4 Real Estate Tech Trends (and how to improve your business without buying into them)

It is difficult to predict which technologies and innovations are hype and which are built to last. However, it is much easier to identify the true consumer pain points that led to a new innovation on the marketplace. You don't have to buy into every latest technology fad in order to reap real benefits from keeping a pulse on new technology and trends in your industry. Here are 4 technology trends, startups, or products that are founded on ideas you can use to improve your business.

1. A Tech Startup is Buying Vacant Units in NYC to Re-Lease Them

Tech startup REZI is raising millions of dollars to buy leases on vacant units in NYC. The premise is they believe they can buy these leases at a slight discount and then rent them much faster than traditional landlords. It is a bit hard to believe in New York City, a region notorious for high demand, high willingness to pay, and long waitlists for apartments. REZI believes they can rent units faster by simplifying the tenant application process and that long tenant applications and approvals leads to a market inefficiency they can exploit. Even if REZI's business is not sustainable, it is founded on a solid premise: The rental application and approval process is long, cumbersome, and leads to units being vacant for much longer than necessary.

When was the last time you reviewed your entire application and approval process? Is every step necessary? If you were to find ways to save time, how much could you improve your occupancy? If you lease 100 units per year and are able to shorten your approval process by only 1 day, that's over 3 months of potential rent you can capture.

2. Manufactured Housing Is Booming, But For How Long?

The manufactured housing sector has had lots of demand but limited supply (see this interview for more). Traditionally, this sector has been unattractive due to the look. However, with startups like Blokable, this could change. Blokable designs beautiful manufactured homes that are easy to ship. If Blokable is successful, manufactured housing is more likely to be normalized. This means it should behave more similarly to traditional housing markets.

Blokable's premise is simple: manufactured housing doesn't have to be unattractive. More attractive manufactured housing will help bring down the cost of housing generally. 

How can you apply this to your business? Well--rental homes don't have to be unattractive either! Very low cost improvements can greatly increase the appeal to a rental home. Beyond just fresh paint, there are low-cost ways to greatly increase the appeal of a home. Tasteful lighting fixtures, strategically placed tile floors, and wall outlets that contain USB chargers are affordable ways to increase a rental's appeal.

3. Real Estate Firm is Trying to Help Buyers Visualize A Home After Repairs

This is a bit related to the last trend: ugly homes aren't appealing to anyone. A real estate firm is using augmented reality to help buyers see what a home will look like after repairs. This fits a theme that any property manager should internalize. It is difficult for people to see past a cosmetic flaw in a home. This firm is likely investing millions to help solve this problem without actually making the repairs themselves.

As a property manager, you don't need to invest millions. Instead, you need to fix the cosmetic problems before showing off a unit to prospective tenants! Have you ever been in a rush to rent out a unit and shown it to renters before it was rent-ready? It probably stayed on the market longer than it should have, or attracted less rent than it could have otherwise. 

4. Simple Technology Can Still Help You Stand Out

Let's be honest: the real estate sector is a technology laggard. Have you been to an event where someone was extolling the virtues of Google Calendar? How many brokers can you think of who struggle with email and still prefer phone calls, even when their busy clients want email only? 

Here's a rundown of some technology to improve your real estate investing business from an industry publication, Think Realty. It offers simple tips like having an email list management tool and using text messaging for communication.

The truth is, the standards are very low, so low tech investments can still help you stand out massively. Consider a free customer relationship management tool like HubSpot. For managing your mailing list for free, MailChimp is a great option. 

Text messaging has much higher engagement than emails (for example, at Latchel our work order surveys sent via text message get between a 33 - 50% completion rate depending on the demographic of the tenants surveyed; emails get less than 1% completion). While there are no free options, they are worth exploring to increase engagement. I would NOT recommend them for general marketing and instead use it as a way to engage with existing clients with relevant and timely information.