Property management is often the Neanderthal of real estate technology, still depending largely on manual processes and incredibly expensive human capital. It’s a highly fragmented industry, often using the same approach for rentals that it did 40 years ago.

  • Helping consumers rent apartments is an antiquated process and has fallen off the radar for most agents and brokers.
  • Yet today’s “renter generation” aspires to become tomorrow’s homeowners, and that provides a huge future business opportunity for agents and brokers.
  • Technology can help agents and brokers disrupt the property management business and get them back in the game.

Property management is often the Neanderthal of real estate technology, still depending largely on manual processes and incredibly expensive human capital. It’s a highly fragmented industry, often using the same approach for rentals that it did 40 years ago.

The property management process goes something like this:

  • An apartment complex hires a brokerage or property management firm to rent out its units.
  • An on-site rep is designated, who at the very most, works eight hours a day.
  • Renters’ calls often go to voicemail because the rep is taking another questionably bad prospect on a tour and stopping to look at different units.
  • Those phone calls, which yield much better prospects, won’t all be returned for hours, if not days.
  • Other calls that do get answered will fill the rep’s day answering basic questions about the units because rental prospects call more often and take more time to set appointments.
  • Worse, the best prospects have jobs, which means they won’t call during the eight hours the rep is working, both before and/or afterward. Those calls, which are more likely to yield better rental candidates, will sit in voicemail.

Property management as a process today is broken, so let’s look at a fix.

Automation for rentals

Brokerages offering property management services are starting to use technology to automate the process, while most others are still years behind.

One big breakthrough is the development of automated assistants that help pre-qualify and route the renters’ calls. Although this is a proper move forward, most traditional automated systems aren’t designed specifically for real estate property management, so unless the one being purchased is made for real estate, it will need to be adjusted to work.

Regardless, this new technology improves property management by focusing on key pain points:

  1. That which consumes the most time and yields the lowest results
  2. Eliminating the worst prospects upfront
  3. Individual agents who are burdened with renting a property for a client

An automated attendant can instantly deliver the key data a caller needs including monthly rental rates, lease terms, the size of the deposit due at rental, available rental dates and more.

There are many automated text systems that can help solve the 24/7 data request challenge, so brokerages should shop around.

Using a cloud-based auto attendant gives a brokerage the ability to deliver rental information by text — which millennials love — or on the phone, potentially in different languages.

Giving information to a caller in the language he or she is most comfortable with will certainly increase the number potential prospects.

Bilingual technology (English and Spanish) poses to fill in most of the gaps. The alternative is to hire bilingual staff, which provides comprehensive service but isn’t always available (and can be expensive).

Qualifying the rental leads

Brokerages in the property management business can use technology upfront to provide potential renters with detailed information where they are looking — from the curb.

Messaging can include the basics such as monthly rent, term and the size of the deposit required; key trigger information that will help reduce the number of bad prospects (such as pet policies, section 8 voucher acceptance) and most importantly, noting that a background check is required.

In full disclosure, my company VoicePad offers this specifically for the real estate industry, but there are others providing automated attendants for all kinds of businesses, including real estate, and among these are eVoice, RingCentral, Grasshopper and more.

The technology chosen should be able to save brokerages more than the cost of investing in new technology. Using a phone and/or text technology to pre-qualify leads can greatly reduce the number of bad rental prospects.

That’s the biggest time waster in property management today. What can anyone do with a 450 credit score?

By providing automated rental information by phone and/or text that states upfront that a background check may be required, it helps solve this problem. Most folks who are trying to rent and have bad credit know they have bad credit, and an upfront check will deter them.

Rental info by text

The latest technology can text-enable a local phone number so renters quickly get rental info via text, in addition to the phone-based information delivery.

There’s technology that allows a prospect to simply text the street number (or property code) of any available unit to the phone number so that “presto” — all inquiries are responded-to and tracked automatically.

Inquiry reporting

The beauty of technology is often found in the details. Auto attendants offer another major advantage: they can not only capture the potential renter’s real phone number and name but most of these services also offer a dashboard.

Technology that rolls up all of the tracking information helps brokerages looking to build a bigger property management business.

It also should allow the creation of separate reports — such as rental trends and property activity — because these tools will give brokerages a complete view into what really is happening with their rentals.

Better consumer experiences

The property management process today is such a low margin business that many brokerages shun offering or promoting rentals. They know how time consuming it is today because of the number of hours it takes to rent a single unit.

But technology is changing all that and automated systems can significantly reduce the human capital expense, which is the biggest barrier for most brokerages.

Most importantly, technology disrupts the old way to provide a better consumer experience: rental prospects get the information they need when they want it, not when someone arbitrarily decides to return their call.

For vacation rental markets or in college towns, rentals are a way of life. They can become far more profitable with new technology — which may attract more brokerages.

When brokerages do get back into the rental business, they also will be building a ready-market for the future. Many who make up the “renter generation” want to (and will) become homeowners.

Randall Standard is CEO of VoicePad and a 20-plus year veteran of the mobile phone industry. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Email Randall Standard

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