Property Management Blog

Podcast Transcript: Rental Property Maintenance

Bob Preston - Tuesday, January 15, 2019
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The following blog post is a time-stamped, full transcript of Bob Preston's interview of Zorik Gordon, CEO at Serviz, recorded April 30, 2018 and published on the Property Management Brainstorm Podcast. The audio version of this podcast can be found at this link on the North County Property Group website, as Episode 6 - Keeping Your Rental Property Well Maintained, Featuring Zorik Gordon, CEO at Serviz: Property Management Brainstorm Show.

Episode Transcript

Bob Preston:  00:05     Today we're going to talk about an important topic in terms of renting or property management of your home, and that's maintenance, because you always want to keep your rental property in good working order. And I’m wondering if any of you have ever asked the question, why can't we book and buy local maintenance services online just like we order and buy products online. Well, I have with me today by telephone, Zorick Gordon, who's the Co-founder and CEO at Serviz, an online home services on demand company who is here to hopefully answer that question. Thank you for joining us, Zorick.

Zorik Gordon:  01:31     Hey, nice to meet you, Bob. Thanks so much.

Bob Preston:   01:33     Pleasure to have you here. And so I know this isn't your first Rodeo. I can see from your background that you've had many years of experience in the online sharing economy, various types of online services. So maybe we can start today just by you telling us about yourself, your background, and how you came to be the founder at Serviz.

Zorik Gordon:  01:51     I've been an Internet entrepreneur for almost 20 years now in a sense, even before the Internet bubble. One of the companies that I had previously was called Reach Local, which went out to a lot of small businesses, local businesses, a lot of home service businesses, and we handled all their Internet marketing. We built that out to a publicly traded business. We always knew that, you know, the first step was to get these businesses marketing, but the ultimate vision for us was to move those businesses to where they would be able to transact online, and they were all service businesses. So we really thought long and hard, how do we do that? And that became Serviz and we initially built Serviz within our Reach Local, and you know, our roots are my co-founder and the folks that are in Serviz right now. We decided to spin that company out and make it a standalone business in 2014. And we've been building it ever since, with the vision of, as you so eloquently put, being able to buy home services the way that you buy products online. We always ask ourselves that question and we figured out a way to get it done.

Bob Preston:     03:00   So you may have just answered my next question, what's the primary concept of service and what is the value proposition? So maybe you've already answered the concept question, but what is the value proposition? I mean, why would I come and use Serviz as opposed to going to Yelp or Thumbtack or maybe Angie's List?

Zorik Gordon:    03:17   I think overall the process of booking and buying local services is really antiquated. You know, obviously going back to the Yellow Pages is broken process. Consumers and property managers hate when they have to go there and don't know who to call, so moving it online has made it significantly better, but when you look at Yelp and Google or you look at lead gen sites like Thumbtack where you have to fill out what looks like a tax form and wait for people to come back, we thought that we could make it much better by building a brand and then putting the whole experience online. So, with Serviz you can, through our APP book up to 16 different services, depending on what market you're in. Literally in 15 seconds we already know who you are, we know where you are. So, if you look at, you know, a handyman or simple plumbing stuff that's all pre-negotiated. With Yelp and Angie's list, once you find the provider, their job is done, they wash their hands of the experience, but they're not getting involved in the transaction.  With Serviz, we're taking payment and if there's any issue, we have a whole crew of folks that jump in and if needed, we'll send another pro out and in some certain cases we'll refund the money.

Bob Preston:     05:18   You probably get sick of this analogy, but I'm going to use it anyway. Everybody's familiar with Uber, so is it kind of like Uber where you click a button and give an alert: “hey, I want to get picked up by a driver” and within a couple of seconds you get a response. “Here's your driver's name. He happens to be in your neighborhoods. He'll be there in five minutes.” Is that a parallel to what you guys are doing?

Zorik Gordon:    05:41   It is kind of a parallel because this is an on demand business. The mobile revolution has enabled things like Uber and Serviz to exist because consumers have this device on them 24/7 and business owners and professionals have these devices on them. If I'm on a street corner on a cold day, I want a cab as quickly as I possibly can. You know, when you look at things like home services, well I may not be able to see, a provider until Thursday or you know, my tenant won't be available until Friday so it's a little less real-time. But about 50 percent of our property maintenance jobs are booked for same day. So, we will be able to provide you a pro, in many cases, within two hours of booking. So, the parallels are very similar.

Bob Preston:     06:51   For us as a property management company, we use the terms “maintenance” and “vendors”. I notice you use the term “service” and “service providers”, but we're essentially talking about the same thing here, right? Our vendors are tradesmen who we need at a property to do some form of maintenance repair. So I hope that's okay that I'm using those terms interchangeably. I'm guessing you also are targeting some vertical markets as a company and property management companies must be one of those vertical markets.

Zorik Gordon:    07:36   Absolutely. We have a dedicated group that focuses exclusively on property managers. You know, they reach out, establish the relationships and we have this special group of folks who are monitoring those jobs and coordinating with the key contacts at the property management companies, both large and small. We bring that one stop shop on demand booking to property management. But also, we do have a dedicated group of folks that are establishing that relationship, as I mentioned, in making sure that those jobs are taken care of it. We built a lot of unique technologies because the flow could be very different when dealing with a property manager.

Bob Preston:     08:28   I was going to ask you about that. We have a very specific process we go through as a property manager and you seem to know a little bit about how we operate.

Zorik Gordon:    08:28   We built the technology to accommodate minimums and remote authorizations and have a pros that are trained and know how to handle that particular flow. So, it's a vertical that we're extremely interested in. We found a lot of interesting niches within it. We're starting to do a lot of churn business as, as these units turn, we are sending crews that can paint and refurbish very quickly and get those units ready. And we're trying to do it pretty much on a fixed cost basis. And we're rolling that out across our markets.

Bob Preston:     09:15   Let's pause there just for a second because I want to get more detail on something you said regarding the “rental turn”. What you're referring to, for the audience, is the rental turn between tenants. We move out a tenant, do a very thorough walkthrough, we identify any damages that are going to be charged to the security deposit. We then put together a home repair “punch list” and use our approved vendor list to start calling. So, you're talking about being able to one stop shop, be able to make a call or go to the APP or whatever, and quickly do what we would do as a property manager. How would that work flow come off for us in working with Serviz.

Zorik Gordon:    10:13   Very similar to the way you describe Bob. Either you would go and create the punch list, or we would come out and look and create the punch list at the property. So that's a free process. 

Bob Preston:     10:29   Okay, so you might have a staff member who would be, for all intents and purposes, kind of a generalist who would come scope it out or are you talking about the actual tradesmen that would do that?.

Zorik Gordon:    10:38   We would put the list together and then coordinate all the tradespeople, but we would have a specialist or generalist come in and get a sense for what needs to happen there and then we've got the providers that we would all schedule to come in and get it done. That's where our property manager coordinators would work closely with whatever flow you know, to get that done. But you know, the real value is all the background check and proven providers that we have in the local markets. Maintenance providers can come in and get that done quickly and very cost effectively.

Bob Preston:     11:13  Wow, that's, that sounds terrific. What are the various trades and the vendors that you have already doing services for the the company? Have you focused on certain specific trades or contractor areas?

Zorik Gordon:    11:30  In Los Angeles, for example, we have handymen, appliance repair, plumbing, electrical, carpet, painting, HVAC, all the way to damage restoration, roofing, gutter cleaning, etc. All the major, top 15 verticals in property management, both large and small. Painting is a big one. Handyman obviously is a large one. Only the most proven pros do property management jobs. Because every job happens on our platform, we get a very good sense of how good these providers are. Do they accept jobs that they show up on time? Are our customers happy with them? You know, over 60 percent of our jobs are rated, because as soon as the payment is taken or the invoice is created, we text the owner asking, “how did we do”? 

Bob Preston:     13:07  What we do at North County Property Group, as I mentioned briefly, we have an approved vendor list from which we dispatch directly and we know these tradespeople well. To be on our approved vendors list, you need to provide proof of a contractor's license, general liability insurance, worker's comp, W-9 must be on file, and we make them sign a liability waiver. And that's one way we can assure that the right person has been assigned to the job. So, can you help me understand what vetting process Serviz goes through you’re your service providers that you would put out on the job.

Zorik Gordon:    13:43  We send everybody through criminal nationwide background check, we're checking licenses were applicable. We carry insurance, our pros carry on top of that in insurance. Every job is insured. We do everything necessary to dot the i's and cross the t’s and have that extra step of really running a lot of jobs with these providers and really seeing how they do in the real world.

Bob Preston:     14:31  Okay, terrific. Has it been difficult to find vendors in your various geographical markets that can make the cut, so to speak?

Zorik Gordon:    14:37 We have a very appealing value proposition for providers. You mentioned Yelp and Thumbtack and all those providers are paying a lot of money and taking a lot of risks to buy those leads or to buy those cliques. When we work with maintenance providers on Serviz, it's a pay for performance model. Meaning if you pass your backgrounds, all your licenses, everything checks out, you’ve accepted jobs, do a good job, then we'll keep sending you more. You only get paid when we get paid, right?

Bob Preston:     15:51  I suppose one advantage for the vendors is that you're doing all the booking of the appointments and telling them where and when to go. So, I would imagine on Yelp or Angie's list or whatever, somebody makes a call and they might be in the middle of the job. They don't want to take the time to call the person at that time and then there's this back and forth and getting it scheduled which is a waste of time for the maintenance individual as opposed to just being able to take the job and go do it. And then go to the next one. So that's pretty nice.

Zorik Gordon:    16:21  Absolutely. It saves so much time on coordination and the booking. We've done almost all of that before the job goes out to the pro. The jobs are, are sort of pre-booked. We’re interacting with the consumer or the property manager and they can basically just go do what they do best.

Bob Preston:     16:42  I like how you refer to them as “pros” because they really  professionals in their individual trade or maintenance aspect. And that's a good way to refer to them. So, you identified one of our challenges earlier in that we typically have, as a property management company, a contract with an owner and we're managing the property on their behalf. As part of that agreement we have what's known as a maintenance limit. Maybe you're familiar with this concept. Typically, our maintenance limit is set at $250. Then we send out the vendor to find out kind of what's going on at that property and if it's under $250, fine, go ahead and repair it. If it's above that, we need to get approval from the property owner. So, how would that work through your system? Can you walk me through that scenario where we've sent somebody out to a property and the repair item is above that maintenance limit? We've got to take time to get the approval and then have that person either on hand again or maybe come back to the property another time.

Zorik Gordon:    17:51  Yes, I mean this is a common flow in the property management field where there is a maintenance limit. When we set up a property manager account, we allow them to set up their maintenance limit at their desire level. Obviously, as you know, it's very hard to predict upfront what the problem is or what the cost is. They're going to create an estimate that they're then going to send to you, the property manager. If it's above the $250 limit they know to first have the authorized. The pro is instructed to hang around and wait for a response for a reasonable amount of time and that allows you to basically look and decide. 

Bob Preston:     19:09  So the interaction with that particular home maintenance pro is direct with us not back through like a third party service?

Zorik Gordon:    19:17  Well, it's actually through the technology. You get an email or text asking for authorization. Once it's done, they get an approval. So, it's the technology is handling almost all of it.

Bob Preston:     19:29  So one of the things that also happens is that a tenant or perhaps a homeowner may give us feedback on the quality of the maintenance vendor’s work. Are we able to request an individual pro who had previously done a great job?

Zorik Gordon:    19:48  So, two things happen on our platform. If the property manager has given a five-star review, they’ll automatically be put first in our allocation. When you book the job, “please send out the previous pro”, we'll usually be able to accommodate. It's a benefit for both the pro and for service.

Bob Preston:     20:38  We talked a bit about the “rental turn” and use of your pros and service. What are some of the other common calls you might get from property management companies or owners managing their own rental home? Is there a top five list? 

Zorik Gordon:    20:58  Number one is handymen in terms of break-fix types of things, sort of a jack of all trades type of situations. Number two is probably plumbing.  Appliance problems probably comes in third. And then you started getting into the bigger maintenance like roofing or repainting. 

Bob Preston:     21:35  One of our most challenging scenarios is the dreaded answering service call that comes in at two in the morning. Maybe they need help right away or are locked out of the house. Whatever the scenario, sometimes someone needs to get here right away. Are you guys available 24/7? How does that work at Serviz?

Zorik Gordon:    22:00  We book jobs currently up until right around three to 5:00 PM, including Saturdays. Getting out in the middle of the night is not something that we accommodate currently. 

Bob Preston:     22:20  Okay. Not a problem, just good to know that. What about the tenant side? Do you ever get tenant calls that say, “I’m getting ready to move out of this place? I don't have time to patch the holes and cleaned the carpets. Can you help”?

Zorik Gordon:    22:45   Yes, that would come in through the consumer side usually. I'm sure that happens. It's just hard to kind of quantify.

Bob Preston:     22:56    I don't typically like the term disruptive technology because it sounds kind of ominous, like the people behind it are intentionally trying to rock the boat or do something disruptive to the norms. This could be classified as a pretty disruptive technology, just like Uber was to the norm of taxi drivers. So, what makes maintenance services so susceptible to this kind of disruption? 

Zorik Gordon:    23:27   Anytime you can use technology to make something better, people will start to say its disruptive. The classic example is Amazon. Buying books online was a minor improvement, but it was massive enough to get people to say, “I'm not going to go to the store”. And they've obviously done a great job of exploiting that advantage. The price is lower and the speed faster. So, we saw an opportunity to take a pretty bad and we think we've made it significantly better for the consumers and property managers. Being able to book online, making the prices a lot more transparent, bringing a digital experience to take care of a lot of the upfront headache, creating a pay for performance model where there's nothing out of pocket. And I think enough people do this and they'll end up saying I'm not going to go fill out a form on thumbtack and wait for five people to call me.

Bob Preston:     24:55   I've been in the property management business for almost 20 years and the one thing that I've noticed over that time span is that the expectation for immediate response has grown exponentially. When I started the business, somebody would call and if I called them back the next day, that's not necessarily a problem. Today everyone is expecting immediate service. That is an area where you guys hit the mark. If I'm hearing this correctly, it all happens pretty darn quickly as opposed to the Yelp or Angie's List method where, who knows when somebody's going to call you back.

Zorik Gordon:    25:37   I think that's part of where we come in, right? People are just used to being able to click a button and have somebody show up at their house with food or to have the product show up at their door instead of going to the store. And same thing if something's broken. I'm probably the number one consumer of my own APP when stuff breaks at the house. It is just amazing to be able to just whip out the APP and in 15 seconds I'm done, and I know somebody is coming tomorrow. You could also do the same thing for your property management clients or rental tenants. In a few seconds say “I've got you booked for today at 3pm. There are very few avenues in the service business that can provide the experience.

Bob Preston:     26:27   I’m sure the CEO gets tremendous degree of responsiveness too! But that’s great that you are a user of the APP yourself. So, what are there other aspects of Serviz that you'd like to tell us that our listeners would want to be aware of?

Zorik Gordon:    26:42   Obviously property management is a really important vertical. We'd love to establish these relationships across the country and the markets that we're in. And right now we're in about 23 to 24 markets. We're expanding pretty into the large cities.

Bob Preston:     26:59   I'm assuming San Diego is one of those, by the way?

Zorik Gordon:    27:02   Property management account service is not available in all the markets. It's available in L.A. and San Diego, Orange County, Dallas, but we are rolling it out across the country.

Bob Preston:     27:19   Well, you've got me convinced. I'm going to walk into the office right next to mine and talk to our property management team to get started right away. For any other property manager, homeowner or tenant who wanted to explore Serviz and get in touch with the company, how would they go about doing that?

Zorik Gordon:    27:37    Again, it's a You could download the APP on iTunes or Google Play. We also have a significant outreach program to property managers. So, I'm expecting you will get a call from us and when we do, hopefully you'll know what the call's about. You can also put your property manager in touch with us. I recommend everybody try it. It's just, it's just an amazing experience. 

Bob Preston:     28:17    I suppose someone could just do a Google search of Serviz too. Well thank you so much, Zorick, for joining me today. This was extremely useful information that our listeners can utilize and consider in handling their maintenance if they're renting their home or hiring a Property Manager. 

And that concludes today's episode. Thank you all for joining the Property Management Brainstorm Podcast. Until next time, we will be in the field working hard for our clients to maximize their property value and income and maintain top notch tenant relations. See you next time and thank you again to Zorick Gordon, CEO at Serviz. 

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