Hybrid App for Property Management

Problem Statement : Property360degree.com being a property management product had to be a solution which would be accessible on any device (based on use cases of on-field and in office usage), supporting all time zone, different currencies and different kind of stakeholders like Property Manager, Owner, Tenant and Vendors to carry out end-to-end operations collaboratively.

In short, it had to be a start-up building a SaaS product with zero cash-flows. We wanted to create a solution:

  • which could provide reasonably good user experience, without having to set up dedicated Native app development teams;
  • Performance of the solution had to be good;
  • Reduces the cost of development by adopting a single code base, working for multiple mobile operating systems;
  • Solution scalable to progressive web app;
  • Optimum team size and quick to deliver.

Solution: Be it a startup or any size business, technology is the key enabler and indeed it can make a big difference when we think on Digital solution lines as discussed in my previous post. Companies are always on a lookout for a technological solution which will reduce the budget on IT spending and which would enable it to be ready to market. With similar thought process, we started exploring Hybrid App space and we as a team narrowed down on Ionic framework with Spring Boot as backend built on AWS, which looked very promising as it met the checklist listed above.

In short, the exploration and the needs identified by our internal technology and business teams have been met with the solution which is out there in the market accessible on Android, iOS and web app. In this journey, we as a team came up with a solution which we are done for the first time ever! We indeed have innovated the way this complete technology stack has been put together. Today, property360degree.com is a cross-platform solution which is running smooth and making life easy for the stakeholders (Property Manager, Owner, Tenant, and Vendors) and is being used in different geographies, with major users adopting from US, Canada, Australia, and India.

The Secret sauce in making this happen is our awesome technology team which when blended with an understanding of business helped us to deliver Software as a Solution (SaaS) for Property Management businesses.

Digital Road Map for Property Management

The moment we see or hear “Digital”, “Technology” or “Marketing” are the words which we anticipate to follow. Most of the Property Management companies may have adopted “Digital Marketing” for their business which may be producing desired results. Digital marketing is a process which requires continues exploration and refining the strategy so that businesses achieves the defined goals. There is lot more to it and there are many gurus who have produced tons of high quality information freely accessible. But this information needs to be processed and applied to your business. This is where some digital marketing experts/agencies come into picture. We will take-up “Digital Marketing” for some other day. Let’s look into “Digital Technology” or “Digital” for Property Management domain.

Digital Technologies: Going mobile, using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and many more promising technologies are changing the way what we used to do and how we do. Adopting these technologies doesn’t necessarily make your property management business go “Digital”.

Digital: As mentioned by IIBA’s “Crossing the Chasm from Traditional to Digital World” article,

“Digital is about creating brand-new business models by placing the customer at the centre of attention, creating processes that offer incredible customer experiences enabled by technology.”

This is the simplest way it could have been defined. Yes, technology has a major role to play, but the questions which Property Managers must ask before adopting any of the technologies are

How is it going to change the way I interact with landlords or tenants?

Are we creating a “self service” or “anytime” model for our customers?

How is transparency being taken care?

Does this new project increases the trust, accessibility and agility in serving landlords or tenants ?

Similarly, there are lot of questions which Property Managers or Property Management companies must ask themselves with regards to scalability of business, accessibility of information to make strategic decisions, customer satisfaction, performance of team members, accountability etc. before embarrassing any technology.

On the whole its the integrated business model which is going to transform the experience of internal customers (employees) and the external customer which has to be clear for Property Managers.

According to the article published by Forbes in Sep 2017, there are about 34,000 plus property management companies in America and they say that the technology adoption by such matured market is not upto the mark. Market like India where the Property Management (Obligatory) has largely been the responsibility of friends and relatives living in vicinity of the property. The need of Property Management service in such a developing markets is exponential. So is the need of going “Digital” with a true business model that will keep Landlords & Tenants at the center.

There are lot of other core processes with regards to service providers which have to be automated using technological solutions and there is a need to have appropriate human interventions.

As mentioned above about Digital Marketing agencies, there are companies who bring in-depth understanding of Property Management business, digital technologies and different business models. They can play a significant role in “Digital” goal of Property Management companies..

Embracing collaboration with Property Management technology companies will reduce cost, time to market and more importantly helps you to do what you really must to do to take your Property Management business to next level.

Going “Digital” is one of the milestone in continuing to be growing “Digitally”. Its an evolving process which has to be kept track of to realize the results as you roll it out for landlords, tenants and operations.

Catering for the Rental Market Post-Lockdown

Over the past few months, the lockdown has allowed for the natural world to begin to heal itself of the harm that has been caused to it by us. Is this creating a better place for us? Maybe, yes. But should we thank COVID-19? Definitely not. Since its outbreak, COVID-19 has affected all of our lives, far more so than any other disease in living memory. Although it has helped to benefit our environment, we shouldn’t have had to wait for a disaster such as COVID to achieve this, we could have been more proactive towards planet earth all along.

With this in mind, we need to realise that we don’t have to wait for COVID-19 to adopt better options to operate efficiently in the rental market.

Over the last few years, we have been talking about the need for digital solutions for real estate agents, landlords, and property management companies. Although there was always a positive outlook coming from real estate stakeholders regarding the need for digital solutions, when we looked at the adoption rate, it wasn’t exciting.

COVID-19 came as a big shock and forced people across the world to stay home. This surely interrupted a lot of human dependent activities, not least manual processes in rental management activities.

A report of Macquarie, KPMG, said there is room to improve the real estate processes by 25-45% with existing automations available. This comes from Australia where over 65% of rental properties are managed by professionals managers.

The adoption of digital technology for automation is way low in emerging markets like India, other parts of South Asia, and South American countries.

Lockdown has forced people to explore how Realtors can still run the show while sitting at home. Many Realtors who were highly manually driven have come back asking for digital solutions during the lockdown in India. This is not unusual and has been seen across many countries, as reported by McKinsey.

McKinsey's survey report clearly shows that digital enablement has been 2X during COVID-19, and that when we talk about the rental market and its areas of operations, there are huge opportunities to increase digital enablement.

As a real estate agent, if you are able to show properties to potential tenants using 3D tours during lockdown, you can also capitalize on this post-pandemic. Similarly, there will be the adoption of digital solutions in different areas of rental management.

There will be a significant emphasis on reducing the dependencies to work from the office. Before lockdown, we emphasized to our potential customers the need to reduce the on-premises server/system usages. During the lockdown, they had to carry servers to homes with limited users accessing business-critical information. To mention a few, business-as-usual activities were affected in the way rental companies carried-out:

  • Invoicing
  • Invoices being shared to their customers
  • Accommodating rental wave-offs etc.

The need for a digital solution by rental property managers is not confined to serving their customers only during the lockdown, but most of them will be valid post lockdown as well. Many companies will adopt and those who will not adopt may lose out on the market share.

We are sure about this happening based on both our experience and because this is also justified in McKensey’s report. As stated in the McKinsey survey, self-service solutions will evolve to the new level as consistency, customer personalized experience, and convenience will matter a lot. The below statement from the report emphasizes the need for enabling your rental customers (Landlords & Tenants) with digital experience.

“Results in our 2019 survey showed that those suppliers who provide outstanding digital experiences to their buyers are more than twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those who provide poor experiences, and about 70 percent more likely than those providing only fair ones”

So, digital solutions are going to be the differentiator to start with but will also be fundamental business requirements for rental property managers. Digital solutions offer various benefits when they fit the business well.

But many of the potential customers had below-mentioned challenges to overcome:

  • Impact to Business-As-Usual: Many companies operating in the rental space like to adopt digital solutions, but because of the business-as-usual dependencies, businesses don’t give enough bandwidth to evaluate the to-be solutions. There will be a transition period, hence, if organizations need to catch-up and stay ahead in business, then there is no other way than exploring and adopting new norms of business. It is a fact that Businesses need technologies and technologies have no purpose unless they solve real business problems.
  • Fear of change: Certain organizations have been operating in their traditional way of managing rentals for a couple of decades and they fear making changes to the way they run their business. Not every time we embrace change, it works. But embracing changes with structured and proven ways will reduce cost, possibilities of failure, and sets a gateway for growth. With the phase of evolutions happening in the rental market, staying away from digital disruptions may be hard to survive.
  • Capacity building: Recently, Dev Gadhvi, author of the book “80% Mindset 20% Skills”, posted on his social media about the importance of “Capacity Building”. It is so relevant. If we are not ready for the scale with our mindset, technology, and people, we will not be able to execute when there are huge business opportunities to be grabbed. Just like the way Zoom capitalized during this lockdown.
  • Market dynamics: Over the last couple of decades, the focus on rentals has been in big cities where the majority of the market exists and is growing. Of late, people have been preferring to ditch city life in exchange for a more peaceful countryside life with better affordability, fewer travel hassles, and other lifestyle reasons. While the lockdown has now forced many people to work from home, many technology companies have found it as a fortunate situation to reduce huge operational/infrastructure costs and are even experiencing better productivity. While commercial office space is taking a hit, maybe it is time for the rental market to be distributed among smaller cities. Before lockdown, many rental property management companies thought such structured rental businesses and digital solutions were for bigger cities because of the market size but what we have now seen is that market dynamics are changing sooner than we had anticipated.

We need to overcome these challenges and see the trends more actively than ever.

Rental property management is far more complex by its nature than the real estate sales brokerage business. Even though rental management provides stable revenue compared to the brokerage business, it was less valued and less prioritized. During lockdown, we haven’t seen many open houses and auctions happening, and many real estate players are looking at rental property management as a means to strive through this tide of tough market conditions as rent roll provides stable revenue and covers a very good portion of fixed business cost.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson

With the way still pandemic is going around, managing change will be ongoing and intense.

Rental Realtors are at the juncture to manage the changes efficiently and proactively. It is very important and possible.

link : https://www.unissu.com/proptech-resources/catering-for-the-rental-market-post-lockdown