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Have you considered hiring a web development company to build your property management website?  If this is something you’re currently considering or have done in the past, you know that there are many costs and challenges involved with building a unique website for your business with the features you need.  In this post, we will talk about 3 reasons why going this direction may be costly and time-consuming and why this option is probably not the best route for your business’s online needs.

 

1. Large Time to Get Up and Running

Building a web site takes time and is highly dependent on having a well-thought out set of website requirements and screen mock-ups to ensure that the site will look and function properly for your business.  Typically, paying a web development company to build this for you requires a large of up-front time commitment in addition to back and forth discussion to design and develop the site, which you will be billed for typically at an hourly rate.  Most property managers won’t have the time nor a good understanding of the software development process to be able to take full advantage and have a good outcome and may lead to your project failing even before it gets off the ground.

2. High Costs

A custom website will be unique, however building a one-off website does not take advantage of economies of scale and will typically run into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars by the time it is completed.  Adding extras such as mobile applications and connecting with payment processors to collect online rent payments and linking to other services your business needs will quickly cause costs to increase and become too costly for all but the largest property management companies.

3. Limited Knowledge of Best Practices

Web development firms typically build websites for many different industries and would most likely not have in-depth knowledge of property management.  Because of this, your business may miss out on tried and true designs and features and your web designer will be in many ways fully dependent on what you tell them to do instead of already knowing exactly what to do in advance.  Having someone who understands your business and knows what you need is key to getting up and running quickly and with the right tools and processes to have a strong web presence for your business.

What Should I do to Get a Great Property Management Website?

The best route to follow to get a lower cost and good looking website with the right features you need is to buy a website software package that is built specifically for the property management industry and that is easily adaptable to your needs.  Property management website software packages such as E-Rental Tools are fully-customizable with your logo, layout, and color scheme so that you can get up and running quickly and with less hassle.  Besides saving your company money, a property management software package will have the essential tools your business needs and will have baked-in best practices so that your business can fully take advantage of them without having to reinvent the wheel.

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There are many free property management website and software tools available out on the web and for download that may seem like a good deal, but are they really free and safe to use?  As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.  In this post we will examine several reasons why free may or may not be good for your business.

 

 Will the website suddenly shut down?

There is always a risk of any company going out of business, especially in today’s economy.  For a company that is offering something for free and doesn’t have a clear path to making money to add new features and maintain the software, it’s worth your time to think if they will be around for the length of your business needs.  If they suddenly do shut down you may experience costs such as loss of data, reprinting of paper advertisements and signs that you may have printed to market your business and rental properties, and having to start the process all over again to find a new property management software provider.

How strong is security?

When using a free tool, it can be tough to know just how reputable it is and if it provides enough security to keep your business safe.  There are also different considerations that you need to be aware of for free software that you download and websites that you use.  Downloaded software can sometimes contain viruses that can infect your computer and lead to serious problems.  It is important to always have anti-virus software enabled and updated to prevent you from becoming infected, and this includes both the Windows and Mac.  If you use a free website that doesn’t maintain strong security, encrypts your data, and applies regular software patches and updates, you may risk infection by both viruses and having your password and data compromised.  For the average person understanding computer security can be a complex task so sticking with a tried and true solution can be the safer approach.

Is it really free?

Many free tools are financially supported through advertising, which can be good and bad.  If advertising is both minimal and effective a free tool can be a good choice for a new or smaller property manager to get a presence on the Internet.  This model provides an alternative for paid software by creating revenue for its owners by displaying pop up ads and sometimes selling information collected from people who use the website, for example demographics, location, and patterns of use.  Some of the more reputable advertising-supported websites do provide usable tools and we suggest that if you choose to use them that you do your homework and read reviews to get a good understanding of how they work.  Finding objective third-party reviews on the Internet can be a big help to understand what others think about the software you are considering for your business.

If you are a small property manager or just starting your business, free property management software may be the right fit, especially if you are on a tight budget.  As long as you do your research and make sure that the software is reputable, by all means go ahead and use it.  If you are growing in size and want to maintain a great customer experience and have the security of knowing that technical support will be there when you need it, a paid approach may be best.  If you are using free property management software, what has your experience been using these tools?

Sunday, 27 January 2013 18:02

3 Ways to Retain Your Tenants

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If you have been a landlord for any significant period of time, you are well aware of the effort and costs involved with tenant turnover.  So what makes a tenant more likely to want to stay in your rental?  In this post we will discuss 3 ways that will make your tenant more likely to stick around come the next lease renewal.

 

 

1. Be Responsive, Address Problems Quickly, and don’t “Cheap Out”

When a tenant calls about a problem do you respond in a timely manner?  When something breaks do you fix it right away or let it go for a few weeks without an explanation?  When you do fix a problem such as a broken refrigerator, do you put in the cheapest one you can find in a color that doesn’t match the décor of the kitchen?  Besides buying matching appliances, most people want to be proud of where they live and having a home that looks presentable to friends and family is important.  Find and resolve issues before they become actual problems, for example by scheduling time for a yearly maintenance checkup.  When a tenant calls or sends a maintenance request through your property management website, acknowledge that you got the message and fix problems quickly.  An unhappy tenant is one who has to call several times to get something fixed, and if your tenants are constantly having their lives disrupted by leaking faucets, broken toilet, and other maintenance problems you may find that it costs more in turnover that for the actual repairs.

2. Make Tenants Feel Special

Do you hand your tenant the keys and never follow up with them unless there is some sort of problem?  We suggest that you periodically reach out to them once in a while and keep in touch.  This can be as simple as saying hello the next time you’re out at the unit, by including a short note along with their monthly rental invoice, or even a quick email asking how things are going.  Many of these simple gestures can be done quickly and easily if you have a property management website that offers these features.  You can be as creative as you like, such as sending a Christmas card or a small gift during the holidays or a gift basket with a new lease or lease renewal.  Do all that you can to give them a reason to stay and to tell others about how great of a landlord you are.

3. Have an Easy to Use Online Tools

If you’re reading this blog post you most likely either have a property management website or are looking to get one.  In today’s internet-connected world, having convenient online property management tools are in many ways expected of a property manager, especially with the younger generations of renters.  If your renters are inconvenienced by mailing in paper checks and having to call your office when something breaks instead of simply filling a form out online, you may be causing extra headaches that will make them think twice when comparing your rental to that of another company who does offer these services.  A great property management website can easily pay for itself through reducing turnover and decreasing the time when you have an empty rental not generating revenue.

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Does your current property management website look outdated and boring? Have you been recently thinking about updating it but don’t want to go through the hassle of finding and hiring a web developer? If your website was built 2 or more years ago, technology has greatly improved and setting up a new property management website is much easier and hassle free than in the past. In this post, we’ll go over 5 reasons why now is the perfect time to upgrade your technology and take advantage of the latest in property management website tools that will save you time and money to run your business.

Reason 1: Have a modern and professional look

When a landlord or renter goes to your website, what do they think of it? Does it look professional and is it user friendly and modern? Whether you are trying to attract new properties to manage or fill vacancies, the quality of your website and how it looks will have an impact on the decision of whether or not someone chooses to use your company. As they say, image is everything, and a bad website looks bad for your company.

Reason 2: Keep up with your competitors

How does your website stand up to competitors in your area? If you already know who your biggest competitors are, do they have better property management website than you and are they offering convenient services online? Even if they don’t have a high-quality website, this may be a great opportunity to upgrade to a more modern design and look like a premium property management company to anyone who finds you on the web.

Reason 3: Take advantage of new technology

Can you collect rent online, accept rental applications, and maintenance requests? Today’s renters are internet savvy and are increasingly demanding services to make their lives easier. From a property manager’s perspective, being able to edit the content of your property management website yourself, list rentals with pictures and videos, and have access to view when a tenant has paid their rent may make it well worthwhile to upgrade.

Reason 4: Automate to save time and money

Are there any services you currently offer that take a considerable amount of time and that you wish were automated? Online rental payments are very easy to automate and will save you time to open envelopes and make a trip to the bank. Booking maintenance requests and not having to lug around rental application forms are other great candidates for automation. Just point your tenants to your website and let it do the work for you!

Reason 5: Advertise more effectively

Do you wish that your website acted as a great advertising platform for your business out on the web? Are people able to find your company online and how is your ranking on search engines? If your website isn’t coming up in a Google search, it could be because your property management website hasn’t been optimized it is easily searchable. A new website that’s optimized for search engines will allow you to be more easily found online and may save costs that you had previously spent in traditional advertising.

As technology becomes increasingly powerful and easy to use, now is a great time to take advantage of the latest improvements to make your life as a property manager easier. With E-Rental Tools, our websites are upgraded regularly with new technology as it becomes available, saving you time and money in the long run. Why not consider 2013 your year to upgrade to a beautiful new property management website?

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You have a great property management website that really shows off your business. Your properties are all listed with descriptions, pictures and videos, but you aren’t getting many potential renters to contact you for showings. You think it may be because you just aren’t getting a lot of visitors on your website. How do you go about increasing your traffic and getting renters to look at the properties you have for rent?

The Internet is complex and increasing your property management website traffic is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important. Unfortunately, it is not a quick fix and requires some time and effort on your part to see a payoff. In this post we will touch on a few areas of SEO to give you a better understanding of exactly what it is and how it can help to make your property management website more popular on the web.

Research

Doing the research and understanding where your company fits on the web are important to get new insight and know how to position your business. The easiest way to begin is to use a search engine such as Google and start with some simple searches to glean new insights. For example, what comes up when you do a Google search for your company name or for rental listings in your area? What do you find when you search for your competitors? What do you see when you search for rentals in your local area, for example using the keywords “apartment for rent Chicago”? While you go through this process, begin to think of keywords that you can use for your business that accurately represent what your potential renters or customers would type when trying to find a business like yours.

We recommend that you keep a list of these keywords and use them in your property management website content and also in property listings. Why? Because search engines occasionally visit your website and read through it’s content to determine what your website is about. They then use this information to show in search results when someone types in certain keywords into their web browser. By helping these search engines to better understand your content, they are more likely to display your website as a link to click and ultimately drive more traffic to it.

Creating Great Content

To get the search engines to show your website to searchers, one of the best ways we’ve found to improve your search results are through having great content on your property management website. Your content will provide benefit in several ways. First, and what may seem most obvious is that it gives value if someone goes to your website. We recommend taking the time to write good content for your website pages and descriptions for your properties when you enter your listings on your website. Strong property listings help to not only give potential renters a clear vision of your rental, but also gives the search engines information so that they can understand you’re a property management company and send people to your website.

This post just touches on the field of SEO and how it will have an impact on your property management website traffic. Besides your website content, there are many other factors that affect how search engines will rank your website on the Internet. With E-Rental Tools, we have built-in features that allow your website SEO to be optimized and drive more traffic. If you would like help with the complexities of SEO, we offer a service that can improve your popularity on the Internet and drive traffic to your website. Contact us to find out more about how we can help to drive more traffic for your business.

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When you think of property management advertising, what crosses your mind? Do you still use “For Rent” signs, classified ads in the local newspaper, or nothing at all? What kind of response rates do you get and how do you manage all of the phone calls requesting more information and property showings? If this sounds like the typical time-consuming and expensive way that your property management advertising has been done in the past, we have some great news for you! We’ve recently started offering a new feature that will allow easy advertising of your rental properties across many of the most popular rental listing websites on the Internet.

Just how does this work?

It’s simple! With only one button click from your E-Rental Tools account, our “Advertise” feature pushes your property information to over 10 websites such as apartments.com, zillow.com, padmapper.com, and others where they will be featured in searches when potential renters are looking for properties on the Internet. Property information including your amenities, photos, availability dates, a more will be sent overnight to these websites and your ads will be up and running within a day. If a renter likes your property, they can easily contact you through a contact form and you will get an email with their information. At your leisure, you can determine if they are a good fit for your rental.

What are the costs and how long does my advertisement run for?

For each unit that you advertise, the listing will be shown for 30 days at a time and can be turned off with one click whenever you choose, for example if you rent your property or will be out of the office. Our listing costs are very competitive and are just a fraction of what you would pay to advertise on each of these websites individually. You won’t have to worry about looking for your credit card each time you want to advertise since we automatically charge your credit card on file for each 30-day period that you choose to advertise for. Sounds easy enough, right? Rental advertising has never been so simple, just click a button on your E-Rental Tools website and let the renters find your property listing with ease.

Contact us today to take advantage of this new feature and to learn more about how you can simplify your property management advertising efforts. We are sure you will see better property management advertising results with less time and effort than how you have advertised in the past. What are you waiting for, take advantage of this great new feature today and see just how easy it can be to advertise your properties across the Internet.

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When you started your property management company, did you stop and think about if your company name also had a great (and available) internet domain name? Chances are, you probably had a million other things on your mind and an internet domain wasn’t high on the priority list, if it was on the list at all. Just like having great property management website design attracts the right renters, having a great domain name works in similar ways. If you’ve already done a search and found that your company name is not available or doesn’t translate well into a good domain name that is easy to type and remember, don’t fret. There are still many good options that we’ll discuss in this post.

 

Your Domain is Available

You’re in luck! We suggest you register your chosen domain quickly since anyone can purchase it at any time. However, before you register you may want to do some research to make sure it truly is the best domain for your business. Do a Google search and see what comes up when you type in the name to see what you can expect your customers to see when they search for your business. Also, are you including unnecessary words or characters in your domain name, for example does it contain “LLC” or have hyphens or other characters that are difficult to type or remember? If everything is looking good and you’re ready to snap up that domain, the .com address is preferred and will be easier for your customers to remember when entering it into a web browser. Remember, having an excellent domain name is highly important along with having good property management website design.

Options for When Your Domain is Not Available

If your domain name is not available this creates problems, but all may not be lost. Can you shorten the name or choose another extension, for example .biz? Be careful here though so that you choose a name that is different from others who have may register similar names so as to not draw bad traffic to your website. A simple Google search should help you here. You may also do a search through whois.com to determine the contact information for who currently owns the domain and offer to purchase it from them. Do you use any special design features as part of your property management website design, for example do you have a company mascot? This may also be something that can be included as part of your domain as another option to differentiate yourself from others out on the web.

Domains for Search Engine Optimization

If your name isn’t available or if you want to have great Search Engine Optimization, choosing a name like “yourtownapartments.com” may be a good choice, for example the domain chicagoapartments.com. How does this work? Search engines use keywords to match and return websites that are similar to what someone has typed into the search box. For example, a potential renter in Chicago types in to the Google search engine “Chicago Apartments”. Since your domain name chicagoapartments.com matches the two keywords that the renter typed, your website would come up higher in the search results which would bring more traffic to your website. Assuming you had great property management website design, the renter would likely spend time on your website looking at what apartments you had listed for rent.

These are just three options that you may encounter when trying to find a great domain name for your company. When the time comes to get that domain, we’re available to help you every step of the way with making the domain name choice that is right for your business!

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So you are using rental property management software to run your business and list your properties. You’re able to find qualified renters, but the process is taking more time and effort than you would like. You believe there might be a problem with your online property listings, but you aren’t quite sure how to make them better. If that scenario has crossed your mind, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve the quality of your listings and make them much more appealing. How can I easily do this you might be asking, well read on!

 

Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

As you’ve heard many times before. a picture is truly worth a thousand words. The first thing a renter typically looks at are pictures of the property to determine if they are interested. It’s definitely worth the time and effort to take at least three or more great pictures to post to your website and also include a video walkthrough. While you can use your cell phone for this, typically the quality is not good enough to really create professional looking photography. We suggest investing in a good digital camera that takes excellent pictures and can also record video that you can post to YouTube if your rental property management software supports this.

Create a Description That Sells

Does your description really sell the property? Does it make a prospective tenant get that warm, fuzzy feeling that this property speaks to them and could be their next home? If not, it may be time to rethink how you’re writing property descriptions. We suggest using an upbeat and friendly tone that generates excitement and has a great call to action to create urgency to come see the property. Also, make sure you accurately list all of the amenities in your rental property management software so that renters get the full picture and you don’t end up attracting someone who has a pet but you forgot to check the “No Pets” box.

Don’t Forget Social Media

When you list a property for rent, does it just sit on your website or do you actively post a link to Facebook and Twitter to advertise that a new listing is available? It only takes a few clicks on Facebook to post a link and is very easy to sow the virtual seeds for your property listings. We strongly suggest using Facebook since it supports pictures and can be easily passed on from one person to another or through “Liking” your property listing. If you aren’t taking advantage of these tools, we highly suggest that you try it out and invest the time to learn how they work with your rental property management software to more easily advertise your properties.

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Are you still using paper rental applications that your prospective tenants fill out when showing your properties? What if your tenants could securely submit their rental application information and pay the application fee online? In the age of the internet, you no longer have to worry about managing all those paper forms and maintaining a mess of records in your filing cabinet. New tools are available to help organize your rental applications and even accept the rental application fee online, virtually eliminating trips to the bank and saving you time, money, and hassle. Just how easy is it to accept rental applications online? Continue reading to find out more.

Rental Application Form

The online rental application starts with a secure rental application form on your website. Then tenant will go to a rental application though a link and fill out the form with all information you normally use for background and credit checks. Since sensitive information is collected from tenants, it’s important that this information be encrypted to protect against identity theft. Also, the online form should be customized for your business and should contain rental application questions that are required by law for your state. A typical tenant would fill out the online rental application form with all of their information, pay any rental application fees electronically, and it would then be routed directly to you for review and background and credit checks.

Manage applications online

What good are accepting online rental application forms if there is no easy way to view and manage them?  After online rental applications are submitted by tenants, being able store and later view the information online in an easy to use way is essential to replace the traditional filing cabinet. With E-Rental Tools, we offer an easy to use solution that lets you review applications and manage the complete workflow as you process them through our rental application forms dashboard. The dashboard allows the property manager is to view and search all online rental application forms right from their website and efficiently process credit and background checks much quicker and easier than with paper forms.

It's a no-brainer, allowing your prospective tenants to submit their rental applications online and allowing you to view and work new online rental application forms and process them as you run credit and background checks helps to save time, eliminate paper and document storage, and keep your business organized.

Saturday, 23 June 2012 12:31

3 Steps to Rent your Properties Faster

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Why is the rental process so painful for many property managers? Writing up “For Rent” advertisements, posting online and print ads and signs, and controlling costs are no easy task. If these advertisements are not reaching the right renters, it may feel like the whole process is just a lot of wasted time. We feel that there is a way to make the process easier by taking the time to identify the tenants who would react best to your advertising and marketing, and that apartment management software can help to streamline the rental process and take much of the burden off of property managers. In this post we will discuss what you can do to identify and advertise to the tenant who would most likely want to rent your property.

Step #1: Identify Your Ideal Tenant

The first step in the process is to understand what we call the “ideal tenant” for your rental and segment them into groups so that you can advertise to them most effectively. What do they do with their time? Where do they hang out? What newspapers and websites do they use? Going through a brainstorming process to identify these traits can help so that you better spend your time on reaching tenants where they are most likely to be. For example, if you manage rentals in a college town your ideal tenant would probably be college students, 18-25 years old, attending the university, that read the college newspaper and website. You can get as detailed as you want to help target these renters as precisely as possible.

Step #2: Advertise Where They Hang Out

Now that you have identified your ideal tenant, ask yourself where they are most likely going to see your rental advertisement. In the example in step #1, we identified that they read the college newspaper and website so this would be a great place for you to advertise your rentals. Also, be sure to keep in mind how can you adjust the wording of your advertisement to appeal to them. Your apartment management software may allow you to advertise only to certain websites, for example to Craigslist.com which can also help to target your demographic. If you are in a high foot traffic area maybe a “For Rent” sign would be a candidate. Or, if your ideal renter only reads the newspaper then that would be the way to go.

Step #3: Use Metrics to Track Progress

What good is a strategy if you can’t determine if it’s effective or not? Keeping good metrics is important to understand how well your advertising campaign is working and is important to make sure you aren’t wasting time and money in the wrong places. If you use online contact forms on your website, a great way to keep track of how your tenants found your rental is to include a field on the page to ask how they found your site when they fill out the form. Your apartment management software may also be able to track keywords to your website so that you can get a better understanding of what search terms are being used to find your website through search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

These three steps should lay a good foundation for you to begin to get a better understanding of who your renters are and how to best reach them for the least amount of cost and also determine how effective your efforts are. How do you plan to better understand and target new renters?