Laptop Landlording: How to Leverage Technology to Automate Your Real Estate Investing
The adoption of property technology, PropTech, has significantly increased since 2019, as stated by JLL in the 2020 Global Real Estate Transparency Index. This trend has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Proptech is not just for large property managers or real estate holding companies, it can be leveraged by landlords and investors of all stripes.
There are a number of investing and business operations buckets that can be better automated and optimized through digital tools. By doing so, you’ll become a much better laptop landlord.
Here’s exactly what aspects of your real estate investing can be optimized with digital tools, making your business more streamlined, automated, tech-savvy, and ultimately profitable.
This article was contributed by our partners at Stessa and written by Brad Cartier, a multifamily developer in Ottawa, Canada with 30 doors.
There are a number of investing and financial dashboards out there that once set up, can give you a precise snapshot of all aspects of your business and financial operations. Stessa for instance is an all-in-one financial dashboard for investors that can connect to bank accounts and report on key metrics such as IRR, cash flow, and others. You can learn about these key investing metrics here. By connecting your banking and income information, tools like Stessa can also make tax time a breeze with automated reporting.
There are a number of excellent property management and dashboard tools out there such as Appfolio, Buildium, Cozy, to name just a few. These digital tools allow you to centralize all the information inputs that are relevant to your investing business. This can save you—and your property management team—a significant amount of money and time in the long run by optimizing and automating your income and expense data.
Smart Leasing and Documents
There are two big operational buckets that have been innovated on in the past few years that all investors should be considering: leasing and documents. To begin with, tools like HelloSign, Adobe Sign, and DocuSign allow you to do a lot of leasing activity via e-signature. But be sure to consult with your lawyer to ensure you’re onside with state laws and regulations concerning e-signature.
For documents, there’s no reason investors need to keep a stack of bills and large filing cabinet, as all of that can be stored virtually. Building your virtual file cabinet using free tools like Stessa Documents or Google Drive will optimize the time you spend and the physical space you dedicate to your investing business.
Important legal documents such as title, deeds, and the like will all need to be kept physically, but beyond that, all else can be scanned and stored virtually for easy future access. You can organize your virtual filing cabinet just as you would your physical one—including folders for key operations such as maintenance, expenses, leases, and specific property folders.
Gone are the days where landlords need to accept cash or physical checks from tenants. Online payments streamline this aspect of an investing business in an important way. Automated reminders can be sent out, and tenants can now pay online through their banks or credit card.
First day of the month? An automated email goes out to tenants reminding them of rental payments. Didn’t pay some the second of the month? Another reminder email goes out. And so on. This frees up your headspace to spend on other, more important business decisions.
Most property management or dashboard software noted above can facilitate these types of rent collection techniques.
There are dozens of ways to optimize your rental properties with smart home devices. The big ones are access, temperature, and safety.
Access: Smart locks can go on your front doors to enable your tenants to use codes for entry. These smart locks allow for master codes for the landlord, and temporary codes for anyone else who may need access. For instance, if you have a contractor coming in to fix something, you can create a 24-hour code specifically for them. These types of locks include RemoteLock, August, Yale, and so on.
Temperature: The best way to optimize the lifespan of your HVAC system and decrease monthly utility bills (by 10-15%) is the use of some sort of smart thermostat. These include EcoBee and Nest, but there are many other examples of these smart home products on the market.
Safety: Sensors are a growing trend in the real estate industry. Whether it’s a sensor for fire or flood, these types of risk-mitigating technologies can save investors a lot of time, money, and insurance headache should something ever happen at one of their units.
There’s no sense in traveling to each of your units to meet with prospective tenants unless they have been primed with as much information about the unit as possible. Your time is valuable. This is why you should leverage technology platforms such as Matterport to do immersive 3D tours of each of your units to ensure prospective tenants have virtually seen you space beyond static photos.
Using virtual tours on your listings or as a first step prior to an in-person showing of the property will save your time and help avoid meeting tire kickers. One study found renters spend 3x more time on listings with virtual tours.
Technology will only become more prominent in our lives and businesses. Now is a good time to strategically think about different aspects of your investing business and how you can better automate and optimize your various workflows.
It’s difficult to begin, but once those systems are in place, the long-term ROI of smart proptech is invaluable.