ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 6, 2018 – When a tenant moved out of the College Park home Ruth Zimmermann grew up in, the Los Angeles woman decided it was time to hire a Property Management Professional.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get,” Zimmermann said.
Technology is making it easier for owners to keep tabs on their properties as little or as much as they want, whether working with a management company that’s written its own app or a traditional company using common software.
Zimmermann uses Great Jones, a Fort Myers company that manages about 80 homes in Central Florida – and, like competitor Realty Medics, created its own software.
“They’re good at details and communicate with you frequently,” said Zimmermann, who also found the company to be the most plain-spoken of the ones she looked into.
Self-managing a property can work, said David Ritland of Orlando, who does that with a home he owns close to where he lives. But he turned to Realty Medics to manage a property in Deltona.
‘Farther out, when it’s going to cost me two hours round-trip to go to a site, that’s very much so worth the monthly fee to get the property managed,” said Ritland, an engineer at Siemens. Ritland said using a property manager also enables him to consider buying profitable properties that might otherwise be too distant to manage.
“The tenant has a portal they can log into, they can say, ‘Oh, something’s wrong with the microwave,’ ” Ritland said. “The next day I’m getting an email from property management and they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea, can we send somebody out to take a look?'”
Software such as Appfolio can be purchased by traditional property managers looking to eliminate pen-and-paper ledgers or handwritten tenant applications on clipboards.
“It takes a tenant 15 to 20 minutes to fill out an application, and it takes us less than a minute for the initial screening,” said Raul Veitia of Belmont Management Group in Winter Park and a former officer with the local chapter of National Association of Residential Property Managers.
It also enables tenants who want to pay in cash to go to a convenience store and show a code in their cellphone that can be scanned by a cashier and enable the payment to post immediately.
David Diaz, head of operations at Florida-based property management company Great Jones, talks about some useful tips for people who are thinking about being a landlord of a rental property for the first time.
“Appfolio basically can act as your accounting software, marketing software, inspections for the property have templates, and it generates reports for owners,” he said, including year-end forms such as a 1099 for taxes.
Property management is a fragmented industry because it’s localized, said Ben Sencenbaugh, president of Realty Medics, which built its own software after he joined the Orlando-based company about five years ago. It’s grown from 200 managed properties to about 900 in that time, he said.
“To get to 300 or 400 was unimaginable a couple of years ago,” said Sencenbaugh, an Embry-Riddle graduate. “We built our platform so the staff has visibility of what needs to be done – we have dashboards up on the walls in the office to show things that are overdue, things we need to attend to, high-priority items.”
Great Jones head of operations David Diaz, a UCF graduate, worked previously at Waypoint – a company that works with real estate investment trusts and manage thousands of properties. That enables such companies to keep costs low by negotiating lower expenses for repairs or buying in bulk for parts and materials or for appliances and air conditioners.
That’s part of Great Jones’ model as well as it manages about 80 properties in Central Florida and about 200 statewide.
“Property management, for whatever reason, has been a slow-to-evolve industry,” he said. “… We want to provide that same economic advantage of scale.”
Diaz, Sencenbaugh and Veitia all stressed that no software can replace personal attention for either tenants or owners. That keeps properties well managed and keeps management companies growing – as word of mouth remains the most important factor to bringing in clients.
All three companies say their business mostly involves landlords with five or fewer properties.
“It’s really about the trust factor, then having people review it and tell their friends,” Sencenbaugh said.
© 2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.), Bill Zimmerman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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