Type automation into a Google News search field and see what you get. Go on. We’ll wait.
You got a lot, didn’t you?
From manufacturing to finance to entertainment, everyone wants to automate the tedious and laborious parts of their work, and engage the end user in the process.
That includes property management.
Property managers are turning to all manner of apps to help speed up processes and make them more secure. They’re taking manual work off their staff by automating day-to-day tasks, leaving them free to focus on owners, residents, and the growth of the business. Speaking of, property managers are growing their portfolios by offering the automated solutions residents and owners are looking for.
Property management automation helps speed up response times to maintenance, leasing and other requests. It allows residents and owners to pay fees or submit paperwork via mobile. And it helps property managers keep track of their finances.
As one Salt Lake City property manager told us in our 2023 Property Management Industry Report: “The less you have to do twice, the more efficient your business can become. In a world where time is money and relationships are important, any time you can free up for your staff is priceless.”
In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can harness the power of automation to grow your business and bring in more revenue.
What Is Property Management Automation?
Property management automation is quite simple, in theory. It’s the use of digital tools to perform tasks within your leasing, rent payment, or tenant screening processes, for example. These are tasks your team would otherwise have to perform manually. That could be anything from posting a listing to getting confirmation that a maintenance request has been answered.
The trick to property management automation is using the right tools in the right way to accomplish those tasks without inundating your staff with too many apps—or worse—the wrong apps for the job.
A Word about AI in Property Management
You’ve probably heard the term AI tossed around lately. And artificial intelligence is becoming a big player in the way we interact with technology. From smart devices to Google Home, AI is showing up everywhere.
That includes within property management software solutions. AI is used to do everything from producing more accurate tenant screening reports, to helping predict real estate investment trends.
It does that by studying patterns in large sets of data and then making recommendations based on those patterns. When a prospective resident goes through the screening process, for example, the software will compare their income, credit history, and employment history against other sets of anonymous data to predict the best outcome—i.e. will they be able to pay rent or not?
As more property management tasks find their way online, expect to see AI helping property managers anticipate and solve everyday challenges.
The Top 9 Ways Property Management Automation Software Can Help Your Business
Let’s talk about the areas of your business in which different types of property management automation software can help you become more efficient, lower costs, and grow your business.
Of course, apps that help you syndicate your listings are extremely important. But there are other apps that can help you automate your marketing, as well. Apps that help you plan and schedule emails, newsletters, and social media posts help you keep your marketing consistent without taking up too much of your time.
Using an online tool to schedule and coordinate showings to book and track showings can help pull in more prospective residents. They can make an appointment when it’s convenient for them without having to tie up your staff.
While not technically considered automation, it’s worth considering virtual showings and 360 tours, as well. They allow prospective renters to narrow down their search quickly, without wasting time looking at properties that don’t meet their needs. Meanwhile, property managers and owners can focus on the prospects for whom their properties are a good fit.
3. Applications and Tenant Screening
When a prospective resident is ready to apply, they can do so from anywhere at any time with the right software solution. They don’t have to wait until your leasing office is open, and you don’t have to wait for them to bring back their paper application. Property management software with an application center will allow prospective residents to check on the status of their applications, as well, giving them the information they need when they need it and freeing up your staff from phone calls and emails about status.
Once they’ve submitted their application, an automated solution for tenant screening can help you check their credit, their employment history, and their references, cutting down wait time for your prospects and freeing up your staff from chasing down information.
Your leasing office has enough to do without having to keep track of paper—or even PDF—copies of leases. Using a digital leasing tool with customizable templates, and allows new residents to sign electronically is faster and more secure.
Better yet, find a solution that will store your leases—and all your documents—in one place via the cloud. Staff, residents, and owners will have access to the files they need, whenever they need them.
5. Resident Onboarding
When a new resident moves into one of your properties, they always have a bunch of questions. Rather than tying up your staff with phone calls or emails, answer their questions quickly by communicating through a resident portal.
Better yet, be proactive by sending out frequently asked questions and their answers even before they move in.
6. Online Payments
There are so many advantages to taking rent and fee payments digitally. First, it allows your residents and owners to pay in real time or to set up automatic payments, so money is never late or lost. Payments are debited automatically from residents’ and owners’ accounts. No more waiting for checks to clear. A good payment solution will give residents the option to pay via credit card, as well.
If you’re working with a property management software solution that includes accounting, payments are automatically entered into your bookkeeping system, as well.
Of course, you’ll always need a way for your residents to reach you for an emergency repair. But for routine maintenance requests, accepting them online cuts down response time and ensures repairs don’t fall through the cracks.
When a resident submits a request, your team is alerted. They can then triage the request and assign a ticket. At every step of the process, the ticket is updated until the problem is resolved and the ticket is closed.
8. Rental Inspections
With a property inspection app, you can keep and update data on all of your properties, take pictures, and file inspection reports. Everything is kept in the cloud, so you’re never left scrambling for proof should you need it.
A good property inspection app will sync automatically with your property management software solution.
9. Property Management Accounting
Accounting software helps you log payments, invoice owners, and generally keep track of all the money going in and out of your business. Accounting software for property managers accounts (see what we did there?) for all the nuances of the property management business.
A good software solution will also help you report your 1099s, keep track of deposits, and integrate with your e-payment solution.
How to Set Up Property Management Workflow Automation
So far, we’ve given you some high-level suggestions on how to automate your workflows. But let’s get a little more detailed and walk through an example of property management workflow automation, step by step.
- Syndicate listing and post to social media
- Collect applicants online
- Run automated tenant screenings
- Approve resident and send out lease
- Resident signs lease electronically
Let’s go through a leasing cycle.
First, use a listing syndication tool to market your property. You can include a virtual tour of your property and use social posting tools to schedule posts on your social accounts.
Include a link in your listings and posts to your online application. Gather information on prospects electronically and use it to run automated tenant screenings. Use that same software solution to keep your prospect updated on the status of their application.
Once you’ve chosen a resident, send them a lease customized for the property, the terms, and the move-in and move-out dates. Your new residents can sign it electronically and get it back to you from any device. Signed leases can then be stored online.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. We just mentioned a whole lot of automated tasks, and a whole lot of apps to make it all happen.
There are, however, property management software solutions that can help you accomplish many of the tasks we mentioned in one place.
Buildium, for example, will help you list your properties, as well as collected applications, signed leases, and deposits.
Automation is going to be a key part of property management from here on in. And using a software solution such as Buildium can make it simple and easy to set up.Read more on Scaling