The relationships that property managers have with residents have, historically, not always been the most personal. The manager might show a prospective applicant a unit and walk them through the leasing process in person—but after that, their interactions may be limited to the occasional phone call or text message with a maintenance request.
Now, new tech is changing this.
Contrary to common concerns that introducing tech removes the personal element from service-based industries, technology can actually make the real estate industry feel more personal, and enhance resident-manager relationships.
In fact, that’s one of the things we’re most proud of at Jetty. While the primary goal of our financial services products is to make renting more affordable and effortless for everyone, we love to see the positive impact that they make on renters’ perceptions of their property managers.
In our 2019 Renter Sentiment Report, for example, we found that renters who’ve used Jetty Deposit (our security deposit alternative) were 80% more likely to say they had a positive relationship with their property managers than those who hadn’t. These Jetty Members were also 50% more likely to say that they were satisfied with the process of renting their current apartment.
This is due in large part to the fact that renters want their interactions with property managers to fit more seamlessly into their tech-driven lives. According to a recent report from Buildium, most renters (61%) want to be able to pay their rent online or through a mobile app. They’d also prefer to communicate with their property managers by email or text message (and don’t want to be contacted by phone for building-related matters).
At the same time, property managers are looking to make their own workflows more efficient. The same Buildium report reveals that efficiency is a challenge for 32% of property managers, and 39% say they’re focused on improving time management and streamlining business practices.
PropTech offers solutions for both.
There are now platforms and services designed to aid in every part of property management, from lease applications and rent payments to resident documents, maintenance tickets, and more. And while some property managers worry that this kind of tech will distance them from their residents, thoughtful implementation can have the opposite effect. The right tools help managers improve their workflows and drive efficiency, while delivering more personalized experiences to residents at the same time.
When property managers use tech to streamline certain processes, they also free up time for more meaningful face-to-face interactions. So instead of only reaching out to remind residents that rent is due or a maintenance request has been completed, managers can make time to check in on a regular basis and learn what they can do to create better experiences over the course of each lease.
The tools currently on the market can be used to improve resident-manager relationships in three key ways.
The first step in a solid resident relationship is the leasing process. PropTech can streamline this process, enabling property managers to more effectively reach prospective applicants, schedule showings, and even screen possible residents.
Rentberry, for example, lets property managers list rentals, then receive bids and negotiate with prospective residents. Once both parties are satisfied, they can even sign the lease online—drastically cutting down the time spent on the process.
This is also where Jetty fits into the resident experience. Property managers can offer products like Jetty Deposit and Jetty Lease Guaranty to remove points of friction and lower the barrier to entry in securing a rental home.
For example, asking applicants to pay a traditional security deposit in the amount of one month’s rent can be cost-prohibitive and prevent a resident from moving in. In certain markets, this has caused property managers to get rid of deposits altogether—which isn’t an ideal solution, as it puts the property at risk.
With Jetty Deposit, the property manager can instead ask the resident to pay a one-time fee that costs 17.5% of the traditional deposit, lowering that barrier to entry while retaining the same protection for the property.
As we’ve worked with property managers on integrating this product into their workflows, we’ve learned that the more flexibility they can offer residents, the better. That’s why we’ll be releasing a new payment option to further eliminate friction in the leasing process, and to give renters even more liquidity from a timing perspective.
After the leasing process, creating a great resident experience requires meeting residents’ expectations of convenience. Many PropTech platforms are designed specifically with this goal in mind, and enable property managers to simplify monthly payments and lease renewals.
In addition to meeting residents’ standards of ease, these products also automate some of the most tedious tasks most property managers handle. Avail, for example, lets renters pay monthly rent online with a credit or debit card, or set up pre-scheduled payments with autopay.
Other platforms make the lease renewal process similarly frictionless, allowing property managers to send automated reminders when a lease is almost up. This lets residents know it’s time to decide whether they want to renew—and if they do, they can handle the entire process online.
Beyond streamlining standard management tasks, PropTech can also enable property managers to provide better customer service—without adding more work to their already busy schedules. Apps like Bixby, who have recently been acquired by Hello Alfred, help organize and track maintenance requests, automate package delivery notifications, and facilitate multichannel communication. Their co-founder Mark Smukler explained to the role of customer service in property management, “Property managers have a wide array of responsibilities that often include everything from attracting and retaining tenants to collecting rent to maintaining the built environment and handling tenant complaints. On one hand, managing property is inherently a customer service operation with two key clients: the owners and the tenants. However, there’s a heavy engineering component to managing real estate that can take a toll on a team’s ability to perform their customer service duties at a high level, especially towards the tenant side of the stakeholder set.”
Other platforms, like Amenify, connect residents with trusted providers for services including laundry, pet care, and cleaning. This enables property managers to add even more convenience to their residents’ daily lives, and maintain a competitive edge over buildings that have more to offer in terms of amenities. Everett Lynn, CEO and founder of Amenify explained, “”When a landlord provides a unique service (i.e., the resident is unable to procure the service without the landlord), the NOI payback from retention is demonstrable. The challenge is, many landlords associate ‘coupons’ with ‘amenity services’ but sophisticated consumers know the difference.”
Though the multifamily industry is still in the relatively early stages of PropTech adoption, these tools are already beginning to drive a new standard of resident-manager relationships. But simply incorporating a few new platforms and services into a property’s workflow isn’t enough.
In order to keep up with changing expectations, property managers need to take a thoughtful approach to selecting and implementing tech, with a focus on doing so in a way that makes a positive impact on their interactions with each resident. Customer service is what separates the best operators in almost every industry, property management is no different. Ultimately, the properties that utilize tech as a tool to create more personal experiences will stand out in this increasingly competitive industry—while those that don’t will fall behind.