DGS 200: How To Easily Automate Access And Smart Home Technology In Property Management With Bobby Varghese
If you manage short-term rentals, you’re probably well aware of how stressful the process of giving guests a key, code, etc. can be.
In this episode, property management growth expert, Jason Hull talks with Bobby from Jervis, a company that allows property managers to automate code-sharing with smart locks and smart garage door openers and manage smart utilities remotely.
[01:45] Introduction to Bobby Varghese
[06:50] Smart Locks, Code Sharing, and More: Intro to Jervis
[13:55] The Financial Benefits of Automation
[19:25] Where to Get Smart Locks and Products
[22:10] Navigating Technological Issues
[24:20] Jervis for Long-Term Rentals Too!
“Trying to do it all means that you can never do everything correctly.”
“What is your time worth?”
“The biggest expense in the business really is almost all staff.”
“So we would love to help see you grow and we would love to help get the systems in people in place on your team so that you can handle that growth.”
[00:00:00] I tell them, tell everyone, “you can do this yourself. You can open up the Schlage app, the August app, whichever brand app, right. And you can add the locks yourself.” So the thing is, “what is your time worth?” Is what I always ask property managers.
[00:00:14] All right. 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’re interested in growing in business and life, and you’re 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, business owners and their businesses.
[00:00:58] We want to transform the industry, eliminate the bs, build awareness, change the 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 this show. So today I am hanging out with Bobby Varghese. Bobby, welcome to the show.
[00:01:27] Hey Jason. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:28] Bobby has a company called Jervis Systems, which we’re going to get into in just a minute, but Bobby, tell the audience and our listeners, how did you get into business entrepreneurism and eventually into Jervis systems?
[00:01:45] Yeah, that’s a good question, Jason. I have a short term rental in Ashburn, Virginia. A couple years ago, actually, we started in 2017. And I was doing a lot of automation for my own sanity’s sake, right? Just, I didn’t want to be at the property to check a guest in. And also I know how when I want to travel, I don’t want to be confined to certain times. I don’t want to have to meet somebody to go grab keys, things like that. So I was trying to like, replicate the same concepts for my guests. And so I had some brilliant programmers that were working with me at the time for my rent. And we applied a lot of the automation that we use with Jervis today initially for my rental, you know, that’s kind of how it all started. So we were letting guests in automatically letting cleaning companies in automatically, deleting the codes automatically after the reservations were complete. This is in 2017. So back then, Jason, Jervis didn’t exist. Right? So Jervis wasn’t even an idea yet. And then what happened was property managers in Ashburn, you know, the surrounding city communities heard about us doing automation, right? So maybe guests that stayed with me told other property managers and they’re like, Hey, can you do this for us too? Can you manage my property? And so I had a couple of property managers message me through Airbnb, through inquiries, and they were like, Hey, could you manage my property and take on full property management? And, you know, at the time I had a full-time job. I was teaching in the evenings at a local university. I didn’t have the time or the bandwidth to just take on more and more of these properties, but the concept of like building this like a software as a service platform and then being able to offer that to property managers just sounded incredibly intriguing.
[00:03:25] And it’s something that we started the journey in 2019, and then it’s just been learning and growing as we go. You know, lots of relationships over the years. Lots of vendors that we’ve connected with. You know, big brands like Schlake, August, Yale, Masterlock big companies like that, garage doors. And then over the last year we’ve gotten into like the thermostat world. So smart devices and not just access, getting to automate those. And then eventually we’ve got a roadmap this year and into next year of smart sensors and other places we want to get into as well.
[00:04:01] Very cool. So, And give the audience a little bit of background on you personally, so I know who you are.
[00:04:08] Sure, yeah. My name is Bobby Varghese, so I’m the founder of Jervis, as Jason said. I’m a US Air Force veteran. My background is as a security consultant. So, I did well, a little bit of everything. So networking, server administration and security, which really the military got me into. It was not something I ever thought I’d be interested in, and then it just kind of happened. And I found out I loved it, you know, and I got myself my graduate degree in it. I started, you know, getting certifications and eventually ended up teaching by chance at a local university here in security. And that’s kind of my background. And I got into you know, just process improvement, just automation and things as we kept going on. And that’s me as a person and how I got into all this. I live in the northern Virginia area right outside DC so, we’ve got a lot of customers locally in this area and the east coast and pretty much all over the states as well.
[00:05:00] Great. Well, thanks for your service. I think that’s awesome. And I mean, it’s really cool that you come from a technological background, but not just in technology. Viewing everything through the lens, likely of is this secure? Are we doing things the right way? The access matters, you know.
[00:05:17] It does. Yeah. Thanks appreciate you bringing that up, Jason, because that’s actually a principle in everything we do in Jervis. We don’t want to store your credentials, we don’t want to know your credentials, right? So everything that we do with Jervis, when you as a property manager are connecting your devices with us. So we’re going to take you to their login page, right? So that’s where you’re doing the authentication and the authorization to say, Hey, I want Jervis to be able to view my ABC you know, these devices, and then be able to manage them on my RPA half. And then that’s when the grant access is granted. We’re given like you know, a secure token basically that gives us access to it. And that’s how we do all of the management. We make it a business. Philosophy on our team never to store credentials. So if, God forbid we ever get hacked, there’s nothing to steal right with us. There’s no credentials to be stolen, things like that. We do take security very seriously.
[00:06:15] That’s great. Yeah. I mean, even with us at DoorGrow we use a vault system with our merchant provider cause we don’t want to store people’s credit card information directly.
[00:06:24] The liability’s too high.
[00:06:26] It is. It is.
[00:06:27] So if, you know, God forbid, but if somebody hacked us, they wouldn’t have people’s credit card information.
[00:06:32] Exactly. Yeah. That’s smart.
[00:06:33] Yeah. So, yeah, very cool. I like that. So, when AI takes over the world and they hack everything, then they might be sort of safe still. All right. So, that brings up an interesting question. AI is a huge buzz thing right now, so I’d love to touch on that maybe a little bit later in the show. But tell us a little bit about what Jervis does. I’m starting to get an idea just based on what you’ve told me so far, but tell us like, what does Jervis really do and how can it help property managers and it sounds like it’s very much geared towards the short term rental market.
[00:07:08] So we are geared towards property management, right? So, and that can be done in a couple of different spaces. So whether it’s short-term rental management, long-term rental management we’ve got real estate agents using us, using like the master locks to instead of, you know, the old school like realtor access to be able to get into properties because those legacy systems are very expensive from what I’ve understood over the years. So, so we’ve got a lot of real estate agents that are trying to kind of modernize that world and using the master lock systems. So at a core Jervis, what we started with was access management. So smart locks and smart garage doors, right? So we’ve got, we support the MyQ based systems with LiftMaster and then we’ve got the Genie Aladdin and a couple brands like that. And then with the Smart Locks, we do the big players. And then there’s a lot of other smart locks out there, like the Schlages, the August, the Yales, and then also a lot of other companies that are growing in popularity. And you know, there’s. A lot of competitors in that space now as well, right? So what Jervis does is, or what our goal is to streamline your life from a property management perspective. And we’ll use the short term rental world as an example, is as reservations come in, what a lot of property managers want is that the code gets to the guest, right?
[00:08:29] So it gets stored to a lock for the duration of the reservation. Another caveat is that’s important is it’s got to be a unique code. So you’re not using the same code over and over for multiple guests.
[00:08:41] And then the code expires when the reservation is completed. Right. So even after the time completes and the guest knows the code, they cannot use that same code to get back into the property. Right?
[00:08:54] And what Jervis will do is automate all of those steps we just talked about, and then when the code is done, we actually wait one day after the reservation is completed with the code being in a disabled state, and then we’ll remove it entirely. And the reason we keep it one extra day, Jason, is that we found so many instances where reservations last minute, they need to be extended a couple extra hours, an extra day or two. Right. So immediately deleting it when the reservation is complete. We just found that’s just causing–
[00:09:28] they’re immediately locked out and they’re all, “my suitcase is still in there!”
[00:09:31] Exactly. Yeah. Or like, oh no, we need to extend for an extra day. And then you got to go through the entire process of adding the code all over again, which is not hugely inconvenient, right. But it’s a lot easier and quicker to take an existing code and just modify like the time or the date, you know, versus like adding it entirely.
[00:09:53] Yeah. Cool. So you had mentioned a lot of other like smart devices and stuff. So is there, does Jervis go beyond just the front door lock?
[00:10:04] We do. Yeah. So besides access, so out outside of our original world of just smart locks and smart garages, we do smart thermostats right now with the Echobee, Nest, and the honeywell thermostat is coming really soon as well. And the problem that we’re solving with that when it comes to property management is that you as a property manager, you can control the temperature as a guest is walking into the property. So we’ve got two modes with it. We call it guest mode and we call it a vacant mode. So guest mode is that as soon as the guest walks into the property, you can set your baseline that you as a property manager are comfortable with, right? So let’s say you want it to be 70 degrees as a guest walks in, Jervis will take care of that set the temperature. The guests can adjust it during their stay, right? Bring it up, down, whatever they’re comfortable with. When they’re done, that’s when vacant mode or when the guest is checking out, that’s when vacant mode will kick in. And that means that, let’s say in the wintertime, you don’t want the heat blasting. Yeah, in the summertime you don’t want the AC blasting, right?
[00:11:14] So you can set it to a temperature where your pipes aren’t going to freeze, right? It’s that right temperature without increasing your heating expenses or electric bills. And right as the guest comes back into the property or your next guest comes in, Jervis will set the temperature back to guest mode as you’re comfortable with it or what you set it for. So thermostats is something we support now. Later this year, our roadmap is to get into smart sensors. So carbon monoxide sensing, water leakage sensing and those noise sensing things like that. That’s what we will get into this year.
[00:11:51] Very cool. So there’s water leaks or if there’s, you know, some sort of issues going on at the property, they might get notified.
[00:12:02] Exactly. And the goal is, Jason with Jervis, we don’t aim to support every device that’s out there, right? So every lock that’s out there, you can see that we pick and choose the ones that are the most, most stable. Another feature that we look for is that it’s ideally, it’s wifi directly accessible, right? So that’s very important. Other locks will work, right? There’s a lot of older model locks that are using hubs and wifi, adaptors. We support selective ones after extensive testing because we found that having an extra piece in the middle can often be it’s yet another piece that could go wrong, right? Yeah. So if that hub stops working, that wifi adapter stops working, you can’t connect to your lock, right? So, it’s, we pick and choose which devices are best to support, and then we are careful what other devices we get into. It’s important that it solves like a property management problem, right? Because I still have my rental property in Ashburn and we do testing of all the capabilities that we implement, we do it all the testing at my property as well.
[00:13:10] So eating my own dog food type of thing. And I want to make sure that we’re not trying to do it all because I think that is… trying to do it all means that you can never do everything correctly. You may just get to a point where you’re doing everything probably 50% or 60%. But yeah, that’s kind of our philosophy as well. Right? Yeah, it’s probably like the 80- 20 rule. The 80% of the stuff’s probably covered by 20% of the things that you could do, right?
[00:13:37] So, yep. Yep.
[00:13:39] Very cool. So, What problems is this solving for property managers? So if a property manager’s listening to this and they think, well, you know, it’s not too big of a deal to maybe give out a code, do the walk and do this, help them justify switching to using Jervis.
[00:13:56] Yeah. That’s a good point. And if a property manager has one or two properties, I tell them, tell everyone, “you can do this yourself. You can open up the Schlage app, the August app, whichever brand app, right. And you can add the locks yourself.” So the thing is, “what is your time worth?” Is what I always ask property managers. It’s like we charge $5 a month per active device. Right? So, I don’t know what Starbucks charges nowadays, but it’s the price of a cup of coffee. For a month is what we’re charging roughly. Is that worth it for you from an automation perspective to be able to focus on other things? And so, that’s, I think, the true benefit that service will give to property managers. And so I’ll give you an example that applies to multiple properties, but one customer comes to mind for me because we talk about this several times over last year. And they had over a hundred properties, right? And so they had a dedicated person that their entire job was to add codes, remove codes, troubleshoot customer issues of like codes not working, and just putting in backup or giving out backup codes, putting in codes, things like that.
[00:15:08] So it’s one almost dedicated full-time employee or resource or consultant for x number of hours that you’ve assigned for this task, right? Once they set up Jervis, now to automate the process, they were able to move this person to do other tasks, right? They were doing more spot checking of codes or just issue handling, right? So automation is not perfect and again, I try to be transparent with our property managers when it comes to that. There’s a lot of moving parts, right? The booking site has to send the property management system, the reservation or the updates. They got to send it to us. We got to talk to a lock vendor. So there’s a lot of pieces that could go wrong or could be delayed, right. So issue handling, things like that it’s always good to have a person that’s available, especially as you scale to a hundred, couple hundred properties and things like that.
[00:15:57] And so now that Jervis was doing the bulk of the work, they were able to. Reassign this person to be able to do other tasks that were, you know, more beneficial to the company, right? So doing marketing or customer service, answering emails, things like that. So Jervis was able to probably take on 80, 90% of the automation work or the code management work, and now this person’s in more of in a backup spot checking role or a customer service role, and then they were able to take on additional tasks for the property manager. So they were very happy. Obviously it cut down their costs and they were able to maximize like their resources and kind of use their resources more wisely.
[00:16:39] Yeah, I mean, the biggest expense in the business really is almost all staff, right? It’s people and you know, let’s say that team member’s $20 an hour. Well, if they can offset that by just getting these devices, you know, in place. Yeah. It could save them some serious monthly expense, especially if they’re not having to drive around and do stuff.
[00:17:01] It would be pretty significant. So now you mentioned $5 a month per device.
[00:17:06] How many devices typically does a property usually need? Before I answer that, Jason, let me just kind of back up a second there. With Jervis, we have no minimums, right? So there is no minimum number of doors that you have to come in with. We don’t have a minimum threshold of the monthly amount. You could have technically one door. $5 a month and we’ll still treat you at just same way as a customer that has a thousand doors. Right? So the goal with Jervis and all these automation is that you set it and forget it, right? And you shouldn’t have to babysit it unless you run into problems, and then we’ll work with you. But the, to answer your question, typically a home will have at least one door, right? It could be the front door that maybe the property manager puts the smart lock on. We’ve got property managers that go above and beyond that and maybe put it on the front door and also the garage door. Right. So that way, even though like, let’s say the big garage doors, as you get past that, to actually get into the house, you have to get through smart lock as well, right? So then the way Jervis will work is that you can assign multiple locks to the same property. And if a reservation comes in for that property, Jervis will put the same code on both locks and schedule them exactly the same way. And we won’t charge you separately or upcharge you for that capability. I’ve had a lot of property managers ask me, does that cost more? You know, or just give me, you know, they’re surprised because they’re expecting to be charged more for that kind of capabilities. But the average I’ve seen is if you just want smart lock access, one to two doors is kind of like the average. Some property managers are a lot more technology interested I guess. And they’ll put the smart thermostat, smart sensors, you know, then you could start seeing three to four devices per property.
[00:19:02] Yeah. I would imagine in some areas where the temperatures are somewhat extreme smart thermostat would sort of pay for itself.
[00:19:10] Exactly. Yeah.
[00:19:11] Your utility bills for the property easily, so that would make sense. So, all right. Very cool. So what other questions do property managers typically have when they’re trying to figure out why should I use this or should I use this service?
[00:19:26] Yeah, so one of the questions we typically will get is, do you have to purchase locks from us? I mean that’s again a decision business philosophy we made years ago is we wanted to stay vendor agnostic, right? So we don’t pitch one specific product. We decided not to make custom locks. A lot of vendors that are selling locks, they’re reselling other brands, right? Or locks that are white label white labeling locks that are out there, right? We decided not to get into that world. We want to offer just a software as a service platform and be able to support as many devices as we sustainably can, reliably can. And that’s a very important part of it. And so, yeah, so the question I get often is, do you have to purchase a lock from us? And the answer is no. We link on our website to where you can purchase the locks from, whether it’s Amazon, who is one of our partners, but as far as like where we’re linking, but you can get them at Home Depot, you can get them at Lowe’s. Bill.com. They’re very easily accessible locks and devices that are out there.
[00:20:34] So you provide a list of, here are the ones we recommend, here’s the best ones?
[00:20:38] Exactly. And the ones we recommend are the ones that we carefully recommend because good products means less support issues, you know, for us, and that’s one of the things that I have been very careful with from a team management perspective is we’ve got a good team and a lean team, and I want to make sure that we’re not trying to support everything because that just means more headaches when the devices don’t work as expected.
[00:21:03] Right. And I would imagine with the door sensors or the door locks, and the biggest issue is just the batteries and things down, right?
[00:21:11] It is. But sometimes some of the brands, you got to be careful, Jason, like, you know, there are a lot of vendors out there now. If you go to Amazon, just type in smart lock there’s so many of them out there, right? So a lot of them are just companies that popped up overnight and. I always recommend to our property managers, even if you’re paying slightly more. Stick with a brand that’s been around for 20, 30 years. Right. So you know that they’re going to be around if you need support, right? Or if the device fails on you, at least you can go, you know, claim your warranty and get a replacement, whatnot, right? So Schlage, August, Yale, Masterlock, these companies have been around decades, right? So those are always our top picks. There’s a lot of other brands that are out there that we do support. Some of them are, you know, have been around like Igloo Homes has been around for a while. But we’re just kind of careful of like trying not to support it all because it can cause other problems.
[00:22:08] Got it. Cool. Anything else that property managers might be curious to know?
[00:22:13] Yeah, there’s a couple of other questions. I’m trying to think. Let’s see what happens. If there’s a power outage you kind of hit on this a little bit earlier. The locks are supported by batteries, right? So that means that if there is a power outage, your guests can still get in and out of the home. Right? It’s not going to affect access to the property. When we get the reservations, we actually process them two weeks in advance, you know, type of thing. So that way it’s not adding the code last minute on the day of the reservation. That’s one of the things we do not do unless, you know, caveat being though, that if the reservation came in that day, obviously we’re trying to put it on the lock that day, but normally if the reservation came in a week ago, two weeks ago. Well, we processed two weeks in advance typically.
[00:22:59] Yeah. Very cool. So the codes are already in there. They’re not active yet. Until its time it’ll be activated. And so even if the power goes out or there’s an issue or the wifi or internet has a problem, that code’s already in there and they can get in and out during the time of their stay.
[00:23:15] Exactly. Yep. So that’s probably the number two question I get. And then third one I get often is our pricing and. We’re transparent. As you can see from our website, we don’t hide it from you, you don’t have to talk to us first to see the pricing. We just keep it all published out there, $5 a month. We actually made a plan just for the property management system users, and it’s $5 a month. I think, you know, your users will see that it’s very competitive to the other players in the space. And again, I always tell our customers try the different players out, right? We all offer trials, right? So Jervis offers a one month free trial. Everyone offers a trial of some sort. So try everyone out, right? And see there’s Remote Lock, there’s Aperto, there’s Links. Try everyone out. Try Jervis out and see what is the right fit for you, your organization for your needs. And then let us know if you’ve run into any issues or have any question. But those are the three questions I typically see, Jason.
[00:24:18] Perfect. Yeah. Very cool. Well, I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing this with us. So maybe you could touch on, just before we wrap on, how would this apply or be beneficial for long-term management companies and getting vendors in and out? You know, this sort of thing?
[00:24:38] Yeah, the great question again. Yeah, so we do have a lot of property management companies, let’s say with hundred, 200 properties or more, and that’s where our mobile app especially comes in very handy, right? Let’s say they have garage doors plus smart locks, and they’re different brands, right? So they may be like MyQ garage doors, and then you got smart locks from varying different brands. And so what Jervis’s mobile app will do for you is that you can, you know, let’s say you have 10 different teammates, you can assign them access to the mobile app, and then they’ll be able to switch between the properties just in a dropdown, select the property switch very easily. Then they’ll see the devices that you assign to them. So then all they have to do is click a button, and the garage door opens, click a button, smart lock, the door opens, right? Or the lock opens. And then if you drive down the street to your next property, same thing. Just go to the dropdown, select the property, see the devices, click on what you need to open. And so that’s where it really benefits the long-term rental users or the teams. We do have property management companies assigning or giving access to the app to their long-term tenant clients as well. So that way they don’t have to give them access directly to Schlage. Right. Directly to MyQ. This keeps it like one level removed and then kind of transparent to them who the vendor is. It doesn’t matter, right? Like the guest just sees the app, press the button and then they can just get into the property in and out.
[00:26:15] Got it. So the tenant would use the Jervis App. Jervis systems, apps in order to get into, in and out of the property, they can use that.
[00:26:23] Exactly. Yep.
[00:26:24] They would just set up access for them. What about you’ve got this, you know, system for the short term for people to get in and out. What about for long term and short term? What about getting vendors in and out that are not your vendors? Like you need to send out a plumber. How are you creating access codes and do you have plans to integrate with some of this tech systems out there, like Property Meld or some of these sort of things where they’re dispatching their vendors?
[00:26:50] Yeah, so that’s a good point. So down the road we will integrate with those companies, but by contractors I imagine You mean like handyman companies?
[00:26:59] Or cleaning companies, things like that. So the access right now can be granted through our server systems dashboard. So you can assign temporary access, right? So just like you do with the cleaning company, instead of a reservation, when you’re adding the user, you’re going to be selecting a start date until a firm end date, right? Or it could be the same date, different hours, starting hour, ending hour. And so that’s the way property managers can do it right now. But similar to how we integrate with all the property management companies that are out there, our goal is like, to connect with these companies like Property Meld, like things like that you said. And then be able to import in the support request, you know, for a specific property. And then assign a temporary code as we go. Just like that, just like we do with reservations for properties as well.
[00:27:53] Yeah. Very cool. All right. Yeah, that sounds really cool. Well, Bobby, thanks for coming on the DoorGrowShow. Sounds like a really cool system. I think the price sounds really easy and fair, and so I’ll be really curious to see what sort of response he yet from being on the show. And I hope people check you out. How can they find out more about Jervis?
[00:28:14] Sure. Yeah. They can reach us on all the social medias. Were under Jervis.systems. And then the best way, honestly, is to contact us is go to our website and just use the Contact Us form. It’ll go to directly to me and our support. So we’ll get back to you on our questions or anything like that or answers to any questions. And then like we tell everybody is sign up for a trial. You got nothing to lose. We’ll give you one free month to try it out. And if it doesn’t work for you, we understand no hard feelings and but if you run into issues, let us know.
[00:28:47] We’ll be glad to work with you to fix it.
[00:28:49] Very cool. All right, Bobby, thanks for being on the #DoorGrowShow.
[00:28:54] Yeah. Thank you Jason. I appreciate your time. Thank you for having me. All right, so if you are a property management business owner and you are looking to grow your business, you are tired of being stuck in the role, in the things that you’re doing that you really don’t want to be doing. You’re wearing certain hats you don’t want to be wearing. Reach out to DoorGrow. We would love to help you optimize your business. We would love to help you come up with strategies to grow and scale your business so you can easily be adding a hundred, 200, maybe even 300 doors a year without spending any money on paid advertising. So we would love to help see you grow and we would love to help get the systems in people in place on your team so that you can handle that growth. So if that is something you’re interested in, you can reach out to us at DoorGrow.com and make sure to join our free community DoorGrowclub.com. It’s our Facebook group. We have some free gifts for you with the fee Bible and some other cool things. We would love to give you some free stuff and have you join our community. If you are a property management business owner, we hope to see you.
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