Maintenance, Rent Payment, Tenant Management, Tenant Screening

Trends In Property Management Technology for 2021

apartment video tour on phone

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated landlord’s adoption of property management software and tactics to manage rentals while maintaining social distance from tenants.  We’ve written many articles about online management tools, and also reviewed most of the leading products.  At this point we’re starting to see start-ups take the next steps in bridging the gap between DIY rental management and hiring a traditional property manager.  In this article we’re looking at the emerging trends in property management technology.

Trends In Property Management Technology: Industry Leaders

We took a look at a handful of the leading companies bringing new features and technologies to property management:

  • RentalRiff
  • Marble – Read our overview or visit their site
  • Mynd
  • Caretaker
  • NestEgg
  • Existing Property Management Software Companies adding new features:

Emerging Trends in Property Management Technology

Here are the common themes we’ve identified as we’ve looked at trends in property management technology:

In addition we’ve identified trending new features:

Related Read: Features of Property Management Software: What Do Landlords Want?


Common Property Management Technology Themes

The emerging technology companies we looked at all fall into a few categories, based on their approach to solving the challenges rental property owners face.  Here are the themes that kept popping up.

“Online Property Management”

This category of product essentially performs the same functions traditional property management companies do, while using technology to build efficiency into the process.  In other words, these services take rental management completely out of an owner’s hands by covering tenant placement, leasing, maintenance, rent collection, and bookkeeping.  Depending on the company there may be local employees handling aspects of rent-up, turnovers, or maintenance calls. 

A few of the ways these companies use technology to streamline their processes:

  • Virtual Touring & Self-Showings
  • Enhanced Tenant Screening & Vetting
  • Digital Lease Signing
  • Income and Cashflow Protections
  • Centralized Maintenance Diagnosis & Dispatch
  • Preferred Vendor Networks
  • AI & Automation

For instance, Mynd is a great example of “Online Property Management”, filling all the roles a traditional property manager does.  Similarly, NestEgg fits the bill once you’ve signed up for a paid subscription. 

Related Read: Which Rental Advertising Site Is the Best Alternative to Zillow?

“Hybrid Property Management”

This approach keeps landlords involved in some aspects of management while adding technology features to help make the process smoother.

Marble is a great example of hybrid property management in our opinion.  They handle all aspects of marketing, showing, applications & screening, as well as maintenance.  Owners maintain responsibility for choosing their tenants, writing and signing lease agreements, and holding deposits. We’ve written an overview on their features here.

Caretaker is another company to take the hybrid property management approach.  They provide advertising, screening, rent collection, e-signing leases, and coordinate maintenance.  The landlord sets application criteria and thresholds for maintenance spending.  Landlords choose their tenants, however for Caretaker’s rent guarantee to be honored tenants must be screened using their minimum recommended tenant qualifications. The property owner also provides their own vendor list, which Caretaker then uses when handling repairs.  Maintenance costs are paid to the vendor, then billed to the landlord’s account.

NestEgg falls under both “hybrid” and “online” categories.   This is the only company to have a free offering, which provides rent collection plus maintenance coordination when requested by the landlord, at $10 per job.   When it comes time to fill a vacancy NestEgg looks more like a traditional property manager, as local real estate agents handle all aspects of marketing, screening, and leasing.  While an owner has no monthly expense, rent-up fees are equal to one month’s rent and lease renewals cost $100.  With paid subscriptions NestEgg services fall more under the “online property management” model.  We’ve written about that above.

RentalRiff: Localized Hybrid Property Management

RentalRiff takes another approach.  They focus on providing a maintenance pro who gets to know the property, performs or coordinates repairs, provides tenant support, and serves as the contact point for tenants.  Owners maintain responsibility for marketing, choosing renters, writing leases, screening, and collecting rent.  RentalRiff addresses the very real pain point around effectively managing maintenance issues.  They suggest owners use their service in combination with a property management software tool.  Note:  RentalRiff is only operational in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia WA at the moment.

Excerpts from our discussion with Phil at RentalRiff:

“My wife and I decided to move out of Seattle, down to Bend Oregon.  We wanted to keep our house as a rental property and started interviewing property management companies.  We quickly came to the realization that it was very expensive.”

“What we really wanted was somebody to be the boots on the ground for us. RentalRiff was developed around the concept of a “Property Specialist”. Someone who knows the property and tenants well, and knows what preventative maintenance is required. Tenants know they have an individual point of contact when they need something. Tenants feel very supported, and we’re able to offer great value to our landlords.”

“Flat Fee Property Management”

One of the aspects property owners hate most about traditional property management is that it costs a percentage of rent each month.  Generally, these fees are 7-10%, which takes a big bite out of revenues.

Each of the companies we studied offers flat fee per unit pricing.  We’ll write about this more in the future, but it’s important to know that your flat fee gets you different services from each company, and that there may be additional fees.  For example, here are some things to look for:

  • Price to fill vacancies – This fee can vary, usually ranging from 50-100% of a month’s rent
  • Lease renewal fees
  • A-la-carte maintenance coordination fees (NestEgg, at lower subscription level)
  • Pricing Analysis
  • Setup Fees
  • Cost of smart locks or other required hardware

Here are a few examples of costs for the entry level service these companies offer.  Please keep in mind that there are additional levels for each, and particularly that we’re not including all the details of these offerings here.

  • Mynd “Core”: $99/unit/mo + 75% lease-up fee + $199 lease renewal fee
  • RentalRiff “Multifamily”:  $60/unit/mo + 1 visit/every 2 units/mo + biannual inspections
  • Marble “Complete”:  $50/unit/mo + vacancy marketing + maintenance coordination
  • Caretaker “Owner”:  $12/unit/mo + marketing + screening + e-signing + rent collection
  • NestEgg “Starter”:  $0 + 100% lease-up + maintenance coordination @$10/job + $100 lease renewal

Related Read: The Best Rental Property Management Software: Product Overviews

cute apartment with plants

Trends in Property Management Technology Features

Virtual Touring & Self-Guided Showings

Fielding inquiries, scheduling showings, and meeting interested renters takes landlords a huge amount of time, most of which is wasted because the person and the unit are often mis-matched.  By the same token, prospective tenants don’t like the hassles of scheduling either.  One of the primary trends in property management is to use technology to speed up this process and significantly cut down on the amount of time it takes. 

Here are the basics on how virtual touring and self-guided showings work:

  • Prospective tenants take a video tour of the unit, often in 3D, before viewing it in person
  • Renters may have to pre-qualify (Caretaker) or go through security check (Marble) before they are allowed access to the property
  • AI analysis to predict whether allowing access is carries an acceptable risk
  • Showings are scheduled online
  • Using smart lock systems, applicants access the rental using a unique code that is good for a limited amount of time.
  • Technology used by: Marble, Mynd, Caretaker

Note: Buildium, one of our property management software partners has stepped into self-service showings with their new Showings Coordinator feature.

Related Read: Do Landlords Have to Change Locks Between Tenants? Should They?

Income & Cashflow Protections

Mom and pop landlords are particularly vulnerable to the costs of vacancies, tenant damages, and large unexpected maintenance bills.  Many of the new proptech companies are addressing this by offering income or cashflow protections.  In most cases these benefits are available only when tenants are placed using the company’s standards and criteria.

Protections include:

  • Damages done by tenants
  • Damages done by pets
  • Unpaid rent
  • Lease Guarantee – ie if a tenant breaks their lease the unit is filled with no rent-up fee
  • Eviction – help with legal fees
  • Cash-flow protections – financing of maintenance costs and/or a set guaranteed rent deposit at the beginning of each month
  • Features offered by: NestEgg, Mynd, Caretaker

Note:  One of our favorite property management software products has recently started offering Rent Guarantee Insurance, which covers anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months of unpaid rent.  Read our overview of Avail, or visit their site to learn more.

Digital Leases & E-Signing

Many of the property management software products we’ve reviewed offer some form of digital leasing and e-signatures.  We’re also seeing these trends in property management technology products.

Companies utilizing digital leasing technology include:  Mynd, Caretaker, NestEgg

Note:  I’ve been using DocuSign for a while but recently used Avail to generate custom localized leases and have them signed online.  I’ll write more about that experience soon.

Related Read:  Residential Lease Agreements:  Best Software For Small Landlords

Centralized Maintenance Diagnosis & Dispatch

Traditional property management companies and owner-managers have generally needed someone on the ground in each market to handle maintenance issues.  Many of these emerging property management technology companies have centralized these roles.  This allows them to have someone on call 24/7.  Serving multiple markets, a maintenance expert can be available to diagnose tenant-reported problems, guide them through easy repairs, and send the appropriate professional when needed. 

Like the property management software products we’ve written about, these new companies are using tenant portals, where they can report problems and upload photos & video.  As a result, communication between tenants, management, and vendors lives in one place, making coordination easier.

Avoiding emergency services and dispatching the best vendor for the job keeps landlords’ maintenance costs down.  Additionally, taking maintenance calls at all hours of the day and coordinating with tenants and vendors saves the time and stress we all know well as rental managers.

Companies offering 24/7 tenant communication and expert maintenance dispatch:  Marble, Mynd, Caretaker, NestEgg

Note: RentRedi, one of our partners, has also recently introduced maintenance management.

Related Read: Manage Maintenance on Rental Property using Property Management Software

Preferred Vendor Networks

Finding good service providers is undoubtedly a challenge for every landlord.  One of the trends in property management technology products is to offer preferred provider networks.  Some also allow landlords to request that their own vendors be used.

Companies providing access to preferred vendor networks:  RentalRiff (WA state, so far), Mynd, Marble, Caretaker, & NestEgg

Enhanced Tenant Screening & Vetting

Especially given the trend towards self-guided rental touring, vetting prospective tenants carefully is vital to the security of rental property.  Furthermore, as self-managing landlords adopt these trends in property management technology, they face letting go of some portion of their control over their rentals.  Knowing that there is a robust screening process helps give them the confidence to make this move.

Enhanced tenant screening and vetting strategies include:

  • Typical reports – credit, background (criminal), eviction
  • ID upload
  • AI analysis:  In other words, we interpret this as the use of data and algorithms to predict which applicants are less at risk of late payments, default, etc. Similar to auto insurance companies determining premiums based on your age, grades, distance to work
  • Custom-designed scoring, automatically generated by data gathered on potential tenants

Related:  We’ve written about Marble, for example.  Before prospective tenants can tour a property they upload their government ID, a selfie, and provide a credit card number.  This information is manually reviewed before entry is granted. 

Related Read: The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

“AI” & Automation: Trends In Property Management Technology

Any landlord can tell you that it takes many steps it to coordinate even the smallest task when managing property.  Having a handyman change a light bulb, for instance, could involve several messages to different people and take days.

Specifically, here are a few ways companies are using AI and automation to make property management more efficient:

  • Automatic responses to rental inquiries
  • Online scheduling of showings
  • Automated troubleshooting or analysis of maintenance issues
  • Communication threads, to coordinate maintenance & questions
  • Automated notices & reminders
  • AI face verification from ID and selfie upload
  • Proximity detection (Bluetooth) to activate / unlock doors
  • Automated rent payments, late fees, utility billings, roommate split-payments
  • Automated deposit calculations and refunds

Landlord Gurus Take Away

Like us, we suspect you’ve found yourself asking whether you should slog on managing your rentals, or hire a property manager.  For instance, we’ve adopted more and more technology tools in recent years, which have dramatically reduced stress, expense, and time spent on running our rentals.  We’ve written plenty about property management software tools, and we truly believe we’re doing a better job as landlords as a result. 

Some of you will still be faced with challenges that even the best online software can’t address fully.  Whether you live out of town, have a very full schedule, or just don’t want to deal with tenant calls on Sunday, day-to-day management may not be the right fit for you.  In summary, trends in property management technology mean that you can have it all:  reasonable costs & as much support as you want.


Landlord Gurus Recommendations

Pretty simple.  Firstly, think about the things you don’t like doing.  After that, identify parts of property management you like.  Lastly, think about the things you absolutely want to keep personal control over.  In the end you should have a list of responsibilities you want help with. 

We’ve created a tool to help you select the best property management software product, so you might explore those options.  If you want more help, more automation, or more freedom then we suggest you dig into some of the services we’ve discussed here.  We’ll be writing more about each of them in the next few months.


Photos by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash & Nicolas Solerieu on Unsplash


Partner’s We’ve Mentioned:

  • Marble presents a happy medium between DIY management and hiring a professional property manager. For a reasonable flat fee Marble fills vacancies, executes leases, coordinates maintenance, and facilitates electronic rent collection.
  • Strength: Hybrid Full-Service Mgmt
  • Advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, collect rent, and e-sign custom local leases, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • RentRedi is an all-inclusive landlord-tenant app. Manage vacancies, screening, and rent collection from wherever you are, on any device.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • Whether you manage five doors or five thousand, Buildium provides a simple but sophisticated property management platform to help you grow and improve your business.
  • Strength: Complete Solution

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

Tagged ,

About Eli Secor

Eli comes from a family of real estate investors, dating back several generations. He currently manages his own multifamily property, apartment buildings for clients, and commercial spaces. He has particular expertise in the construction and maintenance arena, having spent almost 20 years in the construction fields.
View all posts by Eli Secor →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *