It’s no secret that property managers are often used as a battering ram, caught in the middle of the landlord’s wants and the tenant’s needs.
It’s no simple task managing the competing interests of varying parties, and the complex nature of the job often sees property managers leave the profession soon after entering it.
MEN ON A MISSION
Scott Bateman and Brock Fisher want to change all that.
The two PropTech visionaries are leading the charge in Agentplus’s push to create a new, industry-leading build of its core product.
Agentplus is an Australian property management software business focused on solving challenges for all of the people in property – the renters, the owners and the property managers.
Scott, as Agentplus Chief Executive Officer, and Brock, as Head of Product, remain coy about the name of the new product, but they promise it will be bigger, better and much more innovative than what’s currently available in the property management software market.
“We’re not just doing things five per cent or 10 per cent better,” Brock says.
“Incremental change is not something we find viable or attractive, so we’re really focusing on turning the customer experience on its head.”
Scott says the new platform aims to overcome two long-term challenges in the industry, namely software usability and the high rate of property manager burnout.
“One of the big challenges that the old Agentplus of the past had was because it was such a comprehensive system, it was also incredibly difficult to learn how to use,” he says.
“One of the other critical things we are trying to solve with the new product is how transient the property manager workforce is.
“The rate of attrition is scary and some of the data that we’ve seen is that property managers, on average, have a career that lasts less than 12 months.
“They come into the industry, start with an agency, burnout or become disenfranchised and within a year they’ve left the industry.
“So we’ve started thinking about designing a system that helps them enjoy the work they do and get a greater sense of control over the work they do.
“The second part is, if we have to accept that there will be some who do only last less than 12 months, how do we help a property manager pick up the application and be proficient in it from day one?”
A SIMPLE SOLUTION
The goal is to make the platform so simple to use a school student could master it quickly and effectively, almost as soon as logging in.
Scott says the purpose of good technology is to reduce the number of stressors in a person’s life or career, not create more.
“My benchmark here is internet banking,” he says.
“No one needs to teach a 12-year-old how to pick up an iPhone and manage their accounts for internet banking because the technology is so well designed.
“We know it can be done because we see it in other industries, but for whatever reason property management has been allowed to remain this very complex area.
“That’s not to say it’s not a complex job, of course it is, but the whole point of good technology is that it takes really difficult things and makes them feel really easy to do.”
HOW IT BEGAN
Scott and Brock moved across to Agentplus about six months ago from Little Real Estate, where they had been executive general managers.
Little Real Estate looks after the largest rent roll in the country, with 22,000 properties under management.
Brock has 22 years’ experience in property management, including as a property manager, business development manager and in executive roles.
Scott has extensive experience in the financial services industry before moving into real estate and PropTech to innovate in the customer experience field.
The pair is at the helm of a team that incorporates some of the best minds in the business, including a senior leadership team and advisory board that lead the build, growth and eventual sale of PEXA.
The development team currently comprises 35 experts and up to a further 45 will be recruited over the next nine months.
“We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the past 15 years about delivering an industryleading property management platform and combined this with extensive research of customer pain points, expectations, technology trends and alternative revenue models, which we’ve examined through a multi-year, multi-industry global review,” Brock says.
The new software will extend on its current capabilities to deliver intuitive contextual services for landlords and tenants, work across web browsers and apps for mobile devices and integrate better with other platforms to reduce the amount of technology required.
Scott says the market is saturated with software that’s good at administrative task completion but that the new Agentplus will focus on thinking through what the customer experience should look like.
It will make a property manager’s day far more manageable through automation, but it will also preempt services landlords and tenants may require.
In the case of routine inspections, the software will feature extra services, such as cleaning, the tenant may want to engage before the visit.
“The software is thinking about what that person might want or need and offering it to them at the right moment in time,” Scott says.
“If you take the recent hail storms in Melbourne, I want the software to be looking at the weather and contacting me to say ‘there’s a storm coming, you might want to bring some things inside’ or ‘it looks like you may have been affected, so if you need to organise a maintenance request click here’,” he says.
“So it’s making you feel like the platform cares about you and the experience you have.”
Brock says the software will also reduce the number of points of friction between property managers, landlords and tenants through offering greater transparency.
He says the platform won’t just deliver static information, and it will keep processes moving.
It could be that a hot water system has broken and the tenant can login and check if a repairman has been booked or the system might prompt a landlord to make a decision on which quote to select if the issue hasn’t been attended to promptly.
“It means that the property manager isn’t the one who has to jump on the phone to say ‘I’ve got a tenant screaming at me for this, why don’t we have an answer’?” Brock says.
“The app is doing the heavy lifting for them.”
Brock says while many products on the market are web browser-based, the new platform would be built on an app first, with property manager, tenant and landlord specific versions.
It means everyone can login whenever and wherever they are, including busy property managers who can work on the move.
Brock says not to panic; there will be a browser version too.
“The role of a property manager is a portable role so it makes sense that if they are at a property then they can complete a piece of work while they’re there without having to use a separate add-on system or go back to the office,” he says.
“We want this to have start-to-finish functionality so property managers can make use of their time if they’re early to an appointment, sitting on the bus or working at home while sneakily watching Netflix.”
TIMEFRAME FOR DELIVERY
Scott and Brock expect existing Agentplus customers will begin to migrate across to the new platform around the middle of this year, while customers on their wait list will start coming onto the platform from October.
Scott says in its day Agentplus was a market leader with its comprehensive and feature-rich offering and he looks forward to it taking that top spot again.
“It did things that the others, at the time, just didn’t do,” he says.
“Sadly, it didn’t move with the times and didn’t get the love that it needed as everyone else went to the cloud and did what they did.
“But it’s turned out to be a real blessing because it’s meant that we haven’t just gone and built the same thing as everyone else and it’s given us a chance to step back, go off overseas and look at where things are headed and start to make some different decisions in terms of the role we think we can play.”