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"It can be really easy to be distracted by industry buzzwords and flashy new technology. But the reality is, there's lots of technology that many have not implemented yet, but it's been around for many, many years." — Joe Easton
COVID-19 proved it: Some companies weren't ready for change. But that didn't stop them from jumping into whatever they had to do to protect their team and their renters.
Online leasing and payments soared.
But with so many tech solutions available, how do you select the right products?
Here's what we talked about:
Nicolina Savelli [0:00:14.3]:
Welcome back to Sync or Swim, I'm your host, Nicolina Savelli, and you're listening to #GetSynced or I take a tactical approach to helping those in the multi-family industry improve their marketing and advertising efforts. Today, I have Joe Easton here, who is the channel partner account manager for one of Rentsync integration partners, Rent Manager, and you also host their podcast Beyond Rent. Joe, welcome to the show.
Joe Easton [0:01:06.3]:
Yeah, thanks for having me. This is gonna be a lot of fun.
Nicolina Savelli [0:01:08.9]:
Yeah, no, can you expand on that intro by telling our listeners about yourself and what you do at Rent Manager?
Joe Easton [0:01:15.1]:
Yeah, absolutely, thanks for having me on the show, I think this is, gonna be a lot of fun to kinda dive in and talk about technology. As far as myself, I've been in the property management world really for just a few years, I joined Rent Manager about three years ago. But before that, years and years ago, I actually spent some time in self-storage as well, so I've kind of been in and out of the property management world, but if you're not familiar with who Rent Manager is... We're a property management software, and my role is 100% focused on expanding and strengthening our integrations program, which means I get the honor of working with teams like the Rentsync group all the time.
Nicolina Savelli [0:01:51.9]:
Right, right, awesome. And we've talked about our podcasting initiatives that link together and why it's becoming such an important part of our overall content strategy and building relationships with people in the industry. So let's talk about that a bit. Why do you think there's a gap for content in the rental housing and property management industry, and how has the podcast on rent helped you feel that gap? Yeah.
Joe Easton [0:02:16.8]:
Well, first of all, I'm a huge fan of podcasts to begin with, and especially the Sync or Swim podcast, you and the Rentsync team are doing such a great job really providing great valuable content to the property management space, and I do think there's some gaps out there and I think there's a number of reasons. I think one of them is, there's a lot of different areas of property management, you have multi-family, single-family, commercial, there's all types of different segments within our industry, and though they have a lot in common, there's a little nuances along the way that make them really unique, and so they're looking for very different things. But I also think it's just this idea that most companies are still evolving and understanding content in general, we're getting better written content and training and webinars, but I think we're all a little slow to get into the podcast world.
Nicolina Savelli [0:03:05.9]:
Sure, I think that I'm going off script a little bit here. And I think that maybe, and I'm not sure if this speaks to you, but I found that at the beginning of COVID, podcasts started to get a little bit of a lift, and I don't know if people were just looking for resources, audio resources, or just more digital resources or online resources for themselves to kind of adapt, I'm not sure where that came from, but I know that we saw a big just push towards podcasting over the past year, even though I've known about or listen to podcast for probably five, six years. I've had my own podcast, personal podcast for four, so it's just funny how the industry itself, though just kind of started to take shape, and it's just curious that the podcast space has really developed, and I think there are a lot of great influencers and great insights in this space, that people just don't have the time to read a full-length blog anymore, either they needed the information faster, so maybe that could be part of the reason why podcasts has become so popular recently in this industry.
Joe Easton [0:04:14.5]:
I think COVID did provide an opportunity where people are looking to learn more and maybe they just wanted to hear people's voices 'cause they are a little more disconnected from people... I know on our end, Beyond Rent was something we had talked about doing, that's the name of our podcast for a while, but all of a sudden 2020 gave us the time 'cause I wasn't traveling, so we're like, Hey, let's take an opportunity, let's build something new for our listeners.
Nicolina Savelli [0:04:40.7]:
Absolutely, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So I'd really like to talk to you about what you've seen from property management companies over the course of the past year in terms of their tech adoption, and how you feel they've handled this push for more technology and to do their jobs more effectively. Yeah.
Joe Easton [0:05:01.0]:
It's been a crazy here, and when we look at technology, I think there's a lot of different ways that companies address the past year, especially from a technology side, and let's be honest, there's some companies that didn't have to change much at all, they were already... We're on a tech forward, they were doing online payments and online leasing, so they were able to move forward in a really effective way last year, but for many that wasn't the case, and they had to quickly adopt new technology fast. And I'll tell you, I was really, really impressed with how our industry reacted to things, they wanted to keep people safe, they wanted to keep distance where they could, and they were willing to do whatever it took on the technology side to fix those gaps. I said online payments on online leasing, I think we're two huge areas of adoption, and before 2020, it was this idea that those are kind of luxuries, those were next level type operations, but all of a sudden 2020, they were almost mandatory. If you're gonna make it through that year, HM.
Nicolina Savelli [0:05:59.4]:
Yeah, absolutely, no, and I think that that was just... If you did have it, you were good to go, and you just kinda kept trucking along and making sure that tenants and everyone was safe and all the communications was done properly, and that you were filling those vacancies if you had them, but if you didn't, it was really just this year of, I've heard lately pivoting used a lot, so just pivoting and making sure that your tech stack is developed, but on that note, what do you think... What tech do you think property management companies should be looking at because there's so many options right now that people are scrambling to say, Alright, we're providing tech now, we've got our tech stack, but what ones do you think are filling the biggest gaps in the property management industry.
Joe Easton [0:06:55.0]:
Yeah, it can be really easy to be attracted or maybe distracted by industry buzz words and flashing new technology, but the reality is there's lots of technology that many have not implemented yet, but it's been around for many, many years. One that are manager, we really promote quite a bit is the idea of upgrading and modernizing your phone systems, voiceover IP phone systems are really, really valuable, and most people don't even know some of the benefits that you get from it. And again, 2020 was one of those years that if you use traditional phone systems and you needed to work for mode, you really only had one option, right, you had to just transfer that call, voice over IP systems were totally different, you just take that phone with you and plug it into the internet, no matter where you are in the world and continue to operate, so it's not always about the newest technology, sometimes it's about looking at what technology is already there and making sure you understand the real benefits of it and how it can really fit into what you're already doing and help protect you if there are disruptions to your business down the road, we have the pandemic last year, but there's all types of disruptions that happen all the time, and tech forward companies are always in a better position to overcome those items.
Joe Easton [0:08:10.1]:
They're outside of that one example, I would also always say online leasing and payments are always gonna be high high in that category, and it's not about just having it, but developing processes and making sure that it's a really good resident experience. How many places do you go where there's paper involved anymore? Not very many, but I know in the rental world, sometimes there still is a lot of paperwork to be done, and the consumer is expecting things to be digital, and that's one area I think that people have to look at and say, How do we become more digital how do we structure our tech in a way that is forward-thinking, is our platform and open platform, can we move our data back and forth as we need to to make sure we're meeting the needs of our internal staff as well as our consumer or customer...
Nicolina Savelli [0:08:58.1]:
Right, right. So with that being said, is there any way for property management companies as they're kind of being inundated with all these different vendors in the prop tech space and how to go about the vendor selection process, there's a lot of solutions out there, and maybe some are jumping into uncharted territory, and really don't know how to succeed and even implementing this, which might be a different conversation, but is there any steps that company should take when selecting a vendor that you can recommend...
Joe Easton [0:09:31.5]:
Yeah, picking the right tech to use is difficult in our experience with our customers and our prospects is, sometimes it's a quick decision, but many, many times it takes months to evaluate and understand what it is you're buying and how you're gonna use it and how it will benefit you, and we all know that software and technology typically isn't a low cost, so you have to understand how you're gonna use it and how it's gonna actually save you time or increase your revenue, but there are more and more options all the time, like a prop tech is kind of booming right now, it seems like there's always something new to look at, and we can spend almost all our time evaluating all the different possibilities out there, but all that time can be wasted if you don't really know what you're looking for, so I think the most important thing that anyone can do is really slow down and understand the processes that they are trying to create or improve for their company. Something I say all the time is, a company's greatest competitive advantage is the way they operate, and your software, your technology should supplement that and make it better, it shouldn't make you change who you are, and I think it's easy to assume that a competitor or someone else you know, in industry is using a specific software solution that you should use it too, but again, that's not really the truth either, right, because again, we all operate differently, even if we're in the same space, so we have to really understand ourselves, the DNA of who we are what is our business strategy, how are we looking to move forward, and how can software improve how we operate, make it more flexible, more customizable, and really more connected...
Joe Easton [0:11:15.5]:
In the end, I think that's what most operators want it, they want software that works around them and gives them tools and data so they can make better decisions and ultimately create better resident experiences.
Nicolina Savelli [0:11:28.7]:
Yeah, that's a great point. Not because I think that that's a huge thing. People say they've recommended a vendor, they work with a vendor when it comes to certain types of technology though, that vendor may not be appropriate for your current processes and operations that you're working with from one company to another, not to say that that's something that is for every selection, some may be a little bit easier or intuitive than others, but for over overall, you should be looking at your own operations first before you're saying that company did it and they succeeded, so we're gonna do it and we're gonna succeed as well. And I think that's a really, really strong point there.
Joe Easton [0:12:11.9]:
Yeah. I mean, word of mouth and referrals are always super powerful, and I imagine the renting team, you guys can referrals from your current customers all the time. I know that's how remarriage group, but even with all those referrals, it's possible for one of those referrals to come in, Hey, So and so loves your software, the... I'm gonna love it too. And it just may not be a good fit. So it is about that evaluation process and really digging in and understanding what is the process, because all businesses operate based on processes, and if that software doesn't meet your name, you need to keep looking and making sure you understand what you're buying.
Nicolina Savelli [0:12:46.7]:
Absolutely, I agree. And we've seen it with our own company and we take on a new piece of technology, and then there's the part of getting everybody on board, which is as much as the selection process is difficult, I think that... This is even harder. I think that getting everyone in every department to ensure they're using it properly and effectively. Now, this could be for anything, but I just find that there needs to be some training and implementation, but not always is everyone involved in that training and implementation process, so it's kind of like one or two people are going in doing the training, doing those sessions, but then department-wise or organizationally, everyone is now having to use this, is there anything that you would suggest for companies that haven't really looked at Tech in some time and are now trying to train everybody on new technology and new platforms that they're integrating... Interested in being a guest on sinker swim or have a really great idea for an episode. Email us at podcast at resin dot com.
Joe Easton [0:13:58.7]:
I have a lot of respect for anyone that works on an implementation team or a customer success team on either side, whether it's on the property man side, if they have a whole team kind of dedicated to rolling out new processes and tech, or if you're on the software side, and you're helping those customers implement the new solution, it's a real challenge to help organizations adopt new solutions, but when done right, it really is powerful. We have a whole team on our side that that's all they focus on is helping new customers understand our software so they can use it to the best of their ability and use as much of it as possible. The biggest danger, I think, for any of us and that sell software, provide software or someone that's using software, it's not using enough of it to get the value out of it, and we notice that all the time in any solution, anything is not wing. But I think successful implementation starts long before you even select what technology to use, you have to really start back again, understanding your process, is understanding your team and understanding of what pain point you're even trying to solve, and if you can understand that and communicate that to your team, you can start building that buy-in because your team wants to operate better, they want to be more efficient, they wanna fix the problems, but oftentimes, change is seen as a threat, is a threat to what they know...
Joe Easton [0:15:23.7]:
How they currently do things, and it may even seem like a threat to their job... Right, so if you're automating, if you are streamlining things, it may seem like you're trying to automate them out of a job, and that's not the case at all. Most solutions are there to make people better and take them from doing basic ass up to higher level tasks, more value-added items for the business, but it's hard, so a lot of teams push back, but they wanna see their coming to get stronger. But you have to get them behind, and I think that's the biggest thing is you have to communicate early, you have to communicate often, discuss any of the resistance early on, I make sure the whole team is ready, like you said, a lot of times, you see where a company will just have a small group of people that are aware of the change, they're learning the new software, they're getting implemented, but then they roll it out to the rest of the team, and I think sometimes that can create some friction because of the rest of the team, they don't know why they weren't included, they don't know why their input wasn't valuable to what was happening, and that creates that resistance, so I think, again, communicate early, determine what you wanna do and determine how successful you wanna be by including as much as the team as you can...Before you start rolling out that new tool, they'll be on board, and again, if they understand how it impacts them, I think they'll be happy to help make it a success.
Nicolina Savelli [0:16:48.9]:
I think... Yeah, that's a lot of good points there. With our own team, our own marketing internal marketing team, we're always adding things to or tech stack, and only a few people really need to be involved, and it's really not a situation where we don't want to involve everybody, but we don't wanna take everybody away for something that's gonna be used by one or two more than maybe the rest of the team, not that it won't be part of their knowledge base and they don't need to know it, it's just something that maybe one or two, it's gonna help them succeed better in their role, than the other, but it is. There is that confusion sometimes like, Why wasn't I involved or don't do not, it's really just ego at the end of the day, but yeah, it's getting everybody on board and letting them know is, I think is a huge thing that this is happening. We are adding this technology, this is what you need to be prepared for, and I think that it's also very important from the vendor side to be very open and communicating if they're making any changes to their platform and adding any new technology, letting them know over the course of a long period of time because they might be ready for the change, but that doesn't mean that everybody else is ready for it.
Nicolina Savelli [0:18:05.9]:
Right, so yeah, a lot of great points. Points there. Now, do you have any thoughts around where the prop tech industry and where it's going in terms... I know you've mentioned leasing and payments, but is there any other areas that we should be looking at or keeping an eye on right now in the industry? Yeah.
Joe Easton [0:18:26.3]:
Absolutely. We kind of mentioned as a possible spend too much time looking at technology, and it is... It's like spending too much time on Zoom or anything like that. We all just get burnout eventually... Yeah, it's a real thing. And if you're evaluating... If you're kind of responsible or evaluating technology, you're gonna burn out pretty fast, but like I mentioned earlier, it is possible to spend way too much time looking at these different options, but the best way to really prevent spending too much time is to focus on solutions that you know, address a specific issue or something that you've already decided you wanna improve... When I talk to property managers, I think a lot of more focused on streamlining processes right now, 'cause if they can make the process simple, they can automate, and I think that's one of the things that everyone is looking at right now, is this idea of automation. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Is it as simple as automating notification, so the right people are communicated to quickly, is that actually automating different processes, that one thing kicks off, another thing, there's a whole kind of world out there of automation that everyone's looking at, and I think that's something everyone should have their eye on...
Joe Easton [0:19:35.4]:
But I think probably the bigger discussion is making sure that we understand how the data is being used and where the data is being held and how all of these tools get to it, so when we start looking at where like Protect is going, what I see is there's a lot of solutions out there, a lot of software, but if your data is contained in different places and different silos and they can't talk to each other, that creates a real friction, I know rent sink is built an integration with right manager, and that's really powerful. Because now as the customer, their data is moving between the two saucer programs without them having to do anything, and that saves them time, that's where things get streamlined, that's where automation makes sense, but not all systems work that way, so if I can predict the future of prop tech, and I can't... Now, I think things are headed is this idea of open platform, is more open architecture, more integrations where data is moving to the right places at the right time as quickly as possible, take the human error out of it, take the import-export process out of it, and so if somebody's watching anything where things are headed, open architecture, open platforms are huge with this idea of eventually being able to automate and report at a higher level.
Nicolina Savelli [0:20:53.1]:
Perfect, awesome, great answer. Now, I have some questions from the audience, but before we get there, those looking to use rent manager or currently using Rent manager, are there any updates to the software that you can speak to that they may be interesting, that might be interesting to hear or that you'd like to speak to, right?
Joe Easton [0:21:11.8]:
Yeah, it's a big question. With our software, we've been at it for over 30 years, so I'd love to know the number of updates and iterations we've had at this point, it's probably too many account, but historically, we've always spent most of our time making the foundation of our software stronger, so making sure that it's functioning at the highest level possible, that we're adding a new feature to the existing portions of our software that our customers are asking for, feature requests are the number one thing that we spend our time reviewing and understanding, because we work not only with multi-family but with many other industries, and they all have like a little nuances that they need help with, and we're there to implement new features to meet their needs, so we continue to focus on that on an ongoing basis, but specifically, I think mobile solutions are really the current focus for us over the past few years, we've been working really hard on different mobile apps, web-based features of our software, because we know that's where things are headed, the property manager wants to be out in the field once more flexibility, they wanna be able to communicate with their maintenance team or third-party vendors or whatever it might look like, wherever they're at, and so we're looking at those types of solutions more heavily in developing those and and better way. So those are probably the new fun things to be looking for, but always be on the look out for every month when we send out updates, there's just a huge list of things that our developers have made better in the software to keep things running smoothly and adding the specific features that our customers are asking for.
Nicolina Savelli [0:22:49.8]:
Yeah, awesome. I think that more tech companies need to be focused on that, on making sure that their existing platform is operating at full speed, this is totally off-topic, but between all of the streaming platforms that I have right now, I can see which developers are working really hard on making those streaming platforms work well and operate smoothly for the user compared to those that might be taking too many lunch breaks, I'm not... I'm sorry, but the amount of bugs in that platform... But Netflix is just one smooth experience, so it's just... Yeah, it's funny seeing the differences and what that does for a user, do they wanna come back after dealing with constant bugs and refreshing a or just simple things like that. And that alone could be the difference between long-term user retention and losing customers or create...
Joe Easton [0:23:55.2]:
Completely agree. And now you have to have a quality product. And the ones that have quality products, they laugh, they stick around, and every industry is kind of the same way, you have to take care of your core customers, your base software or whatever it looks like to make sure there's a good experience there.
Nicolina Savelli [0:24:10.4]:
Exactly, yeah. Now, I'd like to move on to something that I'm trying to bring in is a listener question, so I like to take the last part of this episode to speak to a couple of questions that listeners have sent in. So anyone listening right now, if you're looking for advice from some of our guests, feel free to send over your questions to podcast at renting dot com, and I'll do my best to have those questions address with the appropriate appropriate guests and... Yeah, so let's start here. There's just a couple of questions here. So our portfolio has recently expanded and we're basically starting from scratch on building out a property management tech stack... Where should we start? So probably people who haven't even looked at tech really before, they've probably been using paper forms and things, where do you begin?
Joe Easton [0:25:02.8]:
It is amazing how larger business can really get while still operating on paper or in the whole spreadsheets, we see it all the time, and we're actually very impressed at how people create processes and systems around that, but yeah, if a company is looking for a place to start, you really do have to start with the property management software, that's the foundation, this primary tool, where all of your records hopefully are feeding back into... It's how you create good records, good financial is good reporting, it's how you eventually create good experiences for your employees as well as your residents, it all kind of starts there, and I would say you really wanna understand and evaluate the software based on where you are today, and it sounds like this customer is expanding, but also where you wanna go, you don't wanna purchase something or get implemented into something that doesn't have the ability to grow with you, that's really, really important to us. That's something we've focused a lot of time on is we offer one solution, whether you have a couple of dozen units or 50000-plus units, we use the same platform for every one of our customers, and we think there's a lot of value there, and we see a lot of our customers grow from hundreds to thousands of units using our software, and we think that's really valuable for them because they don't have to make those hard changes as they grow.
Joe Easton [0:26:23.4]:
Other note I would make is that idea I mentioned earlier, open platform, open architecture, as you grow, you're gonna use multiple different software programs and you're gonna want those software programs to talk to each other, or you're gonna find yourself having to do multiple data entry or finding a way to get data to... In some other way, so having something that is open to integration, open to moving the data back and forth, it's really powerful to feel your growth in your... Expansion into the future.
Nicolina Savelli [0:26:53.9]:
Right? Yeah, so you don't have to start over again. When you keep growing and then you're like, Oh, that technology that we decided to implement just no longer functions for us anymore, we need something better, we need something bigger. And not to say, Yeah, you need something that can grow with you. Is crucial, right? In selecting a vendor that will grow with you, so my second question from the audience says we've had to scale back in-person meetings, which everyone pretty much has right now, how can we speed up the leasing process for agents and renters... Right now, it feels like there's a lot of back and forth happening, which is causing a lot of frustration, do you have any recommendations on tools that can help?
Joe Easton [0:27:38.2]:
Yeah, absolutely. So something I haven't mentioned yet, but I think it's worth noting is any time you kinda hit a pain point or you're looking to do something different, I always make sure you look back at what you currently are using already, there might be something in one of the software solutions you have that might fit that need, it just might be a feature or something that you're not using yet, so most customers are only scratching the surface of what software can do, so don't go spend money if you don't have to maximize what you have first I think that's always the first tip, but there's a good chance there's someone out there that can take care of what you're looking for when it comes to leasing, there's a lot of different tools, first, you always have to make sure that you're getting the right prospects in and that you're marketing yourself in the right way, the renting team, totally talk to them, if you're looking to make the leasing process better, get the right prospects, and I think that's a good place to start there. Outside of that, you have to be looking again, how are you actually signing leases online, how are you doing virtual tours, are you doing any tours at all, are you doing self-showing tours? There are technology behind every one of those pieces that can make it easier for you, so those are the things I would look at, because I think a lot of the back and forth is the fact that people aren't always comfortable with change and doing things differently, and if they've rented apartments in the plot in the past, and they were able to meet somebody face-to-face and see the property in person and get that guided tour and they're not receive that now, that makes them feel unsettled.
Joe Easton [0:29:11.2]:
So you have to provide as much content to them as possible to make sure they understand what they're gonna run and see it and touch it if they can, if they can't, then maybe a virtual tour would be a better solution for hm.
Nicolina Savelli [0:29:23.7]:
Right. Yeah, I think that that's the big thing is they're so used, it's muscle memory. It's like, Well, this is what the process that I went to the last time, so why aren't we going through the same process again? Well, of course, you're not gonna be able to go through the same process again, but then there's this kind of uncertainty and discomfort in the process, so that creates a little bit a longer process now that you just need to be more communicative and I think just explain that this is now what we need to do to ensure your safety, and not because we're trying to get you from seeing or feeling or getting a sense of what the property is, because everyone knows obviously that seeing it in person is going to... In most cases, is going to get them, wow them even further than a virtual tour, but it is, we're adapting and this is what we have to do right now, and to do that to the best of your ability and communicate that, just like we said earlier, communicating that we've added new technologies in order to make the experience better and making sure everyone knows and is on board is crucial.
Joe Easton [0:30:31.3]:
It is crucial. And I would add even things that you may not think about, like online reputation tools are really powerful right now too, because if they can't go see the property, they're gonna spend more time on your website looking over those same 20 pictures you have on there, 'cause they wanna try to visualize it, and if they're online, they might see a review and hopefully they see a good review it, so it's all of those little things that kind of speed up the process. If they see a lot of really good reviews, they may not need as much information from you because your current residents have already told them what they need to know...
Nicolina Savelli [0:31:00.5]:
Yeah, that's super important. Reputation management and making sure that people are online and recommending your properties is huge right now, I think it's huge for every industry right now is to have recommendations, because even I decided to switch over my dentist the other day just based on online recommendations, because I really didn't know where else to look or who else to go to, everyone has their own... So it's like, you know, how do I end it? Online reviews just seem to be the ones that are really pushing people in the right direction, so finding a way to do that, and that can really make or break whether or not someone leases right. So yeah, that's a great point. So I think we've reached the end of the questions and this episode of #GetSynced, so before I go, I'd like you to share for those looking to connect with you... Where can people find you online, Joe?
Joe Easton [0:31:56.8]:
Yeah, absolutely. So if you wanna learn more about Rent Manager on our website is gonna be best rentmanager.com, that's gonna be a really good place to find it. If you're looking to connect with me, I'd recommend two different things, a search Beyond Rent and your podcast player of choice, that you can find our podcast there or look me up on LinkedIn...Joe Easton, Rent Manager.
Nicolina Savelli [0:32:14.7]:
Yep. Awesome, thanks so much, Joe, and thanks for coming on the show today. It was a great time.
Joe Easton [0:32:19.7]:
Yeah, thanks. This was fun.
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