The rental market in Australia has a bad reputation. Relationships between landlords, real estate agents and renters are often strained, and the media is quick to highlight rental disputes and key pain points facing renters.
Difficulty with organising timely repairs, slow — and sometimes even tetchy — responses from real estate agents, who are stretched to their limits, frustrate tenants, who often feel powerless against a system they consider to be favourable to home owners.
And while in some cases their critique is justified, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Because the real estate agency industry gets a bad rap, there is less focus on the structures that make the job incredibly difficult and stressful.
On a daily basis, agents have a lot on their plates: they have to liaise between renters and owners, facilitate and negotiate lease renewals, organise repairs, keep themselves and their clients abreast of rent price changes and other relevant communications (as well as reply to client and tenant emails, phone calls etc), there is often not much energy left over at the end of the day to give their multiple clients (home owners and renters) the time they deserve.
We’ve seen firsthand how stressful managing all these requests can be, especially as so much communication and processes are still conducted over email, phone calls — and even paper.
In addition, a 2019 survey by the Australian Council of Trade Unions found that real estate agents were often exposed to second-hand trauma from clients who may be under financial stress, experiencing bereavement or other emotionally stressful events.
The impact of the pandemic has placed additional pressure on already overloaded property professionals. In fact, it has only amplified already high stress levels and other mental health issues, causing up to 30 per cent of residential property managers to leave their jobs over the past year.
Not only did agents have to deal with usual job requirements, they were now fielding calls and emails from anxious landlords and tenants.
And while no one can make the pandemic go away anytime soon, there are ways to manage agent stress and workload in such a way as to free them up to do arguably the most important part of their job well: provide great customer experience.
We’ve spoken to thousands of agents and renters to find out what they need to make the experience of both leasing and renting as smooth as possible, and really, it all comes down to automating those administrative tasks in one platform, which is best facilitated by technology.
One advantage of adopting a technology platform especially designed for the real estate sector is that it’s able to, with half the input from the agent, take care of 50 per cent of the tasks that occupy an agent’s time and mental energy.
Finding tenants for a property is a hassle that can be streamlined, as is automating reference checking, communications and leasing handovers. Doing this all manually over the phone or email just sucks up time and energy, leaving agents often spent and struggling to meet the emotional needs of their clients.
If technology could help take the pressure off of application and reference checks, agents could spend more time providing customers with the assurance that they’re being listened to and that their issues are being addressed in a timely and sensitive manner.
It would also help them be more responsive during the application process; sometimes people don’t hear back about rental applications for a few days, if at all, which doesn’t bode well for the sector.
Another huge hassle and pain point for both renters and agents is organising manual repairs. Horror stories of time-poor real estate agents leaving it too long to clear out mould and organise plumbers to release blocked-up toilets surface all the time, and while it’s terrible for the renter, it may be just one of many requests being simultaneously handled by the one agent.
Having to organise repairs for renters all around a city is a time drain, and doing it over the phone is certainly not the most efficient way of getting it sorted quickly. If agents could instantly access a database of available emergency contacts and ping them without chasing their various phones and emails, it would leave them with more time to actually be proactive with updating customers of repair requests.
It may be difficult for renters to understand the pressures that real estate agents are under; they have to increasingly do more with less (cost cutting is relentless), while simultaneously fighting their own mental fatigue caused by the pandemic and managing a large portfolio of clients.
But there are solutions out there, and technology, like in so many other cases, can help everyone keep their sanity — and make the customer feel heard.
Andrew Duncan is the founder and managing director of Sorted Services.