EPMEPM: First PersonEPM: Technology & Social

Time For a Change?

As property managers, would you like to see a uniform national tenancy database where tenants are able to record as references each of their past tenancies, using them as references in the future? Darren Smith from Rent Resume believes it is possible.

If you are a property manager, you will definitely identify with the following paragraph¹:

The many and varied duties of a property manager require them to be a business executive, decorator, salesperson, gardener, housekeeper, information centre, accountant, banker, doctor, lawyer, social director, psychologist, marriage counsellor, baby sitter, bookkeeper, rent collector, maintenance expert, security officer, keeper of the keys, telephone operator, messenger service, and complaint department. The manager must also be fast moving, poised, quick thinking, non-tiring, ever available, mechanical-minded, and all knowing. Well at least that is the theory.

The property manager has a dual responsibility: to the owner or client who is interested in the highest return from the property; and to the tenants, who are interested in the best value for their money, including reasonable safety/security measures and compliance with tenancy laws which vary in every state of Australia.

The property manager must promptly rent the property at the highest market rent possible, keep operational and other costs within budget, and preserve and enhance the physical value and prestige of the property.

Trying to find the tenant from heaven, who leaves the property in a better condition than he/she found it, is a pressure that many property owners place on their property manager. With that said, it is not an easy role.

Traditionally property management has been regarded as the poor second cousin of the real estate industry, which always strikes me as funny, given the fact that it is the bread and butter of most agencies. This is quickly appreciated by agencies when the sales market goes quiet.

With this in mind, many new specialist businesses saw a niche market for them to make the most of, and have been very successful in that market. These businesses took property management to a whole new level of professionalism and customer service, as can be evidenced by the fact that most award winners for property management, whether state or federal come from specialist property management businesses. Real estate agencies as a whole felt threatened by these specialist businesses and so have lifted their game markedly.

The property management industry has had an ad hoc development as can be seen by the fact that most property managers use differing CRM software and database providers to track and research conduct/history of tenants.

The property management industry has had an ad hoc development as can be seen by the fact that most property managers use differing CRM software and database providers to track and research conduct/history of tenants. This even occurs within the same real estate franchise group a lot of the time. It makes for a disorganised property management industry. It would come as a surprise to anyone standing on the outside looking in, as to just how disjointed the property management industry is.

This disjointedness is partly caused by the differing property management regulations and statutory bodies that operate in the different states of Australia. However, this variance is under review and some uniformity improvements are under way. National regulation would make everyone’s life a lot easier. Although there are some national databases currently operating in Australia about property managers being able to record/track the conduct/history of rental tenants, these are not used by all parties.

What is needed is a tenancy database that is available Australia wide and free to use. Being free would allow all property managers to use the database. But I can hear your asking, “How could it be free?”

It needs to be free for all property managers so the property management industry would uniformly adopt it, but yet low cost and paid for by tenants. After all, it is in the tenants’ interest to be able to have a mobile rental record to help them acquire their next rental property. In a user pays society I do not think this comes as any revelation.

Australia’s population is ever increasingly transient due to people frequently moving to where the work is. Many people now work on a six or 12 month contracts in one city and then move to another city or state for a new work contract. The mining boom has also added to the increase of this transient population.

If all tenants across Australia had a plastic ID card to carry with their name and national database number on it, this would make life a lot easier for everyone. The ID card would link to a database with all their past and current tenancy details. For example, addresses, conduct, rent payment frequency. Privacy concerns would largely be negated as the tenant/member is openly asking/paying for their conduct/history to be recorded, unlike current databases. This record would be accessed by property managers via an App available on all phones or tablet devices including iPad, thus making the whole process very portable – for example at a rental open home.

Tenants themselves would subscribe to the service via an online application form. They would receive their ID card to carry with them. There is no reason that their membership card could not have additional benefits such as discounts with businesses that service the rental industry – for example appliance rental, furniture rental and cleaning services.

It would require property managers to look outside their patch and think big, as big as Australia is. There is a ‘pay it forward’ element (property managers looking to assist each other) to this but the benefits for all are self-evident. By ‘all’, I include property managers, agencies, tenants and property owners. Property owners would be a happier bunch as they can see that the tenants in their property are better screened. Members of this tenants service/club would be proud of their rental history and proud to carry an ID card.

Do we want the property management industry to move forward as a unified industry or to stay segmented? Whilst change can sometimes be hard to accept and implement, I think the benefits far exceed any disadvantages. With the marked increase in the level of professionalism this century already, I see no reason why such a scheme could not take the industry to an even higher level.

¹Institute of Real Estate Management

Darren Smith

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