As a finale to Transform PM 2016 our four PM Directors were joined by Richard Bray, Fiona Blayney, Chris Gray, Charles Tarbey, Julie Davis and Neil Williams for an industry round table discussion on the future of property management and how to best serve the needs of property investors. The session was facilitated by Alister Maple-Brown of Rockend.
In this seventh video of our 8-part series, we focus on the benefits and impact of technology and how it can be optimised for property management, such as using mobile-friendly services, and the ability to consolidate information.
Alister Maple-Brown: Moving on, from people, is the foundation of all of our businesses and to an enabler – technology – which I’d love you to give comment on what incremental changes you’ve seen that can make a big difference to the work that you’ve been doing with the group.
Richard Bray: My session, we went through very much about the tenant, about how people are actually searching for property and what we’re seeing online in the trends. We went through the journey of explaining that it takes a lot of people. They have that three-month idea in that journey of, “Okay, I want to move.” Most of it’s driven by a lifestyle need to move, to be close to work, shops or schools or whatever. Three months is about the journey, but along that journey, we link it back to technology; what are we doing along that journey to help people find property? The pain points that keep coming out are the same pain points, and they always have been there.
We’re seeing the massive shift to mobile and everybody wanting things right now in demand on their mobile. What are you doing as a real estate business to be mobile friendly? What are you doing to make it easy for tenants? Are there enough photos on there that is making it easy for people to select that property without having to make that phone call or email inquiry, which is painful for the tenant? It’s also making property managers busy, and the pain point there is that they’re overworked and they don’t have enough time.
We looked at property management, [where] it’s a lot more difficult for landlords to pick an agency. On our site and many other platforms, you can look at ratings and reviews when it comes to sales. You can look at sales history for that agency, but when it comes to property management, it’s very difficult for landlords to pick an agency. How big is their rent roll? How many properties do they manage?
A lot of agent profiles on our site are great for sales people. They’re really poor for property managers. How are you showcasing your stuff and your awards and what you do and your systems and your processes online so people can pick your businesses? We looked at that.
Then we looked also (just reiterating the fact of the tools that are out there) tools such as Inspect Real Estate that saves hours of a property manager’s time. It’s a data capture point for you, as well, that you’re getting qualified names and people coming to the OFIs. It’s allowing property managers not to turn up to an open for inspection if nobody’s registered for it. Why would you stand there for 15 minutes if you don’t need to? That, to me, is one of the biggest game changers of technology in the industry for people booking open for inspections. We’re seeing more and more people demanding that on-site and getting frustrated with agents that don’t have that technology. They want to be notified if the property’s been leased. They don’t want to turn up to find that it’s not there and then the property managers say, “Oh, we’ve got other properties. Does that suit?” That’s a waste of somebody’s time.
It’s everything on their mobile. If they can’t do it there and then and get that information, that is really what’s driving it. The other one is 1form. We looked at 1form. Obviously, the way that business has grown, it was a consumer-driven piece of software that would auto-create accounts for property managers. There’s a lot of property managers that have never been trained or educated on 1form and how to use it properly. There are many features in 1form, but property managers just use it as a net to catch applications and then they will print out the application and deal with everything pretty much in front of them on the table. Using features in 1form that can pass information over to REST, it can link to tenancy database checks that can send off email templates, SMSs and just using technology better to free up time. That will save hours of people’s time and staff, reduce labour cost.
Again, it’s that digital footprint and the brand that you’re showing out there. You’re an agency that embraces technology. You care about tenants. You care about the staff in the agency to make this thing run really slick and really well. That, to me, however, you can enable the whole process for your staff to be mobile, so they’re out on the road capturing data, not using paper and pen as much as possible. They’re using systems where everything links, integrates. That to me will be the biggest game changer in the solution of the industry where labour costs can be reduced, tenant and customer experience and landlords. The whole experience will take a massive lightyear shift.
Alister: Decrease friction across all parties.
Richard: It will. It honestly will. The communication and maintenance one, like I said before, that’ll be the next game changer that links it all together, but as business owners, you need to be looking at what systems integrate to which, and if property managers are using one system and then it’s stopping and then they’re printing things out or re-keying information to another, you’ve got the wrong systems. Everything can pass information to each other. It’s just about finding the ones that do it best.
Alister: What about from the directors in terms of the technology that you’ve implemented over the last number of weeks, and what’s the impact it has had on your team members because I think Richard points out a really great point that it’s not just attracting your customers, but creating a really fantastic experience for your team members to operate it.
Trent Shorland: For me, we focus really hard on our sales side with our profiles online with realestate.com.au. We haven’t done that with property management, not for any other reasons other than what didn’t seem important. I think that session brought that to life and we have to make sure that we’re doing that equally as well as we’re doing with our sales business. I think the other thing is the connections. One of the views of realestate.com.au is you’ve actually got numerous things that will link together. You got the 1form. You got the connections. Everything holds together. It makes the whole system that much easier and quicker, and obviously, everything’s about time these days. The quicker you can make things happen, the easier it is for your property manager, obviously the cheaper it is to run your business, all those things.
Alister: Good. Kelley?
Kelley-Ann Seaton: We have a lot of the technology already and things like IRE and so on, but we just weren’t using it properly, and particularly with realestate.com.au. I had no idea that you could integrate some of the things, like the 1form into REST. We’re just manually sitting here retyping the whole thing. All of the things that we actually learned from Richard’s session was the fact that we weren’t using our stuff properly.
Alister: It’s such a huge challenge for providers of tools into the industry is how do we help users get as much value as is possible from the tools that are out there.
Trent: Trust our good account managers. We had Inspect Real Estate, and I was really dumbfounded to be honest until we had your session because I’d just had enough. We weren’t getting a service. Just by going, talking to Inspect Real Estate, we had a fellow from WA come over. The system’s a fantastic system. We just weren’t taught how to use it properly. I think that’s what this whole Transform has been about, is actually understanding what’s out there and understanding there’s some really good products, but unless you use them properly, they’re not good to you at all.
Alister: They’re not.
Richard: You inherit bad habits. You use the system the way everybody else is using the system in the office. Until you lean on these account managers and keep getting them out there, keep learning the features, that’s when you’ll use the product to the full advantage because so many people are like, “I never knew a real estate company can do that,” or “can provide that stat,” or “that report,” or “that’ll help the BDMs in pitching to that landlord,” or “I didn’t know Inspect Real Estate could send an owner report after the OFI, so I don’t have to call.” So many little things that if you get one or two things out of that every session that you have, if you maybe once every few months and you pick up one tiny idea. You’re talking hours and hours of savings to your business, which is a game changer.
Alister: Another from a supplier perspective, if the industry can share what would need to change for you to get more out of what it is that’s already out there, I’d love to know because we’re really struggling understanding how do we get the message across. The training is just so critical, but is it training? Is it different? Is it something else? I’m not exactly sure, but we would love to know more because there is just so much blatant value sitting in front of our customers every day.
Trent: I think, from our point of view, our business, we bring in someone every week to our team meetings. As our salesman, he’s at team meetings, the BDM, everyone’s in there, and we bring suppliers in every week. It’s only for 15-20 minutes, just to give us a bit of an overview on some of the new stuff and I find that is really invaluable because we just can’t find time to sit down with every single person and try and understand. I can’t sit down and talk to realestate.com.au about everything that it does because I don’t have the time to. If you can pick something small each time; these guys, that’s what they do. They’re training on each all the time. The training with the big companies is phenomenal.
Richard: That’s right.
Trent: We got to lean on them, and I think the account manager’s the most important person.
Richard: I agree with that.