DGS 26: Rentec Direct – Property Management Software that Cares
If you are frustrated by the support or lack of support from your property management software, you will be interested in this show. Today, I am talking with Nathan Miller, from Rentec Direct. The one thing I keep hearing about Rentec Direct is that they have fantastic customer service.
This is really unique because we don’t often hear that property management software has amazing support. If you want to know what makes great support or are in the market for new property management software, you might want to give this episode a listen.
[02:35] Nathan formed Rentec, in 2007, because he wanted to make landlords lives simpler
[03:19] Nathan has a background in software development and he was also a property manager
[04:59] In 2009, the free version of Rentec turned into a real company with additional functionality
[06:11] Why someone should choose Rentec Direct they know the software and the rental business
[10:08] Why Rentec is profitable and how they treat clients and employees
[11:23] Number one challenge with software is getting people to use it
[13:09] Fine tuning features to save time for property managers which creates huge cost savings
[14:25] Many SaaS companies have a lot of inefficient clicks. Rentec was designed more like an application so that everything can be done with one click
[18:24] How Rentec has the best support team and live chat
[21:25] How they offer free migrations to help with the difficulty of switching property management software
[23:55] Integrations and APIs to work with other software
[26:20] Rentec Direct is cloud-based and can be accessed from a web browser
Jason: Welcome DoorGrow Hackers to The DoorGrowShow. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors and expand your rent roll, 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.
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I’m your host, Property Management Growth Hacker, Jason Hull, the founder of OpenPotion, GatherKudos, ThunderLocal, and of course, DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
This is episode number 26 of the DoorGrowShow. In this episode, I’m hanging out with Nathan Miller. He is over Rentec Direct and Rentec Direct is a property management software that I’ve heard great feedback from and about. What I’ve heard about Rentec Direct is that they have fantastic customer service.
If you use property management software that’s not Rentec Direct, you probably aren’t saying that, right? This is not a common thing I hear about some of the other major players when it comes to property management software. Nobody generally says, “Man, they have great support, or, “I really enjoy being part of that software.”
This is really unique and I think you’ll really enjoy this. If you’re shopping for property management software, you may want to have to listen. If you’re frustrated by the support on your existing one, then, you probably going to want to check this out. Let’s get to the show.
This is Jason Hull here with the DoorGrow Show and I’m hanging out with Nathan Miller of Rentec Direct. Nathan, tell us a little bit about you, your background, and then let’s get into Rentec Direct. I want to hear about it.
Nathan: Cool. Sounds good. Thanks for having me, Jason. It’s exciting to be here. I’m just chatting with you, this is great.
A little bit about me and Rentec, Rentec formed back in 2007 because I personally saw a need to make landlords lives simpler. I was managing properties myself, my own properties, and I got a handful of them. Once, I got five or six properties under my belt, I felt like I was just overloaded on paper. My shoebox, per se, of proceeds was overloaded and there was no possibility of me finding a receipt from 2005 from Home Depot if I had to.
Nathan: My background is in software development and at that time, I went and I checked, I looked at what applications were out there because I just knew there had to be something that would help me as a landlord be more efficient and keep track of rules, my money, and maintenance on my rentals. I searched and Quickbooks wasn’t going to cut it. Any other products that were out there, like the big property management softwares, Yardi, RealPage, and stuff, they were definitely cost prohibitive for someone my size. I couldn’t find anything that was satisfactory for me.
Being a software developer, I went ahead and decided to write something. I started with me as a template and wrote a software that would help me manage five rentals at the time. While I was writing it, I grew my rentals, turned into seven and eight but as I was writing it, I decided to also make it available to other landlords that were in my same position.
Since I couldn’t find software out there that would help me, I assumed there have been other landlords that have the same problem. I just made it an application that anyone could use completely free and it wasn’t pretty. First version of Rentec was pretty darn ugly. It’s come a long way since but we amassed, in just a couple of years’ time and this is just me working on it on the backend and maybe answering a few emails here and there, we got almost 600 landlords using the software.
That turned into a huge group of clients at the time, free, but clients that were giving me excellent feedback as to what this program could do for them. This is around 2009 now, I formed the company, hired a few people, created a development team, and we started developing all this stuff that I’ve long wanted and turned into a real company. It was originally designed for landlords and we’ve had a lot of response from property managers since then.
A couple of years later we introduced Rentec PM which adds trust accounting, and adding property managers, and enhance permissions into the system to support them as well. It’s 2017 now and we’ve come a long way. The software’s beautiful, it works really well. We’ve got over 13,000 clients using it and we’re just really happy where we’re at.
Jason: That is really cool. We hear a lot of big names all the time. Usually, I’m hearing PropertyWare, AppFolio, Buildium, and so I’m guessing that most of the audience hearing this will be wondering how do you differentiate, what’s the difference between these other platforms, and why should somebody pick Rentec Direct?
Nathan: You’re right. For property managers of the size we typically deal with, we don’t compete with Yardi and RealPage so much but we do hear Buildium and AppFolio, very commonly those come up. We share customers, trade customers because our application, there’s the feature set—actually, all three—our excellent software, the feature sets are very similar in a lot of respects, all the core features exist for maintaining your rentals and doing proper accounting. All three systems and including PropertyWare, I have less experience with theirs but I’m assuming theirs also has all the core features built into it.
I think where we really shine and why someone might relate with our company better than some of the others is we are number one and we’ll always be number one for customer support. If you go online, for example, and you search for property management software reviews, we’re at the top of every chart. Our clients just fall in love with us.
When they call and they talk to someone, and they find out that we can help them or we’re based in the U.S. We not only know the software really well, but we know their business really well. A huge reason for that is when we’re hiring both for our sales team and our customer support team, we’re hiring people who abandon the industry, instead of just anyone off the street to fill a seat. We do a very in-depth interview and we definitely favor someone who’s been in the property management industry.
We get a lot of calls. People will call and ask us things that aren’t really related to the software but it might be related to the business. 9 times out of 10, we can help with that too. We’re going to keep doing that. We have absolutely no intention of changing that. That’s the first thing that comes to mind, few other things though is we don’t have any set of fees. People can come in, they can sign up for a free trial, they have no set of fees, and no contracts with our company.
We built Rentec Direct with the idea in mind that we’re going to re-earn our client’s business every single month. If for any reason they don’t like us or the software’s now not working for them, or they have a need, maybe, that we don’t serve, then we’re definitely not going to hold them to it and because everybody is on a month to month with us with no terms, there’s zero risks in anyone trying our software.
Jason: I love that idea that we re-earn their business every single month.
Nathan: Yeah. I do too. I wish every company was like that but I know some companies can’t. They have stockholders and demands on their pricing and they need those contracts. Another thing that’s not feature related but I feel like when I talk with an owner of a property management firm, most property management firms they don’t start with millions of dollars of investment. They start with a couple of properties maybe their uncle wanted them to run and they decided to do it full time, and then eventually they hired another person, another person, another person but they did it all on their own. It was either their own cash they put into it or it was hard earned work that just got them to grow. We’ve done the same thing. We’re a very scrappy bootstrapped company that we’ve grown 100% organically from day one.
Jason: You don’t have a lot of other people telling you how to run your business. You don’t have investors and since you’re bootstrapped, your company is probably profitable.
Nathan: Absolutely. We’re quite profitable and I would say if you had to look at the four companies we’re talking about, they’re in our space.
Jason: That’s a differentiator.
Nathan: It’s huge. I would say because of that we are quite profitable. We don’t have massive expenses and we have nobody telling us how to run our company other than our clients. We listen to our clients, we develop for them, and run our company for them. To me, personally, it’s about our clients and our employees, and I want both of them to have the most stellar experience of their lives if they’re using our application.
Jason: You have fantastic support staff, no set of fees, free trial. You’re already profitable and you bootstrapped your company starting out.
Jason: You’re not investor backed.
Jason: Your number one priority is actually doing what you say, which is re-earning their business every single month and pleasing your constituents, your clients. These are all really cool differentiators. As far as your software platform and how that works, one of the biggest challenges I’ve noticed with software, like the number one challenge with software is adoption. Right?
Jason: What that means for those listening, the number one challenge of software is adoption, what that means is just getting people to use the actual software. Making it easy, and making sure it’s intuitive, onboarding it. The number one differentiator whether a company loves or hates their software is usually just ease of use, just how easy it is to use. How do you feel your software compares in terms of ease of use and being easy to use?
Nathan: Excellent question. I actually love talking about this because we’re almost 10 years into the company and I’m still directly involved with a lot of the development that happens. Where my involvement happens is usually in finalizing the finished product before it goes out for our clients. A passion I have is saving people time. It started with me 10 years ago needing to save some time and it carries through to today.
When we’re developing a feature, one of my demands on us as a company is that feature be the most efficient way that a property manager can do it. A good example to portray how this works is I recently saw a video, some other company in our space released a video about their brand new way to pay their owners. I was like, “Cool.” It’s good because every property manager spends a ton of time paying the owners.
I watched the video and in this demonstration video, they were explaining how amazing the feature was. It took them about three minutes to go through and pay one owner. I said wow, that’s insane. If you have 100 owners or if you have 500 owners, you’re spending a ton of time doing that.
When we developed that feature, we went through it and we went through probably 15 revisions to turn that process into about 15 seconds per owner instead of three minutes. What that means for property managers is instead of hiring five people to handle the finances, they’re hiring one.
Nathan: That’s a huge cost savings for any property management firm. That’s a good example of just one feature and how we look at every feature when we deploy it.
Jason: I’ll point out, that’s the hidden cost. That’s the hidden cost of about getting cheap software. The hidden cost is that cost gets pushed onto the shoulders of staff. A really stupid thing a business owner can do is say hey, I’m going to save a few hundred bucks on software on a monthly basis and then turn around and hire somebody.
Nathan: You nailed it. Exactly. We’ve thought this through a lot and we did this from the beginning. We designed our application to work more like an application on a website. You’ll notice most software as a service companies in our space, and otherwise, when you go to do a task you’re usually clicking on something, then you’ll click into the subsection of that, and you’ll have lots of clicks to get where you want. I didn’t like that. At the very beginning of this, I don’t want this to really feel like a web application because websites are quite inefficient if you’re working in them every day and trying to get work done.
We design ours more like an application and by the easiest way to demonstrate that is if you look at like a list of properties or tenants within Rentec Direct, you can right click on anything and you have instant access to all the pay, receive a payment, post an expense. Everything that you want to do with one click, you can do it, instead of going through one or two different menus to get there. We’ve noticed that the end result is it saves a lot of time.
Jason: Yeah. Another challenge I’ve heard about some of the other software platforms is the accounting. The accounting, not being as robust, or them having to put everything into whole another system. Some companies that are using some of these different software platforms, some of your competitors are hiring third party companies just to do all the bookkeeping and keep all the records and everything intact.
Maybe you can touch on the accounting side of the software because that actually given rise to a couple of other software vendors that are competing with some of the big players. Just the accounting piece.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s a big question that is very relevant. I would say most property management software applications, Rentec Direct included, we’re focused on accounts receivable more than we are accounts payable. We do that exceedingly well and that flows through into the tenants experience of paying online and everything.
We’re in the accounts receivable very deep in that we reach out and provide tools that some of the larger accounting packages, QuickBooks, SAP, or something can’t provide, they’re much too broad service. What we’ve done is we’ve provided a direct synchronization to QuickBooks because there’s some accountants and some property management firms that they need to use QuickBooks. It’s just like they demand, QuickBooks is the familiar thing and they demand it.
What we did instead of saying, “No, you have to do it our way.” We say, “You can do all your accounts receivable to Rentec. Your property maintenance, you get your owner portal and your tenant portal. You get all this really cool stuff that makes you stand out as a property manager.” But since maybe we’re not super strong on the payable side, you can interface and just copy all that information to QuickBooks. You can do it whatever ports they can do it, you can do an export, or we have a direct synchronization utility which copies the data in automatically.
We’ve covered it that way rather than going through and deviating. We’re so client driven and we’ve got this feature request list that’s probably 300 features long and we do what most people want. Accounts payable hasn’t really risen to the top. When it does, we might add that in but right now, we want to do what we do really, really well.
Jason: Great. Sounds like you’re doing that. What else should people know about Rentec Direct if they’re looking at their current software, and they’re frustrated, and their getting fed up with it. What else do you feel are getting asked a lot on your sales calls and on these conversations where people are asking about your software?
Nathan: Most people ask us, “Will you pick up the phone if I call?” That’s probably the biggest question we get when people call us. Of course, the answer is yes. We will continue to do that and we’ll continue to have the best support team out there.
Another thing we just did recently is we added live chat. We did it to our website first, and now we’ve added it in our application. I didn’t know how that was going to work at first but it actually turned out to be amazing because a lot of people, myself included, if I have a quick question, I’ll much rather click chat, ask my quick question, get the answer and then move on with my day. A phone call seems high maintenance to me and some people feel the same way. We added that option so people can ask quick questions.
Support wise, if you’re having any challenges with support with what you’re doing right now, you wouldn’t have that challenge here. The other things I could probably say is trying out our software, we’ve eliminated all barriers. It’s 100% risk free in so many different levels because we offer a free trial, you can try out the software without paying us a penny. We don’t require contracts. Even if you get through that trial, you’ve started using the software, you’ve started paying us, and it doesn’t work out two months later, you can get out.
I have a personal commitment that every time, when we started charging for this back in 2009, what I said is, “If we’re going to charge $1, I want to save them $10.” If we can’t do that, if you can’t stand up and use Rentec Direct, and if you pay us $1, I want you saving $10 somewhere. It’s going to be your tax preparation, you’re going to get more owners, you’re going to have less vacancies. That’s like my commitment to all of our clients.
We’re just here to provide a really amazing experience to everybody. In some ways, everybody has their own flavor of how they work and their needs. A lot of clients come to us because they have a pain point. Honestly, most people that comes to us aren’t using anything. They’re still using a spreadsheet and not able to provide online payments. They want to be able to provide online payments because their younger tenants demand it. Those are services that we definitely provide. I’d love to show them off.
Jason: Cool. Related to that, switching is really painful–switching property management software. What’s the process like? Because a lot of people listening to this may already have property management software. Hopefully, my audience is fairly tech savvy and they’ve got something going on. Maybe you can touch on that just a little bit. How difficult is it to switch from AppFolio, Buildium, or PropertyWare? What does that look like?
Nathan: It’s a big decision and if you make the decision, it is a time investment. What we do to help anyone coming from a different platform is we offer free migrations. We’ll take that data, we’ll put it in our system. All you have to do, for example, you take one of those platforms, you export out the properties and you export out the tenants, and more or less, you provide us spreadsheet data, usually that’s how it comes out, we’ll import that into the system for free.
There are some more complex cases where the data can’t be exported and it does require a lot of manual work. We do have some specialists here that do that and we do it really efficiently but if it’s going to take a huge amount of time to manually do the process, what we tend to do with that is we’ll also do that and that’s probably the only instance where we might charge an upfront fee but what we do is we credit the entire fee back to the subscriptions. In effect, it ends up being zero cost also.
What I would advise anyone who is having challenges with their current software and they can’t work it out with their current company, I just want all of our clients to try to work it out with us if they did have an issue first. I would say that’s your first step. Second, try out the software, definitely make sure that it’s going to work for you. Try out the trial, get in there, make sure it looks good and works for your processes. If it’s us that you’re trying, then contact us, show us your data, and we’ll tell you exactly how we can help you move it.
Jason: Fantastic. I’ve heard people spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to tackle migrations. The fact that you’re even helping with part of that is a big deal. I think a big trend with software lately is integrations. You mentioned QuickBooks which is awesome. Do you guys have an API? Or is this a plan of you guys to have some open API because that’s something I’ve heard as a complaint about some of these other guys, they have no API. There’s a close guard and they don’t play nice with anybody else.
Nathan: That’s very true. We’ve noticed that in few migrations that most of the software out there doesn’t want people to leave so getting the data out can be challenging. We figured out ways but it’s exactly right there.
For APIs, we’re in the process of improving it right now. Also, we have an outbound API and it’s not complete. At this point, it’s not complete because it doesn’t export everything but what the purpose of it today is exporting property and tenant data into inspection applications. Those mobile inspection applications where you can go out and take pictures and do a quick inspection of a property. We export that data into those systems and that’s a good chunk of the data–the property and the tenant data. It doesn’t include the accounting data right now or vendor data but we’re getting there. I would anticipate as our clients ask for more integrations like that, we’ll just do nothing but expand upon it.
Jason: Awesome. Any plans of maybe inbound APIs if they’re using some property management like maintenance coordination or they’re using scheduling software for vacant rentals. These are some of the tools that property management are doing to offhand their time. I know that AppFolio started to step into that space or these features that you guys are offering.
Nathan: We don’t have an inbound API at the moment and the reason for that is we’re very demand focused on what our clients have asked for and that hasn’t come up a lot. If it does, I would say that we’re very capable of doing it and if there’s some good applications out there that people want to do with bidirectional synchronization or something with, that’s something we’re certainly open to and capable of doing.
Jason: Okay. That is cool because others are not, so that would be really great. I’ll connect you with some that I think would be really fantastic.
Nathan: Yeah. That would be great.
Jason: Some of the software that are out there, there are some property management software that are on a computer. Fixing all the DRD systems and a lot of them are cloud-based. There’s even some that are VPN-based, which is really weird. Is yours VPN-based, cloud-based, software-based so that people understand how are they getting into this application software that you have.
Nathan: Ours is cloud-based. You can access Rentec Direct from anywhere on the internet as long as you have an internet connection. Anywhere in the world, you can use our application. We’re not even blocked by the great firewall of China. You can get to us anywhere. All you need is a web browser, you can log in.
It’s also mobile optimized so your tenants, they can log in and make payments. They don’t have to zoom, pinch, and everything. It fits their screen really well. Owners and tenants can log in and use that really easy on mobile devices. It’s more common for them.
Although we’re based here in Grants Pass, it’s where all of our staff is. It’s a beautiful place to live. Not the most technical place for server farms and stuffs. What we do, the data is cloud hosted, and it’s online. We make use of some of the cloud providers like Amazon and such out there to have very high reliability no matter where in the world someone is.
Jason: That’s good.
Nathan: We also take a step beyond that. If you’re on the internet a couple of days ago, you notice half the internet was offline.
Jason: Yeah, there was the Amazon.
Nathan: It was terrible.
Jason: It was terrible. […] server was having an outage.
Nathan: If you use online software as a service products, you might have experienced that but I’m really, really, really happy with the way we’ve designed Rentec and the redundancies that are in it. Having it distributed around the world and not relying on one single service like some of those sites that went down, we had zero outage.
We just have a stellar, amazing uptime and it’s just exciting. I was happy we didn’t receive any calls when everyone else is having trouble.
Jason: Yeah. We got quite a few calls about PropertyWare. Hence, some other software during that outage which was frustrating for us as a business, because that’s not even our software. But it impacts part of their website.
Jason: Does your software have the ability for a company like ours to take one of your clients and build a website for them and put in the rental listings into the site, either Vi frame, Java Script, or some sort of code snippet, or widget.
Nathan: Absolutely. There’s a couple of ways that could be done today. Right now, we actually, with every one of our clients we provide them a free website and free property listings page. That just comes with any Rentec subscriptions. You get that and it’s also part of that. This is also part of that API we were just talking about. You can export your properties and all the details of those properties in XML to pull into any custom website also.
Whether you’re a really tech savvy website designer and you want to show the data embedded inside your website using that XML feed, you can do that. Or if you just want to be just simple and link to a fully featured website that we provide you already, you can do that, either way.
Jason: Do you also have, maybe, a strip down version of the page that can be used, leveraged just via an iframes so that the data is actual, real-time from the server instead of just via the feed?
Nathan: You definitely can. The listing page itself, we’ve had clients who have put it into an iframe and it does it, and then it loads the data right off from our server real-time, and it gets it to them and they can put their head around the top, then their listing’s right in the middle, and their footer.
Jason: That’s nerdy stuff that probably only I care about. This has been really helpful. It’s really cool. You have to give me a tour of the Rentec software sometimes so I can see it.
Nathan: I would love to.
Jason: I’d love to see it because I get a lot of questions about property management software from my clients. Everybody listening, how can they get a hold of you guys or check you guys out?
Nathan: The easiest way to find us is just go to our website, that’s rentecdirect.com. All of our contact information is up there. We’ve got some product demos that are up there so you can watch a few quick videos to get a really good grasp of the stuffs that’s in the software.
While you’re up there, since you’re in the industry, if you click over to the blog, one thing that we’re focus on and we do a lot of is helping our property managers to use our software and property managers in general do a better job and be more competitive than the property manager next door.
Up on our blog, we have a ton of educational resources that are up there that will give you tips whether you use Rentec Direct or not. We’re just always pumping them out. You can check that out too.
Jason: Cool. We’ll need to do some collaboration on some future stuff.
Nathan: I love it. Yeah, let’s do it.
Jason: That’d be fun. Nathan, I appreciate you taking the time out of your day and hanging out here with me on the DoorGrow Show, and telling us about Rentec Direct. Those of you listening, as you heard, you can check them out at rentecdirect.com. Check that out and again, Nathan, thank you.
Nathan: Thanks, Jason.
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