How Landlords Should (and Shouldn’t) Go Digital

Digital Landlord:

It’s safe to say that our world has gone digital. When you’re hungry, you can order food from a smartphone app. If you’d rather cook at home, you can use your internet-connected phone to look up any recipe you want. There’s an understandable temptation to make everything digital, but there’s also been some pushback to that idea. For instance, the Kindle was supposed to be the wave of the future, but print books are still more popular than e-books.

If you’re a landlord, you should resist the urge to make everything as technologically advanced as possible just because you can. Here’s how you should and shouldn’t manage your property in the digital era.

Do: accept applications and rental payments online:

The days of buying a newspaper just to look at the “For Rent’ listings and call a few places are gone. People still call, but they don’t expect to fill out paper applications at the rental office anymore. Any landlord who doesn’t already have an online renters application is hurting themselves.

“But it costs too much money” isn’t a good excuse. In fact, you can set up an online rental application portal for little to no money. Even if it does cost a little, it’s time to consider it a cost of doing business. A landlord who doesn’t take online applications in the year 2018 is like a restaurant that doesn’t take debit or credit cards. Sure, some people will still frequent the restaurant anyway, but it’s going to lose business from people who rarely carry cash on them. It’s good to be old-fashioned about believing in things like customer service — it’s not good to refuse to let people fill out applications and pay their rent online, so get with the times.

Don’t: Create an app no one will use:

create an app
Image by: Flickr

If you’re going to develop an app for your tenants, you need to figure out what issue it’s addressing. Ask yourself why your tenants would need this app. If the answer is, “Because my biggest competitors have one,” that may not be a good enough reason. You have to figure out what utility a property management app can provide that tenants don’t already get from your website. Most apartment-hunters won’t be willing to download an app just to view properties. Some will, but that alone isn’t a good enough reason to call up mobile developers and hammer out an app.

You also need to figure out if your current website is properly optimized for mobile devices. If it’s not, then contact your web development team. Optimizing a website for smartphones is almost always going to be easier than taking months or even years to develop your very own smartphone app. And if you develop an app, it has to be good. You can’t just rush an app to the market. If you do, it’s probably going to be buggy and annoying. Using an app with a lot of bad code doesn’t make life easier for the people who rent property from you.

What else will people use your app for other than paying the rent? Most people can pay the rent from their computer, so an app which lets them do so may only help a small percentage of tenants. If your app lets people make maintenance requests from their phone, then that might be worth investigating. Look at all your options before deciding this is something you have to do. A little market research doesn’t hurt either. If you aren’t sure what your tenants want, ask them to take a survey about a possible app. If no one responds to the survey, then that’s probably a sign that they don’t really see an app as something that will immediately make their renting experience more pleasant and efficient.


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