7 ways to go mobile with your property management operations

Laurie Mega
Laurie Mega | 8 min. read

Published on September 30, 2019

You’ve probably heard term proptech bounced around lately. It refers to apps, SaaS platforms and cloud solutions that help property management professionals organize their work, increase efficiency and reduce the mountain of paperwork associated with property management.

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Proptech also makes your properties more attractive to residents. After all, millennials are now the dominant residential population. In fact, 65 percent of U.S. renters are now under the age of 35, according to Pew Research, and they’re looking for tech solutions for everything they do.

That includes online or automated rent payments, access to documents like lease agreements through a cloud service and messaging apps to receive important notices and announcements.

You may have adopted some of these services already. You may have even added some online solutions to help you work on the go. But there’s probably more you can do to move to mobile property management and make your job easier and your residents’ experience better.

What We Mean by Going Mobile

Before we talk about what you’re most likely doing now and what you could really be doing, let’s make it clear what we mean by going mobile.

It all boils down to the work you can actually get done by simply pulling out your smartphone or tablet and going online.

There are typically four kinds of online solutions for property managers: mobile-friendly websites, apps, SaaS platforms and cloud computing.

Mobile-optimized websites: A mobile-optimized website is one that you can navigate to on your mobile device, with a user experience that’s truly built for it. What does that mean? If you have to pinch to zoom the screen and make things larger, the site is not built for mobile.

Apps: Now there are apps for just about everything. An app is a simplified software program with a powerful UX component that can be downloaded or updated from an app store. There are apps to track payroll, pay rent, list and rent apartments, create work orders, and even maintain the pH in your complex’s pool.

SaaS platforms: SaaS stands for “software as a service.” It’s just another way of delivering software to users. SaaS platforms are available through your regular  web browser (and also sometimes through accompanying apps), with a login and password. Rather than downloading and updating software regularly, you can work online without clogging up your hard drive.

Cloud Computing: Remember when you had to store data on large external hard drives? Now Google and other online services offer tech infrastructure in the cloud that you can rent, allowing you to free up space and keep everybody in synch, for much less money.

Mobile Property Management: 7 Ways to Up Your Game

You’re probably using a few of these options in your business already. For example, you may have uploaded all of your leasing documents to a folder on Google Drive, which you’ve integrated with your Gmail so you can save attachments right away.

You may also have an app like Quickbooks to help you keep track of invoices and payments.

Finally, you’re probably using Facebook or Twitter for marketing and email for resident communication.

But there’s certainly more you can do. There are apps you can integrate into nearly every aspect of your property management operations.

Why would you want to do that, you ask? Think of all the time you spend in the office, flipping through paper files or talking to residents about issues that could have been handled online.

Going mobile helps you get out of the office to accomplish other tasks. It can also reduce costs by increasing management efficiency and save your residents time by allowing them to take common actions like paying rent from anywhere, but that’s just the start.

Here’s how:

#1: Marketing

There’s so much that goes into marketing your business, from email marketing and social media to traditional sponsorships and brochures. But there are apps that can help you automate at least some of your marketing efforts.

Social media platforms, for instance, are great for creating awareness of your business and generating leads, but it’s tough to keep track of multiple platforms and schedule posts for each. 

Apps like Buffer, for example, can help you plan, schedule and track posts across your accounts. Create posts and schedule them for peak viewing times, plan out a whole week’s or month’s worth of posts across platforms and keep an eye on shares, likes and comments on your posts.

Most property managers are well aware of apps like Zillow to help list and advertise properties online. Keep in mind, too, that an app like Buildium has partnerships with listing sites, including Zillow, to syndicate your listings with one touch of a button.

And SaaS platforms like Marketing360 handle all the marketing needs of small businesses, from social media to ad listings to analytics. Use a full-service platform like this to keep everything to do with marketing in one place, or have a professional take most of the work off your hands.

#2: Resident Application and Screening

There are plenty of apps to make the application process much easier for you and your potential residents. It’s all about choosing the right one for you. 

Property management software centralizes the application and screening process completely: you can create custom leasing application templates, share them, manage them and screen applicants all in one place. In Buildium, for example, you can even create a checklist for applications so other staff members can review them for agreed-upon requirements.

#3: Leases and Rental Payments

When you are ready to get a signature on a lease, property management software and its accompanying apps can also be a massive help by eliminating the paperwork, but still capturing every last document—even allowing soon-to-be renters the ability to sign a lease from their smartphone.

It’s also possible to enable renters to communicate with their property managers and even pay the monthly rent directly from their mobile device (check out Buildium’s Resident Center). Even if a tenant approaches you with a check or cash in person, you’ll be able to record receipt of the fund right then and there in the Buildium app.

#4: Maintenance and Work Orders

Maintenance is increasingly a top priority for property managers and their residents, who expect things to be fixed almost as soon as they make a request. There are apps that help managers schedule and keep track of regular maintenance as well as work orders. And of course these same apps have a resident-facing component and encourage renters to send maintenance requests through a specific channel (or app even!).

In a snap, property managers, can collect requests from residents, assign work orders to staff and track progress from either a desktop, phone, or device.

#5: Time Tracking

Some property managers even connect their property management software to time-tracking software like Harvest, which allows you to quantify the time you spend on each task. 

So you can take the Work Order numbers created from your property management software maintenance requests and then categorize the exact amount of time you spend on each action. Once you do that you can even bill in an itemized fashion each property owner for the time you spend servicing their properties.

#6: Resident Communication

There are numerous ways to communicate through technology, which can be part of the challenge. In order to stay efficient, property managers need to limit certain communications through the right channels. Resident sites or portals are usually the best way to gather this information into the right buckets whether it’s maintenance request or a general inquiry. The Buildium app, in particular, allows residents to message you from their Resident Center, and you receive notifications right away, so you can respond in a timely manner.

Beyond maintenance requests, when it comes to communicating with residents on the go, apps (like Buildium’s) allow property managers to consolidate all of their communications from a central site along with their texts so they never miss a critical step (or overlook a detail).

#7: Property Management Software

You can add flexibility and access to your information with any—or all—of these app options. But finding and keeping track of each one could get just as complicated as keeping track of your paper files. 

The good news for property managers is that property management platforms, have centralized much of this functionality and also included mobile experiences where owners and residents need them most.

Maintaining Work/Life Balance When You’re Mobile

While there are a lot of benefits to taking your business mobile, there is one thing to look out for. Because all of your work is now online, it can be difficult to put down your smartphone after hours.

It’s important to draw solid lines between work and off hours to keep yourself from working all the time. 

For example, according to the University of Maryville, nearly 67 percent of survey respondents stated that urgent texts or emails from employers are destroying family dinner.

To keep your work life from encroaching on your homelife, set boundaries. If you have a phone or device exclusively for work, shut it down during off hours, or employ an answering service that can filter truly important communications from those that are not.

Apps like Stay Focused will completely block distracting apps for certain periods of time, while others like Siempo, will simply move them away from your home screen and display a message asking if you should be using certain apps during certain times of the day.

For OS users, you can limit screen time through your settings

If you use the same device for work and home, turn off automatic alerts from work apps and email accounts. Keep set hours for checking email or other communications.

Going mobile can truly propel a property manager keep track of their business meticulously, while freeing them from their desk. And being able to manage your portfolio from anywhere (without hesitation) is a huge advantage that technology can make possible.

Knowing the appropriate mobile tools, whether they be individual apps or full-service SaaS platforms to fit your needs just requires a little research and training to adjust your work habits. Before you know it you’ll be spending less and less time in one place—and taking names with all the added flexibility.

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Laurie Mega

Laurie Mega has planned, written, and edited content on a variety of subjects. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Philips Lifeline, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.

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