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The predominance of technology is not to be feared. With intelligent software, it is possible to put innovative solutions to work for you, writes Natalja Napsep, co-founder of Bidrento, a start-up company building an innovative rental property management platform.

Napsep spoke about innovation and new technological solutions in rental property management at a recent real estate conference for female investors.

It’s impossible to get around the impact that innovation and rapid technological development have in today’s world. The investment arena has been forever changed by cryptocurrency, art is being traded via NFTs, and a large part of the stock market takes place through the interaction of computers. This means that even the real estate market, one of the most traditional trading places, is bound to keep up with the latest innovations to maintain its relevance.

Based on my long experience in real estate, I am noticing three significant trends in the residential rental business that are becoming increasingly prevalent in the field. The first is using technology to improve both the physical living spaces and add to a more general rental experience. The second one is the application of software and automation in streamlining the different activities connected to the rental cycle. The third is the intelligent use of data to increase customer experience and efficiency.

Renting is getting smarter

Although it seems like these days, there’s an app for just about everything – and it can sometimes get overwhelming -, it is clear that innovation in the rental business is indispensable.

It only makes sense to rely on technology whenever it simplifies and automates time-consuming activities or adds value to the customer experience.

In the rental property business, technical solutions can be helpful in many ways. In Estonia, the tour de force of technological advancements can be seen best in the arrival of a new generation of rental houses and in landlords providing smart home functionality in rental apartments.

One common example is the use of remotely accessible utility meters and smart locks. In effect, this means that the property owner or manager does not have to be physically present for apartment showings, which is, of course, especially helpful during the pandemic – these can now be arranged so that the potential tenant can get acquainted with the property independently.

The rental property management software that we are developing at Bidrento currently also has the functionality of allowing our customers to book a showing through our app and visit the apartment with a code received via SMS or e-mail. This has proven to be especially useful in large portfolios, where the work that previously required the contribution of several employees can now be done by one person, who can even lead the whole process while sitting on the couch at home.

Another significant development is creating self-service environments for tenants. The technology needed for this is already in place and usable, and will become increasingly relevant in the future. Numerous studies have shown that the so-called Millennial and Gen Z demographic expect more technological advancements and mobile solutions from the rental experience.

Outdated technology is still prevalent

Innovation and new technologies can bring significant gains in time and money to rental property owners and managers.

In the process of developing Bidrento, we have been in touch with a large number of landlords both in Estonia and elsewhere. We have found that traditional office software, such as Excel or Google Docs, is still widely used in real estate management. We have seen from our user experience that software, which has been specifically created for more efficient management of rental property, can be very beneficial to property managers.

As investing in rental real estate has intensified in the recent years and many investors have grown their portfolios to be larger than 5-10 rental apartments or rental spaces, they are also beginning to experience managing concerns that the owners of one or two apartments do not have. Excel and Google Docs are great everyday office tools, but they don’t include the features needed to update your data, set up reminders, view your bank account, check your invoices, etc.

Automation leads to growth

In a recent conversation with one of our customers, who owns 12 rental apartments, we learned that by using our software, it now takes them four to five times less time to manage their property units than it did before. While they often had to deal with overdue invoices and manual paperwork before implementing Bidrento, the automation of day-to-day operations stabilized their cash-flow to such an extent that the property owner has now decided to increase their portfolio by three additional properties.

You can read more about our customer’s experience in this case study article.

I have learned about problems related to managing properties through my personal experience. Before co-founding Bidrento, I worked with various international real estate developments and saw that even in large projects, there were several shortcomings that could have been avoided with just a few simple technological solutions.

This is why me and Bidrento’s co-founders Taavo Annus and Umar Zarip came out with a new product in 2019 – a solution that would combine rental price negotiations, tenant background check and a platform that automates the process of lease agreements. With the help of our customers’ feedback, we have developed our product into an all-in-one technological solution that saves the valuable time of rental property owners as much as possible.

Efficient software is a multi-tasker

Bidrento has grown into a very powerful rental property management tool. In addition to solving the landlords’ problems, it also successfully settles the concerns of property managers and letting agents. In our interactions with our foreign customers, we have learned that property managers often fail to share their telephone number with tenants for fear that they will not be able to cope with the heavy burden of solving all of their problems.

The point of effective software is to handle all processes smoothly so that managers are not burdened with day-to-day worries, which ultimately makes tenants happier. At Bidrento, for instance, we have developed a platform that has a separate environment for tenants that can be used to submit both utility meter readings and resolve various problems and questions.

Management software that suits your needs the best should help automate all manual work that usually takes up a disproportionate amount of time. This includes automatic invoicing and reminders, integrated communication tools that help to interact with accounting, workers, tenants, etc.

Our statistics show that automating routine activities have given property owners four times as much free time as they had before. With Bidrento, they can use a multi-tasking all-in-one solution that is connected to all activities vital to the rental cycle, like banking and accounting software. This has also given property owners a much clearer picture of how their rental portfolio is actually doing.

The rental market has expanded into Facebook

In most areas, it is common knowledge by now that data and knowing how to use it to one’s advantage are playing an increasingly important role in the world, which cannot be ignored.

The same goes for rental real estate: the more data you have, the more informed decisions you can make.

This, in turn, is very important both when buying a new property as well as managing the existing rental portfolio. Using the right software gives the owner the necessary numbers immediately and does that in real-time. The larger the portfolio, the more conclusions can be drawn from this data.

One major direction the rental market is moving towards is using data to shape the customer experience and find tenants. More prominent real estate portals are and will undoubtedly continue to be in a strong position in searching for a new home among tenants, but finding a tenant is moving more and more towards social media channels, such as Facebook. Finding tenants on Facebook is already working well today, and it can already be seen that Facebook is aggressively developing this side of their business.

This is where innovation comes into play. With the proliferation of rental searches, it is becoming increasingly important to manage the entire process effectively. One way to do that is to work on better managing potential tenants. Thereat, it is crucial to think about the experience that awaits the potential tenant that is going through the process of finding a home. Is the tenant, for instance, expected to send a million e-mails, fill in several questionnaires, download ten different apps, etc.?

At Bidrento, we have decided to add a separate functionality for onboarding tenants in the most painless way possible. Through a simple process, landlords can perform a background check on the candidates, guide their tenants through all the onboarding procedures, and therefore avoid sending hundreds of emails, phone calls and other distractions.

The younger generations of tenants are the driving force of innovation

For staying in competition, it is essential to pay attention to who the tenants are and to which age group they belong to. Recent research has shown that the Millennial and Gen Z population are more than ever expecting a good customer experience from the services they consume. This includes finding a rental home. New and younger generations are increasingly entering the rental market with their smart devices. To keep up with the younger demographic, being available on modern devices should also become a priority for landlords.

We at Bidrento have also not been unaffected by this trend and have had to pay more attention to the younger demographic’s needs. To keep up with the times, our developers have created a self-service environment for tenants that is fully functional on mobile devices.

We are undoubtedly not the only ones having to race with the ever-changing world. Having been in constant conversation with rental property developers, we have seen that increasingly more attention is paid to the tenants’ customer experience. Beautiful and functional living spaces by themselves are no longer attractive enough. These days, everything that comes extra is more critical than ever: this involves yoga classes, gyms, terraces, etc. And this trend affects rental homes in both Estonia and abroad. In order to keep up with the competition, we have also had to adapt: today, ​​we can confidently say that we support our customers’ changing needs by developing our software and aiding them in managing and handling the newest trends as effortlessly as possible.

Natalja Napsep

Natalja Napsep, the co-founder and COO of Bidrento, found her way to rental property management after a master’s degree in finance and a corporate banking career. Working at Trigon Capital introduced her to the world of real estate and rental development, as she had the opportunity to work on international projects in Ukraine, Russia and Croatia.

Having been working in real estate for a while, Natalja was struck by the industry’s shortcomings that could have been easily solved by using clever technological solutions. So when co-founder Taavo Annus came to her with the idea of ​​combining rental real estate with innovation, she didn’t have to think long. Soon after, Bidrento was born and has grown into a powerful all-in-one software for rental property management.

At present, the platform is the no1 most preferred software solution for Estonian rental houses. The company’s customers are rental houses, rental apartment portfolio owners, letting agents, commercial real estate and mixed portfolio owners and other start-ups.

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