In this episode we're discussing what technology you need to manage your rental property efficiently.
Welcome to Canada's Property Management Podcast, your number one resource for investing, managing, and maximizing the value of your real estate assets. And now here's your hosts, Carla Brown and Adrian Schulz. Canada's rental property experts.
Adrian Schulz (00:18):
On today's episode, we're talking about out what is the technology I need to manage my property. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see you is "Beam me up, Scotty." The Star Trek days when, when the tricorder could do everything. And I think as a rental property owner, as a property manager, we're all seeking technology tools that allow us to do everything all in one. When the reality is that all the different tools that you need in this industry, there's best in class providers in each one of them. Carla, what's been your experience when you are assessing different technology platforms for RPM Canada?
Carla Brown (01:09):
Yeah, this is, we could talk about this for a long time, because I know we can both get into technology, but technology for RPM, Canada is our number one thing that we work on. And it's something that I think we will always work on because technology is ever changing. As you know, Adrian, you help us with this day in and day out. But for RPM Canada, unfortunately, we've had to go into the US a lot of times to find some of the technology that we really need to fit what we're doing. And that's only, I think because the property management industry in the US is just in a different space than where it is in Canada. I like to think that RPM Canada is changing that over time, but we've really had to dive into the US. And I think the first thing as a property manager that you're going to want to look at is what is that base program that I'm using.
Carla Brown (02:00):
And if you are a property manager who's only going to manage one or two properties, you probably don't need all this technology that we're going to dive into right now. But what I do caution you is that your tenants are expecting you to use technology. So if you are using no technology and that's how you've gotten by so far, there's going to be an expectation going forward that you use some of it. So the based software, I don't know, let's give some names, Adrian.
Adrian Schulz (02:28):
But before we give names, always the warning. It's not what software you're using, it's how you use the software.
Carla Brown (02:35):
Well, how they work together. Because you could have a tech stack that's really high. And some of us have that, you know who we are. And tech stack for those who don't maybe understand that term, it's like how many pieces of technology are you utilizing in your business in order to run it effectively?
Adrian Schulz (02:53):
It's the Big Mac, right? All the different pieces of the Big Mac must be put together in order for the Big Mac to taste good. So the base software, the bottom of the bun, or perhaps the top of the bun, depending on how you look at your life, the options in Canada would include Buildium Rent Manager, Appfolio, Rent Vine coming. Of course, there's Yardi, Spectra. There's a multitude. The key though, when you're looking for one is to assure that it can connect to other platforms either via an open API, which is a connection language or something like a Zapier tool. So that would be base software also referred to, or as we like to refer to it as the single source of truth, it's where your primary or your key data points are.
Carla Brown (03:51):
Yeah. It's where you're going to hold the bulk of your data and holding that bulk of that data someplace is super important because you are going to end up in situations where you're at the residential tendency board, or you need to prove something somewhere along the lines. So you want that base program that houses all of that base information and communication.
Adrian Schulz (04:11):
Yeah. And that's followed by rent collection partner or rent collection tool. So some of the base software platforms that we've mentioned thus far have partners or have fully integrated payment processing. In most cases, it is going to be a preauthorized debit or bank to bank transfer integration. However, becoming increasingly popular in Canada, including of course the US, is the ability for tenants to pay by credit card. That has to be done through a third party vendor, because there will be a convenience fee charged. In most cases in Canada, the leader in that group is Rent Moolah, also known as Let Us let being the UK United Kingdom term for leasing or renting, it's called letting there. They're also known as Let Us.
Carla Brown (05:14):
Now so far in the rent collection world, we're not seeing a lot of the newer payment options such we have seen it where some tenants have come forward and said, "Oh, can I pay with Bitcoin?" That is something that regulatory wise I think is going to take quite a few years for us to get through as property managers. And just a word of caution. I guess, if you are single landlord collecting on your own behalf, then you can take those forms of currency if you're comfortable in doing that. But the rent collection part is all about not waiting for them to pay. It's a pull, not a wait to pay. And that's really key. And that is a convenience that the tenants want too. Some people used to think that's just, "Oh, that's what the property management company wants." The tenant just wants the money to come out of their account every month. They don't want to have to think about another bill that they have to go in and manually pay.
Adrian Schulz (06:07):
Yeah. And one of the other benefits of some of these third party payment partners is some of them actually have of arrangements where a tenant can drop off cash payments at a bank or at a 7-11, and that's taken in and then immediately there's a payment receipt issued and the payment has applied to that tenant's account. So there's really some amazing advances in rent collection software. Like we said, in many cases, fully integrated, in other cases, third party vendors that you have to utilize in addition to your base property management software. Which leads us to the next thing, which I think we both agree is one of the most important, and that is property inspection software. How do you use inspection software, Carla?
Carla Brown (07:02):
Yeah. So currently the base program that we have has inspection and inspection part built into it. So it is all electronic. It's done through a smartphone, or it could be an iPad if you prefer that or a tablet, I guess. And then it creates this beautiful little PDF report that gets uploaded into the owner portal and work orders automatically can be made directly from there as well. Very, very streamlined. I know there're others out there like Happy Inspector.
Adrian Schulz (07:30):
Snap Inspector's the one that came to my mind.
Carla Brown (07:33):
Yeah. Yeah. There's a couple others that you could do, standalone as well or them to other programs that work. I think the thing that's important here is that nobody is walking into a property and doing a manual checklist anymore a checklist and notes, that usually you can't read upon move out, that are really hard to decipher and pictures that picture says a thousand words or whatever the saying is, and having that, or having some video attached to it, those are really, really key. Especially again, if you end up in a residential tenancy situation, you're trying to prove something. So I think they're time stamped, easy to read, all that regulatory stuff gets covered off then.
Adrian Schulz (08:14):
Yeah. And it's funny, we didn't start with the real basics, which are texting, email, resident portal with 24/7 access. And people just expect that, I guess, 24/7 access that they have an immediate response to whatever their request might be. And the best way to deal with that is auto responders. It's really an art form to create auto responders on the email text, even voicemails that people feel like their request is acknowledged and heard, and that they feel like there's action forthcoming. And you're much more of a linguist than I am. You probably know how to word them better than me, but how have auto responders changed your business if they're configured correctly?
Carla Brown (09:05):
Well, they've definitely saved time. I would argue at times it probably saved a staff member. We're just in the process of automating some of our other sponsors and communication pieces with some of our investors and our tenants. And I also see where that's going to come into a huge advantage for our offices. But the reality is that we're on call 24/7, but we don't have to be. And usually, it's just that our world is that way where people are wanting this, everything is sped up, I've found. It's really hard to slow it down. It's sped up and people want that instant communication constantly. So just an auto responder, making them aware that you've got their inquiry. Things like that are so, so important.
Carla Brown (09:48):
And texting is another one. Texting versus email. That again, is becoming more popular is that people don't necessarily want you to email them back because it's getting lost in a shuffle. They just want a quick text. And I think the communication then becomes shorter rather than these long-winded emails. These are just things that we're seeing that are super important to both investors and tenants, when we move through that whole property management journey.
Adrian Schulz (10:13):
Moving on to, for a prospective active tenant to book a showing, again, some property management software has fully integrated. If not, there are wonderful tools, like Show Mojo, Tenant Turner. Even if you're really tech savvy, you could probably use an instance of something like a Calendly to do some scheduling. That, of course, leads into if the showing goes well into an application, can I still come to your office and fill it an application like with those triplicate forms and a really good pen pressing through to make sure that the pink copy gets populated? How do you do your applications?
Carla Brown (10:56):
Well, if you come here and ask for one, you probably have to wait for a while till we find the file on our computer in order to print it. Because we don't have them sitting out here anymore. Application's online. Again, this is a time saver, right? Because if you have to go somewhere to fill out a paper application, you're probably doing that during, what I would call regular working hours, an application you can be sitting on coach after supper, sitting, having a tea and do up your application any time and automatically get sent to somebody. Automatically then can go start that screening process right afterwards. So there's a couple different applications that you can use there. Ours is built in to our platform, but there's others that you can do some one offs on there too. And then, once you finished the application, then what comes next?
Adrian Schulz (11:46):
Well, we actually, as we do on many episodes, we go in reverse. So it actually would've been what comes before and that is advertising in order to get. [crosstalk 00:11:58].
Carla Brown (11:58):
Oh, we forgot about that.
Adrian Schulz (11:58):
But this is an easy one because in Canada, as we've talked about before, I would say that Rent Sync formally known as Landlord Web Solutions kind of has a monopoly on ILS or internet listing syndication services. So if you want to advertise your rental listing to the largest number of prospects, you're likely doing it through Rent Sync. And that platform is of course, an official partner of real property management. And it has baked in or built in, baked in, we did chocolate chunk cookies this weekend. So I'm still thinking baking. It has baked in auto responders and some basic virtual booking or virtual showing ability as well. Leads us into, because we're going in reverse, maintenance and using a resident portal to submit those requests.
Carla Brown (13:01):
Yeah. So maintenance, of course, in a property management situation is one of the biggest things or challenges, I guess, that you'll have to make sure you kind of streamline those processes so important to have a portal where they can report their maintenance. Also important to make them aware of, if it's an emergency that they probably don't report it through the portal. How do they report that emergency. And who's answering that emergency at 2:00 AM. And I think the maintenance, as well as the ILS and the advertising piece are in previous podcasts that we've done, Adrian. So our listeners can kind of refer back to them. We don't have to dive in too much.
Carla Brown (13:33):
But just having that ability for a tenant to report a maintenance concern that maybe isn't an emergency, upload some pictures, because now we're saving our investor money, because we can usually diagnose who to send or what the problem might be or how to coach the tenant on how to maybe correct the situation themselves by the pictures. So that as a big saver for tenants, big saver for investors, and we're also teaching our tenants. So we kind of like that part as well.
Adrian Schulz (14:00):
Last but not least, this is actually the most important one if you intend on running an efficient and profitable property management business is work flow automation and process automation. That everything that happens in your business is documented in a way that you've got checks and balances to make sure nothing is missed. And this is almost a movement right now in the industry because we are all used to still having checklists. And boy is that changing with workflow automation. And it's really, I would say it's the number one priority and focus of the year is to move all manual processes into fully automated workflow processes.
Carla Brown (15:00):
Exactly. What I'd argue is probably the most important thing for any industry. But I would say a lot of industries have already got there and property management is just starting to really get there. So as you said, it is our main focus that we are focusing on here and we're making some fantastic headway and I'm really excited to share that in a new podcast, down the road, of course. But yet you have to have that within your business. You have to look like you've got it all organized. You, you have to have that paper trail, you need to protect yourself. We've talked about the professional tenants in the past and things like that. They do exist to some extent and you can weed a whole bunch of them out, but having everything, your communication, everything that you're doing in a property, everything documented, it's a safeguard, but it's a huge time saver as well.
Adrian Schulz (15:48):
In software, we refer to it as, if this do that. That is essentially workflow automation. And there are many, many companies out there offering this in its most primitive state, probably something like a Trello CanBan board. The next thing would be something like a Monday.com or a Reich. And you know, then of course there are many other players. The key though, to workflow automation is that it is integrated via connection with, full circle, your base property management software. That's a summary of technology in property management. Do you have anything to add, Carla?
Carla Brown (16:35):
No. I hope that our listeners hung in because this was one of our longer ones I think. But it is so, so important. And people overlook at thinking they can just get an investment property, advertise for a tenant, put a tenant in and not really realize that, "Hey, this is a business. I've got to treat it like a business." And you wouldn't have any other business without technology.
Adrian Schulz (16:53):
And you know what? Full circle, "Scotty, beat me up. Now that's real property management.
Thanks for listening to Canada's Property Management Podcast. If you like this episode, please subscribe and give us a rating which will help us reach more listeners. Until next time. Connect with us on social media and online ww.realpm.ca.