Over the last 48 episodes of The Property Management Show, at least 40 of them have covered sales and marketing. So, there’s a wealth of information for growing your property management business. If you missed those, go back in the archives and pull out a roadmap on structuring your sales team, organizing your marketing, and growing your business.
Today is a little different.
Many property managers want to grow their businesses, but they feel like they cannot take on any additional growth. They think it would be irresponsible to continue growing, because they are struggling to keep up with serving the customers they currently have.
That’s a good problem, and a real problem.
Today, we’re talking to Todd Ortscheid, who can systemize a business better than anyone.
Background on Todd Ortscheid
Todd is at GTL Real Estate, where he manages around 400 units with five employees on the payroll, including himself. He systemizes, outsources, and uses independent contractors whenever he can. Todd feels he can add 200 properties without adding any full time staff. The plan is to do that with more outsourcing and automation.
Releasing Less Profitable Properties
The first thing Todd did was to look at his portfolio and let go of the less profitable and labor intense owners. Most of the work was coming from the same 10 percent of owners and tenants. Those were C-class properties, which are usually owed by C-class owners and attract C-class tenants. All the company’s work was there. When Todd decided to change their processes and procedures, it was a natural point at which to get rid of the properties that weren’t working.
If you’re wondering whether it was hard to withstand the revenue hit – there wasn’t one.
At the same time that these properties were being released, Todd’s company instituted some new ancillary fees. Owners began getting charged for yearly inspections, and the rest of the new fees were coming from the tenants. The application fee went up, and other things that they hadn’t charged for previously were suddenly falling into place. That canceled out the lost revenue of those 55 properties that they shed from their portfolio.
That’s important. The concurrent implementation of ancillary fees while culling the herd of properties can be the way to go when you don’t want your revenue affected.
Occupancy and Tenant-Related Systems
Automating the processes related to tenants and occupancy can save money and provide scalability.
Are your leasing agents bogged down with calls and emails? Instead of having them spend their time taking phone calls from prospective tenants, explore different options. Todd’s company uses Rently, and there are other platforms that use similar technology.
There’s a combination lockbox and leasing line that make it easy to outsource the showing and leasing process. When someone calls based on a sign that they see or an advertisement, the call is routed to Rently. Everything is automated. If they want to see the house, they get a code and they let themselves in to see the property. If they have questions or want to talk to someone, those calls are routed through PropertyWare.
This is an important piece of the leasing process that property managers can get off their plates. Prospective tenants always ask the same questions. They want to know if the property has a fence or they want to know what the leasing qualifications are. When a call center takes care of answering these questions, your leasing agents can protect their time and only get involved if there’s an unusual question or a problem.
Integrating the Application Process with the Leasing Process
After a prospective tenant views the property, they get an automatic questionnaire that they’re asked to fill out. This gives you the opportunity to collect feedback on the condition of the home, etc. The prospects are also asked to indicate whether they want to apply. If so, they get a link to the online application. This is an integrated process and a good way to improve the tenant’s experience.
You might worry that people will want to meet with someone – get through the process face to face.
But, do you really come across those people very often? Maybe renters of a different generation, but most tenants today are Millennials, and they are not interested in meeting with someone in person. They want to look at properties and fill out applications on their own time and on their own schedule, without ever speaking to a person.
For Todd, the application is hosted by PropertyWare. With this system, all of the application information becomes the leasing information. E-signatures are gathered, and after the tenant is approved, the lease goes right out to the new tenant. Todd and his team don’t interact with the tenants until they get past the approval stage.
Once a tenant is approved, they receive an email with their security deposit information. Lower credit scores often have a contingency fee. This is the first time the tenants hear from their property managers. They pay the security deposit, and the property is taken off the market.
Operations and Information Flow
The tenant moves in, and all of their information is stored with PropertyWare. Other software systems do the same thing. The lease is auto filled by the information collected on the tenant’s application. Everything is streamlined and efficient. There is no manual entry needed.
You can use a system like this for management agreements and independent contractor agreements, and even vendor contracts. With the click of a button, everyone can sign documents electronically, and it’s all stored. This will make it easy for you to stay organized.
There is some effort on the front end to build all this out. But, it will take hours and save you a lot of time in the long term.
With systems like Microsoft Forms, Jot Forms, and others, you can also manage your information and paperwork. For example, if a tenant has been charged for a maintenance issue and they want to dispute that charge, they can fill out and submit a form. It saves a property manager from having a 45-minute conversation with the tenant. Instead, the tenant can state their case, and submit it. Todd’s team reviews the situation, and a decision is made. The time cost is very minimal.
You can also use systems like these for owner surveys. A lot of information can be collected to make your operations more efficient.
SharePoint is another example of technology that can work for you and save you time. Todd uses SharePoint as his company’s intranet. All of the documents, pictures, and HR information is stored there. Staff can access videos and other information. It’s Outlook-based, and Google has similar tools.
Business Process Outsourcing
Think about your maintenance process and work order system. How much time are work orders taking from your property managers? Is everything flowing, or is this one of the reasons you don’t think you can support any more growth?
With work orders, two big things work for Todd, and they go hand in hand. Property Meld and EZ Repair Hotline are what he’s using, and there are other companies doing the same things. This enables a call center to handle repair and maintenance requests. If you’re spending hours of every day looking through service requests, dispatching vendors, and trying to get in touch with tenants to schedule maintenance; you are wasting your time.
EZ Repair Hotline takes every tenant request, whether it’s submitted online or over the phone, and dispatches a vendor from the list that Todd has provided. Property managers don’t have to get involved unless there is a problem.
Text messages and robo-calls are also part of the process. If you’ve got tenants who are late with rent, you can schedule robo-calls to remind them to pay. For Todd, every tenant with an unpaid balance gets a text on every Friday. It also works when leases haven’t been signed or when owners owe you money. This is a valuable resource for any situation where you need to get information out without spending the time to reach out to each person individually.
Utilizing platforms like Help Scout or Zendesk can help you share information. Think about the common questions you get. If you had a collection of articles that answered those questions, you could send them right to the tenants or the owners who ask them. Help Scout keeps all the commonly ask questions, and if there’s not an article or a response already stored, one is easily created. So, when a tenant asks if their late fee can be waived, that tenant will get an article with your late fee policy and a list of situations in which they might be waived.
Streamlining customer emails through a platform like this can save you time while offering exceptional support. The benefit is that when there’s something that cannot be addressed by Help Scout, they email the question to you, and your entire team can see it. So, if you’re not free to answer the question, another member of your team can take it. This is better than an email or a voicemail message sitting in someone’s inbox for 12 hours.
Property Management Growth and the Future
One size no longer fits all when it comes to property management. To grow both your capacity and your client base, you need to be willing to discover new solutions.
Lately, the industry has developed so many new things. The technology is finally coming around, and you may not realize how many tools you have at your disposal.
Next for Todd is to complete the outsourcing of all his back office processes. He doesn’t want his staff spending time on anything that doesn’t require boots on the ground. He’s using virtual assistants and implementing new technology.
You can help your staff handle more properties and wow customers. Todd thinks he can grow by 12 properties a month and move into high growth mode. If you want to talk to him about how he’s managed the automation and outsourcing of the things that were taking up all his time, visit him at gtlrealestate.com. You can also find him talking about this in one of the property management Facebook groups.
As always, you can contact us at Fourandhalf if you have any questions about how to grow your property management company and increase your capacity for that growth.