Automation is seen as something scary in some industries; something that’s going to result in people losing jobs. In real estate there’s an argument to be made that increased automation will help attract and keep professionals in the industry.
There’s been an exodus from the real estate industry, particularly property managers. 30% of residential property managers in Australia left their jobs over the past year according to some estimates. Salaries for property managers can be considered modest, at best, and they regularly face the brunt of frustrations from both tenants and landlords – sometimes blatant abuse with emotions piqued during the pandemic period in particular.
At Propic we believe the disconnect runs deeper than COVID-stress: real estate is steeped in manual, out-dated processes. In fact, our research data indicates up to 60 percent of the workload for a property manager could be automated.
Despite being inspired to join a relationship business, people are finding themselves doing highly administrative, time-intensive, some might say, soul-destroying repetitive tasks.
Imagine if we free property managers up from tasks that can be automated so they can do more of what attracted them to real estate in the first place? It’s basic HR: more job satisfaction equals higher retention.
So, how can automation make a difference, improve the day-to-day life of property managers and real estate professionals, and help people have a better customer service experience when dealing with a real estate professional? Glad you asked.
What are the biggest time sappers in a Property Manager job?
A huge chunk of any property managers’ time is taken up managing issues, so dealing with complaints, maintenance requests, and managing tradies.
Most people don’t go into real estate because they want to spend their day chasing up plumbers and electricians. They want to help people find and love their home, right?
So instead, using proptech tools available right now, most of that time can be handed back to a property manager. Tenants can fill in an online or mobile-based form to request repairs. Then deep learning and artificial intelligence tools can find a supplier in the area, authorise the repairs according to coded-in budget and lease contract terms, and connect the tradesperson and tenant to arrange a suitable time – using conversational AI that communicates with the customer via text, or messages or email.
It’s not a pipe dream. We have customers like Leah Jay doing it already with great results –
Leah Jay is a Newcastle and Hunter region property management specialist using our Concierge AI solution. Leah Jay responded to 99.89% of more than 14,500 inquiries without any human interaction, including sending 104 tenancy applications. Talk about time saving: Leah Jay property managers went from 1,200 emails in their inbox to zero while providing 24/7 accessibility and responsiveness to consumers.
Cassandra Lantry, General Manager for Leah Jay (pictured), said, “One customer had a 31-minute AI-powered conversation without any human interaction from us, and they were very happy with the outcome. Our data shows the peak of inquiries take place at 10pm, presumably after the kids are in bed and mum and dad are on the couch watching TV and scanning real estate sites.
“The technology is simply brilliant, and the future of real estate. It allows us to focus on meaningful interactions with people, while the AI reads emails and inquiries, understands what consumers are asking, and answers their questions - accurately, quickly, and appropriately – any time, day and night,” she said.
The Australian Financial Review shared some of Leah Jay's experience in this feature article too: AI opens new doors in real estate business.
Streamlining inspections and leasing enquiries
A lot of inspection tasks, both for showing the property to prospective tenants and routine checks throughout the tenancy, can be automated. Instead of taking 15 prospective tenants through a home (one-on-one during current COVID restrictions in many places too), a video or virtual tour can be created and then just a final in-person inspection for short-listed tenants can be arranged to confirm the suitability.
Routine inspections can be automated too. Tools like deep learning can learn to identify differences in photos to check for damage – it’s like how Google Photos recognises faces; but spotting changes like a dent in the wall, or a carpet stain in a property instead.
Then there’s the job of actually managing enquiries and assessing applications, taking around a further 5% of a property manager’s time according to Propic data estimates. A lot of initial enquiries could be effectively managed by conversational AI tools – both freeing up property manager time and providing customers with responses faster so they can get the information they need to take action.
Better for property managers AND consumers
Reducing time on administration and issues management means more time for relationship development. Moving home is one of the most stressful life events, so making that process easier for people builds loyalty (and referrals) and reduces property churn.
As well as freeing up property manager’s time by removing time-consuming and mundane administrative tasks, people-first intelligent automation can result in better outcomes for consumers too.
In addition, automation helps to manage margin pressures, as landlords look to reduce the fees they pay for property management. Market innovators, like :Different, are embracing technology to offer a flat-fee service for property management fuelled by technology, driving new expectations for both tenants and landlords on how property needs can be managed. If tech-driven providers are providing a cost-effective and responsive service, doing things the same labour-intensive way you’ve always done isn’t going to remain a viable option.
We estimate it costs more than $1000 per property in property manager time to coordinate maintenance requests. By using AI to triage tasks and automate contacting a landlord for approval, costs can be significantly reduced. Systems can build a database of expected costs for types of repairs, for example to fix a toilet, and set data filters for the value of repairs that require landlord approval.
Automation has increased the consumer demand for immediate information and short turnaround times on applications. Fintech has meant sped up loan applications, chat bots are providing instant answers for simple customer enquiries, and even medical processes are being streamlined. So why should a tenant need to wait hours – or even days in some instances – for an overstretched property manager to get to their request for repairs to a broken dishwasher or leaking shower?
Is automation the answer for putting people first in real estate again?
Real estate professionals have traditionally resisted digital transformation, arguing it’s a people-based business. But that’s exactly why there is the need for automation tools. Time-intensive, low-value administrative tasks have built up in our industry like limescale inside an old kettle. Automating these processes frees up time for improving customer service and building relationships. With a growing number of property managers leaving the industry – and less people keen to enter the field – businesses are facing the challenge of needing to manage more properties with less people.
Rather than driving stress levels higher, automation can provide a win-win outcome of faster response times for tenants and landlords, as well as streamlining tasks for property managers, making more time for relationship-based moments that matter. Moving homes is one of the most stressful life events, so making that process easier for people builds loyalty (and referrals) and reduces property churn.
To arrange a chat about any of the issues raised in this article as they relate to your business, drop us a line via the ‘contact’ page.