Property Management Blog

Property Automation At Your Fingertips


Bob Preston - Monday, December 16, 2019
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The following blog post is a time-stamped, full transcript of Bob Preston’s interview of Sean Miller, CEO of PointCentral. The episode was recorded December 12, 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 27- Gaining Efficiencies Through Property Automation: Property Management Brainstorm Show


Bob Preston:                      01:09                     What's going on Brainstormers? Before we get started today, I'd like to offer you a copy of my new eBook called Best Practices for Renting Your Home. It's a quick read and offers all of my tips from being in the property management business for over 20 years. Navigating the pitfalls and safety nets that come with being a landlord. This eBook has recently been published and is offered as a free download on the North County Property Group website. Find it at this web link and download it for free. www.ncpropertygroup.com/ebook

Bob Preston:                      01:53                     Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Property Management Brainstorm show. I'm Bob Preston, your host, broadcasting from our studio in Del Mar, California at North County Property Group. If you're new here, please subscribe so you have ongoing access to all great episodes and if you like what you hear we would really appreciate it if you would pay it forward and leave a positive review. Well, every landlord and property manager I meet is looking for ways to reduce hassle and improve operating efficiencies. Right? Everybody wants that and today the episode is dedicated to ways that can be accomplished through smart home technology and automation. I have with me today, a guest who knows this market well and can explain what advantages smart home devices can bring to landlords and property managers. Sean Miller, President at PointCentral. So, Sean, Hey, thank you so much for joining Property Management Brainstorm.

Sean Miller:                       02:47                     Hey Bob. Thanks for having me here. It's a pleasure.

Bob Preston:                     02:49                     You bet. And Hey, I always like to start these episodes with our guests talking about themselves. Just giving a little bit about your background and then maybe we can jump into PointCentral is all about. 

Sean Miller:                       03:00                     Yeah, happy to. So, um, okay, myself, let's start there. So, uh, I'm Sean Miller. I'm the President of PointCentral. I currently live in Southern California, but I'm originally from Chicago. You know, as some may guess working in tech, I've sort of been a geek my whole life. I'm not the formally trained geek, like someone who went to school for it, but just always sort of been a passion for me to work with TAC and try and understand technology. So, um, I'm married and have two wonderful little girls. So, uh, that's, that's a little bit about Sean Miller. PointCentral is we'd say tell people it's a property automation platform and I think we'll give it a little bit more like what does that mean and how, how does it differentiate? But we're, we're a property automation platform that tries to help property managers use IOT devices to do three basic things, drive more efficiency for themselves, better protect the assets that they're managing and then help deliver amenities to their guests. We're a subsidiary of alarm.com which is a publicly traded larger entity. That sort of alarm was one of the pioneers of cellular control of devices several years ago and sort of as alarms built this product that was originally designed for an individual to control their own home, uh, security and IOT devices. What PointCentral sort of did is we saw this opportunity at years ago too, take the same IOT devices and make them a tool for property managers. So, we built a different product or tech stack alongside alarm.com that was specifically purpose-built for property. 

Bob Preston:                      04:31                     Ben, so you've thrown out a couple of terms that I find really interesting. If it's okay with you, this goes off script a little bit here. Maybe you could help us define that terminology. So let's start with IOT. I know you know what it means, and I think I know what it means, but our listeners may not have caught that. 

Sean Miller:                       04:46                     No, great question Bob. Actually, uh, I've had a fun presentation once where we just tried to start with the vernacular and explain to people what does this mean? So I'd levels that you hear a bunch of different things. We're not your hope. People talk about smart homes, smart apartment, connected home, IOT, etc. All of those things generally mean a connected devices or a device that is connected to the internet and some methods.

Bob Preston:                     05:09                     And it means it's an acronym for internet of things, right?

Sean Miller:                       05:15                     For the internet of things, which is essentially think of a, you know, today when we say the internet, we think of our computers all wired together. So the, the, the next evolution that is what people are saying is IOT, internet of things where it's now are things can all autonomously sort of share data back

Bob Preston:                      05:28                     Devices if you will. Traditionally might've even been dumb devices. Now they have some intelligence built in and they're connected. Exactly.

Sean Miller:                       05:35                     So correct. IOT, I'd sort of say is your baseline and then people will say smart or you'll see intelligence. To me that's the next layer on top of it. There's something, it'd be cute, but honestly, smart.

Bob Preston:                      05:44                     Great segue. Let's go there. So I hear the term smart home technology and then I also hear the term property automation. Is there a difference there? Is it the same? Are we talking about the same thing?

Sean Miller:                       05:57                     You're talking about a lot of the same devices. We will use the term property automation because we think probably automation is multiple things including a smart property. So when people say a smart home, they tend to think about a connected thermostat, a connected lock, maybe some connected lights, which tend to be things that benefit the owner who lives there or the renter in a property manager's case. Good things, but there's so much more to it than just helping to make the resident, you know, happier in the house. So we use our term property automation to encompass, again, that amenity part of a San Diego smart home, but then try and help property managers think. But you're also going to learn when the HVAC system needs to be serviced and your owner can know if there's a water leak right away, so you don't get a $5,000 water damage bill. Right? It's trying to think holistic about all the ways these devices, the same one device can provide multiple value streams to people because it's just set up and are architected the right way. 

Bob Preston:                      06:51                     Gotcha. And so what devices or what types of smart home pieces would fit under that umbrella of automation? Maybe can go there and you can answer it for me. You know, your perspective at PointCentral or more broadly in terms of the industry, whatever. But I mean you, you rattle off a bunch of stuff. Let's get the list complete, right? 

Sean Miller:                       07:24                     Yeah. So, let's, let's start there, right? The probably easiest ways to start with. What are some of the most common devices? So generally, you'll see people talk about locks, thermostats might control, so lighting control can be two types, a switch in the wall or a plugin device that goes into an outlet. Then you have cameras are a big thing. Now in cameras you'd have to two different ways. You have a camera in general or an interior camera let's say. And then you have exterior cameras, which would include video doorbells. That'd be okay. And by cameras you mean it's usually video, right? For security purposes, yeah. Okay. And then probably the last, last two categories on that would be think of um, water sensors and water shutoff valves and water type products. And then lastly, voice assistance. Okay. Voice assistance for like, Hey, lock my door or turn on my lights. That kind of stuff. Or, exactly. So yeah, Apple's Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google home, those are all voices assistance. You know, people, again, they get confused. But what is voice assistant is, is essentially a replacement for an app. So instead of having to open an app and tell the app to do something, you can naturally use your voice and speak a command and something reacts.

Bob Preston:                     08:13                     Gotcha. Okay. So how do you play with those devices? Like the Google, Amazon, Apple have their own devices. We all see them as consumers on TV. Do you guys interface with those, those types of things? 

Sean Miller:                       08:26                     We do. Um, so we're actually the only one that interfaces with all three of them. Apple's been, uh, one that most people, Apple's more challenging. Apple does things to really, they're more challenging cause they really like to respect data privacy and security. So it's not as easy to get it going with Apple. But we do support all three of them today. We see them mostly as a part of that resident amenity, some people want to show up. And the one of use of voice assistants, you want to make sure the system can work with those. We think there's some fun things they could start to do. So like today, in a lot of single-family homes, we can enable unattended showings. And as part of that showing, I specifically don't use the term self-showing yet because I don't think it truly is a full self-showing, but a voice assistant that could, maybe you could ask some questions to as you're touring the home that could give you some information back. I'm like what's the schools like in the neighborhood or just fun facts about it. That to me would be a very interesting way for a voice assistant to make it a self-showing.

Bob Preston:                     09:16                     That's really cool. Yeah, we use some self-showing technology. I think you guys are partners with Tenant Turner as well. Right, and so that would be, that'd be fun to try that sometime by building some of your stuff to one of our self-showings and then there could be some Q and A going on.

Sean Miller:                       09:31                     Yeah, yeah, and Tenant Turner a good example of, yeah, so we have partners in that space that do a front-end that can add a lot of the things today that are self-showing, so emails and phone calls, etc. So voice could just be one more tool in that toolbox. Not every property manager will want to use it, but some will. And so having that as a sort of, you know, an extension of your property management team that could answer some basic questions could be a fun experience for some residents and some property managers.

Bob Preston:                      09:56                     Cool. Okay. So you've done a really nice job kind of explaining your layer, you know, the alarm wanted to sort of expand in some other areas within the, within the home. Now that's sort of your intellectual property, right? That layer of automation. You guys don't make locks, you don't make thermostats. Right? So I would imagine, I don't think anyway. So I would imagine you have to have a lot of hardware partners. So what are some of those, those companies that you work with? Kind of like you mentioned, you know, Amazon, Google, Apple, a little bit. There have to be some other hardware devices, you guys partner with. 

Sean Miller:                       10:26                     Oh yeah, yeah, there definitely are. So, um, you’re right. We, we tend to think of ourselves as software people, not hardware. So we try not to make hardware and try and find a partner who can sort of deliver it for. So we work with, uh, on the lock side today. PointCentral only works with Yale locks. And then we've worked with, uh, like we integrate with the Nest thermostats, we integrate with Jericho, GE light switches and the lighting products. There's these cool, there's a brand called Linear that makes a garage door controller. We also integrate with a Chamberlain garage door controller, a Rachio sprinklers. There's sort of a long list, but.

Bob Preston:                     11:01                     The list can go on and on. Probably some video technology, doorbell type stuff too.

Sean Miller:                       11:05                     Doorbells. Yeah. So, we use a video doorbell from company called Sky Bell videos and NC one. So that's one we're also, Alarm actually does make some hardware in that space. So the only time we try and make hardware is when we think there's, there's a need for a products that isn't being manufactured today. So in cameras we just, we saw an opportunity, we had acquired a video analytics company. We needed the cameras to have a certain processing capability to really use these analytics. And so we just started making a lot of the cameras ourselves. Same thing with the thermostat. We integrate with the Nest and a couple of other ones. Um, but we saw an opportunity that for property management really want to make sure we can control things depending on the property status, right? And watch for humidity and all these other things that the other thermostats, it just wasn't capable of doing. So we did build our own also. So, we had an option available to say, listen, here's the we work with, let me tell you about what the pros and cons of each are. And then the San Diego property manager can make a more informed decision.

Bob Preston:                      11:54                     Cool. Well we're one of your partners or you're one of our partners, however you want to look at it. We're partners. Now we're just kind of getting started. I wish we were moving more quickly for you, Sean. But you know, Hey, these, these things sometimes take a little time to get built into our program. But one of the reasons we went with you guys is because you focus on companies or individuals who have a lot of properties. Right? I mean that's pretty much your target market. I have that right. Yeah. Like short term rentals, long-term rentals, that kind of thing.

Sean Miller:                       12:25                     We generally tell people like we think we add value once you start getting, you know, 10, 20 properties, right? Once it becomes too burdensome for you to do it by yourself, this stuff should come in and get help augment what you're doing.

Bob Preston:                      12:37                     So, so talk to us about that. What are like for companies like North County property group who have multiple properties in a portfolio, what is your technology bring to those companies or those individuals who are trying to manage, you know, hundreds of properties?

Sean Miller:                       12:49                     Yeah, so one of the biggest pain points people have is key management, right? So homes are not, tell me about it. You know, you're running out going, okay, where's that key? And I got to get a key to someone and, and you know, there's been lockboxes out there, but we've seen a lot of people start to shy away from lockboxes a the lockbox always bangs against the door. It can damage the door and be, you know, keys get lost, right? A painter's leaving. And they forget to put a key in and they walk out with it or someone's doing a showing and they really liked the house and they don't want someone else to see it. So that key magically gets tossed into the bushes. Right? There's, there's a myriad of reasons why keys disappear, but they do. And then they also present a security risk. Keys can be copied and you don't know when it's been copied. It can be sitting out there, you could have already read keyed. Someone has it and you know, just even that percentage chance a small, the risk factor is high. So one of property managers usually very consistent pain points is like, I don't like managing keys. Help me take away keys. And that's where the lock is usually the first thing a property manager looks at us and says, let me do that and go from there.

Bob Preston:                      13:49                     Yeah, I mean lockboxes are kind of a pain too. I mean like you were on the coastline in Southern California and they corrode. I mean, you know, and, and then all of a sudden the lockbox has been steady and worthy for maybe a year or two, all of a sudden a guest gets there who wants to get in and they, they can't get the lockbox open.

Sean Miller:                       14:08                     That little bit of corrosion point was just going to go that little bit more. But uh, no, I, to your point, Bob, I mean, so that's one thing. Also, we encourage people, we've been in this space for eight years, you know, we're not a startup that has to get our next round of funding to stay in business. So we don't, we really encourage people like, look, we're, we'll help you find the first stepping point and we want you to sort of get comfortable because you do have to think about your own processes as you're doing this. And we've learned that we sort of tend to be a motivation for people to look at their whole process and go, okay, I need to just change some of this. And how can some of this tech maybe help but start? And then people grow up from there. They start adding things like thermostats or they start thinking about how the amenity, you know, rents a home faster, rents a home for more money, keeps tenants etc.

Bob Preston:                      14:49                     Yeah, for sure. So another great transition point, and you just hit on it. I learned a long time ago and property management that the fewer renter or tenant turnovers that I can have, in other words, get them extended, get them to stay in your property the better. And because saves a lot of time and money, there's no vacancy period. The owner's happier. So it's important to us to have happy tenants. So far, we've kind of talked about benefits, maybe I'm a property management side or perhaps the owner side. What about the tenants? What does this kind of technology do for them and what makes you know, makes happy tenants, I guess with your technology?

Sean Miller:                       15:26                     Yeah, so if you look at, now, I'll use that term smart home. So if you look at smart home adoption across the U S today, about a third of households have this technology in it, in it, right? So again, it's one to three devices, a voice assistant, a thermostat, a garage door controller, or front door lock, etc. And they have it because they found that this stuff does save them money, make their life a little more convenient. We all have busy lives and make their life a little more safe, right? They know who's coming in on their home, they can let people in. So what we found is from the residents, what they want, smart homes, but in rental properties it's been a little more challenging. A, you have the just normal challenge. People have this stuff of which one do I buy and how does it integrate, and do I set it up? But then there's, this isn't my home, so can I, can I actually replace the lock? Can I actually replace the thermostat? And how do you coordinate that? So, from a property manager having this system already installed, they've taken away all the pain point of having to figure it out. And someone just gets to jump right in to using this system. And suddenly they see the old, the thermostat saves them 20-23% on their heating and cooling every month. The lock now starts to tell them when their kids got home from school, they get a little notification. Just these little things in life. It starts to make that house feel more like a home and that's what helps support residents not wanting to move. Right? Yeah.

Bob Preston:                      16:39                     Yeah. We didn't want to leave. This is pretty cool place. We like all this additional technology and if we move we may not have that. So that's that. Those are really, really good benefits. 

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Bob Preston:                      17:50                     Okay, so we have a lot of our owners who are property investors or maybe homeowners who have moved out of state or something. And oftentimes they're coming to us asking about, okay, what should I do to my property to increase our value? And you probably know this, smart home technology isn't usually at the top of their list. You know, they're, they're thinking like a homeowner. Oh, should I paint the wall? Should I put a new carpet or the appliances? Okay. And sometimes it's a little surprising to them when we say, well, what about adding some smart home technology? Do you get that much from, from your clients?

Sean Miller:                       18:24                     Definitely. I've heard that. Yeah. And sort of what will encourage us two schools of thought around that. A, a lot of the updates that people used to make are, I have become commoditized, right? So, an upgraded kitchen or a painted, like there's sort of need to have, but um, to truly make it property standout based on those, it's become more challenging in place. So again, that smart home thing, you have enough people with a third of households that have it. Most people are aware of it, but it is sort of new to them. Right. And they get that cool experience. But also a lot of owners at first, I don't think they think about the fact that this is a revenue driver for their property. I mean, most people when we put it in the op property managers love it because they see saving keys and maybe the owner likes that the thermostat won't allow the resident to blow the system up as much or are the security aspects there? Their problem is more secure. There's some benefits there. But uh, they don't think of the fact that most residents will pay. Like we see people at least charge $20 a month for this service because all the hardware is being included. It's all installed. And the resident will save more than that. And just the, the energy savings alone, if the average electric bill is between a hundred and $150 a month, you know, 20% of that covers the cost of 20% of $100 bill will cover the cost of the system. Most people see more than that, but it's, it's a net gain to them by being in there. And I think most people overlook that. They don't think about the fact they can charge for it.

Bob Preston:                      19:42                     Yeah, definitely. And what about from a practical standpoint of just decreasing the liability perhaps of a property owner? Are there, cause there are some aspects to your technology that can help with that too, right?

Sean Miller:                       19:54                     Yeah. I mean again, you think about things about the keys or cameras or even when something's unoccupied. We do have a, a camera product that essentially is paired to our cellular hubs. So, you don't need Wi-Fi and it's a still shot camera. So let's say you're doing unintended showing. Do you just want to keep an eye on who came into the property? Right. We let a little door hanger, we can send you and then you get this camera on 3m stick it to the wall and people come into the home and it takes a photo. At the same time, you know exactly what user code was used. So if something happened, you now have a visual record to pair with an access code to say this person was in this home at this time, here's what they look like.

Bob Preston:                      20:29                     Sure. You mentioned um, leak detection or something in that regard too. I mean that's another big area. If you can avoid having a flood at your San Diego property, that is pretty cool.

Sean Miller:                       20:39                     Yeah. Residents, you know, a as cool as the pool sounds. They don't like coming home to find their garage flooded and became, became an indoor pool because the water heater decided to finally give out and the rallies, most of these things, you know, we see the catastrophic event but even a water heater tends to have a very small leak at first and you can see it let, the product we have is essentially got a three foot long rope that you can just put around the base of a water heater and it will sense the really small drops of water that come out. So, you're going to get a notification before that water heater ever fully explodes and leaks. Right. And so that's what we're trying to do is use this data to help the property manager be more efficient, to help the owner have to spend less money. The thermostat, we launched a product last year, so collectively between our properties and alarm.com comes traditional home security properties. We now have about six and a half million properties on the platform. So we're able to look at all these things and we started noticing thermostats and looking at 'em and we can now tell Bob, you and I were talking about Phoenix when we got on the call here this morning, right? We can tell in Phoenix in summer, it should take a home two hours to cool five degrees. The second we see a home starts to deviate from that. We can flash a notification to the property manager says, Hey, look, we've seen enough data that says this. Something is starting to be wrong with this HVAC unit. Now it's not so bad yet that the residents called you to complain. So you haven't had a rush them out on the weekend or given the, um, you know, constellations to the resident. But now you can get that information. You can schedule a maintenance visit at a better time, at a lower cost and avoid all those problems that happen when you have to react to problems versus getting the data to be proactive with it.

Bob Preston:                      22:13                     Sure. And you know this about us, we have our largest portfolio is long-term rentals. We do have also a vacation rental portfolio, a little bit smaller. In that case, typically the owner's paying the utilities, so water leaks or energy bills during the middle of the summer. I mean we have guests that come in and it's the AC just be blowing all day long whether they're out playing golf or whether they're in the home, you know, and you just kind of don't need that in this area in Southern California because it's pretty temperate climate.

Sean Miller:                       22:40                     Yeah. Owner owners want to save that electric bill and it's a short-term rental because they are on the hook for it. But uh, you know, the, the flip side of that is what you'll have is owners may put their own thermostat and then they're, they're turning the thermostat up or down while the guest is there, which the property manager doesn't like because now you have a guest call and you go, why? Why is this thermostat not working? You know, the way we've sort of found that is we will precondition the home 24 hours before someone shows up. We know when you're supposed to show up. So when the guest shows up, they have the right experience. They showed up to a properly conditioned home, but we did it at a slow pace. So it was energy efficient for the owner. The property manager is not getting screamed at by either side and sort of just works. Right. And it's the experience, you know, I think we try and really reach far as we want to deliver the experience that makes everyone happy, not just one of the parties because realize it's a, it's a multifaceted relationship we're trying to balance here. Yup.

Bob Preston:                      23:29                     So you earlier said you're kind of a self-proclaimed techie, like understanding how technology works together. So I don't want to get too techie here, Sean, but can you tell us what maybe some of the basic components are and what the interface is like you, you just made a reference to what we can preset, uh, uh, you know, have it basically these things turn on two hours before the guest arrives. What does it, what does just, you know, really generally at the high level, what are all these pieces and how does a property management or property manager or maybe even the guest or the owner have the interface to that?

Sean Miller:                       23:58                     So, uh, let's start at the TAC. This all starts for us and what we call our hub. So our system is cellular based, um, cellular. We like for two reasons, a reliability, you know, Wi-Fi in broadband still drops when we watch stream video and we see the pixilation in the screen. Those are packets being dropped, which is fine when you stream Netflix. But Murphy's law, when you're using this tech and a property, that's when you push a lock code or you'll push a thermostat control and they would drop. So cellular is much more reliable. And also it's much more secure. Well, Wi-Fi in theory, you know, and in large corporations you see they can make a very secure Wi-Fi environment. That's a full-time job for someone when you're relying on Wi-Fi and a rental home, right? Which router are they using? Have they updated the software? Do they have the right security settings on it? There's this variable variability is there. So we can encrypt the cellular line and it's just our data on it. So it allows us to have the most secure, most reliable data connection back and forth so that everything starts with our hub and then people start to add the devices from there. So a lot of the hubs in the home, it's essentially a cell phone that you stick above a microwave and it talks to all the devices and then uses a cellular channel data back. So that's from a hardware standpoint, how that Jenna works. The hub also represents on the software since you one household, so you always have one hub per household on the software. Then you'll have an interface for us where someone come in and ideally just tell us some of the rules you want us to follow. So, when a home is unoccupied, what temperature do you want it at when a home goes occupied, is it occupied? Short term, rental occupied, long-term rental. If it's long-term rental, we actually remove all the permissions for most of the permissions for the property manager. If it's short term rental, you still keep some. But again we want to then say well when it's, when that guest is in there, what temp do you want it for them there? Right. So sort of give us some of the logic of the parameters you want us to do and then we're going to do a lot and then the only time a property manager has to log in is you want to create a new user, you know someone on your staff that needs access. You create a user forum. But also, we can automate users and lot of the status stuff with some of our integrations with property management software. So, we have an integration with Property Ware, with Rent Manager would be two examples in this space where someone can go and we'll see, Hey, this units being rented to Sean Miller. You know, Bob, I'm renting on your home so I can see my name, pull it, create the account, send the login out. So you as a property manager, you didn't have to do anything. Um, but I got the experience of showing up to this new home. I'm renting it and here's my email about how to access a smart home and emails and how to use it and etc. So, we really try and automate a lot of things that deliver on the promise of making this something that saves time for the property manager. 

Bob Preston:                      26:34                     Cool. The login, is it, is it online through a computer? Is it an on a handheld device? Both. What? How does that, what's the, what's your, you know, I guess, best practice.

Sean Miller:                       26:44                     We have three ways people access our, oh four one would be those PMs integrations, our own website that you can go to. So, if you go to PointCentral.com and you hit login, there's the login there for a property manager. There's also, we have iOS and Android apps and the nice thing about the app, it's the same app whether you're a property manager or resident, you put your login in and based on that log and we know what type of user you are and therefore we're going to show you the right interface. And then we also have a fourth app, a second app. So the fourth way people interact with us is we have an app for property management maintenance teams. So we don't get this a lot now. When we first started, we had a lot of property managers actually just want to install the stuff themselves until we had a separate app that sort of guided them through installing it. Today tends to get used more in case someone's ever adding additional stuff. We'll, we'll, we'll try and do the installation for now, but now you can use this app if you ever later want to add something or swap something out, you know, it sort of guides them through it. 

Bob Preston:                      27:38                     Cool. That's really helpful. Yeah. You integrate, I think with both of our, so we have one property management software for our long-term and then long-term properties and then another for our vacation rentals. So, having the code for the front lock sort of automatically assigned to a guest who's coming in and then at the end of their stay it’s kind of evaporates. I mean that's a huge security and, and also just time savings for us.

Sean Miller:                       28:02                     Yup. Yeah. There's something like 25 different PMs software, software systems that we integrate with other partners. Like you mentioned Tenant Turner, or we also integrate with Show Mojo, right? So we have all these other people that aren't, aren't a PMs, but they're not what we do. And we, by working with them, we, again, we think we create more value for the property manager. 

Bob Preston:                      28:21                     Wonderful. Hey, one of the controversial things that we have to somehow have sort of the, uh, tough conversation with our owners has to do with video technology. Okay. So, you know, they're living there now. Maybe they decide to, let's just, I'm going to make up a scenario here. Sean. Um, they're living there now. They want to make their San Diego home a vacation rental or a long-term rental. They've got video, you know, maybe even this a doorbell, maybe one watching the driveway, maybe one watching the back end and they have some sort of monitoring service of some kind and they want to move out and they want someone to come stay there and they want to leave that on and we have to have this tough conversation. You know, I don't know. I don't know if that's a very good idea. You know, we have. So, what's your take on that? I mean, is it, is it cool? Is it not cool when someone's going to be staying in your home? And by cool, I mean, you know, is it okay to do that or is it a, some might say a complete infringement of privacy?

Sean Miller:                       29:14                     Uh, yeah, so it's a lot of interest in doing it right. I think you articulated Bob a lot of the reasons why the owner loves it. Uh, the thing is a, a resident short-term guest may not care, but a long-term resident would probably also like the video chemist for a lot of the same reasons the owner does. The way we see it as is first off, how do we help guide one user? So, our general recommendation is if the owner is going to provide a camera, the only camera they should provide is an exterior facing front of house. You know, so you can see the state streets or driveway camera or video doorbell or both. Generally you're not going to freak people out and you're not invading on any private activities. Do not put a camera in the backyard, you know, because even you can say, well it's still, it's still public. There's an assumption that you could have private activities in the backyard. Your front yard, you're probably not running around naked with the street right there. 

Bob Preston:                      30:01                     I generally say. And nothing inside. Right? I mean that, yeah.

Sean Miller:                       30:05                     Now we, we encourage people, you can make a camera available for purchase. The resident can purchase the camera on their own, no problem there. And the resident may want to, because now they can put a camera, say in a baby's room and see it in the same app. They're doing all the other smart home stuff. But you know, let them purchase that and let them take it with them when they leave it because that way they know it's theirs. So first it's sort of that type of like what one do we see it useful. The second is how do we architect the software? So from a software standpoint, again, we set up rules. So sort of that camera control goes to the right person based on the use. So again, if it's a video doorbell, uh, in a long-term rental, you know, Bob, you're going to go see it when it's unoccupied and you can see who comes up to do showings or what time, you know, people show up. But the second that unit goes to occupied, you're going to lose the ability to see it. Now, we'll probably still let you get to some of the stuff if there was an event. So if there was a burglary or a fire, like we want to make sure that data becomes available to the right people, but we don't want you to just randomly check it in because that would be an invasion of people's privacy. So we shift that control to the, to the resident. Then they now have a video doorbell, people love video doorbells. I think that's a really cool self-monitored security solution or safety solution.

Bob Preston:                      31:14                     Well that’s a really interesting point because sometimes from the owner's perspective, it depends on what their intent is, right? So if their intent is to have the video there so they can kind of spy on their resident or you know, they can see if there's too many cars parking in the driveway or if unauthorized pets are coming in and out of the property or if they are, you know, instead of just the tenants. Now you've got the brother-in-law and the, you know, the somebody and all, you know, if that's the intent or if the intent is to truly what you kind of described, have value add for your tenant and that the tenant ultimately is, you know, the people that get access to the monitoring. That's pretty cool. Right, because then, then you're adding value for the whole renter experience.

Sean Miller:                       31:57                     Yeah. Well, the thing you important point there, Bob, you mentioned, um, you know, owners trying to probably do something that protects the home or protects the neighborhood, you know, they want, they don't want the neighbors necessary having a bad experience with, they're renting this out. The thing is data privacy is becoming a very topic here in California where we both live. California is launching something called the California consumer protection act in January. It's essentially a very strict data privacy law and we are compliant with an international version of this called GDPR. So we'll, we'll be compliant with California. Most people aren't. And most of you aren't even aware of this. So again, I'd encourage owners, if they're doing that, you could get yourself into a lot of trouble trying to self-manage people's privacy with this. Again, everything we're going to do, we're going to try and automate it so that we collect the useful information and don't get anyone in hot water.

Bob Preston:                      32:45                     Yeah, that's kind of the tough love conversation we've had to have with a lot of owners who want to keep this stuff installed. And yeah, we've had stuff go down where tenants actually go around and clip the wires and stuff and you don't want that either. I mean, that's, that's kind of crazy. Hey, listen, I always ask this of my guests, hopefully your game to share some story. Yeah, I see you check lane now. Uh, and it doesn't, you know, something that's had an impact maybe on your life, your career or something, some personal experience. Maybe it could be one about your business, whatever. It doesn't really matter. But tell, tell us something about your past, a story that you know, tell it, give us a little bit more insight to Sean.

Sean Miller:                       33:22                     Woo, man. I can make a joke and tell a, share with all your listeners that by growing up in Chicago and I've been a bears and Cubs fan, which means that disappointment my whole life. Um, no, I, I I'll tell ya, you know, I think I've done several different things in my life. One of the things that sort of stuck with me is my folks when I was younger, started their own business from nowhere and sort of grew up. And so I've, well I've always had this tech thing and I like to get out and get inquisitive. I never worked with property management before working at PointCentral. But one of the things I found very valuable is I work with these property managers and remembering that passion and hands on approach my folks had with their business as I watched property managers today. So, you know, I'll get on the calls with people, at trade shows and they're like, look, you know, I'm totally different.

Bob Preston:                      34:05                     Here's why I'm different. And I sort of enjoy it. I mean we're trying to build things that drive some commonality and bring value. But I do enjoy the stories and meet people and it sort of stuck with me from my original passive, you know, I think how I can hopefully understand and relate to people and then bring that back and say, okay, how do we make a product that helps them, right. That helps them free up some more time so they can be in front of, cause most of the properties are realist. They actually like being in front of residents and guests. Right. They enjoy that interaction. And you know, people sometimes challenge back while you're just trying to get rid of jobs. No, actually I'm trying to free people's time up. So we can do more of the things you like.

Bob Preston:                      34:41                     We need to be a more efficient, uh, you know, business. I mean, there's a lot of efficiencies to be gained for sure.

Sean Miller:                       34:46                     Yeah. But that's probably a, that's my quick story for you there, Bob, is that, uh, I think sometimes, especially when people hear we're part of a bigger company, there's this maybe assumption like, ah, you don't get my business right? Like, I, I'm a smaller property member. They hear that we work with a San Diego property manager has over a hundred thousand properties. They're like, ah, yeah, you don't get it. But I, I, I would tell your listeners, we do really try to make sure we're relatable to everyone, whether you have 20 homes or 20,000, you know, we try and make sure we provide value to you and listen.

Bob Preston:                      35:12                     Well, I have some amazing stories from my business I could share. You've probably heard a lot of them from property managers. You know, I bring these stories home to the dinner table every now and then. And I always, my wife always teases me like, wow man, you deal with like thousands of personalities every single day and you know, you can imagine we have this wide spectrum of cultures of individuals of stuff. And so it's, yeah, it's always different every single day. Yeah, that is true. Hey, this has been terrific. In the interest of time, Sean, we've got to start wrapping up here. Any other thoughts, any final tidbits of information that you'd like to share with our listeners today in wrapping up?

Sean Miller:                       35:48                     No, I share with your listeners, you know, hopefully they've heard of this stuff and maybe thought about it if, if they have any questions or concerns. We've tried to write a, you know, a lot of different documentation on sort of, you know, referrals or how people thought through this as, as guides, you know, tusks. This has sort of become a, not if this happens just when for people and again, being the only guy who was sort of geek in my family, I always like to make tech more approachable and not seems so scary. So, if anyone, any of your listeners have any questions, I encourage them to simply start on our website. You can see some resources we have there and you'll probably see some links to other external resources we have to help guide them on like how to think through this and how to make sure that they take that first step is successful. But don't worry too much about taking the first step. You know, the reality is you've, you start with one home and small system. You know, you just want to sort of start doing this and getting it built into your process and yeah.

Bob Preston:                      36:41                     Yeah, you have a lot of really cool FAQ’s.  I've been to your website and poked around and yeah, it's really good stuff. Okay, so the website is PointCentral.com if you use forward slash brainstorm and sign up for a place in your first order, you'll be eligible. Sean's been kind enough to kind of make this available a free HVAC test as part of that process. And it also lets Sean and his company know that we sent you and they'll take really good care of you. Then, so PointCentral.com/brainstorm and a, yeah, give Sean's company a look and get your home automated. Get it smart, right Sean, this has been fantastic. Really good conversation. Thanks for joining today. It's really been good to have you on the show. As we wrap up today, I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners to click on the subscribe button. It gets up our, you know, our total listeners helps us get great guests like Sean on the show. And that concludes today's episode. Thank you for joining the property management brainstorm show. Until next time we'll be in the field working hard for our clients to maximize a property value and rental income and maintain top tenant relations and we'll catch you next time.


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