Forget ‘Doc’ in Back to the Future, Jellis Craig Director Sophie Lyon is conjuring her own time machine.
The winner of realestate.com.au’s inaugural Real Ideas Prize, Sophie’s innovative idea is to use a mobile workforce of inspectors to show prospective tenants through vacant rental properties.
Called ShowMeNow, the app would see would-be tenants able to request an inspection at a property at a time that suits them and have it job matched with a local, qualified agent’s representative.
Sophie says this would allow more tenants to look through more properties, enable property managers to minimise the amount of time a landlord’s property languishes vacant, and give PMs more time in their day to work in person with more clients.
As the prize winner, Sophie receives $60,000 to put towards the development of the app.
“This is an idea that I’ve been thinking about for some time,” says Sophie, a property manager with more than 30 years’ experience.
“Tenants at every open for inspection, especially those on a Saturday, would say how difficult it is for them to get to all of the properties they want to view, particularly because they are often open at the same time and only for a 15-minute window.
“They would have to decide which ones to see or split up with one person seeing one property and the other viewing another.
“This creates problems in itself if one person forgets to check all of the features, such as measuring if the fridge will fit.
“Another important point a lot of prospective tenants made was that they couldn’t make open for inspections during the week because they are at work and surely landlords want a tenant with a secure job.”
Sophie, who manages a large property management team out of the Jellis Craig Boroondara office, says the mobile workforce could consist of former or part-time property managers, as well as trusted residents.
All ShowMeNow inspectors will hold an agent’s representative certificate, receive customised training, be police checked and insured.
Sophie says the app has the potential to change the way property management is conducted.
“Just because we’ve always done something a particular way doesn’t mean it remains the best way year after year,” she says.
“We need to ask ourselves, is there another option? Is there a better way, a faster way, to do this?
“The idea behind the app is to make it responsive, so if someone wants to see a property on their way home from their child’s basketball game at 3.30pm on a Saturday, then they can.”
The app will also allow property managers to spend more time with existing and potential clients.
“It will give property managers a bit more time back in their day,” Sophie says.
“Property managers have to deal with a myriad of things day-in and day-out, and there is a lot of wasted time spent in cars driving to and from inspections.”
Sophie was one of three place-getters in the Real Ideas Prize, with Stockdale & Leggo Property Manager Anna Molinaro taking out second and $30,000 to put towards her Maintenance Me app.
Maintenance Me aims to reduce property managers’ workloads by enabling tenants to report maintenance issues, including uploading photos, from their phone or tablet. The property manager can then assign the appropriate supplier to fix the problem.
Mypm director Stefan Deffert took out third place and $10,000 to go towards developing the Mypm app, which would enable tenants and landlords to access commonly requested information.
Available information would include the rental amount, rent paid to and due date, lease terms and expiry, next routine inspection date and more.
REA Group Chief Inventor Nigel Dalton was one of five judges the three finalists presented their ideas to in a Shark Tank-style judging process.
He says ShowMeNow stood out as a “time machine”.
“Sophie is literally making time,” Nigel says. “She’s creating a time machine for house seekers as well as property managers and when you can make time, you make business.
“At REA LABs we focus on three things – creating time, trust and transparency. They are our three commodities, not technology. “Technology such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence can turn the dial on those three things.
“I think those three things are the currency of the internet, of the property industry and what Sophie has managed to create there.”
Nigel says REA Group instigated the Real Ideas Prize to tap into and bring forward innovative ideas from those with their feet on the ground in the property management sector.
“Our disadvantage is that we are not spending every day with property managers, landlords and tenants,” he says.
“All of the best ideas come from those with insider knowledge.”
Sophie’s first focus in developing the app will be to ensure compliance requirements are met.
“From here we are going into research and development,” she says.
“There’s a whole lot of moving parts to it and we’re in the process of putting them all together.”
Nigel says REA Group was there to support Sophie and the development of the app, with the aim of creating and testing the first prototype as swiftly as possible.