The real estate industry has a tendency to stay stuck into some old habits, and so do landlords. We’re all busy people and there isn’t always a lot of incentive to put a lot of time and effort into what seems, to many, like reinventing the wheel. Many property owners and homeowners just have better things to worry about than what a tenant/room mate may be feeling about them. But putting distance between yourself and your tenants may be costing you big bucks in maintenance and fees, or even trouble with your city and zoning, which could have been prevented with a little early communication to protect your investment. 

It’s no use to dismiss tech: it’s kinda here to stay, and it’s working it’s way deeper and deeper into business ad investments. The easy answers to modern real estate and tech come quick (such as installing high-speed Internet to attract speed-hungry bloggers like me!) But these solutions don’t last without good follow-up in place. Did you know it takes six times as much money to attract a new customer than keep an old one? A forward-thinking plan for utilizing tech in your property involves social media and a clear dialogue to build reliable, quality relationships with your tenants which will pull in future business. It’s a simple plan for guaranteeing future reward with minimal up front cost, and all it takes is your great big brain to get started!

Here’s a few small things Seattle’s savvy land owners are getting into the habit of doing to guarantee cash-rich properties and happy, profitable,  tenants.

10) They aren’t Afraid Of Tech 

Not to be a bug, but the public sometimes feels like landlords and real estate agents like to pretend it’s still the 1980s and fax machines are as good as it gets. No one likes paperwork though, and it’s easy to make the smartphone switch when it means attracting Seattle’s educated, tech-savvy demographic. Here are three free or low-cost smartphone tools to make yourself more appealing (available on your mobile phone store): 

  1. DocuSign allows you quickly store, share and submit legal documents and sensitive data for as little as fifteen dollars a month. No more lost paperwork or lease agreements!
  2. Th ever-useful CamScanner plays like a high-tech James Bond toy. You take a picture of a document with your phone’s camera and it renders it into an attachable PDF instantly. It might take a few tries to get the perfect image, but it’s better than a fax machine and it’s free!
  3. Most banks offer some form of instant check withdrawl and transfer via their app and a picture of a check. Consult with your tenants and your bank to see if this is a good option for your business.
If all else fails, hire someone to do it for you and split the savings 😉

9) Good Facebook Feeds Make For Good Tenants

Landlords who keep a closed Facebook group for their larger and medium properties are very, very smart. Friend willing tenants and make it worth their while. Ask them to help you do a better job (without being a pushover of course!) Encourage them to join and really immerse themselves in the neighborhood. Then follow up by keeping yourself involved too. On the surface this is a great way to get your tenants to communicate with you and each other, stay ahead of property problems and disturbances, and to network . You can also spot potential lease breaking and problems down the road. One Queen Anne landlord who discovered his tenants brought in dogs and another renter into the unit made himself $350 extra a month and pet deposit simply by holding everyone accountable to the lease. I’m not advocating breaking the law or spying, and always follow local laws, just make yourself available: it will pay off!

8) Be A Team

Whether homeowner or landlord, don’t be afraid to take a camera video and collect shared pictures of the area and any damage the DAY someone new moves into a unit, with them beside you doing the same. Document any damage before hand, together, so you both prevent some future headaches and get to know each other in the process as reasonable people. 

7) Don’t Be Afraid To Be Creative

Have an empty unit that you could be getting rent from? Pursuant with your local laws of course, why not utilize the space as a way to try out something new? I’ve seen landlords “donate” their walls for local artist to paint murals. Tenants loved the colorful units and they get publicity. Positive publicity for your name makes your business more attractive online. Maybe get a student designer to paint your walls tactful, bright colors that match. One warning: it rarely pays off to let tenants paint the walls themselves. Some people don’t really like bare white walls but no one likes paint marks all over the ceilings and floors!

6) Consider Beyond Carpet

People may disagree, but I am part of a large subsection of the human population who likes clean, dust-free spaces. I have never seen the appeal of carpet and it’s… well, not very fashionable nowadays among the 18-35 crowd you want to attract! Especially in ground units of older buildings, do not carpet over hardwood and expect it to appeal to as many people or get as good of a price. Even carpet less or partially carpet less places usually rent for more money even if the floor is beat up. Besides, the air quality is better for it.

5) Reward Good, Young Tenants With Great Feedback 

If you are renting houses in a student area, offer a reduced rent incentive to keep the lawn and the outside of the house clean and tidy. It not only increases property values, but smart young people know credit companies and employers monitor social media. Don’t be a parent but do publicly acknowledge when things go well.

4) Make Connections Your Future Leads

Ask good tenants to refer you and refer them back. Keep them in your network whether it be via phone, Facebook, anything! You never know who has a little sister or cousin moving into the area. 

3) Don’t Make Yourself A Social Media Target

Don’t intimidate bad renters online, no matter how angry you may be. Companies and reputations have been hung out to dry for as little as a badly-timed comment which went viral. To avoid becoming the next infamous viral video star,  never attribute to malice what you can to ignorance and don’t say anything out of anger. Keep a good lawyer and defend yourself when you have to, but never at the cost of future business.

 2) Kindness Pays off

Play the long game. I know this may be blasphemy, but sometimes it’s worth it to work with tenants who fall on hard times. One landlord I know keeps an open-door policy on payment problems so he can help tenants avoid costly evictions: a single mom working for the federal government came to him as soon as the shutdown happened and he forgave her rent for the month. This kind of act draws attention, the landlord got in the papers, and that goodwill was worth ten times that one-time loss!

1) Remember The Little Things

The point of tech and social media is to make everyone’s life easier. Even if you have to raise the rent a bit, coin laundries are for the birds a huge hassle. Don’t make an enemy with a tiny shower when $10 from Bed, Bath and Beyond could have got you a curved curtain rod and a happier prospect! RFID keys on your property can be a great way to lure in people who hate losing their keys. Just be proactive and forward thinking in your habits, and the money will flow as your reputation, land values, and service soars!

I’m sure I could think of more, but that’s all I have for now. Let me know if there are any ideas I’ve missed. Good luck Seattle!

– Lissie, The Knowles Team Keller Williams Greater Seattle