When you manage a portfolio of single family properties, chances are that every year some of them will be put on the market and sold. And unless the new owner keeps them as rentals and retains you as manager, you’ve lost business – right?
Not necessarily. At the recent RealWorld conference in Las Vegas, representatives from two smart property management companies using Propertyware told us how the software helps them cash in when those homes sell – so when their portfolio loses a home on the property management side, they often gain money right back on the sales side.
Blackwell Realty: “Good management makes us the obvious choice as agent when owners decide to sell.”
Named after George Washington’s youngest brother, the elegant and historical city of Charles Town, West Virginia boasts peaceful tree-lined streets graced by elegant 18th-century homes. It was here that in 2011, two entrepreneurial partners decided to exploit what they saw as a niche in local property management and sales. Their idea was to create an agency with a hip, modern image that would distinguish it from the generic real estate businesses dominating the local market. “You basically had the Century 21 type model here, where you recruit as many agents as possible and sell as many houses as you can,” says Melissa Francis, property manager and realtor at Blackwell. “But many people, particularly younger ones, aren’t drawn to large, faceless organizations the way they are to more human-feeling, relatable businesses, and our founders bet that the same would prove true when it came to managing, renting and selling properties.”
The company would specialize (as it still does) in rental management and sales of single family properties, many of them occupied by people making the daily commute to Baltimore or Washington D.C.
Blackwell chose Propertyware as the foundation for building the rental property management side of the business, and Francis says it has made all the difference from the very beginning. “It makes our jobs so much easier, it reduces our busywork, and it keeps the renters happy as well as the owners.
It is this last constituency, the owners, whose satisfaction with Blackwell’s sharp management has led to a happy surprise: when they decide to sell, as they sometimes do, their natural inclination is to ask Blackwell to stay on as sales agent.
“Over the period we manage their properties using Propertyware, owners are blown away by what a great experience it is for them,” says Assistant Manager Megan Harlow. “Those who have had properties managed by previous firms are shocked by the contrast when they come on with us; they feel informed, empowered and even pampered, and they love us.”
Perhaps most appreciated by Blackwell’s clients is the transparency they enjoy into all kinds of details about their properties as a result of the Owner Portal. These include rent collections; maintenance and associated costs; delinquencies and evictions; conversion rates of applicants to tenants; taxes; applications, lease modifications, and more. “Propertyware has helped us keep our owners on top of all the details, and made their property ownership as headache and worry-free as possible,” Harlow says.
There’s also the fact that Propertyware keeps renters informed and happy too, leading to reduced misunderstandings, higher retention and fewer expensive turns. Features like online payments are greatly appreciated, and have reduced delinquencies to under 1%.
In the long run, Blackwell has found that Propertyware is helping them beyond growing their property management business. The benefits are trickling through to the sales side.
“We currently manage 176 properties,” explains Megan Harlow. “Last year, owners decided to sell 24 of the properties in our portfolio, which typically would offset a lot of our growth and hurt our bottom line. But we’ve been thrilled to find that our owners like us so much as managers that they hire us to sell their houses if that time comes; even though a home is taken from our portfolio it’s added to our sales roster and we earn the commissions.”
The success of this one-two punch has helped contribute to this young company’s recent growth. The company has steadily extended its reach in West Virginia, and has recently moved into Virginia markets as well.
Tidewater: “We’re being chosen as selling agent by owners and buying agent by renters moving to home ownership.”
In another scenic part of Virginia, the Hampton Roads area that includes Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, another Propertyware user with a similar business model also is cashing in on the goodwill generated by its superb management to capture sales contracts. And they’re going a step farther.
Brandon Reed’s family has been in the real estate business for 35 years, and today manages over 700 single family properties under the name Real Property Management Tidewater. Reed joined the family business with a determination to apply his background in IT to replacing the company’s old-school business processes with smart technology. The result of this initiative was the choice of Propertyware as the core software.
Just like Blackwell, Real Property Management Tidewater quickly found that in addition to streamlining the running of the business and helping keep tenants happy, Propertyware resulted in very happy owners.
“The Owner Portal is one of the main reasons I chose Propertyware,” says Reed. “It gives them an overarching view of their portfolios as well as the ability to drill down to see details when they want to.”
Reed provides some examples of the easy access to information owners admire in Propertyware: “It goes far beyond just a statement,” he says. “They actually get to see in real time what the value of their portfolio is, their rent roll, whether their tenants have paid their rent, and maintenance requests that that they can approve, deny or leave comments about. They can view all of their documents – not just management contracts, but their leases and everything else. The other great thing is that we can actually go in and create a custom report built specifically for a particular owner and publish that report directly to their owner portal.”
Tidewater runs a Remax office that handles the sales side of the business. Like Blackwell, Tidewater has found that the high level of satisfaction on the part of the owners for whom they manage translates into sales contracts when owners decide to sell.
But Tidewater is taking things even farther. They’re actually identifying potential home buyers among their renters and winning contracts as buying agents as well.
“Propertyware helps us identify renters whose numbers show them to be prime for moving from the rental pool to the homeowner pool,” Reed says. “We invite them to a seminar and educate them about the possibilities of buying their own home, with the expectation that we’ll be their agent when they do it. They’ve had a good experience as renters being managed using Propertyware and we typically have a friendly relationship.”
But if they do decide to buy a home, doesn’t this leave Tidewater with a vacancy? Reed says this isn’t an issue: “We know the renter is going to move out at some point anyway, and there’s always another to replace them. While they’re renting inside our portfolio, we have a golden opportunity to forge the relationship we need with them in order to be called on when they’re ready to purchase instead of rent.” Propertyware is helping Tidewater win three different ways: in adding properties to their rental portfolio, and collecting home sales commissions on both the selling and buying side.
Propertyware users who handle both property management and sales would do well to follow the examples of these two smart companies and channel the good feelings Propertyware engenders into sales agent contracts. And for those not into sales – perhaps it’s something worth considering.