In this episode, we're looking into the future... more specifically into the future of property management.
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 Browne and Adrian Schulz, Canada's rental property experts.
Carla Browne (00:18):
Okay. Today in our episode, we're going to get out the crystal ball, Adrian, and we're going to talk about the future of property management. Or let's refer to it as property management, 2.0, if that doesn't make sense.
Adrian Schulz (00:30):
Speaking of the future, am I shrinking already? Or is that just ...
Carla Browne (00:33):
Yeah, you must be. I don't know why you ...
Adrian Schulz (00:35):
Yeah, you look taller than me today. That's odd, because I heard you're like, three foot four.
Carla Browne (00:41):
Well I've heard you're about a foot taller than me. So strange. We have this virtual working relationship, where we've never actually met in person.
Adrian Schulz (00:49):
Anyway. Yeah. So, the future.
Carla Browne (00:53):
The future of property management. This is a question that I get asked all the time because people do want ... when you're in any kind of industry, people always strike up a conversation. Where do you think this industry is going? Or, what does the future really hold? And what type of investment should I buy? And how am I going to manage properties in the future? So this is something that we talk about a lot as a team, I follow a lot of trends or what are happening. Because this is something I really want to make sure that as a brand, across Canada, Real Property Management is leading this space and making sure that we are providing things that our investors and our tenants might be looking for.
So let's talk about your thoughts on what the last couple years ... because I think there's been huge advancements in the property management space in the last couple years. Let's just talk quickly about what you have seen happen since March 2020 when our new world came upon us.
Adrian Schulz (01:48):
Yeah. So first and foremost is the adoption of resident portals and resident mobile apps. Really, tenants making ... and rental owners. Making use of those tools. Many of those tools have built-in online payment abilities. Then there's, of course, virtual showings have finally taken off. Booking showings online. Virtual inspections with video. And I think just the entire concept of resident services being this multifaceted ... there's the resident portal. There's the resident center call center.
And the ability, no matter how a tenant or a resident approaches the property manager, there is a growing and evolving systematic workflow on how people's issues are resolved. It used to be on a post-it note or in a random email, and it's become so much more systematic that we're actually creating, I would say, as close to a hospitality or a hotel experience more than ever before.
Carla Browne (03:07):
Yeah. Technology has changed ... almost everything you noted there was all technology based. So it's moving at light speed. And I think this is where some property managers have honestly real struggled, because the one thing we know about technology is it's not cheap. There's usually a cost to all these pieces of technology, and then how do you get them working together? So when I look into the future, I think that the tenant experience, which is what I think you were talking about, that hospitality industry, right? The tenant experience of an expectation of experience has really leveled up. And we as property managers have to get on board and figure out how we're going to do that.
And I think communication and speed of communication, to me are two things that can really help get over that hurdle. And I say that because if you have an upset tenant, it is normally because of a miscommunication or not communicating fast enough. It all seems to boil down to those communications. So you, as our director of technology in the RPM space, work very, very hard on this piece for us. So talk to us about the future of property management, and what property managers are going to need to do in their businesses in order to overcome this piece.
Adrian Schulz (04:26):
Yeah. So that's going to be a two-part answer. One, I'm going to tell you a story, and then I want to talk about open APIs in technology stacks. So first, a story. At the very beginning of the pandemic, obviously people were not able to go to the office like they had in the past. So how do you do payables and sign checks and review financial statements and bank reconciliations that come on paper and get them out, right?
So what we actually saw some of our offices, most of our offices do, in fact, is, invoice comes in. And there'd be one person that would go into the office, check the mail every day, scan all the documents, PDF them into our property management system. And when the financial statements then are ran, those financial statements got ran and pushed into a PDF document, along with the bank statement attached. And along with, obviously, clickable invoices on the accounts receivable ledgers for rental owners to see.
But wait a moment. The property manager has to review the financial package, the monthly package that goes to rental owners. So that became an e-sign package that got sent from the remote accounting staff to the property manager. Property manager reviewed and approved the PDF package, signed off on it. It went back to the accounting supervisor to do a final approval. It then got sent to the rental property owner, and we could see that they both received and opened the report, right?
That entire process and system flow really got turbocharged due to the pandemic. We got forced to automate to that degree. And it also created, really an unmatched level of transparency, internally within our team because it's process driven, but also for our rental owners. That's just a brief little example of what we saw happen with technology over the pandemic.
Carla Browne (06:40):
I know you want to talk about the APIs next, but I want to share one other story. Because in the property management space, almost every province ... there are a couple. But almost every province across Canada is very highly regulated. So I remember early on, in I would say, maybe in the first four months, I got a call from one of the regulators in one of the provinces. And they wanted to talk to me about ... it was just a casual conversation. It wasn't like an audit or a review, but they wanted to have a conversation. They'd been reaching out to brokers across Canada to discuss the systems that they have in place in order to make sure that everything ... that you have to follow through on the property management side with regards to the Real Estate Act, and your broker responsibilities was being taken care of.
So I have this call with this individual and they're asking me all the questions. Well, how are you collecting the rent? How are you posting your deposits? Who's doing the deposits? Where is that going? Who's reviewing this? And went through their big, long checklist. And then he said, so you would have a bank reconciliation already done for this month that would have a package with all of the electronic deposits and whatnot? I said, yeah. And he said, would you be able to send that to me by next week? And I was like, oh, it's in our drive. I'll just send it to you right now. So while I was on the call, I sent it to him. And his response back to me was, I don't think we need to talk about any processes you need to be changing. It seems like you already have this under control.
But the funny thing was, is that those weren't things we implemented due to COVID. That was already the processes we had in place. So I was super proud of our RPM offices when COVID did hit, because it was like, we didn't need to change it a ton. I mean, there was some things we changed because technology changed and I love adopting that stuff, but there were so many things that we were already prepped for in order to ensure that things were done. So, okay. Back to the APIs, because that's probably more exciting.
Adrian Schulz (08:35):
Yeah. So the future of property management, from a technology perspective, is really a technology stack, or different software systems speaking to each other. And let me give you a very practical example of that. You have a tenant or a rental owner that historically has emailed property management team members, right? Going here, there everywhere. And what we do ... because I think we're probably the most progressive property management company or brand in Canada when it comes to technology. What we do is we use something called a team inbox with which our tenants and our rental owners communicate. And it allows us to track and monitor and provide analytics to how we're servicing our clients.
And if someone's away for a day or someone sick for a day, those requests always get dealt with because they go to a centralized place. And with something like an open API, we are now able to log every single communication between a rental owner and us and a tenant, et cetera. We're able to log those in the tenants profile. We're able to log those communications in a rental owner profile. So what you end up with is this repository of all the communication back and forth between the necessary parties. Communications no longer being lost. If there's a change on the people of the team, information isn't gone. It's always there, right?
So open APIs allow us to connect the different technology tools ... and every business has more than one piece, right? There's your email platform, there's your accounting platform, there's your maintenance platform, there's your inspection platform. And by assuring that the pieces of technology that you use have open APIs, it can make your business future-proof because you have the ability to connect the systems and stop having overlap and double entry of things. So I think at RPM, we're probably going to be able to move the fastest, just because we have so many offices that gives us the resources to really understand and know what needs to be done. And then to implement it across the national network.
I think that the independent, one-of property management firms, even the legacy ones that have hundreds or thousands of units under management, without a network connection, I think it's going to be a struggle. Because the resources required to make open APIs work well for your business, you really need to have that national presence, and resources available to make it work.
Carla Browne (11:42):
Yeah. And that goes down right to where we started this conversation, it was the expectation of the client experience. So as a property manager, wherever you are listening to us right now, is that that is the thing that you need to really look at. Is that where do I think I may be falling down a little bit on that client experience, whether it be with investors or with tenants, and how are you going to improve that? We know technology does not solve the client experience. There's always going to be ... not completely solve it. There's always going to be interaction because people need to deal with people. At some point, there needs to be that relationship that's built. But the use of technology can help a business become so much more scalable by using all of these processes and systems that are slowly being integrated into our Real Property Management ecosystem.
So Adrian, I think we've gone on long enough on this one. We could actually have part two to the future of property management, quite honestly, because I know we both have a lot more to say on this because we are so forward thinking. But I think we're going to wrap it up and we're just going to end it with, that was Real Property Management.
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