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"The way that we've structured the actual listing score is that a user is given a strong approximation of how complete their overall listings are, and hopefully receive a kick in the butt once they see that a particular property might be lacking." — David Aizikov
You could have the most amazing property in the world, but if your listing doesn't provide users with the information they need, you could have absolutely no success finding renters. The product team at Rentsync, including Michael Mottola and David Aizikov have developed Listing Score©, to help multifamily marketers and property managers optimize their listings and attract the right tenants. During today's conversation, David and Michael tell us how you can use Listing Score to measure the content quality and completeness of your rental listings. You'll learn about the key areas properties should be talking about to improve their score, how to use this score as a performance metric in your own reporting, and how Listing Score aims to drive progress and innovation for multifamily marketing. Michael and David also share some advice with listeners that they offer their clients, talk us through Listing Score's role in the Rentsync Platform, and share some of the feedback they have received from those currently using the new feature. Join us today to hear all this and more!
[00:00:42] NS: Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I'm your host Nicolina Savelli. And on this podcast, I chat with rental housing industry experts to learn how you can reach more renters, sign more leases and maximize the value of your assets. Today, I have David Aizikov, Product Manager for Data Services at Rentsync, and Michael Mottola, CTO of Rentsync to chat with me about a new proprietary scoring system we have developed to help property management companies better improve their rental listings. Thank you both for joining me today.
I know I've had both of you on the show before. Let me just begin with some reintroductions for the new listeners or people who have may have forgotten your names and are listening to this episode. So David, do you mind sharing just a quick introduction?
[00:01:52] DA: Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for having me on again, Nick. Again, my name is David Aizikov, and my current position is that I'm the Product Manager for Data Services at Rentsync. I work closely with the products and development teams on new products for users, and also work behind the scenes on improving our data, in order to come up with more meaningful insights, which we can hopefully use for new products and more broadly, to help our clients make more informed decisions on marketing and development.
[00:02:16] NS: Perfect. And Michael?
[00:02:17] MM: Hello, thanks for having me back on the show. My name is Michael Mottola. I'm the VP of Product and Technology at Rentsync, and I'm also one of the co-founders. I work with the engineering teams, product owners, IT leaders. I help support business leaders and other departments of all things product, tech, code, sports, Marvel and Star Wars.
[00:02:36] NS: Perfect. Okay. We're here, obviously, to talk about this new feature that is available on Rentsync. I didn't say it right at the beginning, I would want to save it for after you guys introduce yourselves, but it is called Listing Score. Basically, what it does is help people measure the content quality and completeness of their rental listings. David, why was there a need to develop this type of scoring system for our industry?
[00:03:03] DA: Yeah, that's a great question. The overall goal of this has really been to create higher quality and more complete rental listings for the end user, so for renters as a whole. If you look at a more mature market, which we've been doing quite a bit, like the United States. It's much more competitive down there, and you have a substantial increase in the requirements posed by the ILS on the property managers and owners in regards to how much data they require when you put a new rental listing on there. What we really wanted to do was we wanted to kind of get in, bring service into the direction of improving the quality of listings, improving the amount of data that we got.
We've toyed with a few other ideas. We've toyed with few other methods before, and we've had some pushback and what we learned was, we can't just mandate the inclusion of additional fields. We have to be a little more gentle with the approach. What we ultimately decided was we wanted to give users motivation to provide more complete listings instead of requiring to do so. The listing score is basically the culmination of this work, and it's meant to give users a specific ranking and a goal for them to reach in order to approve their listings. The way that we've structured the actual listing score is that a user is given a strong approximation of how complete their overall listings are, and hopefully receive a kick in the butt once they see that a particular property might be lacking. We review the fields that are available within a listing, and then we also complete a review of the relative importance that a user or a renter might have on various fields in order to quantify how important each individual field is, in order to determine the actual scoring system.
We also think that, as the Canadian rental industry continues to expand and becomes more and more competitive as we're seeing nowadays, we're eventually going to have to get to a point which is very similar to that of the American market where we have to help users get as much data or the best data possible, which is really where we're trying to get.
[00:04:54] NS: Perfect. Now, you mentioned there, there are certain fields that people need to fill out and areas that they need to improve upon. And you guys have kind of targeted some of those fields and what's most important. What are the key areas that properties should be thinking about when they're improving their listing score? What fields have you determined that are kind of the most important to really elevate their rental listings?
[00:05:17] DA: Certainly. If you're looking to improve your overall listing score, for first and foremost, you have to understand that the listing score is broken up into two separate components, which are the property score and the unit score. When we're looking at the property score, obviously, you need the basic requirements, which are property address, location, descriptive information. But if a user really wants to make a concerted effort to improve their actual property score, they really want to make sure and they focus on improving the quality and the quantity of information. Obviously, you don't want to just throw everything at it. But you want to make sure that you're giving the user as much information as possible.
If you're looking at the property level, you want to make sure that you have a sufficient number of unit and property level amenities. We typically recommend at least 10. You want to make sure you have a sufficient number of photographs for the unit, typically would say at least eight to 12 or more. Ideally, really high resolution, really will take in professional photos. And then you also want to cover the ancillary stuff, right? So parking, pet policy, smoking policy, what have you. You want to make sure that we're really covering the full gamut. And then once the property is done, we shift over to the unit score.
First and foremost, my recommendation is make sure that every one of your units has the same number of completed fields. Okay. One unit that has 90% of the fields completed, and another one that only has the name, and then maybe the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. That's not going to work. You have to make sure they're all the same. Again, make sure all the fields are the same. You want to have each unit with individual and unique photographs. Typically, we recommend at least eight per unit, okay, included availability date. That's just common practice.
Then most importantly, and I really have to stress this, include a size. Not everyone has them. If you can approximate the size, but it gives the renter a really strong approximation of what they're getting for their money. And then last but not least, the way we've structured it, if you're lost or you don't know where else to go, we've actually indicated or included a broken heart icon. Anywhere within the Rentsync platform, if you see a little broken heart icon, it means that you can further improve that field to improve your listing score.
[00:07:16] NS: That icon will tell you what that field requires, correct? If you hover over it, so it's very clear and intuitive for people to understand. Perfect, that was great. I'm curious if you have the answer to this. I know it's not one of my questions. But why is it eight photos? Why is that the sweet spot? Do you know?
[00:07:34] DA: Really thrown me for a loop there.
[00:07:35] NS: Sorry. Sorry. I know you haven't been able to research this. I'm just curious for my own knowledge why eight is the sweet spot for that.
[00:07:41] DA: Sure. When we were doing analysis in the earlier days, to actually build up the listing score, we analyzed a whole bunch of property listings, and also the leads that were generated by them. And we found that a really good number is really eight. It's not like this magic number, but it seems like with eight, you have an improvement of the overall quality and quantity of incoming leads. It seems like a really strong kind of starting point. It's not too few, not too many, nice for a run number.
[00:08:08] NS: Yeah. I mean, that makes sense. When I'm looking at things online and looking for advertisements and things, I like to see a pretty decent gallery of images to make sure that I know what I'm signing up for or getting when I go to that. That makes sense that eight is the sweet spot. Moving on, Michael, I don't know how easy this question is for you to do on a podcast. But can you walk me through how Listing Score works in the Rentsync platform to the best of your ability?
[00:08:37] MM: Sure, absolutely. Well, as we know from David's comments, both properties and units are scored. They're based on that set of criteria that we've designed to maximize the quality of your listings. Some fields are based on the presence of a value, so whether it's provided or not. Other fields are based on quantity, like the photos example. If you have eight photos and plus, you're going to get the full points. If you have some photos, you're going to get a couple points. If you have no photos, you're going to get zero points. Please don't have no photos.
Listing Scores themselves are a weighted result that takes the individual property score from all the property fields that David had mentioned earlier, plus an aggregated average of the corresponding property's units. We're scoring each unit based on similar criteria, but the average is rolled up to form the listing score with the property being added to the average listing score. Insider application, we touched on this a little bit and David's comments as well. We have some identifiers. There's a cute little heartbeat icon in each section that could be filled out to improve the score, as well as the same icon above the field itself that will update the score, their impact of the score when it is updated or changed. When a property or unit is updated, it does recalculate the score for you so you can refresh the page and see the results of your changing data and how it impacted the listing score.
We also have a few interfaces to see more granular data. It actually shows you a list of items that each property and how we'll impact the score. And there's ability to export that to – the ability to export those lists to CSV, so you can go off to the side and review the listings and what can be improved, especially if I have to get data from external sources, you have the means to do that. Then we also provide some summary reports in the reporting section of the app that highlights your lowest scoring properties and gives you an average of your portfolio, including a breakdown of your average scores by city. So that should help you holistically view your portfolio and where your listing scores are at and give you hopefully a nice game plan to improve those scores.
[00:10:33] NS: Perfect. Thank you for summarizing that. Now, we did have a webinar recently and someone asked, is Listing Score like Walk Score. It scared me because I was like, "Well, Walk Score is like a publicly advertised thing that everyone can see. You can see what any buildings walks were may be on the map." I think that it's important that we address this. Is Listing Score public? Can people see Listing Score if someone is given a 54%? Is that something that they have to be worried about? Are their renters knowing?
[00:11:06] MM: No, absolutely not. Their scores are not public. It is an internal metric used to help you better list your properties. It's really worth noting that the Listing Score is not a reflection of the quality of your property, very much like Walk Score would be. Like Walk Score is gauging how walkable your building is, because that will influence a renter that doesn't drive, needs public transit, they want to walk to the destination. That's where those individuals are looking for a high Walk Score. For us, it's a reflection of how you list your property. It's important to get a higher listing score, because that's going to show that you fill all the necessary data to give the renters, or prospective renters the necessary information to understand what they're getting with your property before they even speak to you.
[00:11:48] NS: I mean, essentially, we are a business of marketing for products and services. We're creating marketing products and services. It's your ability to properly market your rental. This is basically what Listing Score does. It helps you to kind of see if you're doing the best you can to market your rental on listing sites. Just to clarify as well, Listing Score, is this available for all Rentsync platform users? How does this work for the users of the rent safe platform?
[00:12:18] MM: It is available for all customers of the Rentsync platform. We want to make sure that customers have the tools to improve their listings.
[00:12:24] NS: And it's free to use, correct?
[00:12:25] MM: Correct. That's correct.
[00:12:26] NS: It's not like an upgraded thing. Okay. Perfect. David, moving to you. We talked a little bit and Michael talked a little bit about reporting and being able to download things. How can properties use the scoring system as a KPI and their own reporting?
[00:13:22] DA: Definitely. That was actually one of our main goals. When we were creating the Listing Score, obviously, we wanted to help the user want to make sure they had the – they can put their best foot forward. But we also wanted to give them a new measure of being able to record and understand how well they're doing effectively. Like Mike mentioned, we have all this reporting, the reporting features available directly within the platform as a reporting dashboard, which shows you all the various Listing Score scores you have at a property level, at the municipal level and then overall, the portfolio level.
We obviously want to show you some of the really positive highlights, so we give you a really nice property to give you your overall score. But then ultimately, the point is that, it's meant to motivate you and it's meant to kind of keep you on your toes. We also show you your lowest cheating properties, because those are the ones that need your focus the most. Within that reporting, really, the way that we wanted this to be used was a way of referring to the user's attention, the properties that need their focus, but also from a like a marketing coordinators perspective, they can have confidence that their actual marketers or people working below them are actually putting the best foot forward.
They're not kind of cutting corners that are actually filling in these property listings to the best of their abilities. So that when they're spending these marketing dollars, they're doing so effectively, and they're doing so efficiently. They're not kind of throwing money into the wind because half the fields are blank. If a user decided to complete a rental query online, they added all these various amenity filters. Well, the property is not going to come up. That's not because you don't have these amenities. It's because the user never added the amenities to the property listing.
[00:14:58] NS: Right. It's adding accountability to those who are actually creating these listings.
[00:15:02] DA: Exactly, exactly. Ultimately, what we'd love to have done is we want users to print this out to show to their supervisors, to the directors as a means of kind of showing them that they are in fact making sure that their listings are representative of the building that they have.
[00:15:19] NS: Absolutely, that's great. I know personally, as a marketer, having that ability to kind of show that you've done the work that's required, in order to do the best to your ability, to market things to the best of your ability. That's a very – it's a positive thing to have as a marketing person to be able to showcase that and let them know, we've done everything we can. If we're not filling vacancies, it's not marketing smart. I mean, maybe sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not. You just need to be able to show that accountability, and responsibility and ownership.
[00:15:49] DA: That's exactly what we're going with. Ultimately, it's still a new product. What we really want is, we've come up with a few of these different use cases. But at the end of the day, the way the user uses it is going to be up to them. If any user does come up with a really unique way of using it, we'd love to hear from you guys. If you want to email us for support, include Listing Score in the subject line, I'm sure I'll get it somehow. We'd love to learn more.
[00:16:12] NS: Perfect. Now, overall, Michael, how do you think Listing Score, the impact is going to have on the rental housing industry, maybe specifically in Canada or as a whole? How do you think that this kind of scoring system will develop and kind of influence and impact the industry?
[00:16:30] MM: That is a fantastic question. First off, we have high hopes, and we're optimistic that this will guide people to improve the quality of their listings. We have put a lot of thought into this. We've had some healthy debates. What we've landed on is some that we're very happy with. I think that the listing process cannon is getting smarter year over year. It's not just within our own product, but just as a collective industry as a whole. So I believe that it can improve the rental experience.
If you think about it, if listings are improved, that ultimately benefits the renter experience, because they can get better results using the filters on rental listing sites. They will be able to get all the information up front rather than having asked for it, right? Which makes you get better quality leads at the end of the day, which means you can spend less time chasing leads that were never destined to convert, because you couldn't offer what they were looking for in the first place. Plus, if you're using things like chatbots, virtual listing assistants, those systems need this data in order to be effective and to answer the questions that people are having. By prompting users to encourage them to complete their data richness and completeness of their properties, it's going to have positive benefits on the customer on the industry, and sometimes you just need the extra push. Everyone has so much work to do, right, like everyone. Sometimes do you ever feel like you just need a push to do something that is going to benefit you later. Like going the gym, for example, right? We're hoping that Listing Score can kind of be that extra little push that will help guide people to make better decisions today that will help them tomorrow.
[00:17:55] NS: Perfect, great answer. Yeah, I can see. We've already seen and I'm going to ask you the next question, David, about feedback from clients. How was the feedback from clients been, and what have they kind of seen? Like, how this impacted their push? How do they feel about it, and how it pushed them to make better decisions with their rental listings and adding the right things in the right fields?
[00:18:19] DA: Yeah. The responses so far have been really positive. It really comes down to the level at which the user is actually willing to adopt the listing score. We've seen a mixed bag, we've seen some users who rely on it a substantial amount, and they've actually adopted as a marketing KPI, just like we intended. They've mentioned quite a lot about how it helps them very quickly identify the properties that could use some more improvement, obviously. Large clients with very large portfolios, spanning multiple markets, if not provinces can be tricky on occasion to actually track that, especially when the property's been handed over from one person to another. This really brings that to their attention.
It also, again, just helps keep track at a macro level of the entire portfolio. Like I said, one user actually mentioned that each time they log in, what they'll do is they'll actually just review the entire portfolio, and then they'll find properties. Anything under 50%, that's their decided metric. Anything below 50 gets the needed attention. They say it feels like a kick in the butt, just like I said, which is perfect. That's exactly the kind of response you were hoping for. And then what they do is they just focus on that property until they can bring it up to you whatever standard that they're looking for. Ideally, we would help clients bring that up to that 75, 82. But it seems like at this point, every client has their own kind of like sweet spot. Once it's at a specific range, they're happy with it.
That said, we've actually noticed that the Listing Scores are actually considerably higher than we expected. A lot of clients have been doing a really good job of improving them. We've noticed that about 30% of the properties that have been modified since the launch of the Listing Scores have actually improved their Listing Scores. We've also seen that a lot of properties have actually gone above and beyond the thresholds that we've set. We have properties that are well over 90% at this point. That was a shock to me when I saw it, because of the way that it's structured, the best listings are going to get high. But getting past the 90% is a challenge. And it shows that these users are really dedicated, they really want to put their best foot forward. They want to show how good of a product they have to offer users, which is really, really exciting.
Some of the users that we've seen that are a little bit less invested, they really just see it as like a basic completeness tool, right? They log in, they'll update a property, and then they'll use the heart icons, actually, just as a means of kind of double checking and making sure they haven't missed anything important. If they have, kind of helps bring it to their attention. Otherwise, you might miss one or two fields here. Again, genuinely positive, which we're really happy about.
[00:20:46] NS: Awesome. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if I'm seeing that, the minute that I log into a dashboard, I'm going to do my best to try, and go and raise. If you're type A, you want to see that 90% above, of course, you're not going to be happy with a 75% score. I mean, in some cases, like you just – some of the information, maybe you just don't have. It's just not part of your property, whatever. But you're going to do your best to hit the top of the line as best as you can, with the content that you have accessible to you. Now obviously, this is version one of Listing Score, are there any enhancements that you hope to make in the future, or the near future that you can speak to, David? Or any feedback that you found that has been helpful to kind of improve on the Listing Score so far.
[00:21:27] DA: Yeah. I don't know want to – with the cat in the bag just yet, we don't want to give out too much.
[00:21:31] NS: No, of course. Yeah.
[00:21:32] DA: Because it's only just rolled out. It's been out for just about over a month now. We're slowly gathered more and more user information. We're tracking the trends regarding the actual listing scores at the unit level and the property level. We'd have identified a few minor changes. So obviously, we're going to change the way we react. We're going to roll out a different Listing Score for single family properties. That's going to be really important. Obviously, the unit level score isn't nearly as important for them. So we're going to reject that from those properties. We're also planning on expanding the reporting functionality. Currently, we just offer kind of snapshot Listing Score, and property score, unit scores for each property. And ultimately, what we want to do is, once we have a greater history of that data, we're going to show you the progression of your Listing Scores over time, and then potentially expand that to include [inaudible 00:22:21] analysis to really show you whether or not you're getting bang for your buck.
[00:22:27] NS: Fair enough. Now, Michael, I know I didn't initially direct this to you. But is there anything that you would like to add to what you kind of see moving forward, how you plan to improve a listing score, maybe from a development side?
[00:22:39] MM: For us it's more just analyzing the data as it comes in, and making decision from that. So I can't give you anything today, it's more of just, we have to evaluate and learn the behavior, see how customers are using it, see what the scores are, and see what correlation between leads and listing scores that David talked about, something that's really, really interesting to me. I think we'll just keep an eye on, and evolve and iterate, as we do with all software, and all product and technology, just iterate and continue to improve.
[00:23:06] NS: Awesome. Well, thank you both for joining me today. I'm glad that we were able to kind of walk through this. I know I've been talking to David for probably, feels like an eternity now about Listing Score. But I'm glad to see that it's come out, we're adopting it. It seems like a really, really important part of our industry and the people who use our product. I think they're just really going to love it and I can't wait to see the future of what happens. My last question, of course, as everyone on this podcast is, if anyone's looking to connect with you, especially, I'm sure people who are users who may want to know more about Listing Score, where can they find you guys? David, go ahead.
[00:23:43] DA: Sure. So as always, you can find me on LinkedIn. My name again is David Aizikov. Otherwise, actually, I'm releasing a monthly blog post on our website. Each month is different. Last month was pet friendly unit previews. Coming up next will be popular amenities by age groups. We always include a contact form at the bottom of these blog posts so you can get in touch with me there.
[00:24:04] NS: Perfect. Thank you. And Michael yourself.
[00:24:07] MM: You can find me on LinkedIn at Michael Mottola. Otherwise, reach out to David, he'll help answer all your questions you have and if you have any questions about the product and the platform itself, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
[00:24:17] NS: Awesome. Well again, thank you both for sharing all your knowledge with me and with our listeners and taking the time to join me on this episode of Sync or Swim. Until next time, keep swimming.
E54: Leveraging AI to Improve the Multifamily Leasing Experience
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