Even if you’re a traditionalist who clings to pen and paper when it comes to taking notes or making lists or writing letters – you have to acknowledge that technology is part of everything we do.
You shop online.
You pay bills online.
You make dinner reservations online.
You plan travel online.
The list goes on.
The availability and accessibility of innovative property management technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and it proved to be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we could rely on leasing tools like self-showings and virtual tours and contact-free lease signings.
At Realty Solutions, we have always taken our investment in technology seriously. We’re innovative and flexible thanks to the software and the platforms we use. When we adopt a new technology, we do so after testing it thoroughly to ensure it will bring value to our owners and our tenants.
Technology helps us deliver our property management services in more efficient and effective ways to both owners and tenants. We embrace new technology that helps us automate our processes and keep costs down and our satisfaction levels up. The software and systems we use contribute to the better management of your investment, whether it’s one rental home or an entire portfolio.
If you work with a property management team like ours, you likely have an owner portal, which you use regularly. There may be other tools and resources shared with you as necessary during our process of leasing, managing, and maintaining your rental home.
If you don’t work with a property management team, you’re on your own in terms of setting up systems and processes that will work for you and your property.
This can feel like a disadvantage. Investing in large tech platforms like those we use doesn’t make much sense to an independent landlord.
That doesn’t mean you can’t access and leverage some high quality technology that can help make your life easier.
Landlords who come to us for advice want to know how they can manage their own properties more like a professional. Technology is one way to do it.
Take a look at these five tools that will dramatically increase your ability to take care of your property and provide a great rental experience for your tenants.
TECH TOOL #1: SELF SHOWING TECHNOLOGY
A landlord who wants to limit vacancy time and move quickly through the leasing process will need some self-showing technology.
Why does this matter?
Self-showings are an important tool that South Jersey landlords can use to safely and efficiently show their vacant rental properties. This technology has existed for many years, but it became increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-showings became a creative and efficient way to show a property without requiring a landlord, leasing agent, or property owner to meet the prospective tenant there in person.
Those self-showings have stuck around even as the worst of the pandemic has passed. There are a lot of reasons for this.
Self-showings are easy and convenient. Tenants often prefer them.
The type of technology that’s available is varied. Landlords can install a lockbox on the property or get a digital lock where prospective tenants will input a code when they’re ready to go inside.
What Are the Benefits of Self-Showing Tech?
- Using self-showing technology increases the interest that’s generated in vacant rental homes. It can contribute to lower vacancy rates, and tenants will be more likely to schedule a showing when they know it can be done quickly and electronically, without talking to anyone or meeting a leasing agent in person.
- Self-showing technology eliminates the time and resources required to schedule walk-throughs with a landlord, leasing agent, or property manager. There’s no going back and forth to find a time that works for everyone. No scheduling nightmares at all.
- Beyond the leasing process, you essentially have easy access for vendors to get inside the property. You don’t have to be there to let them in. Give them access through your lockbox or digital key, and you can have your cleaners, handymen, and other workers get in with ease.
Almost everything is on-demand these days, and this technology helps you meet that need. If a tenant is from out of town and is only in the area for a day, they’ll want to see a property right away. Smart locks and lockboxes make that happen.
Self-Showing Technology Is User-Friendly
Every self-showing system has a few of the same features, and these things are easy to use.
You can expect an electronic lock to be installed on the door, and that lock can be manually opened or controlled digitally through an online app. Sometimes, the lock will be completely digital and the tenants who want to see the property can open it with a specific code or via an app that they download onto their phones.
Here’s How the Self-Showing Process Could Work for You.
A tenant decides to see your property!
The tenant gets in touch to schedule a showing.
You ask for identification such as a driver’s license and/or a credit card. This protects you and your property. You know who the tenant is.
Pre-qualifying can be done when the tenant requests access. Ask when they plan to move, if they’ve ever been evicted, or what their income is per month.
Information from the prospective tenant is validated by the self-showing system.
Within minutes, tenants gain access to the home.
You’ll be notified when the tenant has left the property. We recommend you follow up. Ask if they have questions. Offer an application. Provide additional information.
What to Look for in Self-Showing Technology
Which tool is best? It depends on you and what you’re comfortable with.
Some of the most popular companies providing self-showing technology include Rently, Tenant Turner, and Showmojo. Look for something that works for independent landlords rather than professional property managers with large portfolios of properties.
This is not expensive technology. You should expect to pay for the device itself and then a monthly fee for usage.
TECH TOOL #2: ONLINE APPLICATIONS AND SCREENINGS
Paper applications are outdated and inefficient. If you hand a tenant a paper application to fill out, they’re going to wonder what their rental experience with you would be like.
You should accept online rental applications after a tenant has seen a property and expressed interest in applying for it.
This is not difficult, and while you may not feel like you have the technology you need to facilitate this, there are plenty of third party providers who can provide a legally compliant rental application online.
Here’s why digital applications are preferred by tenants:
Online applications are faster and easier to complete.
Applications can be completed and submitted by the comfort of their own homes, and at any time.
Tenants have an opportunity to review their information before submitting
Supporting documents, such as pay stubs and IDs can be digitally uploaded.
Application fees can be paid electronically – no cash or checks needed.
Tenants know they’ll learn sooner whether they were accepted or denied.
Which Online Application Tools Should You Use?
You have a lot of options. Try Turbo Tenant, eForms.com, DocuSign, Avail, or Zillow.
Here’s one thing to remember:
Always make sure the application includes everything that state, local, and federal laws require.
Screening Technology for Landlords
Once you have an application submitted, you’ll have to screen your tenants. The tech platform you use for your online application will typically offer screening services as well.
The process of screening applicants is not easy, especially with the vast fair housing laws, the intense background checking that needs to be done, and the sense of urgency that comes with wanting to approve a tenant before they can start looking elsewhere.
Technology helps you do it faster and more accurately.
The screening process requires you to collect a lot of financial and personal information – even on tenants you won’t ultimately approve. The right technology helps you to stay compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Digital Screening Services: The Benefits
|With an automated, consistent online application process, you don’t have to worry that one application will be treated differently than another. You won’t hold one applicant to different standards than all the other applicants. You stay compliant with all laws and reduce your risk and liability. Everything is automated to the point that there’s no room for accidental discrimination.||You can screen prospective tenants a lot faster with the tech-driven systems that are available to landlords like you. Instead of waiting for a week to find out if they’re approved, your tenants hear back from you with results within a day or two. This gets the entire process moving a lot faster, which is better for you financially and better for your tenants as they make their moving plans.|
TECH TOOL #3: ONLINE RENT COLLECTION
Our first recommended tech tools are extremely helpful in navigating the leasing process.
What do you do once you have a tenant in place?
You’ll collect rent. And the best way to do that is by collecting rent online.
Do Tenants Want to Pay Rent Online?
The simple answer is yes. Here’s why:
|Online Rental Payments Are Convenient||Online Rental Payments are Secure|
|Tenants Can Set Reminders when Rent is Due||Tenants Can Set up Automatic Payments|
|Tenants Can Easily Track Past Payments||Tenants Can Prove They’ve Made a Payment|
|No Need to Hunt Down a Stamp and Envelope||Online Payments are Contact-Free|
Processing payments can be a big and frustrating issue for landlords. If you’ve found that you’re always chasing down late rent, you might want to consider online payments. When tenants can pay electronically, they’re more likely to pay on time.
Your tenant can pay rent via their cell phone. That’s pretty convenient.
For one thing, the money will clear faster.
It also helps you with tenant retention. When you make things easy for your tenants, you are more likely to keep them. You’ll also find tenants
What Type of Rent Collection Tech Should You Look for?
There are lots of options. If you want an online tool, consider looking at what’s available from Cozy, Buildium, Rentec Direct, and AppFolio.
These platforms provide a tenant portal that allows tenants to pay via:
- Checking account
- Savings account
- Credit card
- Debit card
There are also online apps like Venmo or Paypal that can easily facilitate the payment of rent you’re your tenant to you. Try a landlord-specific app like RentPayment. If all you’re looking for is a way to collect rent digitally, a cash app might be easy enough. But, if you want additional services like financial reporting and tenant management services, you might want to invest in something that does a little more.
TECH TOOL #4: INSPECTION TECHNOLOGY
Inspections are an important part of managing and maintaining your rental property. You can’t document the condition of your rental home before or after a tenancy without a detailed and thorough inspection.
If you are renting out a single property, comprehensive inspection software may not seem necessary to you. As long as you can create your own inspection report and document what you find with photos and videos, it’s easy to stay pretty organized.
But, there are still benefits to using an app. If you’re renting out more than one home, you’ll likely want to look into some inspection software programs or apps. Some of them are quite inexpensive; you’ll find that most programs range from $15 to $100 a month, depending on the scope of service you need.
Z Inspector and HappyCo are some of the more familiar online inspection apps. They provide benefits such as:
- Photo and video storage.
- Preloaded checklists
- Vendor and contractor information and portals
With inspections comes maintenance. How can you integrate your inspection app with your maintenance process?
Many of the software programs we use and recommend as property managers have all of that built in. Look for something that also facilitates online maintenance requests or repair scheduling. This will keep you more organized and help you communicate better with tenants and vendors.
Well-documented maintenance requests serve a number of purposes:
|Tenants can make maintenance requests conveniently and at any time.||Written requests provide the documentation you may need to prove when and how you responded.||Tenants will be able to provide additional information on the repair that’s needed. Photos can be submitted with the request.||You create a history of work that has been completed on your property.|
TECH TOOL #5: ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE
Access to financial reports and accounting statements is perhaps one of the best reasons to invest in great technology. You need to know where your money is and how your property is performing. Otherwise, how do you know where you stand and where you need to go?
Tracking the income and expenses associated with your South Jersey rental property is a lot easier with good technology. You should have a system in place that:
- Tracks when rent is received
- Provides accounting reports
- Generates financial statements
- Prepares for tax forms
- Notifies you when rent is late
Financial apps exist for landlords who don’t have a huge portfolio of properties but still like to keep track of their money. You should think beyond the basic spreadsheet and use a system that will help you reach your investment and financial goals.
Property Buddy is an excellent app that might be the perfect tool for your accounting needs. You can choose a very simple and basic package or integrate upgrades and special services as necessary. You’ll be able to keep track of when rent is due and a lease is about to expire.
Documentation is essential when you’re renting out a property. If you can’t prove what you earned, when a maintenance invoice was paid, or why you charged a tenant’s security deposit, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of legal trouble.
Good accounting and financial technology, however, protects you and your property.
Are You Keeping Your Business and Personal Funds Separate?
The income you earn from your rental property or properties should be kept in a separate account and not left to mingle with your personal finances. Setting up a separate bank account isn’t difficult, and it will protect you and your tenants from any financial mistakes or missteps.
|1. Set up a new bank account online. Here’s a great opportunity to practice your use of technology||2. Decide if you want one account for all your rental properties or a separate account for each property|
|3. Track your expenses per-property.||4. Use the separate account to hold security deposits, collect rent, and pay for maintenance and other expenses.|
Interested in talking more about tech?
It’s one of our favorite topics. Contact us at Realty Solutions, and we’ll see what we can do to help you get modernized and more efficient. We lease, manage, and maintain homes in Audubon, Collingswood, Cherry Hill, Haddon Heights, Blackwood, and the surrounding communities.