Robert R. Rowley PS

Attorney at Law

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Property Management in 21st Century

In a world where YouTube TM videos and Facebook friends are common cocktail conversations, building and sustaining relationships with tenants has become increasingly difficult, forcing landlords to reach beyond familiar strategies and techniques.

Maintaining an on-going positive relationship with renters and prospective renters is critical to a landlord’s long term success.  Landlords must blend communication messages across all available media channels for the tenants to achieve a continuous brand experience.  It is important to have an integrated marketing strategy that consists of print, Internet, mobile and social media.

Some 80% of all Americans carry a cell phone.  According to the most recent study by the U.S. Census, some 31.7% of all Idaho adults live in a wireless-only household, and in Washington, the rate is 26.4%.  In other words, anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of all residents of both states only have a cell phone and no fixed land line.  If businesses do not adapt to this channel, they will, eventually and certainly, suffer an economic disadvantage compared with those business that catch division of mobile data communications and take full advantage of that channel.  By using technologically-savvy marketing tools such as text messaging and the mobile web, property owners/managers can increase their marketing reach, better identify with their potential target demographic and generate more rented properties.

  • According to the Center for Media Research, text messaging is the most preferred advertising approach among over two-thirds (69% of adults and 64% of teens) of tenants.
  • 52% of mobile users access the Web via their mobile phones, and 35 to 44 year-olds are leveraging this technology the most, with 60% spending time each week surfing the Web.
  • 25% of mobile users access video on their mobile phones, with 88% of this group spending less than two hours/week, which indicates a growing appetite for rich media with shorter duration viewing patterns.
  • 25% of mobile users are accessing social networking sites from their mobile devices, with one in seven respondents between the ages of 23 and 34 doing so for more than two hours/week.

As an owner of a large number of residential rental properties, I have tried to integrate more non-conventional means of advertising and contacting tenants and prospective tenants.  For the past five years I have set up a very simple Web site (www.ajjproperty.com) where I list any vacant properties, which includes numerous photos of the property, further detailed information about the property and a link to a rental application which a prospective tenant can fill out and either submit by email or facsimile.

What I found was that many tenants are nothing more than “lookey lous” and as such I try to push them whenever possible to go to my Web site.  If the prospective tenant wants to set up a walk-through of the property, I always require them to walk around the property and visit the Web site where they can view the numerous photos and obtain an application.  It is only after they have gone through that step that I will consider showing the property.  By doing so it helps me screen out those that are merely curious from those that are serious and will go this extra step.

One of the more recent steps that I have been undertaking is the use of text messaging for property management, both with current tenants and prospective tenants.  As to prospective tenants, when I have a prospective tenant call about a vacant rental property which is currently advertised on Craigslist, the Spokesman Review or on my Web site, I will ask them if they use text messaging.  The prospective tenant will almost always say “yes”, and as such I indicate to them that I would like to send them all of the pertinent information by text messaging.  I have yet to encounter a prospective tenant who says “no”.  Then, using my smart phone (I currently use an i-Phone 4), I have downloaded a 99¢ application which allows me to generate very detailed text message templates which have all of the pertinent information regarding the vacancy and a separate template as to the application process.

I will then send them two texts, with the first text being all of the information relating to the vacancy and the second text which contains all of the information relating to the application process, to include a link to the information where they can obtain an application at the property and as to where the application can be obtained from my Web site.

When a prospective tenant responds back with further questions I will then send them a text message back asking them to specify their questions.  I have found that the requests for information can be answered within just a few simple text messages.  The advantage of using text messaging as opposed to telephone call is that I can control the time frames that I want to respond to the prospective tenants, and it is more concise.

I have found that using text messages to correspond with prospective tenants to be a very effective method of making it easier to respond to prospective tenants.  Further, using text messages to be in contact with my current tenants has been especially helpful when dealing with trying to follow up on collecting of overdue rents, and maintenance requests.  Many tenants use text messaging and as such it is a great way of contacting them.  I use the same i-Phone application and have established preprogrammed templates where I am inquiring as to the rent, reminders as to the payment date, reminders that all maintenance requests need to be in writing which creates a paper trail if there is any question arising as to maintenance and repairs of the property.

It’s time for landlords to accept the shift in media and move forward.  Since the purpose of marketing is to generate revenue, fill vacancies, and/or drive brand awareness, landlords need to find ways to do this effectively; and embracing an integrated marketing strategy is the first step.

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