What’s an easier way for realtors to get referrals to property managers? A free mobile tool, rather than just another app on your smartphone.
Today’s guest is Vitaliy Merkulov from Renter Inc., a company that builds software for realtors and property management businesses to be relevant, knowledgeable, and engaging.
[03:05] What’s next? Building mobile app to generate leads.
[03:50] #1 Source: Property management businesses grow via referrals.
[04:57] Purpose and Point of Development: Mobile app gives you more realtor referrals.
[05:47] Features and Benefits: Realtors request free rent analysis, receive push notifications, provide referrals, and view referral status.
[08:10] Rent Analysis: Property manager is first to know who’s leased property, what property should lease for, and what the market suggests for time it takes to lease it.
[11:40] Relationships: Get customers when they’re hot. Provide a tool that gets them there, gets them faster for more chances to turn them into leads.
[14:09] Resource: App also offers latest trends, news, and events in specific areas.
[15:18] Fear and Future Opportunities: Evictions and moratoriums will be lifted, and the real estate/property management industry tends to do well in these situations.
[17:37] Open Rates: App is opened more than email; provides easy access to people.
[19:44] Installation and Onboarding: Enable permission to receive push notifications.
[21:30] Transactional and Global: Two types of notifications.
[22:45] Status of App: In development phase, planning to be released mid-June 2020, and four beta testers in place.
Jason: Welcome, DoorGrow Hackers, to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.
DoorGrow Hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not because you realize that property management is the ultimate high-trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
My guest today is Vitaliy. Vitaliy, welcome to the show.
Vitaliy: Thank you.
Jason: You’ve been on the show before. Your company is Renter, Inc. For those that aren’t familiar with you, why don’t you give us a quick background of you are, and then maybe give us an update on Renter, Inc., and then let’s get into this new thing that you’re here to talk about today, which is how realtors can start getting referrals to property managers in a more easy way.
Vitaliy: All right. Thank you for having me here again. Last time I was here I believe it was about a year ago. Renter, Inc. is a software company that builds multiple software. One of the ones that I was here for last time is called Rental Verification software. What that does is it automates the process of giving rental verifications to your tenants that are leaving your property.
You have tenants that are there, they’re getting ready to leave. That new prospective landlord contacts you, asks you for references. Usually, it takes 10-15 minutes to do that, and then you have to chase—make sure that they give you consent forms and all that stuff. With our software, Rental Verifications, you’re able to integrate with Propertyware and AppFolio, and it automatically generates their rental verifications for them so you don’t have to spend your time on that.
The last time I was here, I was saying hey, we need some beta testers for AppFolio, and we were able to get them because of this show. Right now, it’s up and running. Everything is good. What I want to talk about today is this mobile app that we’re building. This came from talking to property managers, asking them what their real problems are. Some of them came back and said our biggest problem is not really automation right now. Our biggest problem is getting more leads. That’s where this app idea was born. I’d love to talk to you guys about that.
Jason: Let’s get into it. The number one source for most property management businesses in growing businesses, if they have a healthy property management business, is always word of mouth—it’s referrals. If you build up a business that has lots of doors, it’s a machine that builds itself. It just naturally starts to grow as you have more tenants and more owners, and you’re doing a good job, and providing good service, more and more people are referring. It kind of takes on a life of its own.
For a lot of property managers, this is a real problem. It’s a struggle to get this machine going, to get that engine going. Then even for the larger ones, they’re always like how can I pour more gasoline in this fire that is our biggest fire? How do we make this work? You and I have been talking about this software quite a bit, right? We’ve gone back and forth, and I guess you could say I have consulted and given you a bunch of ideas on this as well. Where are you at with this, and what have you come up with? Let’s tell people about it.
Vitaliy: Let’s try to get into what is the point of this app first, and then I’ll tell you where we are in the development of this app. The main point of this app is it will give you more referral apps—realtor referrals. The way it works is instead of you going to realtor events, meeting realtors, and giving them your business card and beg for referrals, you would simply give them your own app with your own logo, which will have very good tools in it that you would provide to these realtors. That they would simply go to either App Store or Android store and download your own app.
This app will have capabilities such as realtors will be able to request free rent analysis directly from you, and you would be able to respond back inside your own app with your own rent analysis. They will receive push notifications, you will receive push notifications, and everything is done through the app. The other feature is going to be referrals. Realtors will be able to give you a referral from the app. You will see and get a push notification saying that there is a referral coming in.
The big part here, the realtor will be able to see the status of the referral. For example, is the referral converted, has it been dropped? All of that will be able to be seen in the app. The other benefit that this app has is it’s not only an app that is useful for you, the property manager, it’s also a tool for a realtor to be basically an expert in investors’ type of world. You will be able to push important information to them. For example, local laws and regulations that these realtors need to know when they’re working with an investor in the area.
It makes you relevant, it makes you more advanced in knowledge, and it gives them this free tool rather than just another app on their phone. It also gives you push notifications, which is a much, much more chance of them interacting with you. The other biggest thing out of them all is the fact that it’s a mobile app, it’s on their phone and you can send them push notifications. They will be on top of your mind compared to all of those property managers who gave them their business cards and begged them to follow up with them.
Jason: Let’s touch on some of this real quick because I’m sure we’re going to lose people if we’re just throwing out all the features and benefits. When you first came to me with this app, I was really negative about it. I mean, let’s be honest. I was like nobody wants another app on their phone. Realtors aren’t going to want to just download some app and give referrals. The missing piece, which you just threw out there like it was not that big of a deal, but I want to point out it’s a big deal—that rent analysis.
Realtors really do want to be able to say to their investor clients here is an expert analysis, but they have no idea. They have no idea they could go to Zillow, they could go to these places, but they’re inaccurate, and they have problems. Nobody knows better than a property manager who’s leased out two or three properties in that neighborhood what that property should realistically lease for, or what they could get, or what the market is suggesting based on the time it takes to lease a property. All this kind of stuff.
They have all these anecdotal data in their head that you’re just not going to be able to pull in sometimes because they’re the boots on the ground. They see this. This gives agents a resource that they can come to you, provide, basically, a lead to you like here’s this property. Here’s the owner’s detail. Here’s the stuff. You’ll be able to provide that service. They’re going to feel safe that you’re going to give this person back to them when it comes time to sell because you’re going to be, as a property manager, the first to know when this person wants to sell. Why?
Because they’re going to reach out, and they’re going to want to know what the property may be could sell for. They’re going to have this need, so you can then refer them back to the agent. The idea, once we figured that out, there’s an incentive, there’s some benefit for the agent to look like an expert, to keep the client, to receive that, and then I was like all right. Now, this is starting to make sense, Vitaliy. This is something I could sell people on. I could say hey, you should do this. This will be a good idea.
The idea that agents can see the transparency, they can see where a lead is at, almost like a CRM. They can see where it’s at in the step in the process. Because this is one of the concerns, if I send somebody a referral, I want to know if they’re being taken care of, I want to know how it’s going. I want a little bit of feedback. Did you get them on as a client? Are you going to pay me a kickback for this? Is there like this? That’s what the property manager and the real estate agent, they want to see all of this stuff. This app facilitates all of that.
The agent’s going to want to keep this app on their phone because they’re going to have this easy resource they can go to. It’s a tangible anchor. Psychologically, anytime they’re stuck on anything, they’re like oh, well, this person is a real estate investor and they want to turn this into an investment property. The next step is we need to figure out what could this property rent for if they buy this property? You can start building that, connect that relationship. It allows the agent to look even better, to look like they have a team of resources, to look like they’ve got things at their disposal, and you get to be that resource as a property manager.
Did I sum that up, somewhat? Is that okay?
Vitaliy: Yeah, of course. Let’s imagine this. The realtor is out there showing the property to investors. They look at this property, 123 Main Street, and the investor says how much can I get rent for? Instead of you waiting, going to your office, and then reaching out to your favorite property manager, the realtor can take out their phone, and go to your own property management app, and request a rent analysis right there and then, and forget about it. It depends on how fast you are, you’ll get a notification or a push notification into your own app, and you’ll be able to provide a rent analysis within seconds or minutes.
Jason: This rent analysis is going to have the property owner’s info on it, right? You request that from the agent. If the agent wants to request this info, they’re submitting their client’s info like here’s the client’s name, here are their details, so that you get a lead as a property manager. Then you can communicate with the agent and with the owner.
Vitaliy: Yeah. Much faster and you always got to get your customers right when they’re hot, and this is when they’re hot. They’re looking at this property, they want to know what is it going to rent for, and if you can provide them with the tool that is able to get them there, get them faster, there are more chances it’s going to turn into your own lead.
Jason: You start building that relationship, and at that point, you’re just being helpful. Ultimately, you don’t have to be salesy, you’re just providing value, you’re being helpful. Here’s the rent analysis. Here’s what you might want to do. Then if you’d like us to come out and check out this property and give you an idea of what changes need to be made, we’d be happy to do that in order to get it ready. You can start to build this and start this relationship without having to start selling.
The agent is saying this is a trusted resource, I’m going to connect you with this company. They’ll give you a rent analysis, they’re going to do all of this, and they come with that authority already established.
Vitaliy: Most property managers do offer this free tool on their website, but once the realtor is on the field, they’re not going to pull up their phone, and try to go on your website, and request rent analysis there. It might be harder to do. If it’s on their phone, there are more chances they’re going to do it through your app rather than finding and looking for a website of another property management company. Hoping that that website is accessible through their phone.
Knowing that it is a resource because this app will not just have rent analysis and referrals, it will have latest trends, latest news, and events that are happening in specifically your area, there are more chances that they’re going to already know about your app because you’ve been pushing push notifications to them about the latest events. They will have you on top of mind, and they will know to go to you rather than to another property management company.
Jason: Right now, with coronavirus COVID-19, all the drama that’s going on, there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of uncertainty, there’s going to be a lot of shifts—evictions, moratoriums are happening. Once these things start to lift, there’s still going to be a lot of questions. People are looking for answers, and there’s a massive opportunity here coming in the future. If the real estate market doesn’t recover quickly from all this complete pause that’s happened, then maybe a real estate industry may suffer and struggle, and then the property management industry, usually by default, tends to do well in those situations.
People shift from buying to renting, that people transition to being accidental investors. They can’t get places sold as the market tanks. The property management industry may have a season of significant growth coming here in the next several months or next several years. This would be a tool that would allow you to get that info out like here’s the update. Here’s what’s going on. We even see the president of the United States. He has an opportunity right now to do daily briefings, and his ratings are higher than anything else going on right now, from what I understand.
Everybody wants to know what’s coming from the top. You’re the expert in your market, you’re the expert when it comes to rentals, and so the agents—maybe even landlords might start tuning into this if they’re another audience added into this app. Am I jumping the gun there?
Vitaliy: No. That’s perfect. The main point here is in order to get people to give you referrals, you have to show them value. If you’re just going out there and giving everyone business cards and begging for referrals, you’re not going to get them. You have to give them something back first. With this app, you are giving them a resource that is specific to that specific market. Once you show them that you’ve given them resources, and you’ve given them information that has been valuable, for example, the latest news, and trends, and eviction laws specifically for your area, they will most likely go to you because they’ve heard from you, they’ve seen you.
This app will be opened up much more than an email would. That seems to be the trend, and that is one of the biggest reasons why mobile apps are being developed by larger corporations—is to have that easy access to people. Once a push notification goes out, the open rate is 95%. People will open up that little ding on their iPhone or their Android phone, and they’ll see that red one next to the app, and they will want to open it and make sure that they see what’s going on. The technology has been proven that the fact that the mobile apps do get opened up much better, and they do bring a top of mind much better than anything else out there.
Jason: Let’s compare it to other things. Email open rates are pretty low. We use a software called Drip currently for our newsletter, for example. We have, actually, what’s considered a really high open rate on our emails, but even still, a really good open rate on email maybe is 30% on a bulk email. Maybe, right? If you get 20%, some people still consider that pretty decent. That means the vast majority, if you’re looking at the 80-20 rule, are not looking at the emails. The way inboxes are now set up, they go into weird folders, or categorizations, or spam. Email deliverability is just not a great way to maintain communication or a relationship.
Text messages have really high open rates, push notifications really high open rates. That’s what you’re talking about. There’s a big difference if you can do push notifications versus that. Is there a challenge with getting people to opt into the push notifications, or is this just something they’ll need to educate each realtor they’re bringing into this like make sure you say yes to the push notifications as you enable this app.
Vitaliy: That’s a good point. When the realtor does install this app, it goes through what we call an onboarding. A few pages where we explain to them the point of push notifications first before we give them a pop-up and say hey, allow push notifications, so they will know to enable it rather than just pushing it to them, and most people just say no, I don’t want push notifications. We do think that there is going to be more people enabling those notifications.
I haven’t thought about this, but in the future, what we could do is if there is a notification that comes in, we will display some message saying hey, be sure to enable your push notifications. But if they do open the app, they’ll still see that notification, it just won’t be a push notification. It’s still a much better open rate in that. Does that make any sense?
Jason: Yeah, it does. You’re going to constantly solicit or get them to open permission to do the push notifications if they haven’t done it yet. That makes sense. It will be one of those annoying little red icons probably on the phone app set with a number like oh, man. I got to look at this. What’s going on here?
Vitaliy: I wanted to say that there are two types of notifications there. One is when it’s transactional, so for example, there’s a new rent analysis available. You have given them a new rent analysis, and then they get a push notification saying hey, 123 Main Street has responded with their rent analysis. That’s one type of push notification.
The second type is what we call a global notification, and that is what a property manager of this app is able to send out to everyone. It could be something like hey, if you give us a referral this month, we’ll give you double the price, or something like that. It’s more like a promotional push notification just to get into on top of mind of people.
That is where you have the potential to send it to everyone who has their push notifications enabled, and it will also show up in their notifications screen on the app even if they don’t have the push notifications enabled. They’ll still see it next time they open the app. People are able to use that as a promotional also. There are those two types.
Jason: Perfect. Okay. Where are you at with this app? How far along is development? Do you have people using it? Beta testing? Where is it at? Those that are listening, what would be the next step? If they’re interested, which I’m expecting people to be pretty interested in this, why don’t you give people a state of the union on this app.
Vitaliy: Currently, the app is in the development phase. It’s planned to be released mid-June 2020. Right now, all the features have been defined, they’re ready, and they’re in the development phase. We have currently a few beta testers. RentWerx, which Brad Larsen as one of the beta testers. We have Mynd Property Management as one of the testers. We have another property manager called RentPros. They manage about 1000 doors, they’re a beta tester. Then we have one of the Real Property Management Preferred, beta testers. Currently, we have four beta testers, and the majority of them are in over 1000 doors. Currently, they’re working on expanding in their referral program, and that’s why we were excited about this.
Those who are interested in becoming beta testers, we are only going to offer the beta to 10 beta testers. After that, the beta program will close until it’s available for everyone else. The beta users will get 20% off and then will not get that if you sign up after the beta is over. The benefit of being a beta user is that you obviously get the discount, and also, you’re the one who will determine which features will be developed in the next phase. That’s a really good benefit there.
It will be out mid-June, and then we’ll probably test it for about a month or so, and then July or so, it’s going to be available for everyone.
Jason: I don’t think you’ll have any trouble getting some beta testers with all the people that listen to the show. You’ll get 10, so that’s not going to be an issue.
Vitaliy: Whoever gets in there first is going to get it. We’re not going to allow more than 10 beta testers because we want […].
Jason: Then make sure they’re good ones. Find some really tech-savvy guys because they’ll give you some good feature requests, or gals. Guys or gals, right? All right. Awesome. Vitaliy, this sounds really great. I know I’ve got several clients that would be interested in this. Hopefully, they’re listening to this. On some of my calls that I do with my clients, some of the gals and guys there were keenly interested in something like this.
We’re going to throw this out. By the time this makes it to the podcast, they’ll already be filled, I’m sure. How do they get in touch with you to get on the beta program? For those that aren’t going to make it into that, how can people find out more about this, and where you’re at with this, and maybe even sign up? How do people communicate with you?
Vitaliy: The best thing to do is go to our website renterinc.com, and then there’s a tab on top that says Other Products. Once you go to that, there’s a Realtor Referral App. It’ll take you to a specific page where it doesn’t talk a lot about the app but allows you to schedule a call with us. That will tell us that you’re interested in specifically the Realtor Referral App. We’ll get on the call to see if you’re a good candidate for a beta tester.
If you are, you’ll join, we’ll get your logo and your company information, and you’ll have your own app mid-June. If you don’t make it to the beta test, we will still be able to get you on the call, get you set up, and then once the beta program is over, we’ll get you set up with your own app, hopefully somewhere middle of July.
You can either go to renterin.com, or you could just email firstname.lastname@example.org, and then just tell us you’re interested in the Realtor Referral Program. I’d encourage everyone else to also take a look at our other software that we have. We also have an integration with AppFolio that allows you to request rental verifications and get them back in 24 hours or so. We do that through our Chrome extension that we’ve just built. Take a look at that. We’re excited about the referral app, but our other tools are pretty good too.
Jason: You’re a humble promoter of your products and services. I appreciate that. Vitaliy, thanks for coming on the show. Keep us updated on how this goes.
Vitaliy: All right. Thank you so much. Talk to you later.
Jason: Awesome. We’ve had lots of conversations about this. He’s been picking my brain. Anyway, check that out. If you are a property management business owner, and you are struggling, you’re having difficulty, you want to feel like you have somebody in your corner, we’ve got some great coaching programs available. We also are launching websites. Every week, we’re launching a new website for clients, so check us out. At DoorGrow, I believe we build the best websites in the property management industry, hands down.
If you are feeling even a little bit confident or insecure about your website, go to doorgrow.com/quiz and test it. Grade your website, and see where it’s at. If you get an A, then I guess you need to have a conversation with me or my team. But if you don’t, if you get a B, or what’s common—a C, or even more common—a D, or you fail outright on this quiz, then you owe it to yourself and your business to make sure you’re not missing out on website leads and deals every single month.
One deal is probably worth $6000 lifetime value. That’s maybe $2000 a year on the door. Maybe you’re making $2000 a year, and you can keep going for maybe three years, maybe $6000 lifetime value. If you’re missing out on just two or three of those every month, that could be $18,000 in future ROI that you’re missing out on every single month. That can be a very expensive thing if you multiply that by 12 months over the course of a year. Websites are not that expensive. They’re just not. One door would cover it, so reach out to us.
Anyway, I’m Jason Hull with the DoorGrow Show. Thanks for hanging out with me. Until next time. To our mutual growth. Bye, everyone.
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