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"That's the reality of the renter search, they're considering a wide variety of asset classes and locations. If you're going to serve that renter then you need to have all the stuff. That's what we're aiming to be — is that completely comprehensive marketplace. That's what we're building. We want to have every available listing in America." — Jonas Bordo
With the death of Craigslist over the past few years, the main and valuable lead sources have become elusive for the landlord in the rental industry. The driving goal of today's guest is to work in partnership with the property managers and landlords to truly serve the renter. His company aims to have a completely comprehensive marketplace and provide pure organic search options to renters so that they can find exactly what they are looking for. On the show today, we welcome Jonas Bordo, the CEO and Co-founder of Dwellsy and former Group Vice President of Operational Services at Essex Property Trust, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Resources at Bentall Kennedy, now BentallGreenOak. Tuning in, listeners will hear more about the death of Craigslist, serving the renter, what sets Dwellsy apart in the online marketplace, and so much more! So don't miss out on today's episode!
Key points from this episode:
JB: "And they've charged at such a level that only the premium multifamily can afford it. You're talking about 5%, 6% of the rental inventory is present on those sites. That means, rough, rough numbers across all of it, you're talking about 19 out of 20 rentals is not available in any one of those sites."
[00:00:47] NS: Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I'm your host Nicolina Savelli. On this podcast, I chat with multifamily and PropTech experts to learn how you can reach more renters, sign more leases and maximize the value of your assets. Today, I have Jonas Bordo, the CEO and Co-founder of Dwellsy and former Group Vice President Operational Services at Essex Property Trust, and Senior Vice President Corporate Resources at Bentall Kennedy, now Bentall Green Oak.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Jonas, that was quite a mouthful. Great to have you on the show and chat about your experience working in multifamily and what Dwellsy is doing in the rental listing space. I mean, first, I'd love to talk about your career and rental housing. How did you get started in multifamily? What led you to this industry and what makes you so passionate about it?
[00:01:39] JB: Well, first, Nicolina, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate having the chance to join the show. I've been in and around the space for a bunch of years, more than 20 years now. It's a little shocking to me.
[00:01:49] NS: It happens quickly.
[00:01:51] JB: I know. Time flies, isn't it? One of the things is, I've worked in a variety of different areas of real estate, everything from thinking about how to run a real estate private equity group, to operating across a multi-platform, multi asset class platform like Bentall Kennedy, now Bentall Green Oak. The reason I gravitated towards multifamily and housing overall, is that it's just so relevant to all of us and it's so immediate. We all need a place to live. It really is an operating business in a way that other asset classes aren't. Lots of people are driven by lots of different things. I love the opportunity to really make people's homes amazing, and help landlords be great landlords, help renters find great homes. When I spotted the opportunity for Dwellsy, I really didn't feel like I had a choice. I just had to go after it and create this market and make this broken market work.
[00:02:44] NS: Right. Perfect. My next question is really talking about your experience in the industry prior to Dwellsy. If you could go back and give yourself any advice working at Essex Property Trust or Bentall Kennedy, Bentall Green Oak. What would you say? Many of our listeners are working as marketers, property managers at similar firms, so maybe they can kind of gain some wisdom from your past experiences.
[00:03:12] JB: Wisdom is obsoleted today in concept? I hope I can share a little bit. I think there's a lot of different aspects of the day-to-day job that everybody's got their challenges that they've got to face, marketing units, and thinking about the best way to bring their units to market and the best way to get units filled as quickly and efficiently as possible and to meet the market. I was just talking to a reporter earlier who was mystified by the concept that landlords are kind of market takers in terms of price. But that is the challenge, how do you get your units out there and get the best version of the market rent at that time, and how do you get that slight premium that might be available because you're making the renter realize that you're going to be a great landlord, and how do you communicate that to them in the most effective possible way, and then just make it really easy for them to sign the deal?
From a slightly different perspective, one of my passions is helping coach people through their careers. One of the things that I've always advise people as they progress through their careers in multifamily is just, I've always taken the jobs that scared me the most and the biggest challenges out there. Whenever an inflection point has come along, where there's an opportunity that's come up, where I'm like, "Wow! I have literally no idea how I'm going to do that job." That's the one. Take that job.
[00:04:27] NS: With that feeling of imposter syndrome is actually not a bad feeling overall. Yeah.
[00:04:34] JB: Yeah, that's a sign that you're in the right place, and that you're really going to learn and grow and that you're really challenging yourself. If you're comfortable, if you're relaxed in your job, it's nice to have that feeling every once in a while. I remember having that feeling from time to time, but the more you can challenge yourself, the more you're going to grow, the more you're going to get more opportunities, and the more you're going to see your career expand.
[00:04:56] NS: Right. Because I think there is, right now, it seems like there is a lot of turnovers ever happening, especially with marketers I would say in that space. A lot of new faces, a lot of new people and a little uncomfortable to start. But I mean, we have webinars too to help marketers and property managers kind of weave through all the nuances of the industry and like you said, don't fear kind of that uncomfortable feeling it will help you grow and, and learn and make you a better marketer, make you a better property manager.
[00:05:28] JB: A hundred percent.
[00:05:30] NS: Now, what motivated you to create your own rental listing site? I mean, that seems like a massive undertaking. What made you want to do something like that?
[00:05:42] JB: To paraphrase, most of the people I know, it's because I'm nuts, maybe.
[00:05:48] NS: Fair. Okay. Okay. But I mean, I might call you that too, before you answer this question, but yeah.
[00:05:54] JB: Over the course of a couple of years, that's how few things happening. I was at Essex and I was running eight or nine different groups. When I was there, I was responsible for all of the functions that really made the front office experience productive or unproductive. We did our jobs, the renters and the residents, prospective renters and prospective residents and residents had a great experience and our team had a great experience in the front end. If we didn't do our job, that's a terrible experience. That was kind of all the different groups, including marketing and other functions. And so I had a front row seat to see a few things happen, one of them was the collapse of Craigslist. We were getting in many cases 50% or more of our lead volume from Craigslist, and it was good, high-quality lead volume. We're putting tremendous resources behind it. It's free, in theory, but we're putting tremendous resources behind Craigslist. It had been for a long time our highest value lead source and we saw that go to almost zero. It took us a long time to figure out what was happening there, but it ceased to become a useful lead source for us.
Trying to figure out other sources, it was incredibly difficult, and frankly, just cost us a ton of money in that transition, because finding other sources and there were other sources, but trying to figure out how to use Google, trying to figure out SEO, SEM, those strategies, watching the listing services out there, double triple prices, and feeling that pain, which was real pain. At the same time, talking to renters. I'd go spend a day every month at one of our communities and go on tours with prospective residents and talk to our team, see what the experience was like. Hearing from the renters in that situation, and hearing their pain and hearing person after person after person tell me, "Man, when I did my last search two years ago, three years ago, it was so much easier. It's gotten so much harder." Realizing that the search had kind of moved offline, as a result of the – not to put – it might be an aggressive term, but with the death of Craigslist, had caused people to have to go out, and walk the streets and look for yard signs again. That was what happened for the search for most renters.
[00:07:58] NS: Then the pandemic happened, and that wasn't exactly the most convenient time to go looking.
[00:08:03] JB: Exactly. Yeah, no. That was a whole other level of complexity. But you think back to 2018, when I was thinking about this, and it just felt like such a big need, that you have this market that affects 120 million Americans each and every year between renters and landlords. It's such a big problem back to things that scare you. It seemed like this massive market that impacted so many people that was failing, and hurting so many people in the process, and seemed like a huge opportunity, and a huge opportunity to fix. If we were to do that, so many people's lives would be better, so here we are trying to fix it.
[00:08:39] NS: Now, before I move on to the rest of my questions. Can I ask because we're in Canada, and Craigslist is not the most popular kind of listing site, but can you explain why Craigslist kind of just lost its momentum where you are and why that kind of happened to the multifamily, the rental listing community per se? But basically, yeah, why did Craigslist start to lose its momentum?
[00:09:03] JB: Yeah. Yeah. I wrote a whole medium post on this. If anybody wants the long form version of that, I'll send you that so you can put a link in the show notes. But the basic version is fraud spiralled out of control. Craigslist was almost perfect incubator for rental fraud. I liken it to prohibition creating the mafia in the US.
[00:09:23] NS: I just started watching Boardwalk Empire, so this very relevant comparison.
[00:09:29] JB: Yeah, very relevant comparison. Yeah. You have a combination of a bunch of factors. You have a large dollar transaction with money changing hands between strangers under duress, not necessarily negative duress, but there's time pressure, there's the pressure of finding the right place and you got 30 days to get out of your place and find a new one. Everybody's feeling pressure in the situation, depending on the circumstances. Somewhere between 10%, 20%, 30% of people don't actually get a chance to look at the place before they move in. You're talking about wiring first and last month's rent, which in some cases is people's entire life savings to a complete stranger.
That and the dominant platform insists on anonymity as the driving characteristic, whoa! Then you have the rise of new payment systems like Venmo, and Zelle in the US, where you have no recourse, and those systems become the norm for exchanging money between people. You have a near perfect incubator for fraud and a professional class of fraudsters exploded in the mid-2010s. That actually wasn't the thing that undid Craigslist, but undid Craigslist was a new form of fraud, which is a variation on the oldest fraud in the world, which is the, I've got this huge pile of cash, and if you give me a thousand bucks, I'll unlock it and send it to you.
What started happening to the small mom and pop landlord was that they would get contacted by a renter who said, "I'll pay you an extra 100 bucks a month, and I'll pay the whole thing up front, I just need you to cover my moving costs." It sounds like who could possibly get taken in by that, but I talked to a landlord a couple of weeks ago who did. She's so embarrassed by this, but she had a capital need. She had put a new roof on her property, she was in a really tight spot, and it seemed like manna from heaven and she got taken by this. Humiliating for her, because she – here's a sophisticated individual just got caught in a bad spot, and this seemed like it was going to save her bacon and it didn't. Instead, she got taken for a thousand bucks.
That forced all the small landlords off Craigslist, and all of a sudden, they lost their market liquidity without the small landlords. The big landlords got off there, and all of the really exciting inventory is the small landlord stuff. That's the really exciting stuff.
[00:11:50] NS: Now, that said, Facebook has made some changes, now which makes it a little bit more difficult for people to now with the renting product syndicate ads large basically multifamily, it makes it a lot harder for them to get on there. It's the small landlords that are using it. And predominantly, I mean, here and there. Yes, I mean, I think everyone is, but it's becoming less of a kind of convenient source. Do you think that there's going to be some problems with potential? I mean, there's a little bit more liability. I mean, a little bit more awareness, a little bit more openness with who maybe you're contacting, but do you think that there's a possibility of that also happening with Facebook?
[00:12:35] JB: It's already happening. Yeah, the fraud is –
[00:12:36] NS: Through the roof.
[00:12:37] JB: Yeah. Any time you have an unconstrained marketplace, Facebook's a great organization, they do a lot of things really, really well. But they have a marketplace that is not focused on this space. This is a unique space that has unique characteristics. Fair housing is a huge barrier to entry for anybody. If you're trying to sell shoes and apartments, like, whoa, be careful.
[00:13:02] NS: Right, 100%.
[00:13:05] JB: You got to be really careful about that. It's a huge challenge for them, and to try to keep the fraudsters out of that space, and to maintain a wide-open marketplace where you can literally sell anything, that's incredibly challenging. I don't think anyone who tries to sell anything in one place is ever going to be successful in a complex technical category like this. I think it requires a category expert, in order to be successful. I think Facebook is always going to struggle. Obviously, they're an enormous brand and super smart company. So many people use them.
[00:13:40] NS: But they can't do everything in a specialty.
[00:13:44] JB: Yeah. We're also seeing decline in use there. We're not investing in material in there, because our audience isn't on Facebook anymore. They're on Tik Tok. They're on Instagram, Facebook property, but they're not on Facebook anymore. If the millennial renter, if the, next cohort of renters isn't there, then it's not going to be a great place to find renters in the future. I think Facebook is a force in the market, but I wouldn't rely on that long term.
[00:14:11] NS: Okay. Awesome. I mean, to circle back and what motivated you to create your own rental listing site. I mean, there was just obviously a great need for something that was specialized in, Craigslist just became, like non-existent. That wasn't an option anymore.
[00:14:27] JB: Yeah. Look, if you're a – think about Amazon, right? One of the reasons that Amazon is so successful is you can go on there, you can find anything you want and they have all the things. It is an incredibly logical first stop. What are the alternatives to LinkedIn? There are no alternatives to LinkedIn. The reason for that is because everybody's on LinkedIn, there's no rationale to going somewhere else. The renter wants all the inventory in one place. If you introduce a barrier, the traditional ILS is targeted, large scale multifamily and they charged at such a low level that only the premium multifamily can afford it.
You're talking about 5%, 6% of the rental inventory is present on those sites. That means, rough, rough numbers across all of it, you're talking about 19 out of 20 rentals is not available on any one of those sites. For the renter who's looking for placement and might be considering all 20 of those places. The number of conversations I had. I stood up a contact center when I was at Essex, which is a whole story in and of itself. We can do a podcast on that one. I've had a ton of conversations with prospective residents when I was there in that process. The number of conversations I had with folks who were considering a single-family home here, and a walk-up apartment there, in a two-bedroom in one of our big communities simultaneously. That's the reality of the renter search is they're considering a wide variety of asset classes and locations. If you're going to serve that renter, and I'm talking about really serving that renter, not just bringing them the product that you've got, then you need to have all the stuff. That's what we're aiming to be is that completely comprehensive marketplace. That's what we're building. We want to have every available listing in America. We're well on our way. We've got about 25% today, and growing aggressively.
[00:16:13] NS: Well, I'm going to talk a little bit deeper on that in my next question. But before we do that, I'd like to know your thoughts about the statement listing sites are antiquated. I think that that's a reoccurring trend. We've seen it at events recently. You know what, in some cases, I think that it's a true statement, but maybe you can expand on how you feel about that, and maybe what needs to happen with listing sites so that we don't keep hearing that.
[00:17:19] JB: Yeah. It's a yes and no on that. I'd say to some degree, absolutely. This industry was formed in the context of Craigslist. There's a lot of innovation that's happened over the last two decades across other industries that hasn't happened in this space, because Craigslist dominated the market. Everybody had to evolve in the context of Craigslist. As a result of that, it was not a fully formed development. We still kind of have classifieds on the internet, which is very much a web 1.0 construct, and that is the concept. That said, I've been a client of a lot of these iOSs and they do a good job. They deliver by and large high-quality leads, and they help a certain type of renter find a certain type of property. They played that game well, and they can be a useful service to the right folks at the right time. I'm not going to be a critic of them in that way. I think they provide a useful service.
I do think it can be done better and I do think they are not serving the actual renter as they stand. I think they're serving certain landlords, certain property managers quite well. I don't think they're serving any renters comprehensively, but I don't think they're setting out to do that. They're not meaning to serve any renters comprehensively. They're meaning to serve landlords and meeting their need for traffic in order to get their units leased. They're doing that. They can provide significant lead volume and traffic in order to get the units leased. That's what the landlords are paying them for and they can do it. No criticism of that. But it it's the same construct 20 years ago.
One of my personal friends within the industry is a guy who founded rent.net back 25 years ago, and his printed book at that time that he moved online, it's the same darn thing. It evolved into what these folks are doing. It's the same darn thing. It's time for something new. I think we're building that at Dwellsy, but you know.
[00:19:17] NS: Right. Let's talk about that. Let's talk about Dwellsy, it's competitive offering in online marketplaces. What sets Dwellsy apart?
[00:19:25] JB: Yeah, we're a true marketplace. We literally aim to have all the marketplace offerings available in one place. We've aimed to reduce friction to zero to allow every landlord to list with us. It is genuinely free, no asterixis. It is free to list. No charge for leads, no charge for leases. You can't – it's funny. I have all these conversations with people. They're like, "Well, how do I pay to get first page placement like you?" You can't. There's no buying first page placement and why is that. That's because we provide pure organic search results to renters. Renters find what they are looking for, and that's for a couple of reasons.
One, it's a much better experience for renters. Renters can actually find what they're looking for, as opposed to just seeing the lease up down the street every time they search for anything. The other thing is it massively increases lead quality. Lead quality goes through the roof when renters are only looking at the things that they have searched for. As a result of that, we provide the highest quality leads in the industry at zero cost, which is pretty good value proposition, I think. We're integrated with all the major property management software players, Yardi, Entrata, et cetera. Most cases is just clicking a button. There's no contract required. Some people don't have to sign a contract. You don't have to talk to your legal team. If you're a property manager who's got the ability to do that, you can just click the button, and list on Dwellsy if you're a marketing person who's got that responsibility. You can just click the button and list on Dwellsy.
[00:20:47] NS: Awesome. Now, my question is, obviously, how do you plan to monetize this?
[00:20:54] JB: Yeah, that's a great question. It's a very different approach, right? Think about premium products for renters and for landlords. We have our first product available for renters. It's called Dwellsy Edge. It's a bundle of products, and services that help renters have a better experience. One of the things, for example, that renters don't know, is the difference between being the first to inquire on a property. And being the 10th is, generally speaking, the difference between getting the place and not getting the place. We will send you a text message and the moment of place becomes available. That's not really a multifamily problem. Multifamily is a very different world. That if you're looking for that single family rental, that isn't the right school district that will take your pitfall and that place becomes available, and then you need to know about that the second it becomes available. Because if you're the 10th inquiry on that place, you're not getting it.
[00:21:40] NS: That makes sense.
[00:21:41] JB: Yeah. That is one of the characteristics of that products. That's the kind of thing that we'll be offering. We have advertising on the site. That will be a core piece of the picture. We'll have products that we offer to landlords and property managers down the line. Candidly, we don't see the high-end premium, large scale property managers as a big part of our revenue model ever, really. Most of the product that we will offer is for the smaller mom and pop landlords. We think the property management software folks and others serving the enterprise market do a great job. We're happy to be partnered with those folks and we want to support them with data, and software and services that help them take advantage of our industry wide data source and resource. But we don't want to compete with them and do that thing. What they do is really hard. I'm really happy for them to do their thing and serve the large-scale industry really well. As much as we can be a good partner to them, we will aim to do that. But most of our economics will come from a smaller folks. If we can help drive down cost of marketing, and drive up the quality of service that the large-scale folks can bring to their residents, then it's a win.
[00:22:52] NS: Of course, which kind of leads me to the next question, but you've kind of answered it in a way. Obviously, landlords have a love-hate relationship with listing sites and what you're doing at Dwellsy to make that relationship better, which I think you've spoken to. If you want to speak a little bit further on that. But maybe in future, anything more that you plan on doing, feel free to kind of add to that.
[00:23:14] JB: Yeah. We really want to make it easy and really want to – one of the things that I saw is how labor intensive it was to work with Craigslist, and how frustrating it was to not be able to talk to anybody over there and not be able to – everything just got ghosted. We don't know why, we don't know what happened, we don't know what we can do to fix it. That kind of experience on one end of the spectrum, on the other end of the spectrum, huge friction and huge cost with the traditional ILSs. We're aiming to take a middle road where it is entirely automated, just plug your system in, the listings appear on an automated fashion. There's nothing you need to do to manage that. The leads just come in. They're your highest quality leads, so you don't need to worry about managing that and dealing with any issues related to that.
It's funny, I had all these conversations in the beginning about ROI with people because we're kind of breaking all the models, because all of their ROI systems were showing up with Dwellsy in some form or fashion, breaking their model either showing as infinite or zero, depending on how their model broke because everything was free.
[00:24:17] NS: Everything was free. Yeah. Infinite ROI. Yeah.
[00:24:23] JB: So people were like, "We don't know what to do with this. These Dwellsy leads are really weird." Yeah, but the ROI is great, because it's free. But trying to be that true partner. We don't call landlords clients. We don't call property managers clients. They're partners. We view ourselves as working in partnership with the property manager and the landlord to serve the renter. It's a little bit of a different relationship and a little bit of a different nuance there. But that's the goal is to build that partnership and work together to create a better functioning marketplace for the benefit of all.
[00:24:56] NS: Yeah, that's great. Now, obviously, these things don't come without challenges. I'd love to know if you can share some of the biggest hurdles you've experienced as a founder of a listing site, specifically Dwellsy. and how you've kind of overcome them to get where you are now/
[00:25:14] JB: Yeah. Well, the most obvious one out of the gate, and I was joking about it earlier is, everyone thinks we're a little nuts over here, because a new ILS, like, "You got to be kidding me. What are we doing?" We made some very intentional choices out of the gate to make Dwellsy kind of look and feel like an ILS. Even though there's a lot of things that are different about what we're doing under the hood. We wanted it to feel familiar to everybody involved, so that it felt comfortable. There's a lot of things about the way it works that are very similar. You're still going to get good, high-quality leads. Renters are going to be able to search listings. The listing content is the same that people have always been able to provide to listing services previously. There's a lot of things that are very similar. But getting that first traction was incredibly challenging to get people to work with the new ILS after all of the gyrations that the industry has gone through over the past couple of decades, getting to that initial hurdle.
Frankly, COVID was a huge help for us. Out of the ashes of so much trauma and so much challenge, there was a window that opened for about six months there, where people were like, "We really need to be willing to try some new things." Now, it's such a challenge. Oh my God! The property managers who took on so much new technology during that period are now trying to digest it all. My heart goes out to all of them, because all of the work to digest all of that is happening right now. And wow, it's a lot.
We've tried to be the lowest maintenance piece of all that, but there was a period in which everybody was just clicking the button. That was great for us, because we went from four or five million units on the platform during that period to nine, ten. Now, we're up north to 13 million units listing with us now, which is amazing and wonderful. I think we've hopefully made it a no brainer for people just to click the button and gotten past that point. I think we've got 36 of the top 50 property managers and over 15,000 other professional property management organizations listing with us now.
Getting through that was really the hardest part to date, but lots of other things, lots of folks have tried to raise money for businesses like this or raising money has not been – well, it's not been easy.
[00:27:19] NS: It's not been easy. No, of course.
[00:27:20] JB: No, it's not been easy, because lots of people have tried to raise money for businesses like this, as a result of, again, the gyrations of businesses that look on the surface, similar. That's been an ongoing challenge. Delivering product, the fact that we have trillions of data points that have to be delivered to consumers in a fraction of a second or for them to have a good experience with a lean team, that is a – we're not putting people on Mars or anything super complicated like that. But the technical lift involved in delivering the services is a big one. That's another interesting challenge that we've had to overcome.
[00:27:56] NS: Where do you see Dwellsy in the next two to three years, given all that you've kind of said, obviously, you've kind of doubled the amount of listings on Dwellsy over the last couple of years. What's kind of the future projections for Dwellsy?
[00:28:11] JB: Yeah. We're on a massive growth trajectory right now. The goal within the next two to three years is to have the overwhelming majority of listings on the platform. As I mentioned, got about a quarter of them today. Aiming to get – never get to 100%, but we aim to get most of the way there in the next two to three years. On the renter side, we aim to serve every renter in America. I think within the next two to three years, that's within reach, to have every renter in America finding the way to Dwellsy at some point within their search, and being able to start to build those relationships with those renters so that we can be a resource to them through their renting life.
[00:28:50] NS: Right. Now, just kind of second last question and more of a general question. But given your experience with marketers and property managers, is there anything you wish you saw more of in multifamily marketing and leasing technology, maybe outside of listing rentals on listing sites? Or do you feel like there's something that we should be doing, our multifamily marketers and what more could we see or what improvements could be made?
[00:29:16] JB: It's a really broad question. All kinds of interesting things out there. I think one of the things that I think is really underappreciated, there's a lot of people lamenting the slow movement of technology and multifamily. I actually, I have enormous appreciation for the slow movement of technology and multifamily. There's a really good reason why prudent people move slowly in this space. It's people's homes. Right? You mess with people's homes at your peril.
I remember being at a conference where somebody was dealing with the earliest stages of the home automation technology, and this is a woman who is a cybersecurity investigator and her property management company switched out to a new keyless lock for her unit. She and her friends cracked the lock within a week. This is a woman whose life is at risk because of the work that she does, and now she has a new home that's unsecure. This is kind of nobody's fault in this situation. There's a bunch of people genuinely trying to do the right thing in this situation. I have home automation technology at my home, and I love it, it's great and I'm an advocate for it. It's wonderful. But in this situation, here's somebody whose life is at risk, because somebody tried to do the right thing, and they move slower than a lot of other spaces, but still relatively quickly. She perceived her life to be a danger as a result of this.
I think it's a great example of everybody trying to do the right thing and still ending up in a pickle, because of the unique risks around people's homes. I think it's very easy when we talk about technology in this space to go to a place of everybody should move faster, and we should have more technology. I'm not that guy. I think we should be really thoughtful about how we introduce technology that impacts other people in their lives, in their homes, and really allow them to lead us. I think the question really is what are renters pushing for? What do they want in their homes? How can we as an industry create systems that allow the renter led implementation, if you will? How do we create an environment in each individual renter's home, where they can use the technology that they want to use? That's the complexity of having different implementations across a 300-unit community is enormous. But how do we move towards that and how can technology enable that so that every renter is comfortable in their own home? That I think is an interesting challenge?
[00:31:51] NS: I think that will be my poll quote for this episode, because I think that that's definitely how we kind of need to think about it. We as marketers, we always want to think about automating things and being more convenient for us. But we really also have to consider the renter, and who's actually going to be impacted by those automations and making things faster. Because my next question was really about where technology is headed for multifamily, and what were your thoughts around chatbots, and virtual touring and all that. I mean, that's made it more convenient. I think that's increased the convenience of getting things rented, and signed leases faster, and all of that. But maybe , what you've kind of said, we also have to consider how it impacts the renter at the end of the day? Do you have any thoughts around kind of, uses of chatbots, virtual touring, all of that, how you've seen that kind of grow and maybe kind of regressed slightly over the last little while now that we're kind of not back to normal, but back to somewhat of in person touring and all of that? What are your thoughts around that and where that's kind of going in the space?
[00:32:59] JB: I think chatbots are great. I think AI is great. I think creating optionality wherever we can is wonderful. I was talking to property manager the other day, that's converting to a slightly different sales structure where they have leasing agents covering multiple properties, and they have AI powered chatbot. I get the terminology wrong all the time, but AI powered chatbots I think they were using the Middle East product. They are able to have that process a lot of logistical conversations, and the renter has an option to exit that process and talk to a live human, and either do a self-guided tour, or tour with somebody who's not necessarily at that property all the time. But can be if the renter wants a guided tour.
I think that's a really nice model, because that's really putting yourself in the renters shoes and thinking about what the renter wants, as opposed to saying, "Hey! At this property, this is how we do it. Whether you like it or not, this is how we do it." Which is fine, and a lot of property managers have to do it that way because of their organizational structure or how they approach things. But if you have the operational heft and capability to really think through the renters mindset of what they want, and be able to meet their needs where they are, regardless of the characteristic of that need, I think that's a great way to do it. A lot of people don't want to talk to a human unless they have to.
[00:34:21] NS: No. I mean, I'm a millennial, but I know Gen Z's, whatever they're on another level of millennials when it comes to kind of digital communication and really not wanting to take that step to meet someone if they really have to. I mean, I have that as well. I can only imagine the future of renters feeling that that's kind of what they want. I think having the flexibility and being able to provide that flexibility is really important to the leasing process and just providing the options and putting them on the table if you can if your organization affords you that luxury to do that.
[00:34:56] JB: I recognize a lot of organizational complexity involved in offering options, and that's not easy to do. A lot of ownership groups, even if the property managers want to be able to do that, a lot of ownership groups are like, "Hmm. I don't know if we want to do that." Right?
[00:35:12] NS: That's fair. Well, Jonas, I mean, this has been a great conversation. But last but not least, if listeners are looking to connect with you, where can they find you online? Or even with Dwellsy, where can they go to get on Dwellsy if you're a landlord renter or whatever.
[00:35:28] JB: Yeah, absolutely, dwellsy.com/listwithus. Just go to dwellsy.com and it's easy to find there. If anyone wants to chat with me, I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always happy to chat with folks. Feel free to reach out.
[00:35:42] NS: Awesome. Well, Jonas, thank you for sharing all your knowledge and wisdom with us and for 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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