. Going through the following steps first will make the process much easier and more effective in the long run. Here’s what you need to get clear at the outset. State Laws governing property management business As you know, each property management company’s approach is very dependent on regional or state regulations. Before taking any steps to either start or change your business, you need to have a clear understanding of the local laws governing your business venture. We highly recommend hiring an attorney who can help you navigate those laws and regulations. Who are your ideal clients Lohmann lays out three critical steps to crystalizing a successful business plan: Identify your ideal clients. Articulate your unique value proposition for those clients. Go out and find leads. So, first: Who are your ideal new clients? “Get really clear on who your ideal customer is,” Lohmann says. “Are you managing associations, office buildings, big apartments, single-family rentals, etc.? The narrower and more specific you can be, the better your life is going to be and the more money you’re going to make.” In other words, anything outside of this target market is going to be a waste of your time. That’s why this is the first step. “The more narrow and specific you can be here, the more directly you can speak to your prospects in a way that’s compelling,” Lohmann says. “Everything becomes easier – content strategy, sales conversations, even operations become easier – if you know who you want to manage for and what types of properties you want to manage.” What type of property management company you are The next step is to identify your unique value proposition. There are tons of property management companies out there. Why should your ideal client choose you? In Lohmann’s words: “Your second step is to ask, ‘Why should anyone care?’ Property management isn’t a new concept; there are tons of property managers. So, identify what your unique value proposition is.” This is key to figuring out not just who to pitch to but how to pitch to them. “What are you going to talk about?” Lohmann says. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, hire us, we’re the best!’ You need clear examples that say, ‘Our company does something a little different.’” For RL Property Management, that started as a promise that they would never charge a leasing fee. “Sure, it’s kind of crazy, and I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t charge that, but it worked,” Lohmann says. “We were trying to figure out why everyone hated their property manager. And we decided that it might be an incentive problem where the property manager’s incentive is to fill the unit as quickly as possible so they can get that big leasing fee, and that was creating bad outcomes for property owners. So we decided that we weren't going to charge a leasing fee, and we've stuck with it ever since.” How to find your ideal clients The third and final step of preparation is to identify where you need to go out and find leads and engage property management marketing. “Given what you know about how you defined your ideal prospect and your company and what they offer, the next question is where you go and get these leads,” Lohmann says. “A lot of property managers start with this third step. They just say, ‘How can I get more leads?’ But that’s the wrong question. Why do you deserve those leads? Answer that first. Downstream of that is ‘Where are those people hanging out, and how can I get this to them?’” Getting this step right involves researching property management and real estate property in your area and getting familiar with industry news, conferences, and listings. What should a property management business plan include? Now, let’s talk about the actual outline of your PM business plan. If you’re starting a new business and aiming to present a business plan to investors, or even business partners, you should outline each section below as a presentation deck. The information presented in this section needs to read like it is designed for investors and should highlight key terms and concepts they care about. Here’s a sample property management business plan outline, followed by a detailed explanation: Executive Summary Company Overview Market Analysis (Industry, Customer, and Competitive Analysis) Services Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy Operations Management Management Team Financial Plan Growth Opportunities Executive Summary This is a high-level overview of your entire presentation. As such, it should be the last section that you write. You want to be concise but interesting and hook the reader quickly. Outline the following in broad strokes: The type of property management company you are operating Your target market Your objectives Your plan for meeting these objectives Company Overview The company overview will dive deeper into your property management niche and business model. Explain what types of properties you manage and how you operate. Options include single-family residential property management (SFR), multi-family property management (MFR) or residential apartments, HOA management, and commercial property management. Give a brief history of your company and your legal business structure. Other important information might include: Your key competitive differentiators and core competencies Your metrics for success Your management team Financial details Mission and vision statements Market Analysis (Industry, Customer, and Competitive Analysis) This section benefits you almost as much as it does your audience. Researching for this section will help you more deeply understand the industry, customers, and competition. Industry analysis should include details on the trajectory of the market, its size, and key trends, along with challenges and opportunities. Customer analysis should include details about your target customers, their wants and needs, etc. Competitive analysis should outline direct competitors (PMCs in your area) and indirect competitors like in-house managers, automated tools, etc. Explain why your value proposition is unique. Ideally, present a thorough SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Services This section should describe the property management services the company plans to offer, such as leasing, maintenance, and rent collection. Depending on the jurisdiction, legal compliance and documentation services may be relevant as well. This section should also discuss the pricing strategy for these services. Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy This section should describe the company's marketing plan and sales strategy, including how it plans to attract and retain clients. It should also discuss any advertising or promotional campaigns the company plans to undertake. Promotions could include paid advertising in print and on websites, social media marketing, radio advertising, SEO marketing, and more. Here, it’s important to document your marketing channels (organic online, targeted online, print advertising, professional networking) as well as ongoing sales and marketing programs. Operations Management Outline your short-term processes and long-term business goals, as well as estimate day-to-day operations. What property management software are you using in the business? What bottlenecks slow down work that’s moving through the organization? How will you structure your company and your teams? It may also be helpful to include details on critical process workflows, risk mitigation strategies, and technology integrations and updates. Management Team Outline your management structure and the skills and experience of your management team. You’ll particularly want to highlight property management and real estate experience. This is a key moment for you to consider who you have in the company, who is a right fit, and who needs to be looked at as not a great fit. Financial Plan This is where you give your financial projections and approach. Outline your major cost centers and revenue drivers. What management fees are you going to charge? You should include a profit and loss statement, balance sheets, and a cash flow statement. Growth Opportunities Identify and outline the most targeted growth opportunities for your business right now and over the next five and ten years. Knowing your long-term goals requires you to gain a deep understanding of the real estate and property management market in your area and to understand clearly where you fit in and how you can generate growth and value for years to come. Typically, in this section you might include: Expansion plans Strategic alliances Technology upgrades Emerging market trends Property Management Business Plan Free Template Although you may prefer to draft your own property management business plan from scratch, there are a couple of options for short-cutting the process. You can use the checklist below to organize your plan, or else simply download our free PMC business plan template to customize as you see fit. Executive Summary The type of property management company you are operating Your target market Your objectives Your plan for meeting these objectives Company Overview Mission and vision statements Your property management niche and business model How you operate Company history Your legal business structure Your key competitive differentiators and core competencies Your metrics for success Your management team Financial overview Market Analysis Industry assessment Customer analysis Competitive analysis Services Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy Outline of sales and marketing plans Marketing channels Ongoing sales and marketing programs Operations Management Long-term business goals Current processes Critical process workflows Risk mitigation strategies Technology integrations and updates Management Team Management structure Skills and experience Financial Plan Financial projections Cost centers and revenue drivers P&L statement Balance sheet Cash flow statement Growth Opportunities Targeted growth opportunities Expansion plans Strategic alliances Technology upgrades Emerging market trends ‍ Get your free PMC business plan template here. Beyond the business plan: Focus on retention with the Second Nature RBP At Second Nature, we work with property managers around the country to develop better resident experiences that will generate more value for their clients and more profit for their companies. The product we have found most helpful to property managers at every stage of their company’s growth is a fully managed resident benefits package or RBP. Each product in this package aims to deliver something residents want or need and a service that helps set your PMC apart. We want to help make running your business as easy as second nature.

Calendar icon June 28, 2023

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Property Management Fees: Opportunities for Growth

If you’re familiar with Second Nature, you know that supporting SFR property managers in building triple win experiences is our focus. So today, we’re taking on the thorny topic of property management fees within SFR property management companies. And we’re turning to one of the leading industry educators on the subject: Todd Ortscheid, owner of PM Assist. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article. Key Learning Objectives: How to structure your property management fees for growth The benefits and challenges of charging property management fees How you can use fees to add value for yourself, your clients, and your residents How to introduce fees without turning clients off Examples of property management fees you might not be employing (yet) Meet the Expert: Todd Ortscheid Todd spent 14 years as an airline pilot – an industry known for capitalizing on fee structures as a growth strategy. He took over his father’s property management company after the 2008 real estate crash and eventually tripled the company’s number of doors. As the co-owner of PM Assist, he offers training and counsel on finding new ways to increase company revenue, process automation, and profit per unit. Todd is a true entrepreneur and creative thinker, with ideas that challenge the status quo and may even ruffle some feathers. But Todd’s strategies have proven to help grow property management companies, and we’re thrilled to share his insights. Related: State of Resident Experience Study What Property Management Fees Are Standard? You should be seeing income on anything you’re spending money on as well. Anything you want to do to create more value for residents or investors? You should charge a fee for that so your company can stay competitive and your employees can get paid. Here are a few examples to get you started. Inspection & Maintenance Fees How much time are you spending on periodic property inspections? How much money are you spending on maintenance costs? How valuable is your staff's time? Todd says, “You have to be charging for this. Don't just include maintenance requests and inspections as part of your monthly management fee.” Marketing Fees Todd says, “I'm sure a lot of you are probably in markets where Zillow started charging you to put your listings on their website. And I've heard a lot of property managers say it's just a cost we're absorbing. Don't do that. Pass on that cost. Call it a marketing fee or the Zillow fee or whatever you want to make sure you're making money on that. Never pay for your own property management costs – come up with some way to cover all of these costs that you have for your business.” Insurance Risk Mitigation Fees If your investor doesn’t have insurance, you are often the one who will suffer. Todd advises charging a fee if your investor doesn’t send a policy within 30 days. “Tell them, ‘This new fee will be charged as a mitigation fee for the additional risk we have.’ You will not believe how quickly people will send you their insurance policies if you do this. We only charged a nominal fee. But a flood of emails came in after I sent out that notice to owners. So this isn't about making more money. For the most part, it's about influencing behavior and ensuring you get the insurance policies you need.” Account Creation Fees As a property manager, you can charge a set fee to investors to create an account with your company. This fee may or may not cover various other costs such as any related property inspection requirements or tenant communications. Recurring Management Fees Recurring (typically monthly) property management fees are extremely common in the industry, and will be built into the initial contract signed between the investor and the property management company. The amount can be based on a flat fee structure, or tied to a percentage of the monthly rent collected. Vendor Screening Fees It’s a hassle to use vendors outside your usual network. “If you have property owners who want to use their vendor instead of your preferred vendors, that creates more work for you.” If you charge a flat fee, they’ll likely drop it, and you’ve saved yourself that extra work. If they want to keep their vendors and pay the fee, at least you’re getting paid for that extra work.” Rent Protection Fees or Eviction Fee A huge area of value for investors is protecting them from unwanted risk. Investors have to deal with concerns about evictions, lost rental income, and more. Property management companies can take on that risk for a fee. You can say you’ll cover missed rent if the investor pays a monthly fee. The win for PMCs is that the risk is often low, and you can often control it (controlling for on-time rent due by charging late rent fees, for example). You get the fee, and you will rarely have to take the hit on the month’s rent. The win for investors is they don’t have to worry about it at all. Contract resiliation fees For investors that terminate the property management contract prematurely, you can charge an early termination fee, the amount of which will vary depending on the contract's terms. The fee may cover a month or more of management fees. Resident Fees Todd emphasizes that the real moneymaker is resident fees. Plus, charging fees for unwanted behaviors – like late rent, paper leases, failure to change HVAC filters, etc. – can help drive better behavior. Todd uses examples like Security deposit processing fee Leasing fee or a lease amendment fee Paper lease setup fee Lease renewal fee Late fee Special programs fee “Of course, the resident benefit package is the big one. This is a way for you to provide additional services to your residents and make some money off of it.” What Are the Factors that Influence Property Management Fees? Ultimately, the fees you charge should reflect your operational reality, and can vary depending on a range of factors: Property location: Properties located in areas with higher operational expenses may incur higher management fees compared to those in other regions. Property condition: The condition of the property, and whether it is new or renovated, affects maintenance requirements and thus can influence management costs. Property size: The size of the rental property directly influences the workload of the property manager, with larger properties typically incurring higher fees. Scope of services: The range of services provided by the property management company significantly impacts the fees charged. Basic services like rent collection command lower fees, while comprehensive management services covering rent collection, vacancy filling, repairs, evictions, and financial record-keeping for taxes entail higher costs. How Should Property Managers Structure Fees? Real estate investors often focus on determining what fair or typical property management pricing should be. A general rental property management fee includes collecting the month’s rent, following up on arrears, organizing property maintenance and repairs, and keeping abreast of legal requirements. That’s the baseline. But the growth is in what you do on top of that baseline. Todd breaks down pricing like this: “Only 40% of your revenue should come from your property management fee. 60% of our revenue is not management-fee related. If most of your money comes from your management fee, you're doing it wrong. That's not going to last very long.” And here’s the difference those added fees can make to your bottom line: “According to recent numbers from Profit Coach, the average PM company gets about $170 a month in revenue. $170 per door per month. I just looked at the profit coach dashboard for my company, and over the last 12 months, we have averaged $320 per unit per month.” The nugget in there is that the market should determine your base property management fee. But that often cheats PMCs, giving property managers extra work without fairly compensating them for the additional time, effort and cost. You can – and, according to Todd, you should – be charging for that extra work and extra value that you provide as a professional. Note: Todd emphasizes that ALL fees should be communicated upfront during the onboarding process and lease agreement. Fees aren’t about tricky pricing or hidden markups. They’re about charging for value and driving behavior. What Are the Benefits and Challenges of Charging Property Management Fees? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of charging additional fees for your additional property management services. Benefit 1: More Revenue = Better Service Todd points out that you can't really provide the level of service that you want if you don't have enough revenue coming in. “We've got to be able to provide fantastic service, and the only way you can do that is with revenue. You have to start looking at this as something that you have to do. Your clients and your residents are suffering if you don't.” It’s a fantasy to think we can offer premium service without paying for the resources they cost us. Benefit 2: More Revenue = Happier Employees Your team deserves to be paid for their work, especially if it’s extra work caused by a difficult resident or investor. Fees help reduce workload because they discourage behaviors that add to busy work. But more on that in the next section. Todd says: “Property management company owners talk to me all the time about how they can't afford to pay higher wages in the current market. The reason you can't take better care of your employees is that you're struggling to get by just on a basic management fee. Charging fees for what your services are worth is the only way you’re going to be able to provide competitive wages and benefits.” Benefit 3: Charging for Service Drives Better Habits According to Todd, fees drive behavior. Your investors and residents will respond to fees in a way they may not respond to anything else. For example, home warranties are a huge hassle for everyone. If you want to discourage investors from using a warranty company, simply charge a fee for anyone that does. On the resident side, an example is late payment fees. If you communicate from the start that late payments will draw a fee – you’ll notice how payments come in on time much more often. Benefit 4: Greater Profits This one speaks for itself. But here’s what Todd says: “Never pay for your own cost of running your business. This isn't a charity. Every single expense in your company should be tied to some income you're going to make.” Challenge 1: Will Investors Be Turned Off by Fees? In the long run, if you’re charging fees for premium services, you can provide a better outcome for investors. But how can you get them on board with this concept? Todd says it’s all in the language we use. “People don't understand that the management fee is really a rent collection fee. We shouldn't call it a management fee because it makes it sound like everything we do is included, which is of course, crazy. There's so much that can't be looped into that one thing. We should call it a rent collection fee because that's really what it is. You've got to get your mindset right on this stuff. Don't be afraid of it.” Challenge 2: Regulations (AKA: Always Talk to Your Attorney First) Regulations vary across regions, so rental property managers must be familiar with local laws. You may not be allowed to charge fees for certain types of services. But you can almost always categorize a service within an administrative fee. But discussing any fees and contracts with your attorney before implementing them in the real world is key. Oh, and you should charge for your legal fees! How Do Fees Help Property Managers Add Value and Create a Positive Resident Experience? The additional fees generated by delivering new and higher service levels are a reflection of a positive, resident-focused experience. In fact, such additional services are exactly what can set professionals apart from amateurs. Instead of letting increasing competition cut your legs from under you, Todd advises finding ways to generate value that the amateur property managers or real estate agents-turned-property-managers can’t compete with. And, of course, charge for that value. “I always tell people that I don't like to say no to clients or residents,” Todd says. “Instead, I like to say, ‘Sure, we're happy to do that. And this is how much that costs.’ You just want to be careful and ensure you’re actually doing things that the owners will find valuable. Charging fees allows a property management company to offer premium services and benefits they couldn’t if they didn’t have that extra revenue. It’s a perspective shift, but Todd believes we need to start viewing fees as a generative, value-driving approach to property management. How Can I Use Fees to Generate Ancillary Income? In the end, you might think of fees as a burden that will drive away investors, but the truth is the exact opposite. Fees help you drive more premium value for both your investors and your residents – and support your business and employees at the same time. At Second Nature, that’s what we call a Triple Win. We aim to help property management companies drive Triple Wins like this all the time. We do it through the value proposition of a Resident Benefits Package. An RBP offers value to investors by delivering a full-service resident experience. And, yes, that’s something property managers charge a fee for! Since it’s fully managed by our team, you can basically plug it in and let it drive value for you, your investors, and your residents. Fee FAQs Q: What is included in the property management fee? Property management fees typically cover a range of services, which vary from company to company. Sample inclusions: inspection & maintenance fees marketing fees insurance risk mitigation fees account creation fees recurring management fees vendor screening fees rent protection fees or eviction fee contract resiliation fees security deposit processing fee leasing fee or a lease amendment fee paper lease setup fee lease renewal fee late fee special programs fee Q: What is the average property management fee? The average property management fee varies according to region and state, as well as from company to company. In addition, these fees are largely dependent on the value, responsibilities, and services the property manager brings to the table. Generally, they amount to a fixed percentage of collected rent, as opposed to a flat fee.

Calendar icon June 28, 2023

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Kristin Johnson Founder & CEO of TripleTie

15 Best Property Management Accounting Software in 2024

Property management accounting is a specialized branch of accounting that deals specifically with the financial management of rental properties. Property management accounting includes tracking rental income, managing expenses, handling tenant deposits, and producing financial reports. It helps property managers maintain accurate and comprehensive financial records for each property they manage. In today's complex real estate landscape, managing single-family rental properties can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to accounting and finance management. Understanding property management accounting, as well as the best property management accounting software to support it, can make this task significantly easier. In this article, we're talking to a property management accounting expert. We’ll delve into the best property management accounting software available in 2023, and we’ll help you choose the right software that fits your property management needs. We'll also address frequently asked questions about property management accounting software, including aspects like ease of use, integrations, pricing, and support. In general, property management accounting software serves to alleviate the time and effort that might be required to manage finances manually. It can also help plan for expenses, foresee any cash flow issues, and make better-informed financial issues. And perhaps most importantly, it helps property managers stay in compliance with requirements around tax calculations and reporting. Note that there are two key components of property management accounting: corporate and trust accounting. Corporate accounting involves the financial transactions and record keeping of the property management company itself and is generally the same kind of accounting you’d do with any business or corporation. This might include the company's operational expenses, income, taxes, payroll, etc. Trust accounting, on the other hand, is unique. It concerns the financial management of clients' funds held by the property management company. This can include tenant rents, security deposits, and funds reserved for property maintenance or repairs. It's crucial to keep these funds separate and accurately tracked to comply with legal requirements and maintain transparency with property owners. Because of the unique nature of bookkeeping with trust accounting – and its relevance for property managers – we’re mostly focusing today on trust accounting, or software that can manage both corporate and trust accounting. So, whether you're new to property management or an experienced professional looking to upgrade your software, this article has something for everyone. Let's get started! Meet the Expert: Kristin Johnson, Founder & CEO of TripleTie Kristin Johnson founded and leads the property management accounting solution TripleTie, which is designed to help property management companies manage and conduct accurate trust accounting. Best Property Management Accounting Software Let’s go over some of the best property management accounting software solutions in 2023. After that, we’ll also share an extensive FAQ that we had with Johnson about the ins and outs of property management accounting. Before diving into our list, we asked Johnson what good property management software should include. “Having the ability to work within one system is huge,” she says. “Rather than having to parse out, for example, I do my screening over here, and I do my maintenance over here. Instead, you have it all integrated and built-in, and the system talks well with itself. You’re not having to import and export so much data. That’s crucial.” She gives an example of a time when she was using a platform that didn’t have that capability. “When we were working in New Mexico, we had to charge sales tax on services. So our management fees, our RBP, all of those things had to have sales tax added onto them. Our software at the time didn't have a function built where I could say, ‘This item is taxable, and this is the tax rate.’ I had to manually create recurring bills on every single one of those fees. And then, every year, when the state updated the sales tax rate, I had to go and update thousands of recurring bills. It was a nightmare!” So, as we go through the list, keep in mind that different software has various degrees of customization, open APIs, etc. Cost is a big consideration, but looking for an all-in-one is also important. 1. Rentvine Johnson’s top recommendation for accounting software is Rentvine. “Rentvine is really dialed in on trust accounting,” Johnson says. “There’s no need for a lot of the workarounds that we see in some of the other trust accounting providers. At its core, it’s a true trust accounting platform, and then the beauty and usability are built on top of that piece.” Rentvine is deeply customizable for property management tools and needs, with the ability to build your unique owner statements, custom management fees, custom late fees, etc. “The other thing I love about Rentvine is that it does have an open API,” Johnson says. “So if you did want to integrate with an external maintenance company, for example, you can get a seamless integration through the API.” Pros: User-friendly design with an intuitive dashboard that simplifies property management and accounting tasks. RentVine's accounting system is robust and includes automatic rent collection, workflows, real-time expense tracking, and detailed financial reporting. Features like online tenant portals, CRM, maintenance request management, and built-in messaging make tenant communication more streamlined. Cons: Some users have noted that the mobile app lacks some of the desktop version's features. While RentVine offers excellent features, the platform may be more expensive compared to other options, especially for smaller property portfolios. 2. AppFolio AppFolio is an extremely popular property management platform that works well for both residential and commercial property management. It has a modern and intuitive interface but can be pricey with add-ons and complex to use. What we like about AppFolio is the reporting ability, automation (late fees, smart bill entry, etc.), utility management features, etc. The drawbacks include the price and, as Johnson points out, it’s not as customizable as she would want for an accounting piece. “It is not a super strong accounting platform and does require a lot of workarounds,” Johnson says. However, if you’re willing to use a few workarounds and you like AppFolio for the other key features, it does have a solid accounting platform. Pros: AppFolio provides a comprehensive suite of accounting tools that include automated invoicing, ACH and online payments, financial reporting, and bank reconciliation. It offers a CRM with excellent resident and owner portals for transparent communication, metrics, and easy access to financial data. AppFolio supports both corporate and trust accounting, which is important for regulatory compliance. Cons: AppFolio is not as customizable as other software options and may require workarounds. While AppFolio is feature-rich, it has a steeper learning curve which may be challenging for less tech-savvy users. Pricing is based on a per-unit model, which could make it expensive for managers with a smaller number of properties. 3. Buildium Buildium is a comprehensive property management software designed to simplify all facets of property management, including robust accounting features. It provides seamless handling of all property-related transactions, from tracking rent payments and vendor bills to handling maintenance costs and fees. The software also supports both corporate and trust accounting, ensuring legal compliance and transparency. Pros: User-friendly interface with a strong emphasis on accounting. Automatic bank reconciliation, making it easy to manage multiple accounts. Robust reporting, including balance sheets, cash flow, and income statements. Cons: The learning curve can be steep for those new to property management software. Advanced key features may require premium plans, which could be costly for small businesses. 4. Yardi Breeze Yardi Breeze is a cloud-based property management software ideal for smaller-scale PMCs. The platform offers a robust suite of tools, including strong property management accounting capabilities. Pros: Yardi Breeze provides in-depth financial reporting and accounting features, from tracking rent collection and expenses to generating financial statements. It has a user-friendly interface and offers automated invoice processing and bank reconciliation, simplifying accounting tasks. It supports both corporate and trust accounting, crucial for legal compliance and transparency. Cons: The software is feature-rich, which may result in a steep learning curve for those unfamiliar with property management software. Some users have reported that customer service response times can be slow. Its comprehensive features come at a higher price point compared to other options in the market, which may be a barrier for smaller businesses. 5. Hemlane Hemlane is a cloud-based property management solution designed for small to midsize businesses, with a focus on facilitating the relationship between property owners and managers, residents, and service professionals. Pros: Hemlane's accounting features are comprehensive, providing the ability to track income and expenses, automate rent collection, and generate financial reports. It supports both corporate and trust accounting, helping property managers maintain compliance and transparency. User-friendly and intuitive interface, which is a big plus for those new to property management software. Cons: While it has a good range of features, some users report that it lacks the depth of more comprehensive management systems. Some users have reported occasional system slowdowns and bugs. Limited customer support hours can make it challenging for businesses that operate outside of these times. 6. TenantCloud TenantCloud is a cloud-based property management software solution suitable for landlords and property managers of all sizes. It offers a wide array of features, including a dedicated accounting module. Pros: TenantCloud’s accounting features allow users to track income and expenses, send invoices, collect online payments, and generate financial reports. Its intuitive interface and ease of use are especially appealing for those new to property management software. TenantCloud supports both corporate and trust accounting, facilitating legal compliance and transparency. Cons: Some users report that the system can be slow and occasionally glitchy. While its basic features are on a free plan, advanced accounting functionalities come with paid plans, which might be a drawback for small businesses. Some users have reported that the customer service could be more responsive and supportive. 7. Rent Manager Rent Manager is a versatile property management software solution that provides a wealth of features tailored to property managers, including accounting. Pros: Rent Manager's accounting features are comprehensive, enabling users to track income and expenses, automate invoicing, and payment processing, and produce detailed financial reports. The software offers both corporate and trust accounting, ensuring compliance and providing transparent financial management. Rent Manager's open API allows for integration with numerous other software solutions, making it a flexible choice. Cons: Some users find Rent Manager's extensive features a bit overwhelming, leading to a steeper learning curve. The cost can be high for small businesses or those with fewer units, as pricing is based on the number of units managed. While Rent Manager offers comprehensive support, there are some reports of slower response times. 8. Propertyware Propertyware is a cloud-based, end-to-end property management software that offers a range of features, including a strong accounting suite. They offer custom fields and automation for PMs, real estate investors, and residents. Pros: Propertyware’s accounting module is quite comprehensive, allowing users to track income and expenses, handle online payments, and generate detailed and customized financial reports. It supports both corporate and trust accounting, important for maintaining transparency and legal compliance. It includes an “owner portal” and maintenance request management features. Cons: The initial setup can be complex to get right, and there can be a steep learning curve for those new to property management software. The pricing is not ideal for smaller PMCs with fewer than 250 rental properties. 9. Rentec Direct Rentec Direct is a web-based property management software designed for “landlords” and property managers, offering a wide variety of features, including an extensive accounting system. Pros: Rentec Direct's accounting tools provide capabilities for tracking income and expenses, automating rent collection, and producing in-depth financial reports. It supports both corporate and trust accounting, helping ensure legal compliance and transparency. Features like owner portals, work order management, tenant screening, and SMSM services. Cons: The product and interface are older and less intuitive than others on the market. The reporting feature, while robust, may require some time to understand and use effectively. Some users have reported that the system can be slow at times, particularly during peak usage hours. 10. DoorLoop DoorLoop is a property management software designed to streamline the management process for property managers with all sizes of portfolios. It comes with a robust accounting suite, among other features. Pros: DoorLoop's accounting features are extensive, allowing for the tracking of income and expenses, rent collection, and generation of financial reports. It supports both corporate and trust accounting, ensuring legal compliance and providing transparent financial management. The software has a user-friendly interface, making it an attractive choice for users with varying levels of tech proficiency. Cons: While DoorLoop offers many features, it may take some time to get used to all of its capabilities, and it is less customizable than other options. Some users have reported occasional system slowdowns and bugs. The cost could be high for those managing a smaller number of properties as the pricing is based on the number of units managed. Honorable Mentions The list above is not intended to be exhaustive, but we did want to make a brief mention of a few other software applications for property managers that incorporate some accounting features: RealPage RealPage provides a technology platform rather than a software application per se, with the aim of enabling “real estate owners and managers to change how people experience and use rental space." ResMan Tagline: “ResMan’s industry-leading property management platform helps multifamily and affordable housing managers operate more efficiently and deliver higher rates of return to investors.” Entrata Tagline: “The operating system built to help you focus on residents, not technology.” A Note on Other Accounting Software While this article focuses on software tailored to property management accounting, it's worth mentioning general accounting solutions like QuickBooks online. QuickBooks, a well-known accounting software, is versatile and can be effectively used in a variety of industries, including the real estate business. It offers robust features like tracking income and expenses, invoicing, and generating detailed financial reports. However, because it's not specifically designed for property management, it may lack specialized features like tenant and lease tracking or lease management, maintenance requests, or property-specific reporting. That's why it didn't make our main list, but for some property managers, especially those managing a small number of units, it might serve their needs adequately. FAQ: Property Management Accounting At Second Nature, we’ve been in the SFR property management space for a long time. We gathered up some of the most burning questions property managers ask about property management accounting. Kristin Johnson helped us answer them. What accounting should I use for property management business? Kristin Johnson: The type of account property managers need is a true trust account – which very few banks actually offer. Many local banks or even big ones like Chase and Wells Fargo will give you a checking account and then label it a trust account. That is NOT a trust account. In normal bank accounts, you have $250K of FDIC insurance. A trust account has FDIC insurance per owner that has funds in the account. So they each have $250K of FDIC insurance. The only bank that I’m positive offers true trust accounts is Enterprise. How should you report rent in property management accounting? Kristin Johnson: If a tenant pays early, it's considered prepaid rent. It needs to stay booked as prepaid rent until it gets actually booked against the rent charge, and only then should the funds be made available to the owner. I know that some property managers use it to pay bills. But technically, it’s a liability until it's actually earned, so it should not be used to pay bills, and it should not be distributed to the owner. Those are funds that belong to the renters until there's an actual rent charge booked against them. That's piece number one to understand. Then, getting to the end-of-year side of it, the IRS does lay out that prepaid rent is taxable in the year that it is collected. So it should be reported as part of the 1099 income. What is the purpose of clearing accounts in property management? Kristin Johnson: The clearing account really serves as an intermediary while the security deposit funds are essentially in transit. When we're getting ready to move out a tenant, those funds get released from the holding account, and it goes into the clearing account where we are booking, say, cleaning against it or whatever move-out charges need to go against it before we do a final distribution to the tenant. So it's just kind of a quick intermediary place where it sits very temporarily before the security deposit gets released and then distributed. Who is responsible for sales tax in property management? Kristin Johnson: Well, it depends on the function of the sales tax. There are a couple of different instances where sales tax comes into place. For example, New Mexico is a sales-tax-on-services state. Everybody is responsible for sales tax, meaning if it's a management fee, the owner is responsible for the sales tax. If it's a tenant fee, the tenant is responsible for paying the sales tax. Ultimately, the PM is responsible for gathering that sales tax and remitting it to the state. There are some states where rent is taxable. Similarly, in those states, the owner is ultimately responsible for the sales tax. But many times, the PM will collect the sales tax from the tenant and pay it to the state on the owner's behalf. A lot of times, what we'll see is, for example, the rent may be a thousand dollars, and the state says we need 7% of that. So you would tack an additional 7% onto the rent. The tenant would pay the thousand dollars plus the 7%, which would come into a liability or holding account on the ledger. Then a lot of times, the PM would pay that to the state on behalf of the owner. What should be the frequency of record keeping in property management? Kristin Johnson: “Money in should be accounted for immediately as received. States will usually dictate how quickly receipts have to be deposited, but our recommendation is that they always get deposited same day with the bank or as soon as practical thereafter. As far as record-keeping to the owner goes, most states actually mandate that at least monthly reporting happens to the owner. Certainly, in trust accounting, record keeping should be looked at daily, weekly, and monthly to make sure that it's staying in line. Soft reconciliation should be happening at least weekly, if not daily, to ensure that all of the money is fully accounted for and that you're not going to have any issues when you're closing out the end of the month. Why would a property management firm use classes in accounting software? Kristin Johnson: Classes could be done by various categorizations: single family, multifamily, commercial – in other words, the type of property that you're managing if you wanted to keep records that way. We always used classes in our company because we were in seven markets, and so we would use classes per market. If I wanted to track my Farmington location or my Denver location, or my Charlotte location, I had all of my income and expenses broken down in classes by location. It could be location, it could be property class type, really whatever kind of granular level you want to dive down and break out could be done by classes. Do PMs set up owners as vendors in accounting software? Kristin Johnson: If you're working in a true property management software, owners will be set up as owners, and you would do owner distributions to them as owners. It's possible that if someone's not using a trust accounting platform – if they're using something like QuickBooks – then probably yes, you would have them set up as vendors. But if you're managing a true trust accounting software, I don't ever recommend setting up owners as vendors. It kind of convolutes end-of-year reporting. You have to issue 1099s to your owners, and you have to issue 1099s to vendors. If you have them set up both as an owner and as a vendor, you're theoretically sending out two different 1099s – which wouldn’t necessarily be proper. How much should a property management company spend on accounting? Kristin Johnson: Accounting is one thing in property management that you don't want to skimp on. The most important function of a property manager is to be a good steward of other people's money. I don't know that there's a range, but I will say that it very well may end up being your largest expense. But worth the money. Conclusion The software you choose for property management accounting can significantly streamline your operations and contribute to the growth and success of your business. Each option has its strengths and potential drawbacks, so it's vital to select a solution that fits your unique needs and portfolio size. By equipping yourself with the right tools, you can streamline your accounting processes, ensure accuracy and compliance, and ultimately, drive your property management business toward greater success. If you want to get more input on your property management software, check out our Triple Win PM Community on Facebook. Or, see more of our studies on property management best practices and services like our Resident Benefits Package.

Calendar icon June 27, 2023

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How to Design An Effective And Adopted Ancillary Revenue Program

Ancillary revenue programs like resident benefits packages have really hit their stride in the property management industry. Many property managers get into the industry in the first place because it’s a great way to start building secondary income. The work rewards creativity and innovation in terms of revenue streams and value-generating services. And that’s exactly what ancillary revenue is all about. We sat down with some of the best innovators in the business to talk about what makes an ancillary revenue program effective, how to make them sustainable in the long-term, how to incorporate revenue management, and how to know which ones can work for your business. What is Ancillary Revenue? First, let’s get down to brass tacks. Ancillary revenue is any additional source of income generated by a property that is not directly related to its primary function or purpose. In property management, property managers offer additional services to generate additional income for themselves and their client investors beyond the rent or lease payments they receive from residents. Most of us are familiar with ancillary revenue streams like those used in the airline industry or hotel industry. Companies may charge for early check-in, late check-out, in-flight entertainment, wifi etc. But what many of these programs miss is the opportunity to generate value without nickel-and-diming people. Examples of ancillary revenue in property management can include things like pet fees, renter’s insurance programs, management fees, and more. These compound to boost your total revenue alongside adding value for residents and investors. In some ways, you can think of it like an upsell, but it's really about value generation and finding a way to diversify revenue streams. By diversifying their revenue streams, property managers can increase their income and offset some of the costs associated with maintaining the property. How to Design an Effect Ancillary Revenue Stream “There is one characteristic that is the most important, and that is that you have to believe in it,” says Steve Pardon, Head Broker at JMAX Property Management. “If you believe that there is a benefit to doing it, then you’re good. If you don’t, then it’s hard to sell.” Pardon hits on the most important question any time you’re adding cost to your residents: Does it really create a benefit? All ancillary income programs are theoretically beneficial to the PM, as it directly affects the bottom line, but add-on services that don’t create a benefit for the resident can have long-term consequences as a result of dissatisfaction. Most ancillary revenue opportunities today are operated as part of a resident benefits package built into your business model. Pardon has rolled out an RBP to his residents, but took a very measured and analytical approach to ensure that everything his residents were paying for created value for them. Pardon summarizes his thorough process for determining value with "you have to believe in what you're charging people for." JMAX operates in the Roanoke, Virginia area, and Pardon considers the nature of his specific area when deciding what he believes in charing people for, noting that he feels certain programs work better or worse in his rural market than they would in an more dense market like an Atlanta Residents rarely object to paying for services they find value in, which is why an RBP built with the principles Pardon describes above can be so successful. “You can make anything mandatory, but if it doesn’t create value for the residents, you’re going to pay the price down the line,” says Paul Mauk of Invitation Homes. You can read about resident pushback to RBP here. Good ancillary services can come in many different shapes and sizes, and not all are part of a third-party managed RBP, although that certainly is a proven way of adding them. HomeRiver Group, for example, sends each and every resident in a HomeRiver group managed home a holiday gift. “One thing that we're getting ready to do right now is our holiday gift to the residents, which is another win-win,” says HomeRiver Group CDO Andrew Propst. “We find local companies like restaurants or movie theaters, or the year movie theaters were closed, we were looking at maybe doing some bowling alleys. We buy a bunch of gift cards at a discount. We put it in a nice little letter and we send it out to the tenants. They get $50 in value, we paid $25 for that. And you know we make a pretty good spread, and we spread Christmas and holiday cheer. And, you know, we get good Google reviews. It makes some money. We help local businesses. It's a big one.” Paul Mauk of Invitation Homes notes that ancillary services that don’t directly drive profit can still be hyper-effective as long term initiatives if they contribute to asset protection and low turnover rates in properties. “I think the type of initiatives that we're having success with are those things that provide for enhanced leasing lifestyle for our tenants or residents,” says Mauk. “And that's all often driven via survey and input from residents. So instead of us pretending that we know every potential amenity they would like, we’re actually reaching out to them and asking them what the value proposition would be from their perspective.” “And then one of the additional things would be, you know, items that aren’t necessarily potentially revenue drivers for us, but items that help us relative to asset preservation. So things that may be very specific and required within the lease, if we can find ways in which to make it an easier process for our residents, we can enhance our offering, enhance the experience for them, and increase the length of stay that we see from our residents.” This is a point that can’t be made enough, that minimizing turnover is the most important thing for property management companies. Your client is the investor and your product to the investor is the resident who lives in the property. The more time a resident lives there, the better ROI for the owner, which means better client retention for you and more potential for referrals. That’s why the resident experience aspect of ancillary services is so critical, even more so than the additional funds they can procure. We can talk about ancillary services for days but the successful adoption of your program will always hinge primarily on one question: Does it create value for the resident? Hence why JMAX Head Broker Steve Pardon weighs so heavily whether or not he believes he can offer a service in good faith. Ancillary Revenue Examples Let’s look at some examples of the best ancillary revenue ideas in property management right now. The services with an asterisk (*) are all available in Second Nature’s fully-managed Resident Benefits Package. Filter Delivery Service* Air filters delivery is a premium service for residents that automates air filter delivery to all your properties on a set schedule. Filter delivery simplifies the process for residents and ensures timely replacement at a low cost. HVAC repair costs have increased by 48.7% year over year, and an air filter delivery subscription can cut costs up to $300 per year. At Second Nature, we’ve seen our filter delivery service result in a 38% reduction fo total HVAC ticket requests, and save residents $14.82 per month in energy costs. Resident Rewards Program* Rewards aren’t just a perk for residents – they’re a powerful way to incentivize on-time rent payments. Talk about a win! Residents receive rewards such as discounts to local businesses when they pay rent on time. You and your investors see an increase in on-time payments, and residents now see rent day as rewards day. Credit-Building* Rent is one of the most significant regular payments any of us make. Why not report that to build credit? That’s what property managers are doing as a benefit to residents and another innovative incentive to on-time rent payments. A study by TransUnion found that 67% of residents would choose homes with rent reporting over other equivalent homes. Credit building supports your residents, helps attract financially responsible applicants, and encourages residents to pay rent on time. Move-In Concierge* Any time we move, one of the biggest headaches is setting up utilities. One great ancillary revenue stream is to provide a move-in concierge. At Second Nature, we manage this for you. Our move-in concierge helps residents with their best options int he area and can help simplify setup. In one phone call, residents get what they need. Identity Protection* Did you know that identify theft is a larger security risk today than home burglary? One in eight Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2021, equaling up to $52 billion in losses. Identity protection gives residents peace of mine and protects them finacially – which also protects their abilty to pay rent. Renters Insurance* A quality renters insurance program will allow residents to keep current coverage if they wish, but be automatically enrolled in the PMs program if they don't/don't have insurance. Good renter’s insurance will cover risks like all breeds of dogs, making renting from you a very attractive option. Did you know that 90% of professional property managers require residents to carry insurance on their lease? And yet only 41% maintain compliant coverage. At Second Nature, our renters insurance program has 100% compliance, protecting residents, investors, and the PMCs. Holiday Gift Program A holiday gift program helps residents feel seen, known, and remembered. Residents receive coupons or gift cards to local establishments as a wish of good cheer during the holiday season. Who doesn’t love a holiday gift? Security Deposit Alternatives We’ve seen security deposit alternatives proliferate in the last few years. Property management companies are choosing to offer other ways to cover financial liabilities for damages that do not require a huge payment at move-in, such as a surety bond or ACH authorization. Pest Control Many PMCs offer pest control services to residents to keep cockroaches, ants, etc., out of the property. PMs generate extra revenue while offering a massive benefit to residents, and asset protection for them and their investor. Pet Fees & Services With pet fees, you can because a universally pet-friendly company while still protecting yourself and your investor from risk. You offer the investor a guarantee that their property will be safe from pet damage and the resident pays you for this service. Home-Buying Assistance Programs Home-buying assistance helps boost resident experience and trust, while also investing in resident retention. Learn more about assistance programs for long-term residents looking to purchase a home. How Second Nature Helps Create Ancillary Revenue At Second Nature, we work with property management companies around the country to help them generate more value for their residents and additional revenue for their business through a Resident Benefits Package (RBP). The Second Nature RBP is a custom suite of benefits that elevates the resident experience while adding profit to your bottom line. An RBP is a powerful ancillary revenue strategy – and having one fully managed means that it doesn’t add any burden to your team. Generate more value for your investors, ease for your residents, and profit for your PMC with an RBP.

Calendar icon May 23, 2023

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Investor Benefits Package™️ IBP™️

An Investor Benefits Package™️ (IBP) in property management is a suite of products, services, and benefits offered by property management companies to property investors. Just like a resident benefits package is a way to drive value for residents, investors, and property managers, the IBP is an innovative approach to property management that focuses on driving value for an investors assets and turning that value into profit for the property management company. In this article, we’ll dig into the different features that an Investor Benefits Package can include, and how those benefit not just investors, but property managers and residents, too. What is an investor benefits package (IBP)? As stated above, an investor benefits package (IBP) is a comprehensive suite of services that offer property investors higher quality property management, stability, and profit. An IBP typically includes concierge-level services beyond basic property management – such as property insurance policy, eviction guarantees, rent guarantees, maintenance plans, asset performance reports, etc. These services are aimed at maximizing the investor’s assets, stability and convenience, profitability, and peace of mind in managing their properties. The first step to outlining an IBP is to define what your basic management fee means and covers. If the answer is, it’s collecting rent, handling maintenance, and general communication – does that include maintenance coordination or is that a separate fee? Does it include asset reporting or is that an additional service? In your management agreement, define what the management fee is, what it covers, and how much it is. An IBP can be an effective tool for articulating the new and differentiated things that an investor wouldn’t be able to do on their own and that you are offering beyond basic property management. Articulate your unique and differentiated services (IBP) and use that as a tool for positioning and charge for what it’s worth. What’s included in an investor benefits package? An investor benefits package should includes a range of solutions to help deliver consistency, insight, and asset protection to a property owner’s portfolio. After all, professional property managers don’t have to be functional managers of a home – they can be strategic partners in the management of financial assets. You might hear services similar to the IBP called an “owner benefit package,” but at Second Nature, we believe that the “investor” term is useful in encouraging a longer term mindset, and emphasizes the economic value professional property management can bring. According to Eric Wetherington, VP of Strategic Initiatives at PURE Property Management: “As property managers, we need to think more like asset managers. This client made an investment, and we should be guiding that client through managing that investment, not just collecting rent.” To build and manage a winning IBP, property managers need an investor experience platform™️ that unlocks scalable product and service customization, digitized onboarding, accounting policy automation, and more. Here are some of the most valuable services that property managers can offer through an innovative Investor Benefits Package. Property Insurance Program Similar to offering a renters insurance program through an RBP in the lease agreement, property management companies can offer an insurance plan to investors to cut costs and ensure the safety of their assets. Most management agreements will include the requirement that the investor carries insurance on the property and that the property manager is additionally insured. But what if you as the property manager could help manage that for the investor – at scale? Property Insurance for investors should have dynamic pricing based on individual investors’s property portfolio and needs. The benefit beyond flexibility is the savings they’ll see on their premiums while also getting insurance that’s tailored to the needs of their specific property class. At Second Nature, we work primarily with single-family rental properties and small multi-family residences. Property Insurance Programs can bring scale that will drive economic value for the investor over what they could get retail on their own. They’d still have the option to go get their own insurance that meets requirements, but they can pay you a small fee to manage it for them. Rent Guarantee An IBP can include a number of financial guarantees to protect property investors and drive ancillary revenue for PMCs. A rent guarantee, or rent protection, ensures a consistent rental income to investors by protecting them against resident defaults or non-payment of rent. If a resident fails to pay rent, the property management company covers the unpaid amount and takes necessary steps for eviction or collection, providing financial security and minimizing the risk for property owners. Rent guarantees work for professional property management companies that have enough properties to balance the loss of rent if a resident doesn’t pay. The risk is low and the additional profit from fees for this guarantee can have a very high ROI, while driving satisfaction and stability for the investor. Plus, if you’re using services in an RBP to help incentivize on-time rent payments, you’ll rarely find yourself out in the cold. Eviction Protection Guarantee An eviction protection guarantee also goes beyond the normal scope of property management services and can be used as a secondary source of revenue. Eviction Protection is a service provided by property management companies to property investors that offers additional security and financial protection in the event of an eviction. Under this guarantee, the property management company assumes the costs associated with the eviction process, including legal fees and court expenses. It helps alleviate the financial burden on property investors and provides peace of mind by ensuring that they are safeguarded against potential losses resulting from resident evictions. The eviction guarantee helps protect property owners from the complexities and potential costs associated with evictions, ensuring a smooth and efficient resolution to tenant-related issues. Pet Guarantees & Other Guarantees A pet guarantee is a service offered by property management companies to property investors that aims to address any potential issues related to allowing pets in rental properties. It typically involves implementing policies and procedures to ensure responsible pet ownership, such as thorough pet screening, pet agreements, and collecting additional pet deposits or fees. The pet guarantee may also include services like pet damage insurance or assistance with pet-related issues during the lease term. It provides property investors with a framework to accommodate residents with pets while minimizing risks and maintaining the condition of the property. For many residents, finding a pet-friendly apartment increases retention and profitability. They’re willing to stay longer and pay more for a pet-friendly place. And–get this–pet damage is less likely to happen than damage from kids! It’s not a huge risk to the asset, but can provide a big benefit in terms of satisfied, longer-term residents. Maintenance Plan Home warranties are a four-letter word for property managers. They’re a massive headache to deal with, and yet there’s high demand for them among property investors. Because of that, most property mangers charge a fee for home warranties, for each they have to file. Imagine if there was a world where home warranties weren’t needed. Here’s the thing: Professional property managers already have the vendor network and the know-how to coordinate maintenance jobs. What they don’t usually have is a product that’s priced to give the investor the experience they want. Let’s say right now an investor is paying $50 a month for a cheap home warranty. The warranty only covers 40% of issues and it creates all these extra people and friction in the middle. For anything moderately significant that goes wrong with a property, PMCs generally must contact the investor for permission to get work done. It’s all a massive hassle and loses time in maintenance requests that leaves residents frustrated. What if there was a product that cost, say, $150 to $200 a month but it actually covered everything? Instead of having sudden expenses and emergencies, this maintenance plan smooths out the experience and makes it more predictable for the investor. For PMs, it means taking initiative on fixes without waiting for approval. Imagine a world where you didn’t have to get owner approvals for 95% of maintenance issues – because they’re already budgeted for and already paid for. For residents, it means better maintenance, faster. Another Triple Win! Asset Performance Reports Another piece that focuses on property managers as asset managers. Think about any investment app, like RobinHood, Acorns, etc. You can log into those app any time, 24/7, and see how your stock and ivnestments are performing. In most investment classes, you can see in realtime how your assets are performing. Why shouldn’t property investors have that as well? An IBP can include exactly that: a dashboard or online portal that shows investors regular reports on how their property is doing. They could get updates on the value of their home over time, the home price appreciation, rent price over time, and project rent growth, typically maintenance costs and how they’re doing against that, and more. Resident Benefits Package Another piece to include in your IBP is to highlight the benefits of your resident benefits package to your investors. Explain how features like a filter delivery program protect their assets and reduce HVAC repair costs. Show how a renters insurance program can ensure coverage and protection. Give numbers on how credit reporting incentivizes on-time rental payments and helps ensure financially stable renters. Explain how a movie-in concierge saves both time, headache, and money. Each of the pillars of an RBP are critical to encouraging better resident behavior, increasing renter retention and lease renewal rates, reducing vacancies, and more – all primary goals for a property investor. A note about Rent Advance Programs There’s been due buzz about “Rent Advance” offerings, though many advise caution when approaching this financial product. It works in some ways like cash advance programs, which can satisfy urgent needs, but not be more valuable for anyone long term. The way it works is PMs offer to send a year of rent upfront to the investor in a big chunk, and collect monthly from the resident. The investor typically pays a 5-10% premium on the advance, which can be their entire expected return. So the question becomes, where do they put that cash to get a better return instead? Another thing to think about is who would actually use this product? Investors who don’t have enough cash on-hand? How does that benefit anyone in the long run? What happens when there’s a big maintenance bill later? Does this encourage better decisions and practices by the investor? To date, there’s been pretty low adoption of this program, which is another sign it may not be hugely beneficial to everyone involved. But plenty of innovations start that way, evolve, and find traction. One case where it might be a value generator is if an investor is looking to take a cash advance and put it toward a down payment for another house. That would benefit the property manager as well, promising more business, and the PM could offer a lower rate for getting more properties to make the financing more attractive than hard money loans or other alternatives. The jury is still out here, it’s an interesting one to track. How can investors and property managers benefit from an investor benefits package™️? Investors and property managers can benefit from an investor benefits package in several ways. They’re also great for residents in the sense they build more stability and quality into the renting process. Here are just some of the benefits of an IBP. Enhanced investor attraction An investor benefits package provides incentives and advantages that can attract more investors. Financial guarantees and protections against the risks associated with evictions or late payments can increase stability, while services like a maintenance plan can ensure premium care of their property assets without increasing their workload. By offering attractive perks, property managers can differentiate their offerings and generate greater investor interest. Increased investor retention Both IBPs and RBPs help build loyalty with residents and investors. By fostering a strong relationship and demonstrating ongoing value, property managers can build trust and loyalty among investors, and retain them over the long term. IBPs help establish the stability, transparency, and asset growth for a real estate investment that an investor hopes to achieve. Improved property performance An investor benefits package can also contribute to improved property performance. For example, by offering discounted property management fees or access to professional services at reduced rates, property managers can help investors optimize their returns and reduce costs. Additionally, incentives such as rent guarantees or eviction protection can mitigate risk for investors and attract more capital to the property. Streamlined communication and transparency A well-designed investor benefits package facilitates effective communication and promotes transparency between property managers and investors. This can involve regular reporting on financial performance, property updates, and the sharing of relevant market insights. Transparent and consistent communication builds trust and confidence among investors, fostering a positive and long-lasting relationship. Competitive advantage A comprehensive investor benefits package can give property managers a competitive edge in the market. When investors have access to exclusive benefits and advantages, they are more likely to choose a property managed by a company that offers a compelling package – and to recommend them to others. Say hello to increased investment inflow and a stronger market position for your PMC. Should you make an investor benefits package mandatory? The first thing most property managers ask us when we’re talking about an RBP or an IBP is: Should I make this mandatory for all investors or do I make it a flexible opt-in/opt-out program? Unlike RBPs, where best practices are more proven and established, different PMs are taking different approaches with their IBPs. Some have a mandatory level of service set at a flat price. Others may say they’re fine offering a base level of service without these differentiated products, giving investors the choice to simply pay a baseline management fee and to opt out of the IBP premium service. Some may offer a baseline to all investors and then give them the chance to opt in for premium IBP services. There are a lot of ways to do it. With the RBP, we’ve found that making it mandatory does not generate nearly as much pushback as people expect – and can be a strong value add overall. Final thoughts about an investor benefits package The Investor Benefits Package is an innovative way to generate ancillary income and create more value for investors and residents. Similar to Second Nature’s premier Resident Benefits Package, the IBP can deliver high-quality service for investor experience – and help create a triple win for investors, residents, and property management companies. The IBP reinforces the value of a professional property management company for investors and helps differentiate you from the crowd. Stay tuned to learn more about the latest in the IBP space, or learn more about how a resident benefits package can launch a whole new level of value for your PMC.

Calendar icon May 23, 2023

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Pricing Resident Benefits Packages Mistakes

The Resident Benefits Package (RBP) is one of the leading strategies in SFR property management today. It helps drive resident retention and satisfaction, increase profits for the property investor, and build better property management teams and workflows. A similar product is the Investor Benefits Package (IBP) which also drives value for residents, property managers, and investors. But there's one issue with RBPs and IPBs that many property managers get tripped up on: pricing. How do you choose how to charge for your Resident Benefits Package? How do you ensure you aren't lowballing yourself or pricing yourself out of the market? How do you market it to your residents and investors? How do you ensure a smooth rollout? It's not as complicated as you think. Andrew Smallwood of Second Nature breaks down the best way to price an RBP by sharing some simple insights most Property Managers may not have even considered. ‍ ‍ TRANSCRIPT Andrew Smallwood: Hello professional property managers. Andrew Smallwood here. And I just wanted to record a quick video because there's a common mistake being made and it's a painful mistake, it's a totally avoidable painful mistake, totally preventable, as it relates to pricing resident benefits packages. I'm going to use my other camera here just to draw out what I'm talking about here so that it's easy to see and understand. So here's the thing with resident benefit package pricing. There's basically two ways to go about pricing, and you know what I will show you is what we believe is the wrong way and what we believe is the best way. Now, the wrong way looks something like this. It's adding up the price of your various services that you use. Let's just say this continues on down the line and you've got, I don't know, $15 worth of stuff in your benefit package. And what a property manager says at this point is, "Hey, the margin that I want to make is 25%." And so they say, "I'm going to charge $20 to the resident so that I can make $5, which hits my margin target above my cost." And that's kind of the model. They're starting from what we would call a cost-built price. A cost-built price. I would argue that that's the wrong way to go about it because this is exactly what property owners do who say, "Hey, I've got a mortgage that's $1,000 a month, and I'm just going to say another $100 of expenses. I'm budgeting planning, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I've got this $1,100 cost base and I'd like to be cash flowing $900 a month, and so I'm going to charge $2,000 in rent." Now, as crazy as today's market is, in SFR (single-family rentals), maybe they could get someone to go for that. But if the market is saying, "Hey, really the rent that you're going to get on that kind of home is $1,400," well listen, you can still be cash flowing, but it's not going to be the same. There might also be an investor who had it flipped the other way around. They may be saying, "Gosh, if I could just make a couple hundred bucks in cash flow, that would be amazing, because most people can't get that." But the reality is they could rent it for much more. And this is where you as the professional who has the expertise of what's going on in the market, you can come at things from a different place and you can build it from, "Hey, here's the market value. Here's what the market values this at today." And the way that works within RBP is you need an expert in a resident benefits package who also knows the market and what professional property managers are charging for the mix and services. That's something that Second Nature does. And ultimately you could say, "Hey, if you were piecing all these items together on your own as a resident you'd be paying $45 a month, but we're only going to charge you $29 a month." In certain markets that might be a price. So that's a great savings for the resident. And the pricing to the property manager might be $15.50 for the various services that are included. And so all of a sudden you've got this nice spread of $13.50, whereas somebody might have been undervaluing that at $5, or they might have been overvaluing it and saying, I just want to make 100% margin. Well, everyone would love to make 100% margin. But it's not the cost that determines the price. If you do that, you're going to get tremendous tenant pushback or you're going to be undervaluing the service that you're delivering. So building the market value, there's really a couple of keys of what goes into it. What's the mix of products that you have, the mix of services? How are you marketing and positioning it? And then finally, the service delivery: how are you delivering on those services in such a way that creates value? If you can maximize the mix of products that you have, the marketing and positioning and the delivery of those services, then you can maximize ultimately the market value of your RBP and end up with a great result. And create what we call as a triple win where residents are getting a great deal, property owners are seeing their assets protected and better retention and results, and you, the property manager and your team, are getting a great result as well. But you got to avoid this pricing trap of going from a place of cost and then arbitrarily choosing a margin that you'd like to make, because you may be undervaluing or overvaluing ultimately what the market will pay. If you'd like, Second Nature can help with this, whether you work with us or not. If you want to talk to somebody on the Second Nature team about what we're seeing for pricing in the market, what's working, what's the mix of products that property managers are using in your area and why? And ultimately, class A, B, C, your different portfolio mix, what's going to work across your portfolio and how you need to structure and deploy it? We can speak from a place of experience having helped over 1,000 companies do this, and if not in your area, then we can work with you to help you figure it out from a place of expertise. So, listen, whether you reach out to us or not, please spread the word about this so that people are thinking about it the right way and coming from a market value approach and not a cost-based approach. All right. I'm signing off. Just a quick video. Hope you guys enjoy it. Leave your feedback, I'd love to see a comment or email me. Let me know what you think of this, if you want us to do more videos like this. Thanks.

Calendar icon May 18, 2023

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Michael Catalano

5 Property Management Mistakes that make you a Bad Property Manager

We all make mistakes. But when in comes to property management mistakes, the consequences can be tremendous. Property managers balance so many moving pieces, and fixing even the smallest mistakes or bad habits can make a huge difference to your resident experience and your business growth. From hiring people who aren’t a good fit to letting tenant screenings slide, there are plenty of predictable characteristics of what some might call a bad property manager. But it’s not always as straightforward as it seems. So, we decided to seek out an expert on property management who could talk to us about how property managers can avoid the most common property management mistakes. Meet the Expert: Michael Catalano Michael Catalano is a lifer in the industry and has unique insights as a founding partner of PURE Property Management. We asked him for the five most common mistakes made by property managers are and he delivered. ‍Michael Catalano is co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley-based PURE Property Management, the fastest growing profitable residential property management and technology company in the U.S. As a second-generation property manager with over 25 years of experience running, growing, and acquiring property management companies, Catalano is an industry insider looking to transform the traditionally cumbersome and complex process of managing properties. PURE acquires hyperlocal property management companies and invests in their people, processes, and technology to achieve market leadership in their location. 1. Mismanaging Trust Accounting “One of the biggest mistakes I see newer property owners make is not actively managing and understanding their trust accounting,” says Catalano. “Trust accounting discrepancies can do more than jeopardize your bottom line. Depending on the state you live in, big shortages can put you out of business or even in jail.” The key to avoiding any discrepancies is to have the right people in place. Trust accounting in rental property management requires a more specialized understanding of the industry than a traditional CPA often has. The accountant you hire needs to have a deep knowledge of how money fluidly moves through all stakeholders, specifically in the property management industry - residents, property investors, and vendors. They need to keep accurate and up-to-date accounting so that you always know what your resources are. While shortages do come up occasionally, even with the most well-run companies, knowing and troubleshooting to find the problem right away will help avoid bigger discrepancies later. “Every owner should be monitoring trust accounts with their CPA at least monthly, and for some states, it is a licensing requirement. In these states, if you have a negative in a trust account, you will lose your license and can also be fined or jailed. Shortages in a trust account usually occur when money from a client has been placed in the wrong client account, commingling funds. As soon as you commingle, you break the law in most states.” Catalano really stresses the importance of getting this right the first time and offers two important suggestions: “Number one, put someone in place that understands this. Fortunately, there are now many accountants and firms that specialize in trust accounting. You can find the best for you by talking to your colleagues and checking references before hiring. The second is to conduct a self-audit every other year. Take the time and spend the money to hire a professional auditor to audit your trust accounting and make sure that all the accounts are balanced and in order. It may cost about $5,000, but that is considerably less expensive than having it wrong,” emphasizes Catalano. ‍ 2. Dropping the Ball on Forecasting and Financial Analysis “It is very important to have a sufficient understanding of your everyday and future finances by budgeting and forecasting, which is critical to running any successful business. I’ve seen some property management companies miss this important step,” says Catalano. Underdeveloped financial analysis can leave a lot of money on the table and become a costly mistake in property management services. Catalano is quick to note how some basic budgeting and bookkeeping refinement have quickly increased the margins and cash flow of many of the companies that have joined the PURE Property Management family, and this modification is generally something that every company can very easily do on their own. “In addition to budgeting and forecasting, it is important to have an understanding of your KPIs and metrics as well. I feel like a lot of companies in our industry could do a better job of tracking so that every day they can answer critical questions about the financial position of their business – ‘What’s my revenue per door?’ and ‘Who is bringing in revenue and why and what am I paying them?’” Catalano offers this advice to help ensure you’re keeping up with finances appropriately: “You should always be prepared to sell your company, even if you have absolutely no plans whatsoever. Because when you operate at that level, you will have the best control and understanding of your overall finances. By watching your revenue and expenses on a daily basis, you will always have a pulse on the health of your business.” 3. Failing to Complete Workflow Implementation “While property management is not a particularly tech-savvy industry, we’ve seen more changes over the last three or so years than in the previous 30. There are now single-point technology solutions for the most time-intensive tasks within the workflow process innovated to increase efficiency. But the implementation remains challenging,” says Catalano. “I’ve noticed that in this industry, when you decide on a new process or workflow that you would like to implement, I see a lot of incomplete implementation. Every new process requires employee training, which means extra time away from daily responsibilities, but it helps, in the end, to actually sit down and hold a class on how to operate the new technology or workflow. The technology only delivers optimal efficiencies if the users know how to wield them appropriately. So you need to think critically about how much technology to implement and what it means to your current and future workflows.” Catalano says that as the industry has embraced technology at an increasing rate, the companies that have leveraged that change most successfully are the ones that made the proper investment in educating their teams. Technology can help with communication, streamlining workflow around property maintenance issues, leasing, move in, renewals, rent payments, tracking late rent or other late fees, security deposit, etc. Part of the challenge of technology implementation, according to Catalano, is the lack of an end-to-end technology solution that completes the entire workflow process within one system. “Right now, company owners are trying to piece together too many technology platforms on their own,” adds the professional property management veteran. “That’s the hard part because, in this industry, the different technologies do not truly connect. While some property management tech solutions are labeled as APIs, generally they aren’t true APIs because they don’t talk to each other.” The lack of integration Catalano touches on here makes heavy reliance on a large amount of software a hazardous venture. Not only do employees need to learn to be efficient with all of them, especially in smaller companies, but because they are not interconnected, there’s a lot of manual data transfer. “Right now, a property management API is like a CSV file, where you're downloading and then importing that CSV file in the new platform. In order to implement an entire workflow process, property managers use seven to 10 different platforms for all the different processes. Moving from one tech process to the next, we’re asking our property managers or leasing agents or maintenance coordinators to remember what they did in one platform and literally hand type that information in the next platform. As you can imagine, things get lost in translation, and then you have a problem.” 4. Falling Out of Compliance with Laws and Regulations & Screening Tenants “I live and operate in California, and it seems like California has a new law every day for resident rights,” says Catalano.”Property managers have an obligation to themselves, their teams, their clients, and their residents to stay up to date with the ever-evolving laws and industry regulations in their state.” And unfortunately, as everyone knows, rapidly changing fair housing laws get complicated really fast. “To make this situation even more complicated, in addition to the statewide ordinances, there are local ordinances as well that supersede the state ones,” says Catalano. “So, for example, you have to stay on top of knowing that while there is a statewide rent control in California, certain areas in Silicon Valley have a different rent control.” Knowing that lease and eviction law changes are fluid, Catalano believes it helps to think of them as living, breathing organisms that are continually changing and growing. In addition, Catalano recommends that you should review all state and local laws and regulations on at least a monthly basis. And while leases and property management agreements don’t need to be updated monthly, they should be combed through on a regular basis to be sure they are all compliant. Understand the laws around background checks, credit checks, and discrimination when screening tenants, etc. “Updating your lease agreements is tedious and can sometimes be monetarily expensive. You may even have to pay an attorney to do it. But at the end of the day, you really have to do it. Believe it or not, we’ve had a few situations, especially in California, when we have acquired a company and when we have looked at the leases have found as many as four items in there that are actually illegal.”’ “It’s not easy to be perfectly compliant with how many laws and regulations there are, how quickly they change, and how different they are from place to place, but it is important if you don’t want to get sued. While lawsuits from renters are generally frivolous, they’re happening more and more, and it’s not something you want to open yourself up to.” 5. Making or Keeping a Bad Hire “Right now, hiring is probably one of the most difficult aspects of this business, and can be one of the biggest mistakes property managers make. There are a lot of hurdles to finding and placing the right people for every job.” “In California, if you want to be a property manager, you have to be licensed, which is also the case in other states as well. With a lack of viable candidates, however, many unlicensed people are doing property management duties that require licensing. As a company owner hiring unlicensed employees, you could get in some serious trouble with the Real Estate Commission,” says Catalano. “So have a strategy for finding the right employees for your company. Start by confirming that they have the required licensing. Next, make sure that they have the right personality for the job that they're hired to do. We use a company called Culture Index to help us determine if there is a good fit. The company uses personality analytics to determine if the job candidate will be in the right position, whether or not they have the skills to be a leader, and answers personality trait questions like ‘are they ambitious and will they follow directions accurately?’ This Culture Index has really helped us with hiring and making sure that we have the best person in the right position for them. In addition to implementing a hiring strategy, Catalano says that it is important to understand your end goals for each department and the overall company structure to hire the right workers correctly. “You should have an org chart, even if you only have six employees. The chart should visually outline, ‘Who's doing what?’, ‘Who reports to who?’ and ‘Are they in the right position?’ When you are hiring, you need to know if the position is departmental, portfolio, or hybrid. Both you and new hires will want to know the plan moving forward to attain more growth, and I think that’s a big pitfall. Having this org chart will keep you from hiring the wrong person or guide you on how you want to run the business,” says Catalano. “Having an org chart and hiring strategy really ties back to knowing your financials and metrics. Understanding how many doors are being managed per full-time employee and how to structure around the best servicing that door count is the best way to optimize your business for success. I know that these strategies work because I think the average in the industry right now is about 50-60 doors per FTE and at PURE, we're sitting at about 115. You can get to well over 100 iIf you're more efficient, maybe 150 iIf the technology gets a little bit better. We think we can get to 200 eventually. So that's how we look at it. How are you structuring your business to get the best and most efficient organization?”

Calendar icon May 17, 2023

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Matthew Whitaker CEO of Evernest

10 Hiring Tips For Recruiters in Property Management Companies

It’s not always so easy to build a property management team, and property management hiring tips can be hard to come by. Professional property management is a complex industry with endless responsibilities, nuanced roles, and lots of stakeholders’ priorities to balance. Putting together a dream team – the kind of team that just makes things work, delivers happy residents, and makes workflows feel seamless – it’s hard! So, we sat down with an expert in just this subject. He’s perfected the art of finding and hiring the right people – the kind of people who can become your property management dream team. An organization is its people, and few companies in the property management industry have internalized this idea more than Evernest. Whitaker sat down with Second Nature to talk through some of the key things he wants in an employee and how he goes about identifying which candidates have them and which do not. Ready to hire the best property management team? Let’s dive into Whitaker’s top property management hiring tips. Meet the Expert: Matthew Whitaker, CEO of Evernest Matthew Whitaker has developed and refined his hiring process over years of experience in real estate as a property management firm CEO. Evernest is a nationwide SFR company based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Evernest manages around 6,000 doors and continues to scale its business and grow its team at an impressive rate. CEO and founder Matthew Whitaker has been constantly adjusting and reevaluating his hiring process, and it has resulted in one of the most comprehensive talent acquisition procedures in the property management game. 1. Hire Based On Characteristics Over “Qualifications” Whitaker’s biggest insight, which he’s developed over years in the property management industry, is that there is a lot more to hiring the right people than simply hiring qualified people. The concept of hiring the most qualified candidate seems like it’s pretty straightforward. But if you start to pull it apart, many of us have hired candidates who seem “qualified” on paper but who end up being a poor fit with the company. “Who you are matters almost as much as what you’ve done,” Whitaker says. “And as employees rise up through your business, you need to be confident you’ve hired someone who is bought in and is wired for the challenges that come with that.” Whitaker says their investment in identifying personal characteristics has helped separate their best candidates from the rest of the pack. Be clear with property management recruiters about all the characteristics you’re looking for. 2. Define What a Qualified Candidate Looks Like for You Evernest hires with a well-rounded definition of “most qualified” – with defined characteristics and experiences they’re looking for. Those descriptions might not be the first things you think of, but it’s helped them with resident retention and growth. For example, instead of just seeking candidates with “property management experience,” they’re looking for candidates who can handle failure well, who have shown resilience, and who match their company culture. (More on each of those later!) As a heavily scaled company, Whitaker recognizes that you’re not going to hit on 100% of hires, but going a little deeper than just career experience can up that number as much as reasonably possible. Clearly defining your ideal candidate can help with referrals, as well, since you can describe to others who you’re looking for. 3. Develop Interview Questions that Reveal Important Traits The next step is to outline interview questions in your screening process that can identify the qualifications and characteristics you defined in Step 1. What does that type of person look like? What kind of life experience would they have that built their skills? How have they exhibited the traits that you need in the past? Give them a scenario they might experience while on your team and ask how they would respond. Carefully evaluate if their responses align with the candidate profile you created. 4. Look For Resilient People Resiliency is the trait that really stands out to Whitaker for the property management space. After all, single-family property management, in particular, requires people who can stick with it when things get tough. SFR property management is tricky because properties are spread out over larger regions, residents may have very diverse needs, and the properties themselves may have very diverse problems or requirements. Evernest always looks to hire resilient people who can handle the ups and downs and surprises of the job. Look for any red flags of people who aren’t willing to go the extra mile. Whitaker is adamant that resilience is among the most important traits a property manager can have and a great indicator of their potential success in the company. “One of the things about a property manager is the fact that all you do is deal in the world of problems,” Whitaker says. “If you didn’t have problems, there wouldn't be a role for property managers. So they have to get used to dealing with problems all day and being able to bounce from problem to problem.” 5. Consider Candidates’ Personal Experiences, Even Beyond Real Estate Whitaker says that resiliency is legitimately a skill you can identify in the interview process and one that you can design interview questions around. While it may be challenging to uncover in a conversational setting, Whitaker likes to work through the personal experience of a candidate. The key is asking the right questions. He asks about potential major life events that have challenged their resolve, which he believes can forge resiliency in a person. “Sometimes [people who have had major life events] make the best team members because they realize that things aren’t unicorns and rainbows,” Whitaker says. 6. Find Out How They Deal With Failure Another key part of the interview process – and identifying resilient people – is to find out how they’ve historically dealt with failure in their life. Whitaker believes that someone who has dealt with adversity and failures and come out the other side is automatically going to be better suited to rental property management. He says, “Whether it’s a huge disappointment they’ve had, a business failure, or a failure in maybe a job, [those experiences] sometimes turn them into somebody that’s very resilient. Some of our best team members actually meet that profile, and I’ve thought that for a long time.” 7. Use a Culture Index to Find a Fit for Your Team Whitaker and Evernest have proven how important cultural fit can be in such a demanding industry. They use a tool called the Culture Index to test for traits like resiliency, and Whitaker says the tool has really gone a long way for Evernest and the success rate of its hiring process. With Evernest hiring at scale, Whitaker believes it has helped them get the right people in the right seats at a higher rate, which results in losing fewer people out the back door. “We buy into the idea that Culture Index can help us identify someone’s unique personality or wiring and that. As a result, they have more success when they are put into the right positions on the team,” Whitaker says. Culture Index is a data-driven personality testing tool and the weapon of choice for Evernest. It’s part of their refined hiring process that they refer to as “The Grinder,” which features four interviews, the third of which assesses cultural fit. It’s one of the keys to finding the right property manager. 8. Use a Personality-Testing Tool The Culture Index is just one example of hiring procedures that help to identify personality traits. Companies can use any kind of personality-testing tool to ensure not just that someone is a culture fit but that they’re being hired for the right role on the team. Whitaker shares: One of our biggest "aha" moments around personality and natural wiring is when we moved a team member out of accounting here in Alabama and moved him to Little Rock to run our market there. This guy was an excellent operator in Birmingham. He had all the "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed. No stone unturned. When he moved to Little Rock, we expected him to grow the business. We kept waiting and waiting on it to happen, but it never did. But he was still dang good at executing. Later, when we profiled him, we learned that he is a "Craftsman," which basically means he is a detail-oriented, highly introverted person. So of course he wasn’t out there growing the business. We later moved a "Trailblazer" into the role, which is a highly relational, highly autonomous person, and she KILLED it. She grew the business and it almost doubled in size. The Craftsman came back to Birmingham to run our accounting department and has been incredibly successful. He continues: “Since we’ve gotten into personality profiling, we’ve certainly gotten a lot more intentional about putting the right people in the right places, and I feel like we’ve been a lot more successful doing that.” Failing to invest in a more refined hiring process that features components such as personality testing is cited by Whitaker as one of the mistakes he made early on that other PMs have the opportunity to avoid. 9. Be Smart About Promotions Whitaker notes that early on, a less refined and consistent approach opened Evernest up to being a victim of the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is the all-too-common practice of promoting employees into jobs they aren’t cut out for – based on their success in their previous role. “We would use our hiring process to hire middle-level and upper-level management,” Whitaker says. “But then when we would go to hire frontline people, we would just basically skip through the process and hire people. These are the people that are going to move up into the middle management, so not being consistent at the frontline level led to people getting into the company that probably should not have been there.” From the very start, you need to think about hiring people you can eventually promote. 10. Don’t Assume You Can Hire from Multi-Family Property Management Whitaker says that perhaps the biggest hiring mistake he sees in single-family rental management is poorly-vetted cross-hiring between property management industries, from residential to commercial properties, or SFR and MFR. He specifically points to single-family homes and property management companies hiring multi-family managers who are unprepared for the transition. And it’s a much tougher transition than it may seem, with differences in property owners, property types, maintenance issues, rent collection practices, property management services, etc. “The skillset doesn’t easily translate because a full-time multifamily manager has been working on-site at a property,” says Whitaker. The communication and logistical demands of single-family are quite a bit different than multifamily complexes, where every issue that arises is right in front of you. “When you add multiple real estate investments and then the logistics of single-family, it becomes a much more complicated business,” says Whitaker. “If you’re going to pull from the multifamily industry, you’re going to have to make sure that you’re hiring some of the best and brightest from that industry because, again, dealing with 300 homes and 50 investors is way more complicated than a 300-unit apartment community all together with one investor.” Transitioning a property manager from a multifamily business to a single-family has a number of logistical roadblocks. You need to know more about a candidate than how successful they were to feel confident they're up to the challenge. ‍ That doesn’t mean that cross-hiring is impossible, and Whitaker clarifies that Evernest has done so successfully. But the bottom line is that a diligent and robust hiring approach like Evernest’s is important to identify whether a person is up to the transition. Final Thoughts Building a good property management team is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The key to creating your dream team is to outline a robust hiring process and know exactly what makes a candidate successful in SFR property management. At Second Nature, we work with thousands of residential property managers around the country and have helped ensure PMCs have the tools they need to retain their best talent. Get more insights like these from Matt by listening to our Triple Win Podcast, or check out more from our blog.

Calendar icon May 11, 2023

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What is Long-Term Lease? How to Win with Long-Term Property Management

A long-term lease is a rental agreement that lasts longer than the standard in an industry. Designing and managing a long-term lease can help create stability for property managers, investors, and residents. Or, as we like to say – long-term property management creates a triple win. Today we’re diving into all the nuances of the long-term lease, the pros and cons, and why engaging long-term property management can build a win for you, your residents, and your investor clients. Related: State of Resident Experience Study What is a long-term lease? A long-term lease is a lease agreement that lasts longer than the standard in an industry. In commercial real estate, long-term rentals could be ten years or more. In single-family homes, a long-term lease could be anything more than one year. Long-term leases have the benefit of locking in payment for however long the lease lasts. It benefits property managers by guaranteeing cash flow and reducing vacancy, though with less frequent lease renewals, you may not be able to increase the price as often as you feel you need. The concept of a long-term lease agreement may spark some preconceived notions among professional property managers. Locking a resident into their rental for two-plus years seems like something of a gamble where you bet on the quality of the resident and the value of the lease remaining high. While it’s true that this type of lease comes with some tradeoffs, many PMs don’t see the positives, which have begun to outweigh the risks in an evolving market. Benefits of a long-term lease A long-term residential lease can offer several benefits for residents, property managers, and owners, including: Stability: With a long-term lease, residents have the security of knowing that they can stay in their home for an extended period, often one or two years, without having to worry about the possibility of the owner deciding to sell the property or not renew their lease. This can be particularly important for families or individuals in single-family residences who want to establish roots in a community and avoid the hassle and expense of moving frequently. Predictable Expenses: With a long-term lease, residents know exactly what their rent will be for the duration of the lease, which can help them plan their budget and avoid any unexpected rent increases. Similarly, property managers and owners can count on a steady stream of rental income, which can help them plan their expenses and investments. Reduced Vacancy Rates: A long-term lease can help property owners and PMCs reduce the vacancy rate of their properties by providing them with a stable, reliable resident who is committed to staying in the property for an extended period. This can save time and money that PMs would otherwise spend trying to find new residents and dealing with turnover. More Responsible Residents: Renters who sign a long-term lease are often more committed to taking care of the property and being responsible “tenants.” This can lead to fewer damages, less maintenance, and a better overall experience for both residents and property managers. Better Creditworthiness: A long-term lease can also help residents build their creditworthiness by establishing a history of paying rent on time and staying in one place for an extended period. This can be particularly useful for young adults or those who are just starting to build their credit history. With Second Nature’s Resident Benefits Package, they can receive the benefit of getting their on-time payments reported to credit bureaus. Overall, a long-term residential lease can offer a range of benefits and create a Triple Win for property managers, owners, and residents. However, it's essential to establish clear terms of the lease to ensure that it meets everyone’s needs and expectations. Liabilities of a long-term lease Of course, along with benefits, long-term lease liabilities exist as well. The primary drawback of long-term management is that you need to be more certain that the lease – and the resident – are the right fit for you and your investor. A few things to consider before starting with a long-term lease apartment or long-term lease house: Ensure you do a thorough background check and credit check for all renters Ensure the lease clearly outlines behavior that could lead to eviction Be prepared that it may be more difficult to transition a difficult resident out Account for the fact that you won’t be able to raise the rent as easily or quickly as with a short-term rental Long-term lease vs. short-term lease A residential long-term lease and a residential short-term lease differ primarily in their duration, with long-term leases generally lasting for a year or more and short-term leases lasting for less than a year. Here are some of the main differences between the two types of leases: Duration: As mentioned above, the primary difference between a long-term and short-term lease is the length of the lease term. A long-term lease typically lasts for one or two years, while a short-term lease can be as short as a few weeks or as long as 11 months. Flexibility: Short-term leases are generally more flexible than long-term leases, as they allow residents to move out relatively quickly if they need to. This can be useful for renters who are unsure about their future plans or who need to move frequently for work or other reasons. Long-term leases, on the other hand, provide more stability and predictability but can be less flexible if the resident needs to move out before the lease term is up. Rent Amount: The cons of short-term leases are they can be more expensive than long-term leases month-to-month, as owners or property managers can charge a premium for the flexibility they offer. Long-term leases generally have lower monthly rental rate, but residents are required to commit to paying that amount for the entire lease term. Renewal: Long-term leases typically include a renewal clause, which allows residents to extend the lease term beyond the initial period. Short-term leases may or may not include a renewal option, and residents may need to negotiate with the PM or owner to extend the lease or agree to a new lease. Maintenance: Long-term leases often place more responsibility on residents for maintaining the property, as they are expected to stay in the property for an extended period. Short-term leases, on the other hand, may include more maintenance services from the property management company, as they are more likely to have turnover between residents. Long-term lease examples A long-term residential lease typically refers to a lease agreement between a resident and an owner that lasts for a year or more. Here are some examples of long-term residential leases: One-year or two-year lease: A one-year lease is the most common type of long-term residential lease. It lasts for a period of one year and requires the tenant to pay rent on a monthly basis. Two-year leases are less common but still fairly standard. Multi-year lease: In some cases, owners may offer a lease agreement that lasts for three, four, or even five years. This type of lease provides residents with a high level of stability and predictability, but it may be less flexible than shorter-term lease options. Corporate lease: Some companies may lease a property for their employees on a long-term basis, typically for several years. This type of lease often requires the company to pay the rent directly to the owner. Lease-to-own: This type of long-term residential lease allows residents to rent a property for an extended period with the option to purchase the property at the end of the lease term. This can be a good option for residents who are not yet ready to purchase a home but want to establish roots in a community. How the long-term lease helps investors Gregg Cohen of PWB Properties is one of the property managers leading the charge on the long-term lease. PWB has positioned itself as a different kind of property management company, one that's focused on helping investors achieve their highest possible return on investment. "As with most things in life, if goals aren’t aligned, one party typically loses. In “normal” property management, this is an unfortunate truth as well. It’s a shame that so many potential investors who see the incredible opportunities for earning above-average risk-adjusted returns on investment passively in rental property investing are so fearful of a poor property manager and resident relationship that they give up on their investing journey before they even start. At JWB, we are not trying to be “better” at property management. We are DIFFERENT." ‍ JWB is successful because they have perfectly understood how to create a Triple Win in an environment that is increasingly demanding of a relationship-focused property management strategy. As a property management company that offers far more than just plain old management of properties, they've built a business model that is extremely attractive to investors, part of which includes the long-term lease. Note their 5-year case study below on the financial results for the investor of signing residents to long-term leases. The key takeaway is the dramatic decrease in fees paid by the investor. These numbers may scare you at first. JWB is willingly forfeiting profit from tenant placement fees, and quite a bit of it. Understanding the context of this decision is critical though, lest you end up playing catch-up with the rest of the industry over the next decade. JWB's commitment to their investors creates so much value that the growth of their business and retention of clients offsets the short-term profit decreases from this strategy. Property management strategies and business models built around short-term profit from things such as tenant placement fees will lose whatever staying power they're clinging to over the upcoming market cycle. Those types of companies will struggle to attract clients and many will eventually go out of business. JWB has proactively avoided being swallowed by the commoditization of the industry by offering something more personalized, relationship-driven, and value-creating. As mentioned, JWB is focused on long-term investors that intend on growing their portfolios, holding properties for at least a full real estate market cycle, which is typically 10 to 20 years, and are intending to create income via real estate investment over a long period of time. The returns for these investors are diminished by property vacancies, so note the vacancy percentage decrease with JWB's long-term model versus the high-turnover model. All of these benefits come together to provide clients with longer-term, goal-focused property management instead of short-term profit-focused property management, which is differentiating JWB right around the time that property management is becoming commoditized. It creates an enormous amount of opportunity to sign a large number of long-term clients by providing something that isn't otherwise available, creating a sustainable business model ready for consistent growth and prepared to sustain threats such as commoditization and do-it-yourself property management technology. The longer lease is just one element of this triple win, but it's a significant one. As the case study notes, the dramatic decrease in costs is very attractive to investors. However, the long-term lease only works if the residents are willing to sign such a lease. So let's make this double win into a Triple Win. How the long-term lease helps residents Uncertainty has been a big theme over the last two years, mostly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic throwing the SFR space into quite a predicament. PMs have certainly taken some hits as a result with eviction moratoriums, residents being furloughed, and other challenges. But residents are experiencing significant challenges of their own as a result of the uncertainty they’ve experienced within their jobs, their ability to pay rent, and the potential of changing rent. These are problems, but problems demand problem-solvers, and problem-solvers create solutions that end up differentiating their business. The long-term lease is proving to be that solution for many PM companies. The stability that it provides is proving to be a welcome sight for residents. Knowing where they will be in three years and exactly what their rent will be is valuable to residents who are fearful of a changing market, and the percentage of residents who see that value is continuing to increase. The result is one of the best resident retention tools out there. For the PM, this doesn’t mean that rent is stuck. Rent adjustments are still possible, but they’re baked into the lease from the start. This allows the PM to plan for a changing market while giving the resident notice of pending changes prior to them signing the lease. Residents are much less likely to react negatively to rent increases if they signed off on them before ever moving in. “Stability starts with helping them understand what their financial responsibilities are going to be years in advance. That’s where it starts and that’s a big reason why residents do like long-term leases.” People find value in knowing where they will be in 3 years. A long-term lease is a commitment for a resident, but it's one that JWB has found that many are willing to make. Implementing a long-term lease program isn’t for everyone, but it’s proving an effective method for creating a Triple Win by creating stability, something everyone is after in these uncertain times.

Calendar icon May 11, 2023

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