The following blog post is a time-stamped, full transcript of Bob Preston’s interview of James Barrett, co-founder of Tenant Turner. The episode was recorded October 31, 2019 and published on the Property Management Brainstorm Podcast. The audio version of this podcast can be found at this link of the North County Property Group website, as Episode 24- Tenant Turnover Issues Solved: Property Management Brainstorm Show.
Bob Preston: 01:51 Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Property Management Brainstorm podcast. I'm Bob Preston, your host of the show, broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar, California. On today's episode, we're going to discuss an aspect of being a landlord that can be incredibly time consuming, if not managed efficiently, and that is the period of time from when you list a rental property to the time a tenant is actually identified and the lease is signed. So you can imagine all the moving parts during this period of time. So imagine inquiries by phone, by text, by mail, responding to those leads, prescreening and pre-qualifying those people who have inquired, scheduling appointments to show, arranging for prospective tenants to see the property, then obtaining applications and making a tenant decision. Wow. I get tired just thinking about it, but I have with me today, one of our partners at North County Property Group, James Barrett of Tenant Turner, a company that has some cool technology and software that allows us to handle this process much more efficiently than the typical landlord. So thank you so much for being here today, James.
James Barrett: 02:52 Yeah, thank you Bob. Thank you for having me. It's a obviously a very important topic within this industry because if you can't solve the leasing problem, then you end up with vacancy, which comes with a very high cost to property owners and property.
Bob Preston: 03:05 Yea and I love the mantra at tenant Turner. It's sorta to keep, you know, landlords leasing their properties faster with less labor and essentially making that process more efficient. So maybe start us off today by telling us about yourself. The basic premise behind tenant Turner and give it a go.
James Barrett: 03:21 Tenant Turner was founded about five, six years ago by myself and a couple of my co founders. We were it consultants. Um, we were, uh, landlords self managing our own properties and we'd dealt with, you know, these leasing headaches firsthand at the time, you know, our rental properties, we bought them at kind of the height of the market and then, you know, the market crashed and couldn't get out from under them. So we were those accidental landlords that didn't have a lot of margin to hire professional property manager. So we did those and you know, really struggled with the leasing side of things because we were in great jobs doing things for our companies and our businesses that we were consulting with couldn't handle the phone calls during the day, couldn't get back to the emails fast enough. You respond to the attendant later that day or the next day, they don't remember who you are, you know, so, you know, finding it immediately right.
Bob Preston: 04:11 They've probably already inquired to five other rental properties in the meantime. Right?
James Barrett: 04:15 Exactly. Yeah. I'm like, no. Yeah, the townhouse and Sorrento Valley, I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about. Where's Sorrento Valley? I've already inquired about several places. They may have even already applied to another property. It's funny, on the rental side of real estate leads can come in faster than you can handle them, but they can go out, you know, it feels like just as fast sometimes because they did find another property, you know, particularly those high quality tenant leads.
Bob Preston: 04:37 Yeah, we also get the a inevitable tire kickers who will call leave a message and then you're trying to get back to them, but you can never quite get back in touch with them. Take it back to them, right?
James Barrett: 04:47 Yeah, they're not, they're not that serious. Yeah.
Bob Preston: 04:51 So full disclosure, we're one of your clients and we have found some things that have helped us greatly. I'm going to let you kind of tell me what you do for us, but this is a true story. This is about, we've been with you about a year now. I think, and uh, last year I was sitting in my office and I can, I have a glass door and window where I kind of look out into the bullpen area and I was watching this go on. The phones were ringing off the hook. The receptionist was, was answering calls from prospective tenants if she was available, not on the phone, transferring those messages over to our Leasing Manager. This chitchat would go on about the property. Meanwhile, another call would be coming in, right? So the phone was already ringing again, being put on hold, maybe a time to show the property was discussed and the prospective tenant would say, well I have to check with my husband or my partner, right, whatever, let me call you back. So then that goes away and who knows when or even if that person will call back. Okay, so now another call is being taken. That person calls back wanting to schedule, but now our Leasing Agents on the phone. You get the idea, right? I mean this was like, it was like chaotic and just didn't seem very efficient to me. And that doesn't even cover concept of mail, our email inquiries and responses and texts, things like that. So I knew there was a better way to do it. I found you guys, so tell me what you guys do for us, you know, to, to help us with those kinds of scenarios.
James Barrett: 06:11 Yeah, and you painted a great picture of the problem
Bob Preston: 06:14 Do you typically hear that kind of scenario?
James Barrett: 06:16 Yeah, I mean one of our little pop up banners that we have at conferences that, that gets most people's attention is eliminate distracting phone calls and emails because that's for the process starts. There's more phone calls coming in than any one person can handle. Even if you just list the limited number of properties, you know, you said there's a significant number of tire kickers and often asking the same questions over and over, when is the property available? Does it accept section eight can my pit bull live there? Some questions like that. And then you have these good quality tenants who maybe you don't get a chance to talk to because you're inevitably getting inundated with people who aren't going gonna qualify anyway. So really that's the premise of Tenant Turner like how do we help people find that needle in the haystack? How do we eliminate all the rough to get to the diamond and that's a lot of what we do by using automation, using software, making property managers available 24/7 so now if somebody calls your leasing line at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday or 10:00 AM on a Sunday, they can get a text message, they can be on the couch with their significant other partner and they can go ahead and get themselves pre-qualified and scheduled. If they're not a good fit for the property, we kindly let them know and try to redirect them to your other listings that they could be better qualified for. But if they are a good fit, they can go through the process very easily and instantaneously. All online in a row.
Bob Preston: 07:35 Is this service or your software available to your typical landlord who might just be sort of managing a small portfolio, one or two homes or is it mainly designed for people like North County Property Group or professional property managers?
James Barrett: 07:47 I would say it's definitely developed with you in mind. You know, you're, you're are our target customer, but we do have some people who manage small portfolios of their own properties that utilize the software. We have some property management companies that only have one or two units under management cause they're just getting started to use the software to. And then of course we have some management companies that have thousands of units under management and might even operate, you know, across 10 different geographies and different offices. So, you know, the leasing solution in and of itself is something that can be utilized by anyone. The value really comes in when you think about the scenario you just talked about where phone calls are coming in in such a rapid way because of the listings that are on the market. And that is often more associated with a professional property manager.
Bob Preston: 08:34 Yes. Well we have hundreds of properties. So you can imagine how much part of the phone ringing phenomenon is exciting, right? It's like a, what can we do to make the phone ring? You know, you hear businesses say that kind of thing. We'll care for what you asked for because when the phone rings and half of the phone ringing is from riffraff, then it's tough to kind of cut through the haze. Right. Okay. So I mentioned the part about who can sign up with you guys because I just want our listeners to know who our investors, you know, this might be something you might want to look into or if you're considering hiring a property manager like us, we have access to these kind of efficiency tools that a lot of companies or other people may not. And so this is why we can do things like offer a 30 day rental guarantee because we're so confident in our process and what I'm going to do now, James, if you're cool that is kind of ask you, so what is the workflow, right? I mean I sort of described this semi chaotic scenario in our office where the phones are ringing off the hook and we're trying to get back to people and schedule people. Can you do that quickly? I mean, is it easy to summarize sort of what might happen if somebody inquires? And I'm guessing, you know, their disparate ways were different perspective renters would contact a company like us. Well, I'm not guessing. I know that. So I'm, I'm asking kind of a loaded question, but walk our listeners through that.
James Barrett: 09:46 Yeah. And this is another, you know, reason why having a professional property manager on your team is good for your investment because these inquiries they can come in from all different angles and that way. Crazy. Yeah. I mean, they're, they're just, they're just flooding in and, and, and it's one of those things that it does, it can be kind of a chaotic environment. And so with Tenant Turner, we try to create simplicity with that and aggregate everything in one place. Doesn't matter if they call, text, email or walk in and they're added by a property manager themselves. It's all getting aggregated into one place. And that allows us to track everything. Um, another component of Tenant Turner is being able to track the different stages, all the various leads are in, and then creating an owner report for you guys to be able to share with the property owners. So they feel involved in the process and aware of what's going on. And basically what that report is just a visualization of the leasing funnel. You know, when we have leads coming in all the way through to the point that they've viewed the property and have applied for it.
Bob Preston: 10:48 So a lead comes in through whatever source. Some of them get kind of automatically picked up by you guys. Right. And others might need to be added. Can you explain the difference there? And do you have software that's online that captures these incoming leads into, for lack of a better word, kind of a customer management tool, right? Like where you can capture the leads. Okay, so let's do that. How would these people end up in your system?
James Barrett: 11:12 Yeah. So those leads, as they come in from all those different places and all those different channels, they're ultimately going to get an immediate response from Tenant Turner. That's a key component of utilizing a tool like this is an immediate response in real time, so that way they don't fall through the cracks. Another component of what we do is provide automated follow-ups, so oftentimes it's hard enough to get back to a tenant lead fast enough in order to capture them. It's very difficult to follow up with them to continue to kind of nudge them through the process. So immediacy, automated follow-ups, help encourage them to take the next step. And then for us, really the next stage after you kind of nurture those leads to the process is really about pre-qualification. Not every person is good for every property. Anybody who's ever managed a property, whether it's on their own or through a management company, knows that. And the way that we look at it is we've created our own tenant match score for each individual listing and a person in our score might be a 10 which is a perfect score for one property, but then be a zero or maybe a three for another property based upon their income or desired move in date or maybe some.
Bob Preston: 12:19 Pets. Yeah. The size of their family, number of bedrooms, you know, 55 or older. They're all kinds of, yeah. Prescreen items.
James Barrett: 12:28 And what we found too is that, you know, not only is it that the property manager is showing agent doesn't want, you know, to have to meet somebody on a property, even though they ultimately won't qualify. The person doesn't want to go out of their way to meet somebody at a property just to find out that they then have to submit an application and an application fee to then find out that they don't qualify. So making sure that the pre-qualification process occurs, doing it in a lightweight, mobile friendly way for the prospective tenant. So that way they know if they're a good fit and the property manager knows if it's a lead worth continuing to nurture.
Bob Preston: 13:01 So from our perspective, we can build your system into our listing, depending upon where it is, you know, for example, on our website we have a schedule a showing button that allows them to go kind of directly from that into your system. It works a little bit differently on Zillow. We have to post a link that they have to be smart enough to paste in. But once they do that, they can actually go, they're actually in your system. Right. As a, as a candidate or perspective. And then tell the listeners what happens from there.
James Barrett: 13:30 Yeah, I mean the, the first thing we capture from them is going to be name, email and phone numbers. So that way the property management company can have that lead even if it means they have to manually call out to them for a harder to fill vacancy. Then the next stage of the process is to get them to answer some of those pre-qualification questions. And we're very transparent about what those restrictions are. You know, this property allows for people with no more than one cat. Uh, this property is available for people, um, with no bankruptcies or evictions. So that way we can.
Bob Preston: 14:00 And we can customize those somewhat for to our listeners. Right. So we can set it up and set those criteria ourselves.
James Barrett: 14:06 Yup. Exactly. And it's the thing to now, not every property is going to follow the, you know, the exact same. So that's why you can customize a little bit, can even have some custom questions in there. And then for our customers who are doing more self-access with the electronic lock boxes, we also have kind of an ID upload component that's part of that pre-qualification process. So standard questionnaire, optional custom questions, optional idea upload. And then from there that person can book their appointment with a person or with one of those electronic lockboxes.
Bob Preston: 14:36 Okay. So yeah, hold that thought because we're gonna get dive into lockboxes and self-showing and that kind of stuff here in a minute. So what we've kind of focused on so far is the incoming lead and the efficiency through which we can basically schedule a, showing that right there alone is huge because you're saving all that back and forth and calling a message, taking and checking with their spouse. They can sit down at night on the sofa together, access the system, pick a time that is, by the way, connected to our leasing agents calendar. We've established so we know that she's going to be available. So huge. Yeah, really, really big improvement in our process. And look, it's not that we're trying to get out of doing work, it's like we're trying to get the place rented quickly and make our processes way more efficient for our clients. And I think with your system we're able to do that.
James Barrett: 15:19 And I think about it like this, like if I wish I could book every appointment in my life, like people can book showings through Tenant Turner. I can't tell you how many times I've had to go. The dermatologist is a great example. I don't know when they're available. I don't know when I can get in there and whenever I call them, it takes me forever to get ahold of somebody. And then when I do, it feels like we can never come to an agreement on when I can actually go see the doctor. And it's like, you know what, if I can just answer a couple of questions about what I want to see them for, they match me up with the appropriate doctor I picked from their actual availability. It immediately pops on my calendar and I can do it on my time, not nine to five. I can do it at 10 o'clock on a Tuesday and that would be perfect for me.
Bob Preston: 16:01 I feel your pain on that. I'm a tennis player and I'm a member at a tennis club and I keep telling the owner of the club, you need to have an online court reservation system dude. Cause plus just find the time to remember. We're all busy. Right. And you got a call, you know from the whatever. Sometimes you get the message machine. I mean the same exact thing. Okay. Were we digress? All right. So we've kind of gotten to the point where we have an appointment. Let's just pretend that, right? Whether we're the property management company, the landlord, whatever, or the tenant, what traditionally are the ways in which a landlord show their properties? I mean maybe can just start with that. Okay. Because a, I think it's a really interesting question cause there's a lot of different strategies behind that, right?
James Barrett: 16:38 Yeah. Yeah. And for, for us within Tenant Turner, we have two kind of big bucket categories of how people can go view a property. We have in-person showings where you know, a leasing agent landlord is going to physically meet the person at the property and show them the rental. Uh, then we have self-access viewings within in person appointments. You know, that's normally when you're defining open houses, you know, so you can say, all right we're going to host an open house Saturday two to four, you can do that. Or you know, what a lot of our customers do is use some general availability, which is kind of nine to five Monday through Friday. And then people get to pick and choose what the most appropriate time is for them. And so in person appointments still most widely used, most traditional and you have a couple of options around, you know, more open house style or group showings or one on one appointments.
Bob Preston: 17:27 And when the viewings or the showings are scheduled, you guys help us confirm those, right?
James Barrett: 17:32 That's right. And that's, that's a huge part of the process. As soon as the appointment gets booked, we're immediately sending out calendar invitations. That way it's put on the person's Google calendar, outlook calendar, Yahoo calendar, whatever the case is. And that helps encourage them to be there. And then we also do get them to confirm by text or email and getting those text message confirmation increases the likelihood that they'll show up by 75% you know, kind of goes back to what we were talking about before, like sometimes it's hard enough to get back to a lead in the first place. It's hard enough to follow up with them. It's hard enough to get the appointment book, but then once you got the appointment booked, there's still lots of activities left in order to actually get them to show up.
Bob Preston: 18:11 Oh yeah. And you know that unfortunately a just can, we were talking about tire kickers earlier. Sometimes between the time you've got them scheduled and the time you are planning to meet them, stuff happens and people's lives and they may change their mind. They may decide, Oh, let's not move. I mean, and sometimes they just don't even bother. They just don't show up, which then is a big waste of time too. So the confirmation aspect really helps us. And you do that by text? By my email, right?
James Barrett: 18:36 We do it by text and email and, but most commonly we see, you know, text message responses at that point. And then also we do a two-hour reminder before the appointment to to further encourage people. But either those points we give them the option to cancel or reschedule. To your point, just now, I find it fascinating to look at the cancellation reason. So we capture a cancellation reason from those perspective tenants when they do cancel and we ask them, are they still interested in the property or not interested in the property? If, if I'm a firefighter and there's a building on fire and I can't go to my showing, that's that I'm still a good 10 it's a little different than you know. Yeah. It doesn't bother show up. Exactly. So it's, it's, it's for me, I love it. That's one of my favorite features in the tool is looking at those cancellation reasons because I'm like, okay, this person, this is not going to work out. That is not a good reason. If they're going to stand me up under this situation, then they're not going to be a responsible tenant. But then others you look at me like, you know what, that's a legitimate reason. There's a family situation, there's a work situation. They're taking responsibility for what's important, you know, let's get them rescheduled and get them to come get this property.
Bob Preston: 19:43 Let's quickly describe a hosted showing is like you mentioned could be, you know, some people call them open houses. We prefer to call them like we'll be there between, because we don't want to call it an open house cause then you might just have riff raff walking in off the street and we don't tend to want that. We want people who have inquired or interested and are there to see the property to rent it. But we do oftentimes use that strategy where we just say, Hey, our agent will be there between one and three o'clock on Thursday. And we sometimes kind of like to create sort of a feeding frenzy where people are coming in and you know, wow, look at all the people, we better act quickly on this. Right? So that's sort of helpful. Or you know, it might just be two, a single couple might be after hours or whatever, but there's somebody there from our company. Or sometimes it could be another agent who's licensed and has MLS access or whatever. And we will give them the code to the lockbox. And now that's sort of the host of things. So, let's talk lockboxes and the concept of self-showing.
I've recently discovered a cool new service called Instacart, which saves you a trip to the market for groceries. We'd like to share this service with all of our renters and our portfolio properties because they might be here on vacation, have a sick kid at home, or just stuck at work all day with no time to go to the grocery store. Instacart connects you with personal shoppers in your area to shop and deliver groceries from your favorite stores and as fast as an hour. They give you unlimited grocery delivery for one low monthly fee and drop those items right to your front door. Maybe you need that special ingredient for a meal being prepared for dinner party. My wife had knee surgery this summer and was laid up for a few days leaving grocery shopping to me. Now that was a bad idea. When you get the picture you can shop any store in your area for the items or deals you prefer. Every item is hand selected by personal shoppers. They pick the freshest produce and make sure your eggs are safe too. So give it a try, follow the link in the show notes and get free delivery on your first order is over $35 this also lets Instacart know we sent you and helps support our show.
Bob Preston: 21:44 Let's talk lockboxes and the concept of self-showing. So you guys have a special lockbox. It's a publicly available lockbox but you guys kind of customize it. Let's start there. Tell us about CodeBox and how that kind of fits into your system.
James Barrett: 21:59 So the electronic lockbox concept has been emerging for the past, you know, five to 10 years or so. And it's a, it's a great way to use a realtor type lockbox without being a realtor. And the big component that Tenant Turner steps in and does is really around, you know, some of the ID upload scam detection and prevention so that way those lockboxes aren't getting into the wrong hands. In that way only, the appropriate people are actually getting access to the property. But those lockboxes what's great about these electronic lockboxes compared to a mechanical lock box or a combo lock box is each person who goes to view the property, they're each getting their own unique code. That unique code is only good for the day that they've been authorized and it's only good for a short window of time. So that way they can't come back and reuse it.
Bob Preston: 22:48 Presumably the time that they scheduled for their viewing to be.
James Barrett: 22:50 That's right. That's right. Yeah, we did. We did run some queries on this and we have found that 90% of people will show up 90 minutes before 90 minutes after, like within that window of their appointment.
Bob Preston: 23:01 Okay. So you make it a little bit broader. Yeah, a little bit of a buffer. Okay. If a vendor wants to go in to do some repairs, and as a property management company, we can give a vendor a code. So that's kind of nice. Right. But again, it's unique. It can be unique to them. Uh, we have a general code that our agents use, so that's fine. They don't have to remember a new code every time they go in. We can also to a real estate agent who is a member of MLS and shows us their license or their card, we can give them a code. Right. And so it works very seamlessly across a broad set of categories. Okay. So most of our rental properties, unless, there's maybe someone still living there. We'll typically get a lockbox. I don't want to promote their brand necessarily, but I think the brand typically uses called Codebox. Right? Is that what you?
James Barrett: 23:47 Yep. Yeah. Historically we, we've used the CodeBox, electronic lockbox and then more recently we've also released an integration with Sentri lock, electronic lock box, so solar products. Some people may be more familiar with Sentri lock because they're owned by the national association of realtors and are used by a lot of MLS systems and we've taken that concept from the for sale market and we brought it down to the, you know, the tenant side.
Bob Preston: 24:12 Gotcha. I think we've explored that with you and for some reason we've decided not to go there yet, but let's keep an eye on that one because we do have a lot of realtors who have Sentri cards obviously who, which makes it easy. Okay. So let's dive in to them. The concept of self-showing the cause. This is tied to the concept of lockbox. Tell us about that. I know it's a trend and gaining ground rapidly in the property management and rental markets. So tell us what that is and let's just start there.
James Barrett: 24:41 We've identified, you know, more and more companies moving to self-access viewings in a lot of it's around just the, the significant efficiencies that it can create and the fact that it opens up a rental to be viewed normally before business hours, after business hours and even on the weekends. So traditionally for an in-person appointment, there's multiple schedules that are trying to be accommodated and obviously the more schedules that need to be accommodated, the more difficult it is. But sometimes you're dealing with the current occupants, a availability for somebody to show that home. You're dealing with the leasing or showing agents availability to show that home. Uh, and then you're dealing with a prospective tenants availability to go look at that home. But self-access, it's really streamlined into just when does that prospective tenant want to go take a look at it. And of course once we've pre-qualified them, vetted them, they can pick a time of their choosing and we're seeing more and more folks utilizing that type of technology. And we ran some analysis on, you know, what time of day most people are going and you know, for the most part people are doing self access in the middle of the day. But you know, what we're seeing is about 10 or 15 about you know, 20% of viewings are occurring after hours. And then you know, even if you look on the weekends for example, 19% of our self-access viewings are happening on Saturday alone. So you know that that's a significant impact there of uh, the the number of viewings that you can have and over 10% of viewings are occurring on Sunday. So it's a, it's a huge lift for people who want to go after hours during the week and those that want to go on the weekend and giving them the ability to go view the home on their own.
Bob Preston: 26:20 Okay. So I'm a perspective renter and I've contacted you. The property that I've contacted you about is set up for self-showing you can you have the option of self-showing or hosted within your system? I know this. Yeah, we have about 50/50 split. I and I'll, I'll touch on that in a minute. That's an option. So I identify myself, right? I have to show my, typically my ID, upload a, upload a driver's license, answer all the pre-qualifications questions. So you know, as a property manager that I'm qualified and in those situations then we as a property manager can give that person a code to go see the property themselves. That's kind of how it works. And we count on them to go see the property on their own in Sorrento Valley, provide feedback. And then periodically we do our rounds, right. Make sure all the properties are locked back up. But we've rarely had a problem with it. But we have learned to ask the owners like, Hey, we'd like this technology, we'd like to use it. Are you cool with that? And kind of an opt in opt out type approach. Most people will say yes, some still today. I don't know if you ever hear this there kind of like I'm really not comfortable with that. And, you know, we just don't want any, any surprises, you know, we want to be totally transparent with our clients, but it really is a great way to get something ready quickly. So the obvious question, James, is, is it secure?
James Barrett: 27:39 Yeah, I mean, short answers. Yes, it is secure. You know, honestly, some of our customers use self-access for safety reasons. Uh, and some of the markets they don't want their staff members, you know, having to go out and meet these people who are, for lack of a better term, they're strangers. You know, there's, there's only so much you know, that you know about that person. And you know, there's normally a lot of appointments I have to go into, uh, showing a rental before it actually gets leased. And so a lot of times they use the self-access solution as a safer alternative to in-person appointments. And then when you think about with the property in the security of that, these are vacant units, right? So you wouldn't use this on an occupied property. You would only use self-access for vacant units. You know, as we get questions like, well, is it secure? What if somebody steals the fridge? You know, I guess that could happen. I've never had anything reported, you know, like where somebody has gone in and stole the fridge. But theoretically it could happen. I imagined a person who would steal the fridge from a vacant property wouldn't be against punching the leasing agent in the face and stealing the fridge. You know, shortly after that
Bob Preston: 28:44 I’d say that they probably would've already scoped out the house, realizes vacant and come at night and kicked in the back door
James Barrett: 28:53 Exactly. I mean, in order for them to get to the point of the process where they're actually going to view the property, we have many safeguards in place. You know, they can't use a burner phone, they can't use an easily disposable voiceover IP phone that they created online. It has to be an actual cell phone number tied to a contract. We run multiple data points about that person from their IP address, their phone number, their email, their ID, their device ID from their actual phone. We take all of these things into account plus dozens of other data points and we pass it on to fraud detection tool to do some verification. Anybody who seems somewhat suspicious will immediately flag them in the system where they can't go view on their own. And we let the property manager know like, Hey, there's something not right here. You may want to call this person before you grant them access to the property so they can go on the road.
Bob Preston: 29:43 And the other thing from a security perspective is that we know when they've gone in, right? So if they go in and then we determined that something happened, um, you know, we also know when they leave based on when they close it. So I mean it's like squatting. I mean that can't really happen. Right? I'm like, what about scammers? I know there's been kind of a, a rise in scammers who pop up, particularly on Craig's list where they sort of hide, I call it hijacking a listing. They take all your photos, your description, they put it up on Craigslist with their own listing at half the price. Very unscrupulous to get somebody to pay them money and then they kind of evaporate. So are the self-showing codes kind of falling into that trap a little bit or what are you guys doing in that regard?
James Barrett: 30:26 Yeah, it is definitely something that has been on the rise. We've done some research into this and the FCC, they track just scams and online scam reports in apartment or house rental scams are on the rise. So between 2017 and 2018 they increased by about 50% so there's far more scams in this space within rental houses and apartments than there used to be. Craigslist really is the breeding ground for most of it. Some self-showing tools have been targeted by it. We're lucky in that with Tenant Turner, not only do we have some additional safeguards that prevent those types of scams, but only about a third of our listings are set up for self-access. So some of the other self-access tools, you're really going to be about 80 90 a hundred percent of their listings are going to be self-access. So with us, if a scammer were to trying to do something with one of our listings, they've only got, you know, a 30% shot that it would even be a self-access appointment. So it's a lot of wasted effort on their part.
Bob Preston: 31:29 Well even if they were to acquire a code, somehow get through the system, you know, with false IDs or whatever, get a code and then publish that code for people to go via that code would only be good for that limited period of time where they were granted access.
James Barrett: 31:43 So yep, it would take a lot. I mean in some of that, some of the scams have, you know, they have increased in sophistication, you know, it's a cat and mouse game, right? So in our system we now prevent all of these such things. But something that was happening was an international scammer. Normally in Nigeria would create the Craigslist, fraudulent posting, generate interest in a rental property. They have a real person, go to that property, texting some information from that property and then they would have a different person go back out to the property, get another text message in order to get the code that they would post. But like you said, oftentimes it was for not, because by the time they can actually get another person to scam the code would be no good. That's the importance of those one-time use codes with short period of time.
Bob Preston: 32:31 Yeah. And, and this scammer phenomenon is not specific to lockboxes in your technology. I'm just kind of, I'm using it like in connection with, I mean it's become problem on Craigslist and just in our business, but typically the scammer postings are discovered and taken down pretty quickly. I mean, Craigslist is doing a much better job of that. And sometimes we get these cookie calls though. Like, Hey, I just talked to this guy, introduced himself as Bob Preston. Well, no, that's me. Okay. Well gosh, yeah, cause it was a different phone number and what's going on here. And we can typically pull them down. It doesn't happen a lot.
James Barrett: 33:02 Say one more thing about this game's, uh, so we syndicated a lot of listings, syndicate, you know, market to different websites and stuff. I had an email from realtor.com the other day and essentially a scammer was trying to scam through realtor.com and sent a suspicious note through to realtor.com about a listing that we, you know, was associated with, with one of our customers rentals. So it was just amazing to me, you know, with the length that these scammers will go through to try to do something. And oftentimes it's, it's so overtly obvious what they're doing, you know, it's very easy to shut down.
Bob Preston: 33:39 Right? I mean, an alert consumer should be able to sort of see through that, typically pretty darn easily. All right. We touched on this briefly earlier in the episode, and I do want to be cognizant of time here, but if someone inquires or schedules showing after hours in Sorrento Valley, there's an autoresponder, I call it an autoresponder, you might refer to it with the different terminology that occurs. And I just think that's huge. Can you tell us a little bit about that? So if I, if I come in, I schedule showing or something happens, the system responds, right?
James Barrett: 34:13 Yeah. And it, and it goes back to that immediacy. You know, these folks they need, they need to have some immediate action. One of the things that's great about what we put in our responses is that it's very personalized. So it has the Inquirer's name and includes information about the rental, the things that we've found to be most pertinent to or prospective tenants. So you're always thinking about price even though they may have just seen it online often. That is the most common follow up question. How much is it? Well, it's the exact same price as it is on the Zillow listing, but. But it is interesting. So we reiterate that with folks, things like that and availability date and then just some of the restrictions because we don't, we can, we don't want people wasting their time that they're ultimately not going to be qualified for the property or their moving date is well after when it's available or vice versa.
Bob Preston: 35:02 Right. And then the other aspect I just want to touch on briefly because it's very important to me as a broker and a business owner and someone who wants to always adhere to fair housing laws are the pre-qualification questions. We have our entire staff go through fair housing training on a regular basis, couple times a year. But you know, I mean somebody could goof and say the wrong thing to somebody who calls in and it could be a big kind of deal. Like there are just certain things you can and can't ask a person or say to a person who's inquiring about housing. And that's done for obvious reasons to protect, you know, the people on the other end and we get that. But one thing that's kind of cool about your system is the prequel questions are set. And in writing and sort of being done on a neutral platform, do you hear that often from your clients and people like us?
James Barrett: 35:48 We do and it's one of those things, you know, people can accidentally say the wrong thing. Software cannot accidentally ask the wrong question, which is great. Right. And fair housing is all about consistency and adhering to the standards that you set. So with us we ask a standard set of questions, you know, based upon all within all within fair housing guidelines. Yep. All within fair housing guidelines and we stay up to date on those things. You know, like a one that was a recent update based upon HUD guidelines is around recency of felony convictions. You know, so within our system it used to be, you know, have you ever been convicted of a felony? Well, based upon HUD guidelines, it's, have you ever been convicted of a felony against people or property within the last seven years. Because HUD guidelines had changed and so therefore the software needed to change with it. You know, you had mentioned that the class situation, we can change our software one line of code one time and it updates everywhere for everyone. If a leasing agent or somebody at the front desk miss that, you miss that fair housing class or maybe they're not scheduled for three more months and that person calls in, um, and they handle it incorrectly. You know, you're opening yourself up to some risks there.
Bob Preston: 37:01 Yeah. One of the things we have in California is different counties and different cities have different ordinances related to what is called section eight which is basically housing assistance. And so we have to be really careful about who we talked to, how we talked to them, how open we are to accepting section eight. And it's pretty much mandatory today. So those are all, you know, and you have to stay on top of all those kinds of things. So again, people considering renting their home on their own, these are really important factors. You know, let us do it for you. We know, James knows the law. We have access to these cool tools and keep us, they keep us legally and compliance. We're kind of in the wrap-up phase here, James, because in the interest of time I could talk to you all day, but we need to, I mean it's kind of reduced. Well it's reduced the number of incoming calls and time we need to spend on the phone to schedule showings it. Auto response schedules are showing super efficiently and I'm just wondering, are there metrics or analytics that you have kind of behind that to support that case that I just rattle off/ Hey, I think this makes us more sufficient or more efficient.
James Barrett: 38:02 Yeah. Yeah. I mean one of the metrics we, we constantly monitor is how many people who call into our automated answering system opt to continue down the automation path and use a self-service and it consistently stays in about 70% of callers say, I want to receive a text message. I want to schedule my own appointment. Versus being connected with somebody, you know, that still leaves 30% of people who do want to talk to a human in the system that can accommodate that and usher them into a person to chat with. But I love when I see those metrics because it tells me that the automated system is working, it's them a service that they prefer because we give them the choice of which path to go now. And it means that when they call in late at night or on the weekend, they're getting exactly what they need versus having to leave a voicemail and play phone tag.
Bob Preston: 38:48 Terrific. Hey, you've been so nice to come on the episode today and take your time out of your busy schedule. We went a little longer than 30 minutes today, but that's cool cause it was a really good conversation. Do you have anything you'd like to kind of wrap up with? Tell our audience about yourself, the product, any last tips, any last pieces of advice?
James Barrett: 39:04 Yeah, I mean I would just say, you know, leasing is critical. You know, we look at property management, uh, is really kind of three core components, leasing, maintenance, and then the component around dealing with owners and accounting and finance. And so you know, whether you're doing it on your own or you're using a property management company, like Bob's, like having a good process in place is important. You know, whether it's because of fair housing whether there's because of efficiency, but ultimately to make sure you're putting money back in your pocket, a more efficient leasing process means less rent loss due to vacancy and just ultimately everybody's going to be happy.
Bob Preston: 39:37 Cool. And if listeners wanted to reach out to Tenant Turner to get in touch, how would they go about doing that?
James Barrett: 39:43 Yeah, you can go to a tenant turner.com. You can email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org or we’re active on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. So feel free to reach out through any of those channels.
Bob Preston: 39:54 Okay, cool. And I am going to put a link in our episode notes that our listeners can click through directly on as well. So, Hey, thank you so much for joining the show today. Taking your time out with a great episode. Very much appreciated. I'd like to make a quick plug to our listeners to please leave a positive review for property management brainstorm. It always makes our day and it pays it forward to encourage more great guests like James on the show. So that concludes today's episode. Thank you to all of our listeners for joining the Property Management Brainstorm. Until next time, we will be in the field working hard for our clients to maximize their property value and rental income and maintain top tenant relationships.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.