Imagine you’ve just gotten off a long day at work. You’re tired, hungry, and the last thing you want to do is head to the grocery store. But you’re sick of takeout and trying to save cash, so you trudge to the market to pick up the week’s groceries anyway—only to return home to find a flyer taped to the elevator to your fifth-story apartment: “Out of Order.”
And now you’re out of patience. As you climb the five flights of stairs to your door, struggling to carry your bags, you can’t help but wonder: “It would have been nice for the landlord to give me a heads up.”
Property Vista Software is working to do just that. The Toronto-based start-up is moving real estate into the 21st century, offering property managers a suite of communications tools to connect with tenants in real-time. The user-friendly platform removes the risks that come with an unreliable paper trail, improving tenant relations, and boosting property managers’ cash flow in the process. After all, it’s hard to make money when rent payments are late, lost, or nonexistent.
In property management, turnover is inevitable, says Leonard Drimmer, Property Vista CEO. While about 60 percent of tenant turnover is due to a home purchase or job relocation, he says about 40 percent of the turnover is because they have a grudge against management—often due to unresolved maintenance issues. In the Digital Age, that can lead to unfavorable reviews online, potentially tarnishing a business’s reputation.
“About 4 percent of consumers will actually complain,” says Drimmer. “The rest will protest by walking out. So, you want to make sure that all channels are open, so people don’t move out as often. In terms of ROI, it’s pretty simple.”
Drimmer should know. As a third-generation real estate professional, Drimmer first got his feet wet by working in the family business as a young boy growing up in Germany. In the early ’00s, Drimmer left his home country to join his brother at TransGlobe Property Management—growing it into Canada’s second largest property-management company. Working in property management, Drimmer gained firsthand insight into the gaps and inefficiencies within the real-estate industry.
“It wasn’t customer-centric and very paper heavy,” Drimmer says. “When a renter has a maintenance request, there is no way for the head office to know how long an issue had gone unresolved, and before they know it they’ve fallen behind. E-mails get lost in the shuffle. It was very cumbersome.”
When TranGlobe went public, Drimmer decided to take a leap of faith and fulfill his vision to streamline operations—and shift the focus back to tenant satisfaction.
“It was interesting going from managing to developing,” Drimmer says. “You see the inefficiencies but you don’t have time to fix them. I happen to know the industry very well. Looking back, I wish I had this system.”
“The difference between us and our competitors is that i’s truly digital all the way through. We take all that paper away.”
Still, being equipped with all the industry knowledge in the world didn’t make his passion project any easier. “Initially, I created a business plan but I wanted to focus on user experience,” Drimmer explains. “I found a UX expert to design and layout a possible program and to go through the whole flow. Then I found developers to take it to the next level. It wasn’t always exciting—it’s hard when you have no customers. It was nerve-racking. It’s not something that can be built overnight.”
Luckily, Drimmer had a Rolodex of industry connections to lean on, and he used their feedback to build Property Vista’s services organically. He credits his “smart team,” currently about 15 people, for getting the project off the ground and running.
While the program originally launched in 2011 as a resident portal to remove paper cheques, it quickly evolved into a full-service communication module, with new releases announced about every three months. That’s due in part to a weekly survey—sent both in house to garner feedback from Property Vista employees, and externally to get the perspective of its customers.
A BORN BUILDER
As a third-generation real estate professional, Drimmer grew up in the family business, starting with roles in his parent’s Frankfurt, Germany, office. From an early age he had the opportunity to have senior management positions, including when he moved across the pond, which allowed him to enact the change he wanted to see. Drimmer’s experience in both regions has given him the best of both worlds, allowing him to move from property management to software startup-and continuously improve the services offered through the Property Vista platform.
In addition to creating a system for online maintenance requests, Property Vista’s platform also offers tenants and property management access to online applications, lease agreements, survey engagement tools, autopay options, account management, and automated messaging—including via text message, phone, or email. Recently, the company teamed up with an insurance protection firm to offer renter’s insurance.
“We are the only ones that started not as an accounting system, but as an operations system—it’s the operation benefits that really make the company,” Drimmer adds.
For example, if a dryer in the basement laundry room is broken, a landlord can send a text message to notify all of his tenants in the affected building—before they haul their laundry downstairs. And in the case of an emergency, a property management can send an automated phone call to immediately alert each resident. “It’s a very powerful program—we’re completely changing how they operate,” Drimmer says. “We do communication, but more predominantly, it’s reputation management.”
The company’s focus on tenant-landlord relationships so far seems to be working. In a few short years, Property Vista has experienced 400 percent year-over-year growth—and it’s looking to quadruple, once again. “Our adoption rates are staggering ,” Drimmer says. “The difference between us and our competitors is that it’s truly digital all the way through. We take all that paper away.”
With thousands of customers signed on to the program, the company is adding roughly 15 different languages to expand its customer base, and gearing up for a launch across the United States.
“It’s exciting,” Drimmer says. “We’re always innovating, developing and looking at what’s next. We’re very excited about the future.”