Property management is feeling the effects of disruption, both technical and generational, with a host of new tech businesses reimagining rental and investment experiences.
The Inman Connect San Francisco 2018 conference featured a host of start-ups that are changing business models, making renting more flexible for tenants, providing transparency around a greater range of investment opportunities and removing a lot of the friction, pain and cost from the traditional processes of property management.
The demand for this, they claim, is coming from Millennials, who have high expectations on standards of living, but value experiences over security, and want flexible leases, great locations and easy ways to book and confirm.
The drivers are big data pushing into tech-enabled platforms that give property managers oversight into every element of the property, and allow them to collate and respond to information in real time and deconstruct the transaction with security.
Here’s a quick overview of the top contenders:
1. Running inspections with a robot
The days of setting up a 15-minute inspection window for every potential tenant interested in a property are over with the robot from Zenplace. Zenplace is a property management disrupter that uses technology to find tenants and manage rentals more quickly and affordably than traditional agency models. Their latest offer, the ZenBot, is located within each of their properties to rent. Interested parties can then make an appointment to inspect any time; a unique code is sent to their phone to unlock the door and the robot greets them and shows them around. At the other end is an agent who identifies features and answers questions, and if the tenant wants to proceed, they can fill in paperwork immediately on the screen. Zenplace claims the efficiency of not having agents on the road to open properties allows them to do 10 times the number of inspections and attract a better quality of tenant. But if you’ve got stairs, you’ll need two robots.
2. Introducing corporate housing
Landlords want good tenants and long-term leases. Tenants want shorter leases in good properties and great locations that feel like home. Companies want to be able to attract great talent and get them settled into new roles in new locations quickly and easily. To date, furnished apartments have been the only — rather soulless and expensive — option. Enter Zeus Property Management. Zeus signs master leases with landlords of two years or longer. They design, furnish and maintain the property for corporate tenants who can place employees into properties in good neighbourhoods quickly and easily with more flexibility. For landlords, the benefits are proactive maintenance, low fees, guaranteed rent and great-quality tenants. Tenants get to live in great properties for times that suit their work assignments and without the hassle of leases that lock them in, and corporates can swap staff in and out.
3. Deconstructing shared living
Shared houses have historically had a dodgy reputation — a group of near strangers living under one roof, and often one lease, with second-hand furniture and dubious standards of hygiene and arguments over the bills. But that was before the Millennials took over the world with their expectations of ease, comfort, flexibility and constant access to WiFi. Common offers shared housing for the new generation. Private furnished bedrooms within beautiful shared suites, one all-inclusive rate covering your rent, cleaning and essentials and flexible leases. And of course, it wouldn’t be a tech play if your co-tenants weren’t screened for compatibility using big data. Common is currently available in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and Seattle but expanding quickly.
4. Investing in holiday homes
Many is the family who have told themselves that their ideal holiday home is “really a great investment” at purchase time, only to find the constant overheads, maintenance and sporadic rent turn the dream into a nightmare. But Vacasa is a property management concept that specialises in vacation homes — a supported property management version of Airbnb, if you will. It screens travellers, manages guests, promotes bookings and manages property maintenance to a high standard, driven by a technology platform that adjusts rates in real time using data from local events, seasonal patterns and market demand. Vacasa claims landlords earn 34 per cent more rent on average in their first year.
In addition, Vacasa works with local agents in each area to help their buyers understand the holiday rental potential of a property by providing the data and insights to support the decision. So, the next time you fall in love with a cottage by the sea, Vacasa can help you understand exactly how many days it’s likely to be rented, peak times, rates and returns you should expect, as well as advice on renovations or improvements that will affect rents so you can remove any guesswork from understanding its investment potential.
Kylie Davis is the principal at Real Content and author of seven landmark reports.
She is a 'data queen’ whose research helps agents, property managers and principals better understand customers, markets and themselves.
She is also a keen observer of the tech trends changing the way we work.