Jan 09

Real Estate Ideas for 2013 Part Five: Tech Meets Real Estate

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the fifth and final of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part Five:

Tech Meets Real Estate

There certainly huge opportunities for software/web solutions for things that cause frustrations for owners and perhaps tenants.

I see this as the greatest opportunity of those presented by me.  We are in an industry that has low margins and high expenses. A 10% swing in effectiveness can mean the difference between wildly successful and a miserable failure.

Some thoughts on where tech and rental real estate may intersect:

  • Setting rents to market rates. How much are you losing because your rents are too low or how much have you lost due to your rents being too high and your vacancies languish? Me, too, to some extent. ;-(  What if there was a site that effectively tracked what other rents are at in your area?
  • Property acquisition. Look at what sites like SpotProperty are doing elsewhere, but not here.
  • Vacancy filling Craig’s List used to work, but now there is too much spam and fraud. What about a system where the tenants need to prequalify before actually applying. While pre qualifying without processing the full app  by an individual owner may be problematic from a fair housing standpoint, a proper third party system could work.
  • Tools for  group maintenance supply buying mentioned in Part One of this series where owners could opt into a group purchase of bulk supplies
  • Improved tenant screening.  Things like “Bad Tenant Lists” are illegal, but there must be things that are not being done today or being done in a manner that is more difficult than necessary or simply be improved by tech solutions.
  • A site for creating and serving 5-day notices etc. by certified mail or personal service from your computer without ever having to leave your home or office.
  • Put your solution here…

Where tech helps our industry today

Obviously MLS is the big tech tool of real estate.

The right property management software is essential for all but the smallest of property owners.  Our company uses very customized management software that makes many tasks and decisions automatic or semi automatic. In general a click a button and the machine does exactly what a well trained person would. Receive a WE Energies service termination notice and a work list item is created to check for vacant. Tenant collection actions are automatically determined on amount due, last pay date and how long they have been a tenant. One button and it select the proper notice or reminder for all tenants. Of course there are overrides as special circumstances require special treatment.

Automation of routine tasks frees our employees to think about things that need thought about, rather than thinking about the repetitive and mundane.  Computers are great at those tasks.

Another example of tech meeting rental real estate is the free eviction notices we provide members on the AASEW site.

Outside of MLS, management software, five days and the examples above, there are certainly other solutions and improvements just waiting for us to identify.  Well, waiting for you to identify, as I’ve put all I can think of in the above list.

If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

Jan 04

 Real Estate Ideas for 2013

What can be done collectively to improve our businesses, save costs or generate additional revenue?

On January 1st I posted a list of ideas that I had that some of us could consider to collaboratively work on.  I intend to pursue one or two of the ideas presented and may entertain partnering with the right person or persons.

This post is the third of my more in depth notes on the ideas.  I will post others over the next week or so as time permits me to clean my notes into coherent sentences. If any of the topics interest you comment either on the list or directly to me at:Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com


Part Three: 

Become better at sharing our collective knowledge 

The ApartmentAssoc@YahooGroups.com is good beginning.  However it does not work real well as a reference tool as the posts are not organized by topics nor apparently easily searchable for many users.

What if the archives were used to form a new reference tool, perhaps a Wikipedia style “Best Practices” Guide for Milwaukee rental owners.  My vision is a user contributed, user edited tool that would be a ready reference to many topics we discuss on these lists.

It would include everything that a property manager runs into. Who is the best plumber, what notice do you use for the tenant that decided that partying till 6 AM everyday is being neighborly.

Many of us know a lot, but none of us know it all. Things change in our industry nearly daily.   Contractors and suppliers who were the best may have become expensive  sloppy or retied.   New vendors and contractors come on the scene every day. Bad tenants learn new ways to circumvent screening. Laws change. Judges and Commissioners change their views on how laws are implemented.

Similarly a Mastermind Group could reap benefits if the right people were involved. Here is a good overview of how Mastermind groups work.

Another model is what groups like StartUpMKE are doing in the tech field.  It is similar to what the Apartment Association does, but they seem  more involved in actual business creation.

Lunch with  AASEW board members was an interesting idea.  If you don’t recall this you can read more about lunch with AASEW board members here.  When I look back on our prior attempt, I think this would work better if the sponsor board members would set a date, place and topic.  Then if there was enough interest for that particular meeting it would move forward.

Bottom line: There is power in shared knowledge and we should do more to harness that power

Jul 05

Many of you know how I raved about JOTT.com, a service that allowed you to call in from your cell phone and leave yourself a message.   When you returned to your office you had an email with a fairly accurate text of the note you just left yourself.

This was one of the greatest boost to my field effectiveness in years.  No more little scraps of paper, no more forgetting something – it was near perfect.

Then Bam! They discontinued the service as of May 3rd.  I felt like I lost half of my brain.

Over the weekend I tried a new service.  ReQall.com.  I like it.  In fact I like it a lot. It’s like having the other half of my brain back!

Dec 27

The Wisconsin State Bar Association has released a white paper on scanning/ document imaging.  While the piece is obviously aimed at lawyers, their suggestions and ideas apply equally as well to our industry.

Here is a link to the 20-page white paper, “Hardcore Scanning for Law Offices of Any Size,”

Dec 08

Every year around this time people focus a bit more on planning, all part of that New Year’s Resolution thing.  While planning should ongoing and not be restricted to the last month of the year, I too kick off the beginning of every year with a “big” project with the intent of fundamentally changing some aspect of our business.

This is the first of a handful of ideas that you could use to make 2010 more productive than 2009.

Document Imaging / Scanning instead of paper files

One of the biggest changes in the operation of our business occurred at the end of 2007 when we went from paper filing systems to full document scanning and digital storage.

The scanning project is so cool that I couldn’t help but share it with the readers of the ApartmentAssoc email list.  It is a project that a mom and pop operation working from their kitchen table to large multi person offices.  And it’s relatively cheap. You can get into it for under $200 and quickly save more than that in time and aggravation.

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