DGS 78: Automating Property Showings with Michael Sanz of Neesh Property
Are you sure your kitchen table or big-screen TV will fit? If you’re interested in renting or buying a specific property, there’s a few steps to take before actually visiting it. Watch a virtual tour video and get pre-qualified.
Today, I am talking with Michael Sanz of Neesh Property, which started in 2009 and has more than 650 doors. We discuss the benefits of automating property showings, including the opportunity to spend more time with people and to travel. Who wouldn’t want to operate a property management business from beaches around the world?
[02:25] Purpose of Neesh Property: Holistic real estate that helps people buy, sell, rent, and arrange financing.
[03:20] Same Startup Suffering: Michael struggled to start a business, grow new doors, and retain customers.
[03:37] Identify and Prevent Problems: Michael controls and protects his business and simplifies his life through systemization and automation.
[05:45] Workforce Reduction: Michael went from 18 to 1½ staff members and replaced them with property management software to save money.
[07:58] Eliminate Office Space: Doesn’t affect how you do business.
[09:43] Competitive Advantage: Neesh Property closes deals and acquires new business by leasing properties quickly.
[10:30] Retain Relationships: Be client-focused, not location-focused when managing properties.
[12:40] Learn from Mistakes: Try and implement new things, which may or may not work completely; pivot when necessary.
[14:29] What’s the problem? Any problem, big or small, should be documented and automated to disappear.
[16:10] Build Knowledge Base: Take time to make “how-to, what to do…” videos, recordings, and other visuals to help people understand processes/procedures.
[21:05] Leverage People as Process: Create core team of people who are thinkers and decision-makers.
[27:38] Virtual Tour Stats: Neesh Property gets over 85% of its real estate booked based on the virtual platform and averages 1.8 showings per property.
[31:05] Good Tenants Gone Bad: Rather than giving best to the bad, give it to the best of everyone; mesh type of tenant to property.
[50:55] Common Beginner Pitfall: You don’t need to be cheaper than everybody else to get started and compete; change your value proposition.
Save Money: Replace staff members with property management software.
Be client-focused, not location-focused.
Meaningful Connections/Conversations: The rest just falls into place; it’s all systems.
Automation offers the opportunity to simplify your life and spend more time with people.
Matterport: 3D Camera and Virtual Tour Platform
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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.
I am welcoming all the way from across the pond or even further maybe, Michael Sanz of Neesh Property Management. Michael, welcome to the show.
Michael: Thank you very much for having me.
Jason: I’m excited to have you. You’re a really cool guy. I got to connect with you in the past in person, which was great to meet you in person, and you’ve done some really cool things. But before we get into some of that, and today’s topic for those listening, is automating property showings. We’re going to be talking about that. But before we get into that, why don’t you give people a little bit of background on you and let everyone know why I think you’re so awesome.
Michael: Thanks for the introduction and thanks for having me at the conference in Missouri last year. It was amazing. Perfect. As Jason said, I’m Michael Sanz. I am from Australia, from Melbourne, and I have a company called Neesh Property Residential that has been going since 2009, has over 650 doors. I started how everybody else started out in real estate and started from zero, or how much people started, started from zero doors. I had a new relationship started at the time. Add the pressure and the stress of a new relationship coming into a new business, setting all that up.
I started from the study nook in an apartment that I had. I had left a previous business. It was quite a successful business. Left the partnership at the time and I started Neesh Property. What was Neesh Property to me? It was a holistic real estate that help people buy property, sell property, rent property, and arrange the finance. It’s holistic all under one roof.
I had suffered the same problems everybody else has suffered from starting a business, trying to grow new doors, I guess retain business when people sell their properties or go to other agencies. I spent a lot of time methodically going through all the pros and cons of a property management business and I really started to systemize it, automate it, and not let the business control me from an early point, but how I could control my real estate business and what protections I could put in place to make sure that I could do some hyper growth, retain the customers that I had, and simplify life.
A lot of people that know me would have say that I will operate Neesh Property from many beaches around the world. I would close down the company every Christmas time for two months. In real estate, people say, “That’s unheard of. What about maintenance? What about all the problems?” But I identified all these problems and I’ve been out of able to do a lot of travel, and I’ve spend a lot of family time while automating the business.
Jason, as you’re talking about today, automating how I show properties and really break down that process meant that I could be in Missouri and show people property before I went on stage, after I went on stage, and successfully lease property without really having to do anything at all.
Jason: This is wild. I think everybody listening goes, “Michael’s some sort of crazy, weird robot. This is some magical impossible thing. Nobody else can do this.” You’re maybe some sort of savant or guru. But you started your business and from the beginning had this intention of systemizing things and keeping things off your plate to keep that space, and some people, their intentions and focus is very different. They build a business that’s very difficult to manage and to run.
Paint a picture. You’ve got 650 doors right now, I think you’ve said, right?
Michael: I just sold a bulk of that and I’ve got Neesh Property. I’ve automated even more with a new portfolio, but that’s for a whole other conversation.
Jason: Help people understand your business logistically. How many team members do you have? I think this is where it really showcases how different your business is than most companies that are at a similar size.
Michael: Sure. At a point with the business, we had about 18 staff members. We had acquired another smaller business, and we acquired their team, and we had an office. A lot of which goes against the grain having office to me. But when I acquired another business, I took the office and it had a receptionist, it had a business development person, it had an account, they had all these people there. I couldn’t see, with total respect to their role, I couldn’t see the purpose of it, so I knocked them down from 18 down to 1½ staff members. One full-time property manager and one part-time who did routines and edit some showings as required.
Jason: Wait. So, you went from 18, bring on another company, and then you whittled that down to 1½ team members.
Michael: Yeah, correct. I couldn’t see the massive need to have all these people doing accounts when a lot of the property management software already did all the reconciliation. I was just having a bum on a seat to press a button to reconcile. I couldn’t see the purpose of having a receptionist when there are people there who could answer the phone, so we put in a good IVR, a good voicemail system, and we educated.
We identified that a lot of the calls that were coming in were from tenants either trying to report maintenance or […] it was. Then we put in automated responses there, too, and if there’s any business call, “Press one if you’re a landlord, press two if it’s new business,” and then it would come through to my cell where I could answer and respond to it quite fast.
Identifying the flow of calls, the type of calls that are coming through the office meant I no longer had to have a receptionist there. In Australia, the wages are quite high. We’d be paying someone $50,000–$60,000 to sit at a front desk, to greet people if they came in. We have also identified that as property change, people will less and less likely to come to an office. Tenants wouldn’t necessarily walk into the office and let’s say they did walk into the office, we would be there to greet them but no one was really walking in. Owners rarely walk into an office anymore because they could call you, they could video call you.
We ended up getting rid of the office. We have spent from a big 250 square meter office place to a two-bedroom apartment, and guess what? It didn’t affect how we did business, didn’t affect us picking up new business, didn’t affect us losing any business, and the world still spins. It’s not chaos. For us identifying all these headaches we’re able to see what mattered. If the team couldn’t adapt to technology changes, video, virtual reality, automated IVR systems, and things like that, then there wasn’t really a place in the business for them, respectfully. I actually have one property manager leave to go with a company where they still did paper condition reports because that’s how she wanted to do them.
Jason: Right. You’re welcome to it. That’s so funny. Okay, so this will make a lot of sense and I think you and I have both significant, nerdy, technological side to us. This stuff sounds obvious to me and maybe obvious to you, some people listening maybe not so obvious. If they have all these questions, “How would I do this? I would I do that?” It’s scary. But if you make that your intention and your goal, you’ll figure it out just like you figured out whatever you’re doing now.
One of your big competitive advantages now in closing deals and in acquiring new business is your ability to lease properties so rapidly. Paint this picture of how rapidly and how different your leasing process is, just to prime the pump here.
Michael: To put it into another perspective—I know we touched on it previously—we were full suburbs. We manage properties in over 84 suburbs and we also have properties in two other states, which was Sydney and New South Wales in WA. WA is a four-hour plane ride and Sydney is 1½-hour plane ride from us.
Now, we weren’t insane, crazy totally. We only manage properties of the clients that we actually had on our book and we did that so that we could retain the relationship with them and we would appoint other local agents to help with open inspections or routine inspections, or things like that. And because I’m a frequent traveler, when I was in the area, I would pop in, say good day to the tenants, and just touch face that way, so the owners knew that they are getting full kind of service.
In Victoria, it is very much managed by our office and again, we are client-focused and not location-focused, which was one of our main selling points and is quite attractive to landlords that we had. Because we also offered mortgage brokering, we really didn’t do too many sales, we were mainly property management and then we offered mortgage brokering we saw the value in that. If it was […] other agents that could help us do the menial tasks.
It wasn’t a headache for us, we didn’t stress about it, but we covered a lot of space. You can imagine when properties come up for rent. It’s cyclical because people […] properties around at Christmas time, they go home to their families and their friends. We would have sometimes 10%–15% of the book would start to come up for rent and you can imagine the franticness of trying to get out all the inspections, deal with tenants, vacates, and all those headaches that came with it.
Now, it’s probably 11 where I started […] this. This wouldn’t be a problem with the spread of properties. As I sat down, I started writing down all the problems that I could have. Petrol, time on the road, who am I going to have, how many staff members I need to to do this if I’m going to have potential growth? How do I automate this? That was the biggest thing. How do I automate this? What if it’s Christmas time and I want to go away on holiday? What am I going to do? The selfishness in me also came out because I still wanted to live and being an owner-operator. What would you do?
I identified with myself that if I made mistakes, that was okay because being a business owner, if we don’t try and implement the things we’re looking, that ain’t worth. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to work in its entirety. It might mean that you just need to pivot a little bit and change what you’ve been doing to give another go. I had to automate the whole thing and I started the journey.
Jason: I’m hearing a process here and I think you’ve mentioned this twice now. For those listening, you may have caught on this but it sounds like you have this mental process that you go through probably constantly where you list out potential problems, and then you sit down and figure out what are the solutions, and then you have this intention throughout that whole process of, “How can I have vacations? How can I make sure that I don’t have to always be doing it?” Which is a very different mindset than most ppl have. They’re just figuring out, “How to do I keep the business running? How do I make sure that we don’t drop the ball?” And you’re like, “No. How can I,” as you put it, “take Christmas and not have to work? How can I go on holiday and not have to do this, and it would still work?” That’s a different problem to solve.
As entrepreneurs, we’re great at solving problems. But if we don’t give ourselves the right problem to work on, our subconscious isn’t going to work on it, our brains are not going to work on it, we’re not going to find those solutions. We stop prematurely at something superficial and that’s a whole level of depth to go beyond just making sure things work, it’s making sure things work without you. Maybe just describe that. What do you actually do? Do you just pull out a piece of paper and you write all the problems?
Michael: A big point when I had staff in the office is that if anyone reported any type of problem, big or small, it had to be written down. If an owner said, for example, “I can’t reach you on your mobile phone.” Or, “I don’t understand the statement,” just general questions. If someone doesn’t understand the statement, what we did was we recorded what the landlord income statement meant. “This is your name, this is the date and everything.” We do a video. We do a screenshare/screengrab video and in that was a link. If anyone asks anything about statement, it was there for them. It was in one of our FAQs. People could see it. All of a sudden, we didn’t get all these calls.
We worked out any problem in the business. Someone turned out in our office at [7:00] in the morning and said, “Why aren’t you open?” We address those things, we have better signage on the front door, and then all of a sudden, all these problems that a business would have were just disappearing and it was automated. By using video, by using written text, by having window displays, just simple things, the business became automated. So much so that religiously we close before Christmas and we open up towards the end of January, so that everyone gets time off to spend time with their family.
Jason: And everyone being your 1½ team members.
Michael: When I had a lot of team members, they were loving it big time. If people want to go on holiday, they can go on holiday because the business can run.
Jason: All right, so this is really cool. Basically, what you’re talking about is you built a knowledge base of frequently asked questions and leveraged video screen shares, recordings, showing them how to do things so they visually could see, hear, and understand what needed to happen. As they would go through these and have these questions, or you send them a link to this frequently asked questions or in your knowledge base, or you send them this video, they would watch this video. The magic of video is they would feel like you’re right there, walking them through it, tell them, they’d hear you, see you, they feel like you’re taking care of them, and you’re not even there. You did it one time and now, it can be used for 650 different people or however many clients ;that you have. They can go through it multiple times instead of just once because they may not remember. But they’ll remember, “Oh, there’s this thing I can go to to get it.”
Michael: Correct. A lot of the agents who I would speak to is on video. I don’t have to speak to video where it takes time, I don’t have enough time. A lot of the videos early on that I did […] showing or like a routine inspection or open for inspection. I would just have the camera on a tripod and while I was waiting for people to come, I would do a video. “I’m at this property here. Look at this one,” or, “This is a leaking tap. This is how we address it. This is what we do.” Just small videos and I just built up content.
I had the tenants any problems, what to do if it’s raining. What to do if your hot water service breaks. What to do if your dog runs out to your next door neighbor. Just simple things I turned into a video so I didn’t have to answer again and again. Again, this is like I’ve touched on before when people could call up and they address the problem or an issue or concern, we try to turn that into a video so that it was answered once, solved 100 times.
Jason: The trick is that if you’re going to have to answer ever, once, take note of it, then put it on your to-do list to make a video so you don’t ever have to answer that again.
Michael: Yeah. I think as business owners we need to give ourselves the emotional permission today to take the time, even if takes us half an hour to do it, so we bank up future time. That task is going to take us a 30-minute phone call or whatever it is, we spend 30 minutes recording it now, and you’re going to have that conversation a hundred times, you just saved yourself 50 future hours and you could be doing other things.
Jason: Absolutely. We have done the same thing with clients who go through our program. I used to coach them all directly, but shifting it into video content allowed me to make sure that I said the same thing and got the best information to each client, and it allowed them to watch it more than once. My memory is not so amazing that I could remember every single thing I’ve said to every single clients about every single topic and not miss something. But I could put it into content. If I get a bunch of questions, I can add more content.
I think some people would say, “Jason,” or, “Michael, you guys are really lazy.” I think there’s brilliance in that. I wouldn’t call it laziness; I would call it, we don’t like doing stupid stuff over and over. I mean, really simply, and that’s really frustrating to have to do redundant work. But some people, they love that. They would just do the same thing everyday. They love doing that. That’s not me. I would guess that that’s not really you, either. You like being able to have freedom and not have to answer the same questions over and over and over again.
Michael: That’s the definition of insanity, isn’t it? Doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same result. I can’t understand doing the same thing over and over. I guess as business owners, we also get caught up in the really small things, and those small things we think become really important but they’re not. I’ve got some VAs that do the really menial, small tasks that I don’t even have to think about. Things that our software doesn’t do that a VA would do.
Get out of that mindset that you have to do these really small things because it’s not important and when we identified that owners and tenants just want to get that problem resolved. If it needs to get escalated, then yeah of course, take it on. But the small things, they don’t really care who answers, it’s fine. As long as it’s clear, their problem is solved, they can walk away happy, then they’re good. Don’t stress.
Jason: So, part of this automation, you’re leveraging technology, you’re leveraging video, you’re leveraging a database or knowledge base of frequently asked questions but also, you are leveraging people as process. You’re bringing people almost in a position of almost operating software in some instances. And then you have a core team of people that actually are thinkers and decision-makers that’s really small based on what you said.
Let’s get into then the topic at hand, which is automating property showing. How can those listening start to move towards automating property showings and what are the benefits you’ve seen by doing that? Let’s get them excited about the why they should do this first.
Michael: As a business owner, having staff members and having multiple properties that would come out open for inspection and also understanding that tenants are really demanding, they want to see the property, they would call you up and say, “Is it open now? Is somebody there now? Can I go now?” And then having a staff member get in the car, drive half an hour listening to music, speaking to their family and friends, doing whatever they want to do in the car, get to the property, wait for the tenant to turn up, show them the property, have them say, “Oh, yeah. It’s nice. The walls really look like they did in the photos.” Whatever it is, or they love it and again they’ll buy for it. “Can you wait for my friend to turn up? My partner’s on their way.” All these headaches. They do the inspection and then they spend another half an hour driving back or getting lunch on the way, or however long it is.
One time, okay, but if you replicate that, you’ve got 8, or 10, or 15 properties for rent at that time, that’s a headache for any company because of all these inefficiencies on the road. I identified, “Okay. Well, what do we do?”
My wife was working for a ticketing and event company based in San Diego. She was running it from Australia, it’s the operations. We’re in San Diego one time, I had this massive 3D 360 camera. I was going through all the theaters and from every seat there would be a 360 […] so that people, when they go to buy a ticket, they could see their exact view of how they’re going to see the stage.
I was like, “Hang on. Why can’t I do this in real estate? What’s stopping me from doing […]? This is so simple.” The camera was huge. It was massive at the time. Even three months later, I couldn’t find an actual camera to do it. What I was doing was going to the room and taking 100 shots everywhere and then stitching it together. For one image it was taking way too long.
At Christmas time, I was in London, closed the business down, before virtual reality […]. It can be done. I was walking up the high street in London and I just thought, “I need to find something simple, cheap, to get the job done, and save me more time.” I just went on the phone, I looked at my phone, and I found a local supplier that had the Ricoh 360 camera. It has just been released. I went out and picked it up, and from that point in time, everything I did for real estate, for property had a 360 video.
And went then into step two, and I made sure that all the rental properties had a normal video, just with a smartphone or SLR. From that moment on, when I brought the 360 camera, I really hit all our properties hard. Before I go with 360 virtual reality and video, a lot of people that I speak to, they go out and buy the camera, they’ll do one tour which generally happens after the tenant has vacated and they’ve already had marketing for 4–6 weeks, they’ll do the tour and they’ll say, “You know what? Michael, I tried that. It’s not for me. Didn’t help me get a tenant. It was no good.” That’s the biggest feedback I had.
That’s cool. That’s fine. But for me, I want to persevere. I made sure that every single property we came up for rent, had a 360 virtual tour. Also in the start, it didn’t help with every single property because I had marketed without photos for four weeks prior, and I was able to find tenants thereabouts, most often than not. With the 360 virtual tours, it was the next time that it came up for rent. A tenant would give me notice to vacate. The day they gave me notice to vacate, the virtual tour went up on all the real estate platforms that are out there. We have the video and we have our photos which are okay. They’re good, they’re okay. But from day one, people could start to see the property without me having to worry about booking an open for inspection and the condition of the property is all boxed up, or the whole family’s home or whatever excuse the tenant was, people could start to see the property. That started to change things.
Just to reiterate, if you’re starting off, you have a property that’s coming up for rent, the tenant’s moving out, you can do the 360 tour afterwards. You may not get the hyper result that you’re expecting. Don’t stress. Replicate it on every single property you’ve got and you will start to see massive change from the next time it’s for rent and every time after that. Don’t stress. Give it time. People fail because they give up straight away.
Jason: And then each new door that you’re getting on, you’re going to do the virtual tour at the beginning so you’ll have that moving forward.
Michael: Correct. I got to the point where if a tenant gave notice to vacate, I went in there, and I do the 360 tour with all the furniture in there as it was. I didn’t put that on publicly but I was able to show people with the tenant’s permission, just give them a link, and remove the link after they see it afterwards. I wouldn’t get it publicly on the real estate platforms but I would have the tour and I would give it to people. That changed everything, too. Tenants were okay with that because you can edit the 360 images to blur out photos in the wall and things like that. That was pretty good. I also just did on the iPhone walk-through videos that I could also comment on. I would take just photos, too.
We had over 85% of our real estate booked on virtual platform. Can you imagine, Jason, having 85% of your business, that people can view the property without you having to worry about putting a lot box on, be physically attending the property, and having the issue of staff or even yourself going to have to show that property multiple times? To touch on that, we were averaging at 1.8 showings per property and I’ve got to cancel one showing per property on average.
Jason: No kidding.
Michael: Huge time savings. If you were to quantify that and you’re breaking out 15 properties a month, let’s say, that’s like $150,000 saving in a year, of time and profit based on our letting fees. Our letting fees are small than American letting fees. It’d be significantly higher in America but for us, it’s about $150,000 just the base saving in 15 properties a month.
Jason: Oh, yeah. So, the cost savings compared to the cost of getting the digital cameras and maybe the little bit of work and labor that would take to get these virtual tours done and everything, it was an obvious no brainer, financially.
Michael: Obviously, yeah. For me at the start, I would have spent a couple of thousand dollars, maybe more, trying to really solve it. I have a lot of cameras now, a lot of VR, a lot of 360 cameras, and I’m still using the same one that I bought years ago which was the Ricoh. But I’m trying to find the next camera that gives me more depth immersion like the Matterport but something that fits in my pocket. So, for me to do it, if it does not fit in my pocket, I’m not going to take it with me.
The Ricoh fits in the pocket. I think it’s $170 or something like that on Amazon. A tripod is $30 or $40 on Amazon. To host 22 platforms of the year is $20. The platform that I use is Vieweet It’s one of the cheapest one out there. It’s robust, it’s simple, it’s no frills. If you’re an agency, you’re just starting out, and you’re looking for cheap ways to do 360 automated showings, $130 for the camera, $30 for the tripod, $20 a year to list 20 showings that you can put up and take down. A lot of people don’t have more than 20 properties available all at once.
Jason: It’s called Vieweet?
Michael: Yes. If you’re in $200-$250 US, you can be up and running today to do these things. But just remember, you may not get that sprinkled dust straight away. It’s something where you build that new catalog that does work. Results have been quite fast because I kept at it and you will, I can’t say, you’ll get the same if not similar results that I was getting because what it all sold for us—that’s just kind of the odd part of things, Jason. Our property to more people around the world in different that […] the property. Rather than having to rely on people to come into a lock box or view the property physically, they may not have been the best quality tenant.
Rather than giving the best to the bad bunch, we’re able to give it to the best of everyone. Anyone who wants to see it within the markets to high-end income, at least they could go to relocation consultants that were actually being paid by people to come into the country to show them properties. We were showing it to the people before they go to relocation agencies in the end. If they will apply, they would inquire, “Hi, Michael. I’m actually relocating from America or Europe. I’ll be there next month, try to arrange a viewing.” I’ll send in the link. They view the property. They don’t need to worry about looking at 10 properties when they get here. We can do the process, we can get them out of Skype or Zoom.
At the end of the day, good tenants can go bad. Make sure you get landlord insurance if you can get that. We were so efficient with what we did and that’s probably for another conversation, but we got rent arrears to 0%. Not only will we have to get the best tenants in the marketplace, we get the best tenants that could afford to pay rent and not have any arrears and it solved a massive problem for us too. We are probably at about I think 3½ of rent arrears sometimes because people, they’re just lazy. By changing the type of tenants that we had, also made all the knock on effects that we had so that our arrears is 0% vacancy because we’re able to work credibly with our leases to make sure that longer leases we had better type of tenants.
We’re also able to mesh the type of tenants to the property. For example, if we have an application that was someone 50 years plus as opposed to 18-25 year olds. An 18-25 year old would be more transient and they wouldn’t stay on the property for a long period of time, maybe 12 months. But someone who’s older is typically settling down, they don’t want to be moving around everywhere. We have a bit of a tenant selection too.
Jason: I realized it might be a little different in Australia than here though.
Michael: Well, what we did inside the office, we can verbalize it to the people that apply.
Jason: Got it.
Michael: No one from Australia is watching this, yeah? No tenants that I had.
Jason: Right. This all makes a lot of sense. You have 0% vacancy rate. You’re renting out some of these places before they’re even vacant because you’re marketing them from the second there’s a notice. You’re getting people out of state or out of country that are able to look at it. I think it’s brilliant that you’ve got partnerships you’ve created in alignment with relocation agencies and relocation agents. I think that’s sharp. All of this sounds really fascinating and this is something that anybody can do.
Michael: Anyone can do it. Even like staff members. You’ve got people who work for bosses, there’s no reason why […] to help automate your showing. If a virtual tour or a video, or someone contact you at [10:00] o’clock at night and you’re this type of person that picks up the phone at [10:00] o’clock and tries to make a time, you can send them link that’ll pre-qualify them. The good thing about UVR, it shows you the room, the whole room. They can be looking at the whole kitchen. They can be looking at the whole bathroom for so many times you go online and you just see a corner of the bathroom which shows the tiles, the toilet, the shower, and the bath. It eradicates all of that, it’s gone.
I think I showed you too, when we got to the actual property, the other headache was, I’m not sure if my table would fit, or the fridge might fit in the cavity so then we included an incorporated AR, so the augmented reality which was just another boat. With the AR, you can record the screen, so you can be at the property while it’s taken and actually do a video recording of, “This is where your catch goes. This is where the fridge goes, and the TV goes,” and put the furniture down. Then you can send that video to people too when they inquire about, “Will it fit a king sofa bed, or what size is the fridge cavity?” Because people are visual, mostly.
Jason: How are you doing that? How are you putting in beds, virtual beds and things like this into a video?
Michael: The app that I use is a free app. I love this stuff. It isn’t going to cost anyone here. Housecraft. Now that’s free augmented reality application.
Jason: Housecraft, it sounds like witchcraft, it’s like magic. Housecraft, okay.
Michael: It is magic. Again, I have all these tools because they’re objection handlers. I don’t need to over complicate things because then it just starts making problems. These are free things that anyone can be using. Anyone can do anything that I’ve been doing. None of it is hard. It’s just I have a better use of my time.
Jason: Yeah. You’re using Housecraft, you’re using Vieweet, you’ve got your Ricoh camera, are there any other technological tools that help you automate the showing thing?
Michael: Basically, how it would work for us was a tenant will give notice to vacate or we would have a brand new property come on. We would have the tour or take the tour. We would put that as a link on a description. A lot of the feedback I had from people around the world was, our property software, our showing software doesn’t allow us to put a hyperlink in there.
We just put it in the ads, we put it in the ad there too. We had every second photo for us was, “Did you know this property is in virtual reality? Make sure you click on the link in the description.” When people are looking on their smart device, because most people are probably looking ad property searches from their mobiles, it’s important that we could grab their attention with a nice bit of photo, grab their attention saying, “Hey, we’ve got a virtual tour, or a video, make sure you look at it and prequalify.” Rather than coming to the property and saying it’s for them. If someone did call and inquire the questions was, “Great. Have you seen the virtual tour?” If it was no, it’s like, “Okay, here’s the virtual tour,” and they all had to see it. We would not go to a property unless the person had seen the virtual tour.
Jason: Right. Virtual tour first and then if you’ve watched that and it’s still a go, then we will show you the property.
Michael: Correct. When we did that, when we went to the property, we knew that it was really just a case of them checking if there’s a smell, just their general feel, their juju. It was basically they’re going to apply for the property. Typically, if I went to the property, there’s a 93% chance they got the property, and it was 96% that they would apply or they’d rent the property.
Jason: Because the virtual tours have filtered out so much.
Jason: Now, in the photos where you doing stuff like box brownie and like this kind of stuff or are we just getting photos?
Michael: We change it to make sure that the header photo, the main photo in this sort of style—we’d have a blue sky, green grass—it was just a nice attractive image so that people would click on that, like a clickbait basically. It’ll look nice, they click on it, and then the next image was the virtual tour. They knew that there was a virtual tour there and then there are the other photos. They were the only photos that were relevant like the way you actually see the room. If you couldn’t see the room or it was cut off, we wouldn’t show it, because the virtual tour was going to show the property in its entirety.
This just meant that I would not put 20 photos up of a half-baked house when I can put three photos up, a virtual tour video, and a walkthrough video—far greater impact. That’s why we’re leasing properties four times faster than our competitors, and we were getting more than double the amount of views on all our properties according to realestate.com.au which is a massive property platform in Australia. What we were doing was, no major cost difference to competitors, but we were getting twice the people looking at our property, and four times faster with being leased.
Jason: Michael, this sounds really incredible. Having all these stuff in place, it sounds really low cost, and it sounds like it actually saves you a ton of time, and a ton of money to get these things implemented. Now, what I love to do is connect this to how is this helping you grow your business. Obviously, it’s reducing cost, it’s reducing staff, but this sounds like a huge competitive advantage selling point when you’re pitching to new owners to say, “We have zero vacancy rate. We’re managing hundreds of properties…” which is unheard of in our industry, “…and we can we can get this thing taken care of and lease it out really rapidly. I’ve got the cameras on me, I’m ready to go. Let’s do this.”
Michael: Correct. There’s a lot of white noise and noise generally in property management. When you’re going to a listing presentation, it runs based on the same topics. “We collect rent. We have low vacancy. We are fantastic. We have good systems.” You can basically walk into a presentation and know verbatim what people are going to saying. If somebody inquired about renting out a property, they will get an email from me with our reviews, true statements, and things that we do differently.
When I would go to the appraisal, I wouldn’t actually bring anything other than a set of virtual reality goggles. For me, I didn’t go in with a booklet. Everyone kind of expects you to walk in with a booklet and pamphlet like all your competitors do. But me, it’s straight away, “Let’s work on that trust that rapport with the owner.” I would walk into the presentation, I put the virtual goggles down the table which is a gimmick, they’re a gimmick, and then I put them on the table and then I say, “Mr. and Mrs. Landlord, so tell me, what do you love about your property? What are the tenants going to love about the property? What would you do differently to the property that tenants might also think that they wouldn’t want changed?” I get them speaking about it.
None of it is about my fees, none of it is about my service, none of it is about anything else about me, it’s just about them. Then it gets to the point where, “I can totally see why people fall in love in this property and it’s so important that we show people what this property actually offers. Here are a couple of ways that we can do that.” Bear in mind, by the time they’ve already got to ask and called us, they’ve gone and seen our Google reviews. They’ve seen our social profile. They’ve already assessed us when they make the phone call.
Michael: It’s so important that you’ve got some social proof and some history there. If you’re just starting out as an agent, get reviews, get some social proof because you really are fantastic. As people, we’re fantastic, and there’s so many great attributes. If you’re starting fresh, you don’t have to look fresh. Jason, you’re helping build websites. You can make someone who’s just starting out look as a major player in the marketplace.
Jason: Absolutely. I tell potential clients, there’s no reason why a company with zero doors or even five doors has to look any different than a company with a 1000 doors. They can have just as good a branding, just as good of a website, and we can help them with the reputation stuff. We have our service gatherkudos.com for those listening that you can check out, which helps you facilitate or lubricate I guess if you will, that process of getting more reviews from clients.
Michael: There’s no reason why you can’t. “I don’t have clients to get reviews.” “I’m sure you’ve done business with people before and they can leave you reviews.” That’s all you need, just that momentum. From the time that we’re meeting with them, they know a little bit about us. I’m not concerned about any other services because they all know that we collect rent, and we find tenants, and we manage maintenance, and we do all that stuff. It’s going to the owners that we will love their property, and really focus on the things that they love also, and identify the weaknesses of the property too because it’s important for us at the start the owners to acknowledge their property may have some shortcomings.
They wouldn’t have to have that awkward conversation later. The prospective tenants said that, “I like the pink wall in the kitchen.” We get the owners to draw out what they think is needed in the start, and then it sets the time. Then I bring out the virtual goggles, and I say, “This is one way that people are really going to immerse themselves in your property from their own lounge room. We also had virtual goggles and Oculus Rift in our office, so when people came in and they want to get a rental list, we stop giving out paper and we would say, “What are you after? A three-bedroom, two-bedroom?” And give them the goggles, and show them a property.
We have far greater success than coming in, picking up some paper in the office, leaving, throwing it in the bin later on for one property they might be interested in. We cut down on paper too, Jason. That was a pretty good experience. We went paperless. For new owners, they could say that we were focused on serving the customer, rather than they burdened with admin and just a slow death in a real estate office. We could show them some of the other tours we’ve done. We were doing drone work too Jason, where we would showcase the aerial view of the property in proximity to shops because that was another question that people would say, “Probably looks great, but what’s it near?” In Australia, with Google maps, sometimes, they hadn’t caught up, so the area would look like just massive farmland, but actually, they’ve built up a state with shopping malls, and freeways going through it. We take aerial shot, and show it from what it was near. With owners, I think, I was at 140 doors and 141 appraisals.
Jason: You show up for these initial contacts at the property, or these appraisals, or whatever you’re doing, and you would pull out virtual reality goggles, and set your camera there, and start describing what you do.
Michael: Correct. Now, fast forward a few more years, we didn’t have to go to the property anymore, because I had the virtual tours online, and people can see them, and it would tie on my websites, so people could see that too, and they got to the point where people would make an inquiry, and I will send them a video message. They’re already seeing all the proof statements, and a video message to start the initial conversation. I didn’t have to meet all these owners, I try to meet all the owners. Sometimes I make time for if they’re interstate, they were overseas, whatever the reason. I found other ways to get inside the living room without being in their living room. You have the virtual tours, and then you get the video text messages, and a lot of people will say, “I’m too scared to do a video text message. What if I say the wrong thing?” I say, “It’s easy, don’t send it. Just do it again.”
Jason: Right, re-record it.
Michael: If you’re doing a video, you can edit it. If it’s not live, edit. If it’s live, I’d say laugh. So what? Make a mistake, we’re human. I will make the same mistake speaking with you, as I would do on a video. Recapping on it, our process was, every property had to have a virtual tour. When I had the staff, they weren’t happy going out and taking a virtual tour, because it would take them between 15 minutes to 30 minutes, maybe depending on how many rooms there were. It’s a very fast process to take photos and then you just copy them on to the Vieweet platform, and you put the hyperlinks, the hotspots, and the tour is done. The tour might take you 45 minutes to do.
For me, that’s no problem at all, if it’s a big one. If it’s small one bedroom place, might take you five minutes to stitch it together. It just depends. The more you do it, the faster you become. Every property had the virtual tour, had the video, had some updated photos. It just meant that as a tenant, trying to select for the property, all the problems were answered. As an owner, we’re now looking at other agents online who’s going to rent out their property, they can take the methodical process of photo, virtual tour, application form. That’s very simple process. We then are going to back it up with proof statements, like the rent is zero vacancy. All those other things that were important, because if you guys are doing an appraisal and start just reeling off everything you do, you’re the same as everyone else, but if you can show proof statements, then it’s 97% there.
Jason: Love it. You can easily send a video introducing yourself, and you can send them link to a page of video testimonials from clients. If you can give them all the social proof, and you say, “Look at how we market the properties.” Send them the link to your rental listings. “Here’s an example. Here’s a property similar to yours maybe.” Suddenly, they can imagine all of it, they can see it, and it becomes real to them. This becomes this huge competitive advantage in this huge differentiator between you, and other property management companies, and then it’s allowing you to close more deals. I would imagine it facilitates word-of-mouth, because people are going to talk about you because they’re probably impressed.
I would be impressive if somebody showed up with goggles, and camera, and show me tours, and sent me a video text message. I’d be like, “These guys are on top of things, and they’re tech savvy, and they’re going to take care of me out of the gate.”
Michael: I guess one of the great things is, I won’t mention the exact pricing, but we were full fee. We weren’t competing with, “But that agent is offering a cheaper fee,” anymore. We’re full fee, we’re doing full leasing fee for management estate. In Australia, we can’t charge as many fees as you can in America. I wish we could, but we were full fees. I was maximizing every potential fee that I could, so routine inspection fees, higher statement fees. We were full fees, we don’t have to compete with someone. I remember when I started, Jason, and I’m trying to get traction, I sent out a thousand flyers to people and offered a low management fee to people for three months. I got one person out of the thousand that I sent out, that was great, because there were multiple referring client. But starting out, thinking that I have to charge something low, so that I can get in front of more people was one of the biggest crazy thoughts that I had at the very start.
Jason: It’s one of the most common beginner pitfalls is, “I need to be cheaper than everybody else to get started and to compete.”
Michael: Yeah. If I just realized back over 10 years ago that my value proposition had to change.
Michael: “Not with my fees but with my value proposition. How do I not complicate it? Now, I no longer have any other office. I work from a home office. I’ve restructured because I don’t want to have physical staff. I’ve got VAs that do all the menial tasks. All the properties that we have are on the virtual platform. I’ve got no properties arranged at the moment. No rent arrears. Last year, I was abroad seven months of the year. I was in Turkey for two months, Indonesia for two months, in and out of America, or like interstate. I traveled a lot.
This year, maybe four months of the year. If I get a new business, I will have someone go and do the virtual tool for me. I’ll train a simple person who doesn’t want to do anything else if I’m not around. I enjoy going to the properties and checking them out. I’m a bit of a property nerd, I like checking them out, seeing how we can add value and connecting. The most important thing for me as an agency was to make sure that we have meaningful conversations, getting rid of all the clutter and all the noise. Instead, we will focus on the good happy goals, the meaningful connections, making sure that we can add value to our customers and our clients. That was our end result, to have that meaningful connection. The rest just all falls into place, it’s all systems.
Jason: You didn’t go into it thinking, “I just want to automate everything to the nines.” Your core end goal was, “We want to have meaningful connections,” and then, “I want to have freedom as I’m doing this,” to just focus on that.
Michael: Yeah. Automating it just allows the opportunity to spend more time with people.
Jason: I love it.
Michael: It wasn’t to make it so easy that I could travel a lot. It just meant that I need to get better connections. I pick up properties from going overseas. So many Americans travel. I’ve been in Europe and picked up a new management system […] abroad. It gives me that flexibility. Also, you get to actually get new systems. People do things differently, so go out and see how other people are doing things to make their businesses better and how can you implement it in your business. It’s so important.
Jason: Yeah. I think I heard a quote the other day that was, “Travel is the language of peace.” The amount of tolerance, and learning, and growth that happens just from being in different environments and different cultures, I remember taking a trip to Israel and it just was so different than what I was used to in the US. Even the checkpoints where kids were holding machine guns. It was just all so different and it was just really eye opening. I’ve been in Mexico, very different.
You’ve been exposed to so many different cultures. You get to really fill your soul with having this variety in life. I think that’s part of why a lot of people are in property management. They love that unique variety. There’s all these different unique challenges that come with it. There’s all these unique opportunities to meet unique people. You really got to focus on the even best and highest portions of that by being able to treat that freedom.
Michael: Don’t be scared of doing anything. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Trial it. If it’s not 360 for someone, if it’s not video for someone. Go ahead and trial things and see how it can give you that freedom, but also to be able to engage with people, family, and friends. Imagine if you live in a suburb and you’ve got a sports club, a church, a local pub, or whatever you’ve got, all these meeting places but you never get to go there because you’re so busy trying to do the admin. You’re a local real estate agent and you’re not even able to local. Flip that upside down. Imagine if you’re a local real estate agent doing local things because you have all these other things automated and being done for you while you’re networking, and meeting, and engaging with people in your area. Imagine for a second how different that looks.
Jason: Yeah, I love it. I think, Michael, everybody listening has probably by now hopefully felt a little bit inspired that there’s this possibility that you’ve painted for them that is probably for a lot of property manager still outside the current world view. I think that’s exciting. I appreciate you coming on the show. How can people get in touch with you and what sort of take away would you want to leave them with?
Michael: Well, if you’ve got any questions about anything we’ve spoken about today, just hit me up on Facebook and send me a message and I’ll respond that way. It’s probably the easiest way rather than giving you a cell number or an email, just go to Facebook, we can connect there. I’m on messenger, it’s the simplest way. Again, I guess the constant message that we’ve been discussing today is try it; don’t give up, try new things that may automate your business and give you more time tomorrow even though you’re spending more time today to get it done.
Jason: Perfect. This is an episode I will hope that people will listen to more than once. Michael, I appreciate you coming on the show.
Michael: You’re welcome.
Jason: I think you gave a lot of value. I’m grateful to you. Thanks for being here and sharing so many ideas.
Michael: Thank you.
Jason: Alright, cool. That was really fun for me as a nerd to have Michael on. Message him through Facebook. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors and make a difference, as I said in the intro, then you should be a part of our community. You would love it in there. Make sure you join the DoorGrow Club. You can get into that by going to doorgrowclub.com.
Our Facebook group, there’s really cool people in there like Michael, and there’s just some phenomenal helpful property managers. People that buy into this vision that good property management can change the world. That what the industry needs here, especially in the US is collaboration over competition. These are people that are willing to collaborate, willing to help, willing to support you.
Make sure you get inside the DoorGrow Club Facebook group and check it out. If you join that group, if you apply and join that group, it’s free, but you have to apply. We will give you some free gifts including a fee bible and some other really cool takeaways and gifts over the next few days after we welcome you to the group, just to welcome you aboard, part of our Facebook group. Check that out at doorgrowclub.com. Until next time everybody, to our mutual growth. Bye everybody.