DGS 47: Using Technology to Digitally Verify Your Applicants with Robert Hsu

Providing proof of funds is a problem that most property management companies face with tenants. Every property manager and landlord can benefit from better data faster. Technology can change the game of verifying tenants.

Today, I am talking with Robert Hsu, of FinRET, about how you can use the latest technology to digitally verify your applicants’ income, account balances, and cash flow. He is someone who has combined his two passions and areas of expertise, real estate and technology, into an entrepreneurial business.

You’ll Learn…

[06:20] Issues property managers deal with regularly.
[06:45] How FinRET works with banks to prevent fraud.
[07:10] FinRET instantly provides better and more data.
[07:35] How FinRET gathers financial data from smaller or international banks.
[09:04] FinRET is able to get expense and cash flow data that was previously inaccessible or difficult to obtain.
[10:07] It allows you to make informed decisions about whether to accept an applicant.
[10:14] FinRET will eventually let you score applicants to make decision-making quick.
[10:58] Benefits for renters: A seamless process.
[11:35] FinRET saves property managers time because financial verification was the slowest part of the process; went from being a 5-day process to only 15 minutes.
[12:33] FinRET plans to create integration partnerships in the future.
[13:34] Property management software leaders in the residential space.
[14:34] How to contact FinRET.
[15:00] FinRET’s pricing structure is per use/application basis.

Tweetables

Resources

FinRET

Robert Hsu’s email

Zillow

Yardi

AppFolio

Propertyware

Buildium

Rent Manager

DoorGrowClub Facebook Group

DoorGrowClub Mastermind Group

Transcript

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’re interested in growing your business and life, and you’re open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.

DoorGrow Hackers love opportunities, the 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 managers win. 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.

Today, I am hanging out with Robert Hsu of FinRET. Robert is going to share with us how you can use the latest technology to digitally verify your applicants’ incomes, accounts balances, and cash flow on-the-spot through 100% reputable sources using FinRET.

Robert, let’s talk about you first. Why don’t you tell something a little bit about you and your background and how FinRET eventually came about? Tell us about Robert.

Robert: All my friends tend to know me as either the real estate guy or the tech guy. Now, they know me as the real estate guy and the tech guy. I grew up around Property Management, it’s been in the family business for generations. Growing up, I was always surrounded by the buzz of showing tenant properties, fixing their apartments, and my favorite, collecting rent.

When I was 16, I started managing my first property from my parents and I’m still doing it. I love it, it’s a ton of fun. I’ve also been a residential real estate agent in California. I’ve got some insight into the buying and selling process.

Funnily enough, this idea stemmed from a problem I noticed in buying and selling real estate, not actually doing the property management—more on that later. I just got my first investment property in New Jersey. I’m very excited to do that, taking on an investment property in another state has shown me all kinds of new challenges. That’s the real estate Robert.

Let me tell you a little about the software engineer Robert. My professional background is as a software engineer, my most recent job is at Zillow. You probably heard of them, they’re the online real estate portal. It was […] specifically for real estate agents. We were working on really groundbreaking stuff.

What we had was a unified platform for real estate agents to communicate with their clients. If you’re interested in that, I can talk about that more in another podcast but I’ll leave that for later. Really, it was an awesome experience. I really enjoyed working there.

About six months ago, I decided to strike up on my own and start working on an app for Property Management. Actually, initially, residential real estate, but I kind of pulled it over to property management because I thought it […] here a lot better. Here I am now combining my two passions and areas of expertise, real estate and technology.

Jason: That sounds really cool. You’re really high tech—high level high tech—working for Zillow, doing apps. Which one do you think is more fun or more exciting? Do you enjoy getting into code and software, do you enjoy working with people and doing real estate deals? What kind of drove you in those two different directions?

Robert: That’s an interesting question. I was in software pretty much my whole life. Making the jump over to being an entrepreneur was both scary and exhilarating. As a software engineer, my greatest joy in life is seeing people use my software and benefit from it. When they come back and say great things like, “Hey, I love what you’re working on. I love what you developed and it helped my business.” That’s really the best feeling.

What I did was I got good at building. What I’m doing now is I’m trying to get good at spreading the word with everybody. I think that this latest app, FinRET, that we developed really has the potential to change the game in terms of verifying tenants. We are using some of the most cutting-edge financial technology to facilitate in screening tenants. Now, financial technology has made data better, easier to access, and more reliable. There’s so many great things that financial technology has brought to the world and what we want to do is to share it with everybody.

Jason: Cool. Let’s get into the problem that FinRET saw. Explain what’s the challenge of the problems that Property Managers are dealing with. This is what entrepreneurs do, we see a problem and then we are like, “I can fix that problem. I can solve that problem.” That’s what you did with the software. What’s the problem that resolves what you’re seeing and the challenges […]?

Robert: The original problem that we set out to solve was proof of funds. I mentioned earlier that this whole idea stemmed from an interaction that I had with a real estate client. We’re about to submit an offer on the house and they asked me, “Hey, the other agent just asked me for a proof of funds. How do I do this?” It was my first deal, I had no idea. I was like alright, we’ll call our broker. I was like, “Hey, how do we do proof of funds?” They were like, “Tell them to log-in to their bank account, take a screenshot of their statement and then email it over as a PDF or print it out and bring it in.” It’s 2018 now, it was 2017 at the time. I was like there’s got to be a better way to do this. Looking into it, about a month later I had a prototype. That’s how it all got started.

Jason: That is fascinating. People have heard of Photoshop right? There’s so many ways you can manipulate just an image. That’s really funny. Nerds like you and me look at that and go, “Yeah, that’s ridiculous.” That sounds really ridiculous.

What’s the pain that drives people to use a service like FinRET? What are some of the issues that property managers are dealing with? What have you seen that’s typical of how they are verifying currently?

Robert: Right off the bat, we worked directly with banks. By using FinRET, you’re almost eliminating the possibility of fraud. I can’t say you’re completely eliminating it because the lawyers will get angry at me but you’re mitigating it greatly. The way our technology works is we work directly with banks. Tenants sign onto our platform, they authorize their banks to release to us the information and then we send that information straight to the property manager. What that means is income is never self-reported. We get that information directly from the banks. That’s the first. Actually, a few benefits of using software, reduced risk of fraud.

The second is we just get you better data. We get you more data too. Most people ask for one month. You ask for a month of pay stubs, or you ask for two months of bank statements. We can get you 12 months of information instantly, just like that.

Jason: There’s all kinds of questions I’m sure property managers ask, and the most obvious one that I’m hearing is there are so many different banks out there and there’s got to be so many different systems, how are you able to get the data from all of them? What if they’re not with Wells Fargo or Citibank, or Chase, or these big ones?

Robert: That’s a great question. You’re kind of getting into our secret sauce there. I can tell you a little bit about it. We currently support 15 of the largest institutions in the US. Over the course of this year, we will be ramping it up to about 15,000 both in the US and internationally.

One of the great benefits actually—the client actually came back to me with this probably a few weeks ago. He was like, “Hey, I got this international applicant. He doesn’t have a credit score. He just moved here. I used your tool to verify his bank and it was awesome.” That’s kind of another problem that we’re solving. I’m sure that anybody here who has had international applicants, student applicants, they don’t have credit history but they do have financial history and that’s where we can help you out.

Jason: Okay, great. It’s all in the problem of helping to mitigate or potentially eliminate fraud. It’s connected to a network of banks, basically, which is ever expanding. It sounds like you’re working on growing that even bigger. What other challenges is this solving? What else does this do?

Robert: Let me tell you the last feature. This is probably the most exciting, at least in my mind. Like I said, I’m a total nerd. I love information, I love getting more data. Not that we have access to all of this financial data, we can get financial data that was previously inaccessible or very difficult to get for property managers or landlords. I’m talking about expenses.

Imagine on your financial position statement, you see not only how much money do they have in their bank, you can see that over a 12 month period, you can see what their income looks like over a 12-month period. Now, really for the first time ever, you can look at their cash flow—that’s income minus expenses.

Really, what you’re looking at is how much money on a monthly basis is this person saving—how much are they making, how much are they spending. It’s almost like a P&L if you’re talking business terms on an applicant. You can get crystal clear information on somebody’s financial position. Our theory and what we’ve seen in practice is that by using all of this extra information, you as a landlord, you as a property manager, can make more informed decisions about whether or not to choose to accept an applicant.

Jason: Right. Just to make sure they’re financially qualified for the property.

Robert: Exactly!

Jason: Interesting. It probably doesn’t have anything like this, but is there a way that they can, by looking at this score, the applicants internally? To make this decision making quick? If not, maybe that’s a feature request already, right here, from me. Nah, I’m just kidding.

Robert: It’s funny that you brought that up. We’re in the process right now of bringing on a data scientist to do exactly what you just said. What we want to do on our end is help people make decisions. Phase one right now, we’re hoping people would get the information. Right now, we’re deciding what to do with it. We’re expecting maybe near the end of Q2 to be rolling out a decision. The decision is […] in a way. Our plan is to have it call out things in people’s financial history that you can then make decisions on.

Jason: Cool. How much do the renters get through this process or do they not get to see anything?

Robert: If a decision is made based on a financial statement you have to tell the renter why you decided to reject them. For the renters, there are a couple of benefits for the renters. One, it’s just a more seamless process. Instead of having to go home, take screenshots of your bank accounts. Some people go so far as require W2s. You can just log-on and then authorize your bank account. The whole process takes two minutes and that’s that.

Jason: Cool. Do you have any idea how much time this might be saving property managers on average? Or the tenants? How much time is this collapsing in their tenant screening process?

Robert: Quite a bit, actually. Based on conversations that I’ve had with a number of leasing agents, one of the slowest parts of the process now is financial verification. Everything else is pretty easy, right? You get the credit report, you get the background report, you just need to collect the social security number. It just happens like that. You plug it into the backend system and it comes back.

But with financial verification, you need to send the applicant home. You need to wait for them to collect the documents. You need to wait for them to send it back to you. If you want to do additional verification on top of that, that could take another two to three days. Worst case scenario, we’re looking at a 5 day process gets cut down to 15 minutes, 10 minutes.

Jason: That’s great! Some property managers are probably like, “Hey, whichever applicant gets us everything first.” People are racing. It’s a pain to get all that info gathered together sometimes.

Explain to me, are you guys looking at integrations? One of the biggest complain that we’ve seen about property managements software is the lack of integrations. There are not very many property management software, that’s where they run their whole business from. There’s not very many that have an open API or are looking to connect or integrate. This phrase open API and integration is becoming this buzzword, this craving that property managers have. Is that anywhere on the horizon for FinRET?

Robert: Absolutely. We’ve looked extensively at Yardi, integrating with Yardi, because I know that that’s where a lot of property management companies run their system out of. It’s slated for a little later in the year. Right now, we’re working on integrating credit reports, background checks, and rental reports. Actually, we’re going to be doing that very competitively. After that, we’re definitely looking at integrating with other property management systems.

Jason: Cool. In the residential space, the biggest ones I hear about are AppFolio, Propertyware, Buildium, and Rent Manager. Put those on your hit list. That’s going to give any one of them a competitive advantage. AppFolio’s not really integrating with anybody from what it sounds like, there’s been a lot of complains in the DoorGrow Club about that. I hear Propertyware, Buildium, and Rent Manager have open APIs. That would be really cool to see if you get connected with them because that would give you a whole new audience of clients.

I’m really excited to get feedback from people in the DoorGrow Club. Is there anything else they should know that you would people know about FinRET?

Robert: No, I think that pretty much covers it.

Jason: It sounds like a really elegant solution to something really simple and obvious. It sounds like a no-brainer for any property manager to implement this in the business. They can shorten that cycle with the tenants and get a tenant placed even faster. They’re just going to increase their customer satisfaction level across the board. It just makes them look like a modern company.

Robert: Totally. Our theory is that we think every property manager, every landlord can benefit from better data faster.

Jason: Love it. How do people find out more about FinRET?

Robert: You can check our website finret.com and you can email me directly robert@finret.com. We are currently accepting people onto our beta program. Maybe drop me an email. I can for sure bump you up that list. We’ll call that the DoorGrow special here. In addition to you, I’ll send a couple of free trials for our software. Just drop me a line and mention that you saw me in DoorGrow and we’ll take it from there.

Jason: Alright, cool. You don’t have to mention any fees because I’m sure pricing is going to change. But, how do you do pricing? Is it per applicant? Is it a monthly subscription? Is it based on the door count? How do you guys generally do pricing?

Robert: We’re on a per use basis. Pretty much every time you use it. You can attach multiple applicants into one application, so it’s just on a per application basis.

Jason: Oh, great. I think we’ve covered it. It sounds really good, Robert. I’m super excited to have some of our DoorGrow Hackers beta test with you and check this out and get some feedback. Sounds like you’ve got some exciting developments coming down the pipe with what you’ve doing. I’m excited to see where FinRET leads us and help benefits property managers here in the future.

Robert: Yep, definitely.

Jason: Thanks for coming out on the DoorGrow Show, I appreciate it.

Robert: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I hope people found this useful and interesting. Looking forward to talking more in the future.

Jason: Awesome! Thanks again.

If you are just now tuning in or if you are listening to this on the podcast later on, or watching this on YouTube or any other places where we put this, make sure that you get inside the DoorGrow Club Facebook group. You can get to that by going to doorgrowclub.com. It’s only for property management entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s not for your staff, it’s not for your team members, it is just for you entrepreneurs to figure out how to deal with your staff, how to deal with your clients, and you can figure out what you need to do to grow your business. It is a phenomenal forum.

As of the time of this recording, we have over a thousand members, a thousand property management entrepreneurs, DoorGrow Hackers inside the Facebook group. We are getting over 21,000 interactions a month in the Facebook group. That is the likes, clicks, and comments. The engagement is insane. We get hundreds and hundreds posts in a month. Every day, posts are just flowing through this thing. There’s people asking questions—if you get stuck, everybody is contributing and helping each other, that is what entrepreneurs do, we are contribution-focused.

You heard Robert say it. He saw that he wanted to make a difference. He saw a problem that can be solved. That’s what we do at DoorGrow, that’s what entrepreneurs do. This is a contribution-focused group. Everybody is contributing and making a difference. We are transforming the entire industry. Make sure that you get in that group.

If you’re struggling with growth, we are the company that will help you. Make sure to check out DoorGrow and take a look at our seed package, what we can do to help online for your business so growth happens more easily without all the costly cold lead marketing like SEO, pay per click, etc. Check us out.

We also launched our mastermind group which is for the property managers that are maybe in the 200 to 400 door range or they’ve gone through our seed package process and dialled that all in. They are beyond the issue of trying to get on new doors. They’ve solved the problem of growth and moved on from there.

If that sounds like you, go to doorgrow.com/mastermind and apply. It’s application only and we will see if you are a good fit for the group. It’s going to be a game changer for your business. We are going to be focused on aligning your business around you so you can be the entrepreneur, not the property manager. You hire the property manager, you get to be the business owner and entrepreneur —we want to get you towards that.

That’s it! We’re going to end this. Thank you everybody for tuning in and listening. Bye.

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