Happy holidays everyone! In this busy time of year I’m often thinking about what I can do to reduce the management burden of my parks and allow more time to work on the business or spend time with family.
What types of work are people having done by websites or off-shore workers or friends/teenagers/temp workers? I’d love to continue to improve our operations by using professional services to handle time consuming tasks. We have used people from oDesk before to help flesh out our database and email lists. Curious to know what else is out there.
Thanks for all the generous sharing on this forum. Will
Well, this isn’t a direct answer to you - but rather than outsourcing I’m looking at centralizing as many management tasks as possible to more efficiently run a small-but-growing portfolio of parks.
I have one park closed, another in contract and am looking to acquire more. My plan is:
1 - Eliminate entirely all on-site rent collection.
2 - Centralize phone answering among all parks for the sake of quality control. Phones will always be answered, many resident questions also answered by a central staffer and calls routed to appropriate on-site managers.
3 - Take the application and lease process online.
I would definitely consider offshoring the bookkeeping after a trial run.
Getting an admin (local resource) to handle everything related to procuring dealer licenses, obtaining and renewing park permits, doing bill pay, etc. saved us a ton of braindamage. We’ve also had a good experience with hiring an Accounts Recievable / AppFolio Database administrator through UpWork (Philippines resource).
We have contemplated doing a teleconference lecture on tech, outsourcing and automation. If we have enough interested parties on this, we would definitely put something together. Let us know if you are interested.
Agreed, centralized phone system is working for us as well.
We use AppFolio for leases, applications, and accounting. It is pretty good and getting better every month. At the level which we use it, it’s hard to tell if it’s that much better than Cozy, which we didn’t give a fair chance.
Excited to hear more on this topic. I think there are a lot of repeatable processes in property management that can be systemized and then performed by somebody outside the company. Will
@wilbus - you use Appfolio eh? I was very close to trying it but they refuse to do either a 30 day trial account or a month-to-month option. They wanted a full year commitment with no initial trials. Combined with iffy user reviews of their accounting I decided to nix them - but I really wanted to try it. Instead we are on Rent Manager because it seems so customizable and is used by so many portfolio managers. RM required a year contract but gave us a 30 day cooling off period if we really didn’t like it. Appfolio also says they don’t do phone tech support at any price - which seemed odd for an enterprise product which can easily run over $500 per month if you have a lot of units. Finally, somebody on a forum somewhere said “There’s a reason Appfolio doesn’t offer free trials.” Their e-mail support gets mixed reviews - some rave about it others complain.
Buildium and Rentec both offered free 30 day trials as well, Frank and Dave use Rent Manager, and I believe Jefferson Lilly said he switched away from Appfolio to Rent Manager as well.
RM however, as you know, has a very clunky interface and must be run via RDP - not directly via a browser.
I’d love to hear your detailed experience with Appfolio and what made you go that route. I may be crazy but I’m a nerd and thinking of trying Appfolio on an upcoming acquisition just to run it side-by-side with RM for a year to see which we prefer.
Appfolio, so they claim, has very streamlined processes and a beautiful interface.
I use buildum, my accountant helper swears by rent manager ( and buildum does have some limits ) but RM i feel is not as simple for me to use. We looked at Appfolio as well and they remind me of buildum and have a lot of good features as well.
You’re right, Appfolio is not too flexible on their payment plans. I was having a hard time getting a few of our customers integrated and tried to negotiate a free month because of the delay. They would have none of it.
Are they worth the time and effort to switch over? Sadly, I don’t think we’re the right people to answer that question. I have never used RM, which is the other program that we’d like to compare it to. I have only used the excel/quickbooks combination and AppFolio.
I like AppFolio and the future that it promises, both for the advancement of the software and how our company can grow into the many features that it already offers. Perhaps one of these operators would be better equipped to answer the RM vs. AppFolio question? @jae@CharlesD@Jefferson@BradJohnson
We did some pretty extensive due diligence on RM and AppFolio. In the end we liked AppFolio better because we feel like it is more intuitive to use. We think a user-friendly program like AppFolio will cut down on training time required to get all our people up to speed using it. We also found RM extremely unforgiving - if you didn’t set things up just so, or missed one step or another at any point in any process it can end up being hours of rework and re-configuring. That said, it could still make sense to use RM - everyone in the industry already knows how to use the program since it seems like 90% of operators still use it.
We have migrated from RM to Appfolio this year. Overall, I have been happy with the switch. I think Appfolio provides better quality and experience overall. Rent Manager is much more mature, however, so it provides more full features.
Here is what I like about Appfolio:
Easier to use - the interface is much more intuitive. It’s much easier to access and share information with team than using the clunky remote desktop for RM. We also found the interface in general to be much more user-friendly than RM. Since RM’s hard to use, we ended up not using most of its features like accounting, inspection, online payments, etc. We found we use more features in Appfolio like ACH payments, accounting, online marketing.
Better Dashboad - Appfolio has a dashboard that combines numbers for the properties in your portfolio and it’s pretty easy to use.
Online marketing - I know RM has this feature, but I didn’t find it easy to use. Appfolio’s property website and online guest card pretty good.
There are some areas that Appfolio is weak at. We didn’t realize these until we started really using the software. These are not deal-killers, but pretty annoying nonetheless
Reporting - we found reports in Appfolio to be somewhat lacking. They provide a handful of basic reports, but I like reports in RM much better and comprehensive. We often have to look at multiple reports
Some limitation on setting charges. Appfolio assumes there is one type of rent charge. This causes some issues because we separate home rent from lot rent.
It also has some weird limitations that we had to work around.
Appfolio is not a perfect solution, but I think our team has been more productive with it than with RM.
We’ve always used rent manager and have had no experience with AppFolio. Rent manager gives us everything that we need and their customer support is very good. In addition to that, we have made a number of in house videos for our managers. Our manager training is pretty good now and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a problem with a manager using rent manager incorrectly. RM isn’t perfect but we know how to use it very well at this point. I seriously doubt we’ll look to switch anytime soon.
As for outsourcing, virtually anything can be outsourced to VA’s:
Bookkeeping (we don’t, I still do all of that for our parks)
Marketing (We use RenterText to post Craigslist ads, VA’s to post Facebook ads and search for used homes)
General Admin (We have a personal assistant who is local to us in Florida who handles general paperwork)
Database maintenance and cold calling (All handled through VA’s)
Leasing (We are considering the possibility of having a centralized bi-lingual leasing agent to handle all of our parks. I think it makes sense to train a specialist on this type of activity since a lot of our managers waste our time and theirs on unqualified applicants. Also, many of our managers can’t speak Spanish. We will likely use a VA from Mexico for this or hire someone local to us here in Tampa.)
This is a great thread. It seems like a lot of people get into the real estate business so that they can work at their own pace and on their own schedule. Outsourcing ads a lot of value in this department.
RE: MARKETING. This is one of the biggest time sinks for me that could easily be outsourced. I’d love to hear some details if people are willing to share.
I think @brandon_reynolds and @Jefferson both use a centralized answering service to handle all the incoming calls. How do you all manage that service? Do they answer all calls from current residents as well as potential residents? Respond to emails? Do they post to craigslist? How does that person interface with your park manager to show units?
Thank you all for sharing! This is a great forum. Will
@wilbus I use a company called LongerDays to help answer phones. They are US based and easily trainable. They are a phone service as well as VA service so they can take care of Craigslist postings, email responses, website management and unit listings.