Going Remote: Running a Virtual Property Management Business

How Remote Can You Go? Running a Virtual Property Management Business Without Sacrificing Service

Here at Fourandhalf, we love our sixth-floor office that looks out over Silicon Valley, and we find it helpful to have everyone in the same place.

But, we often wonder whether it would be possible to build a property management business that is completely virtual. The Property Management Show received an email from a listener named Nicholas who wanted to know if it would be possible to start and run a property management company without a physical office.

Can it be done virtually?

We reached out to a company that’s doing it, and our guests today are Noel Pulanco and Mike Sargent from HomeQwik. They also run yesVIRTUAL, a business providing highly trained virtual assistants to property management companies.

The Thought Process Behind Going Virtual

Leasing agents and property managers spend a lot of time in the field already. There are so many tasks that don’t even require a desk: following up on leads, taking marketing photos of properties, posting signs, leaving keys in lockboxes, and meeting with renters. All of these things happen outside of the office.

Inside the office is where most of the customer service happens. If you’re transitioning those customer service tasks to virtual assistants already, as HomeQwik had begun doing, there are very few reasons to keep a physical office. Renting office space costs a lot of money, so moving all of your current office-based staff can save money and provide flexibility to your employees.

As long as you have good software, good systems, and processes that work, you can keep your company virtual and mobile.

Pre-sale Considerations When Running a Virtual Property Management Business

Having a physical office does not provide any advantages when it comes to signing new owners.

There might be a tendency for people to hire you based on where your office is. You might attract owners who are within five miles of your office just because they know you are there. But, those are easy clients. And, it really doesn’t matter how close you are to the properties you manage when you’re not the one fixing the garbage disposal or locking the tenants out.

It’s probably rare that you meet with owners at your office. Most property owners want to meet at the property. You’ll want to see the home, walk through the property, and talk about the necessary repairs and the most advantageous marketing strategies. You don’t have to bring potential owners into an office in order to manage their homes. You can take them out for coffee or to lunch. Usually, you’re going to meet at their property.

However, your website will need a physical address. Without a physical tie-in, it’s hard to rank a website. So, you’ll want to use your home office. Tie yourself to a physical address so you don’t have problems ranking your website and getting leads and traction. Anchor your office somewhere, even if it’s not a physical office where your entire staff goes.

Post-sale Considerations When Running a Virtual Property Management Business

After you’ve landed new business, you can implement systems to manage properties and tenants.

There doesn’t need to be paperwork, for example. DocuSign allows you to get documents back and forth through email. That doesn’t require a physical office.

All of the tenant application and screening processes can also be done online. There’s no need for a tenant to walk into your office to talk about a property or an application. You can collect virtual copies of identification and have conversations over the phone. You don’t have to drive them around to see properties. If you’re not showing properties in-person already, there’s no need to feel like the process cannot happen without a physical office.

Instead of having tenants come into the office to review and sign the lease, HomeQwik will send them a video that talks about all the important points in the lease. The keys will be delivered to the lockbox, and even though they’ll talk to the tenants multiple times before they move in, the team at HomeQwik won’t have to see their tenants.

Showing a property can be done virtually with lockbox technology. This automates the process and keeps you from having to show every house. You can use virtual assistants to handle direct contact or to answer questions. You don’t need a licensed broker to answer questions about pets or move-in dates.

With the amount of help you’re getting from virtual assistants, you want to make sure they’re trained in certain processes. Work with VAs who understand the leasing process and how to submit an invoice and start a work order. A company like yesVIRTUAL trains them in these processes before sending them out to property management companies. These virtual assistants know how to enter leases and manage data. They understand the property management software and the processes involved in this work.

The technology stack that’s needed to virtually manage the move-in process is probably something similar to what most property managers have in place already:

  • Have a solid and transparent website that communicates qualifications, pricing, and value propositions. It should educate potential tenants and owners.
  • Adopt a showing technology like Rently, ShowMojo, or TenantTurner so you don’t need a leasing agent to show the home.
  • Use tech-driven software like PropertyWare or Appfolio or Buildium that allows you to virtualize the application process for tenants so they can view the property and apply online.
  • Qualify tenants using virtual assistants who can answer questions and follow processes.

Application to Lease Process: How to Do it Virtually

At HomeQwik, all of the application information is collected and uploaded into the software system. If the application is denied, an automated denial letter goes out. If you have a qualified tenant, the lease terms are discussed and the virtual assistant creates the lease and sets it up in DocuSign. After one or two conversations with the tenant, a signing date and move-in date are agreed upon. The lease goes out, the tenants pick up the keys, and then inspection tools are provided for the move-in inspection.

The team at HomeQwik moves in between 20 and 30 tenants every month, and they believe the virtual process is scalable. If they had the houses, they could do 100 or even 1,000.

Think about the virtual platforms that are already encroaching on the real estate and property management space, like Zillow. It’s important that you’re prepared and flexible if you want to compete.

Giving Up the Physical Office

Even if virtual offices work better, you’re still giving something up when you move the team out of a physical office.

You won’t be able to see and reach out and talk to your staff. You won’t have everyone in one hub. If you’ve got a big team, moving your staff to a system where you’re not around each other every day might be a challenge.

It’s also important that you’re confident in your staff. You have to know that they don’t need to be micromanaged, and that they will work and be productive.

You can use technology to hold meetings. With video, people can keep in touch with each other and see one another every week or two. You can get together for lunch or coffee. The personal touch is important, but no one will likely miss your office. There’s rarely going to be an emotional attachment to it.

And, you’ll be saving thousands of dollars a month.

Automattic is the company that made WordPress, which runs about 80 percent of the web technology people use every day. They recently said on a podcast that they’re fully virtual and they have 600 people. They have been able to maintain the culture, the heart, and the purpose of their organization even being completely virtual.

It’s important to keep your culture alive.

It’s hard to have it both ways. You might find that you either have to be 100 percent virtual or 100 percent office-based when you’re running an effective property management company. Otherwise, things can get confusing and processes could fall apart.

When you’re virtual, get together for holiday lunches. Have team-building events and stay connected.

If you’d like to hear more about what it’s like to run a completely virtual property management business, Noel and Mike would be happy to tell you more about it. Look for them at HomeQwik or yesvirtual.com.

And, if you have any questions about your property management marketing and sales processes, you can contact us at Fourandhalf.

Alex Osenenko

About Alex Osenenko

Alex’s professional mission in life is to help small businesses grow and thrive. Alex is the President and CEO of Fourandhalf.com and a Co-Founder of the PM Grow, Inc. His business philosophy is simple: Happy Customers are created by Happy Employees, which results in Happy Shareholders. Alex's deep commitment to entrepreneurship and improving the lives of small business owners everywhere empower him to host “The Property Management Show” bi-weekly Podcast and speak internationally on the subjects of Growth, Marketing, Sales, and Entrepreneurship.

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Alex Osenenko
President and CEO

Alex’s professional mission in life is to help small businesses grow and thrive. He is the President and CEO of Fourandhalf.com and is serving his 5th year on the Board of Directors for CALNARPM.

After spending 9 years in the trenches with his property management clients, Alex draws on his experience to host “The Property Management Show” Podcast and co-authors a weekly Property Management Blog on Fourandhalf.com. Alex has extensive experience speaking for various NARPM events at the local, state, regional and national level.

Alex is a graduate of San Francisco State University with an Electronic Commerce Systems Degree. His business philosophy is simple: Happy Customers are created by Happy Employees, which results in Happy Shareholders. Alex serves on the Board of Directors of CALNARPM (California Chapter of National Association of Residential Property Managers) and hosts a Podcast “The Property Management Show“, available on iTunes.

 

John Bykowski
Chief Operating Officer

After graduating from the University of Michigan with a film degree, John proceeded to do everything but. During his career, John has specialized in operations and has developed processes for small companies in diverse industries, such as bleeding-edge marketing technology, social networking, trade shows and exhibitions, and cloud software. John and Alex had worked together previously, and when he needed someone to help take Fourandhalf to the next level and beyond, Alex brought in John as his first employee, and later, business partner.

In addition, now that he’s using his film school know-how to help property managers look their best in their blogs, his mom no longer feels his degree was a complete waste of time.

Danny Morris
Director of Account Management

Born in Australia and growing up in Israel, Danny has spent a lot of time traveling the world between those two places. After completing his military service in Israel, Danny began following his biggest passion, writing, which he discovered while backpacking South America and publishing his first book.

When it was time to unpack, he returned to Australia to complete his Journalism studies amongst the beaches of sunny Perth. Danny is a huge online fan and after working in a number of related jobs, he finally gets to combine his two favorite things, working with media and people.

Marina Osenenko
Product Manager

Marina draws upon her real estate, business operations and customer service expertise for Fourandhalf. Her favorite part of being with Fourandhalf is the opportunity she has to really get to know our clients, build professional customer relationships and truly be part of a team that assists in their success.

Her time away from work is happily spent watching her children grow up and attempting to keep up with them! Any spare moments beyond nurturing her children are filled with hiking, spending time with friends, exploring the Bay Area and squeezing in a non G-rated movie every now and then.

Marie Liamzon
Product and Marketing Manager

Before joining Fourandhalf, Marie worked for one of the largest banks in the world. She took on different roles, but couldn’t find what she was looking for. She pursued a variety of side projects until she finally decided it was time for a career change.

Marie is very passionate about helping people and learning new things. In her spare time, you might catch her exploring new places and taking far too many pictures.

Kyle McLean
Customer Success

Born in San Diego County, Kyle McLean has since migrated to the Oakland woods. A fan of tall trees and tall tales, he holds a bachelor’s degree from the creative writing program at the University of California, Riverside and is a licensed California Certified Shorthand Reporter.

After a few years as a freelance court reporter, Kyle has joined Fourandhalf for an opportunity in sales and digital marketing. In addition to reading and writing, his hobbies and interests include gardening, hiking, soccer, coffee brewing, and craft beers.

Karen Wyle
Account Management

Originally from the Philadelphia area, Karen moved eight times in seventeen years all over the East Coast and to the Midwest before settling here in Northern California six years ago. She is an alumna of Brandeis University with a BA in American Studies and earned a MBA in Marketing Management from Indiana University in Bloomington. Karen’s business career has been well-rounded, with experience including advertising, direct marketing, corporate retail, product management, new product development, and new customer generation. Beyond an office setting, she has been thrilled to volunteer her time giving back to the community with KPMG’s Family for Literacy, at her daughter’s school, and as a Girl Scout Troop Leader. Karen enjoys music, good food, traveling to new places, completing jigsaw puzzles, meeting people and making connections.

Karen became a part of Fourandhalf’s Account Management team in 2016, relaunching her marketing management career after a pause to raise her family. She is excited to rejoin the business world and to work with such a strong marketing management team.

Paige DeRuyter
Account Management

Paige graduated from Chico State University with a degree in Journalism. Her favorite part of working at Fourandhalf is helping clients create and produce educational blog content to grow their business. She is an avid sushi enthusiast who enjoys riding her bike and watching college football and in her free time.

Nissim Boozaglo
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After working as a Radioshack store manager, Nissim decided to change his career path and pursue his passion for music production by getting his B.A.S. from Expression College for the Digital Arts. Nissim has a beautiful 8-year-old girl and loves cooking delicious homemade food and going camping with her! At Fourandhalf, Nissim is responsible for the implementation of the clients’ Landing Pages and Google Adwords campaigns.

Theresa Barnes
Campaign Director

Theresa Barnes was born and raised in the Bay Area and graduated with her Bachelors Degree in Communications Studies at San Francisco State University. She worked in aviation at a private FBO for 3 years, and other industries, before joining the Fourandhalf team. She finds a balance between being a young mother, work, and living a healthy lifestyle outside of work by staying as active as possible. She is dedicated to customer satisfaction and having a great work ethic.

Brittany Stephens
Campaign Director

Brittany recently moved to the Bay area after graduating from California State University Chico with a degree in Business Marketing. She is known for her excellent communication, customer service skills, and shameless nerdyness. Her passions include: music, tabasco, Lord of the Rings, and the Golden State Warriors.

Logan Jones
Business Development

After graduating from CSU Chico with a Degree in Business Marketing, Logan moved back to the East Bay and pursued a career in sales. With an attention to detail and a relentless drive, he strives to improve himself and his passions each day. When not at work Logan enjoys playing guitar and writing songs, and occasionally performing around the Bay Area. He is an avid sports fan keeping up with everything SF Giants, 49ers, Cal Bears, and Golden State Warriors.

Hope Lumbley
Account Management

Hope recently moved to the Bay Area after graduating from Chico State University with a degree in Journalism. She is coffee crazed, dog obsessed and hopes to visit all National Parks. One of the greatest times in her life was when she lived abroad in Costa Rica and hopes to travel more of Central America in the future. She feels blessed to work for a company who supports her love for travel and the need to learn more about what the world has to offer.

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