The Landlord's Guide to SMS Texting with Tenants

If you reach into your pocket or purse, what’s the first thing you touch? It’s likely your smartphone, sitting there like a safety blanket, ready at a moment’s notice. Bored at a social event with co-workers? No problem, pull out your smartphone and check your messages – whether it be Facebook, Text Messages, or Emails. It’s instant gratification for the on-demand world in which we live. Plus, this little ‘safety blanket’ buffers many socially awkward Americans from difficult face-to-face conver

  • Friday, August 3, 2018

  Advertising & Marketing   FCRA   Paperwork & Forms   Eviction Guide   Fair Housing Act   

If you reach into your pocket or purse, what’s the first thing you touch? It’s likely your smartphone, sitting there like a safety blanket, ready at a moment’s notice. Bored at a social event with co-workers? No problem, pull out your smartphone and check your messages – whether it be Facebook, Text Messages, or Emails. It’s instant gratification for the on-demand world in which we live. Plus, this little ‘safety blanket’ buffers many socially awkward Americans from difficult face-to-face conversations. It’s a crutch that has literally changed the entire dynamic of communication for the very young to the elderly.  

If you’re a smartphone junkie, it might be a little embarrassing to admit that you have a problem. Back in the early 2000s, we witnessed the uprising of the “Crackberry” – otherwise known as the Blackberry. Anxious businessman would obsessively check their emails, check the news, and watch their stocks. The rest is history after the iPhone was released by Steve Jobs. Couple that with Facebooks native mobile application and we can see why smartphone ownership has grown by leaps and bounds in the United States. Back in 2011, 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. Compare that to 77 percent of Americans in 2018, and it’s easy to see where the trend is heading. My prediction is that 98% of all Americans will own a smartphone by 2025.

Smartphone ownership is popular in every demographic, regardless of the age, ethnicity, income, or location. From the big city to rural communities, you are likely to bump into countless people on their smartphones, blissfully ignoring the world around them. Daily, we witness demographics like senior citizens whom were historically reluctant to adopt technology happily swiping away on their smartphones. You see Grape Farmers in rural areas posting videos they took on their smartphone to Facebook of the fields they just mowed. We see middle schoolers texting back and forth with their parents to schedule pick-up times at the local cinema. Literally every demographic has adopted the use of smartphones for day-to-day personal and business communication. It has become a way of life that is now so deeply engrained in our psyche that removing them from society would likely cause massive uproar akin to the Prohibition in roaring 1920s. We are utterly and pathetically addicted to this new way of life.

What Are People Doing on Smartphones?

Smartphones have just about everything a person could want. They are like personal computers users hold in the palms of their hands. These little devices open our worlds up to social media, news, videos, and industry-specific real estate applications for tenant screening and rental property management like VerticalRent. One can install the Microsoft Office Suite directly on their phone and work within Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. Or you could install an application that measures your pulse rate through your smartphone’s flashlight. Not impressed? How about a smartphone app that measures your altitude? I personally found that one interesting when traveling from below sea level in Miami, Florida to Salt Lake City, Utah for a business assignment in 2016.  

With all the powerful applications available for smartphones -- text messaging is the biggest draw. Who would have thought? The simplest aspect of mobile phones that was available before the explosion of smart phones is still the most used. Ninety-seven percent of smartphone owners used text messaging over the course of a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. That number is even higher when looking at 18-to-29-year-olds. Each study participant in that age group sent texts daily during the study.

Why Texts?

Texts are the semi-informal and short way to express your needs, wants, and desires to another person. More and more, a quick text is all that is needed to schedule an appointment or confirm that something has been completed. As text messaging popularity soared over the last decade, the sentiment around email has soured a bit. There are two issues with email that are hard to ignore. First, email doesn’t have a sense of urgency. If you see a message come through your inbox, you likely don’t feel the need to open it right away. You might even end up forgetting about it altogether as it buries itself with the other hundreds of emails you receive daily.

Then, there’s the fact that so much email is spam. Around 86 percent of email messages sent worldwide are spam, and some of those messages are dangerous to open. Is it any wonder that people are moving away from email to text messages? Then there is web browser “push notifications” and native mobile app notifications that seem to litter our smart phones across the header section. These notifications have become so rampant that most of the notifications we see in the header of our smart phones are often ignored entirely. Companies often use push notifications as a marketing channel for promotions or useless status updates to keep their brand ‘top-of-mind’ – when in reality, it alienates their customer base with TMI (too much information).
 

The end goal is the same: to elevate the use of their brand, the use of their application, and to get the consumer to spend more money within their application. It truly is a psychological game that mobile application developers play with consumers. And this is why many applications are uninstalled or the notifications are turned off completely. Ever notice how the notifications in the mobile apps you have installed on your smart phone mysteriously “turn back on” after an update to the application you installed? This is a sneaky method used by companies to get their stream of propaganda back into your pocket in the form of notifications. “It was a bug” they would claim if you’d e-mail their customer support team. Never, ever would this be admitted by the millions of native mobile application designers out there.

The same type of “bug” that mysteriously slows down your smart phone every 6 to 12 months, prompting you to start looking for another device – a never-ending cycle of upgrading your smart phone. But, hey – who’s counting how many times we need to upgrade our smart phones? The major carriers have Americans on a never-ending subscription to paying off their new smartphones, along with the service fee charge. What a beautiful business model.

We’re a nation of addicts and nobody is counting the number of Starbuck’s coffees at $6.00 a pop we buy daily to fuel our caffeine addiction either. We’re addicted to the dopamine rush released in our brain from our daily caffeine jolt – albeit coffee, green tea, or a chocolate. A similar rush of dopamine occurs with the instant gratification that results from SMS texting. It may not be “live” synchronous chat, but it’s a form of communication near real-time enough to keep us addicted and checking our smartphones constantly. And, as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em.

So, as a real estate professional – are you ready to “join ‘em” and dominate your farming area? If so, you picked up the right guide. Let’s take a look at the fundamental problem today.

The Problem:

After looking at the statistics and reasons, you understand that it’s important to move away from email and embrace text messaging for your rental property management business. Your tenants don’t hesitate to text you directly with questions, pictures of items needing repair, or even lease update requests. They assume that you, as the landlord, has a smartphone and will answer their texts in near real-time. It’s an expectation in the landlord-tenant relationship that is unspoken from the first inquiry you receive on the rental vacancy you posted online to CraigsList or Zillow.com. Your tenants first inquiry is likely:

  • Applicant-to-Landlord via Text: Is the property still available?
  • Landlord-to-Applicant via Text: Yes, it is!
  • Applicant-to-Landlord via Text: Awesome, when can I see it?

And the story begins. Your landlord-tenant relationship has started over text. Although you’ll meet the tenants face-to-face for the move-in inspection of the property, lease signing, and maybe see them a few times here and there to make repairs or conduct walk-thrus – their primary modus of communication with you will likely be a series of text messages after they move into the property. If you’re like most Property Managers, before you hand the keys over to just “any applicant”, you use advanced tenant screening tools like VerticalRent to weed out unreliable renters and individuals with criminal backgrounds. The tenant screening process itself requires a lot of back & forth communication via text with many different applicants after which you narrow it down to a “short list” of viable applicants. Most of the initial communication from each of the applicants starts over text message, especially if you’re using VerticalRent to advertise your rental vacancies for free. It might look something like this for you:

  • Landlord-to-Applicant: Its available for showing on Saturday at 10am.
  • Applicant-to-Landlord: Ok, great – can I get a jump start on the rental application?
  • Landlord-to-Applicant: Absolutely, here is the short link to our digital rental app.
  • Applicant-to-Landlord: Will get started on it now. Do you have a minimum credit score?
  • Landlord-to-Applicant: We don’t accept anyone with under a 640-credit score.
  • Applicant-to-Landlord: Bummer, sorry for wasting your time on this one. I won’t qualify.
  • Landlord-to-Applicant: No problem, thanks for reaching out. Wish you the best!

Meanwhile, you’re texting back & forth with other applicants who seen your rental vacancy ad on CraigsList. They are asking questions about the pet policy for your rental property, whereas another applicant is asking whether you handle the lawn care. Although you stated all of this in the rental vacancy ad, it seems like people tend to ask the same repetitive questions when inquiring about the rental property. Either way, you’re happy to answer the questions, but secretly wish there was an easy way to automate a text response to the onslaught of questions. It can also get very confusing when you have multiple rental property vacancies listed, a high demand of applicants for each property, and questions galore! Ah, the madness of filling vacancies. After the leases are signed and the vacancies are filled, that applicant whom is now a tenant has already established the modus of communication with you via text message:

  • Tenant-to-Landlord: Shower drain is leaking. Here are the images for you to see.
  • Landlord-to-Tenant: Thanks for letting me know. I will coordinate with my handyman.
  • Landlord-to-Handyman: Tenant at 123 Main Street needs shower drain repaired.
  • Handyman-to-Landlord: I’m on it. I’ll be there in 2 hours.
  • Landlord-to-Tenant: Joe the Handyman will be stopping by in 2 hours to fix the issue.
  • Tenant-to-Landlord: Ok, great, thanks for the update!
  • Handyman-to-Landlord: Schedule was pushed. Need to swing by tomorrow.
  • Landlord-to-Handyman: Ok, let me inform the tenant.
  • Landlord-to-Tenant: There was a scheduling error and my handyman won’t be there.
  • Tenant-to-Landlord: Alright, not a problem. Tomorrow is fine!

The dynamic of managing rental properties becomes increasingly interesting when we rent to multiple tenants, such as college students. All the sudden, you’re receiving text messages from several different roommates at the same property address. Also, instead of having a single go-to handyman that handles all your repairs – you might have specialists handling the HVAC, another guy who handles your plumbing, and another for your electrical issues that arise.

But, what if you’re not an independent owner/operator of the rental properties? What if you’re a true Property Manager that now needs to communicate real-time updates to a high-maintenance property owner who likes to stay apprised of repairs and the associated costs via text? Suddenly, the simple 1:1 text that started with “Is the property still available?” has grown to multi-level communication between many different people:

  1. Property Manager / Landlord / Broker / Real Estate Professional (the Hub)
  2. Specialist Service Providers (HVAC, Electrician, Plumber, Landscaper)
  3. Multiple Tenants (College Students as an Example)
  4. Investors / Owners

The dynamic to make a simple shower drain repair has turned into a more complicated network of back & forth text messages, phone calls, and invoices. Often, the landlord becomes so frustrated that he asks his service professional to communicate directly with the tenant living in the property – which is a big mistake from a liability perspective. One should always strive to control the communication flow between external vendors and tenants. When control is lost, the landlord/owner or property manager has lost his/her position of authority in the landlord-tenant relationship, along with their oversight capability of the real estate asset.

Couldn’t all of this have been solved with a simple 3-way phone call? Well, one would think that it is that easy – but studies show that people are simply not communicating in the most efficient manner these days. Tenants would rather “text” their landlord, and landlords are now beginning to text their network of service professionals who help them keep their rental properties running smoothly. Even more is that Property Managers are beginning to text their property investors/owners to keep them apprised, along with the monthly reports showing all repairs and associated costs. In fact, property owners are beginning to demand the necessary real-time “visibility” from their property managers of what is occurring at their rental properties. They don’t want to be caught by surprise at the end of the month with a report that itemizes all the repairs – they want to know what is happening as the action unfolds. Plus, giving Property Owners real-time visibility is a competitive advantage for Property Management firms.

The problem is that a smartphone, although very powerful, is not an effective means to managing the growing communication network faced by property managers and landlords today. Another layer of facilitation is necessary to effectively and efficiently control the chaos of text messaging from applicants, from tenants, from owners, from vendors, and from colleagues. As your rental property empire grows, the complexity of your communication network increases at 4x the rate of each property acquired. For each rental property that you acquire, you take on:

  • More applicants = more questions and more showing requests
  • More tenants = more problems and more repair requests
  • More owners = more status requests
  • More vendors = more cancelled appointments

To increase rental cashflow, more rental properties or less expense is the answer. The more rental properties you own or manage, the more income you can expect to earn if you’re expenses are controlled. However, more rental properties result in more communication paths between all the parties involved and more expense in the form of overhead communication. Acquiring one additional rental property adds 4x the headache in terms of communication. By adding two (2) additional rental properties to your portfolio -- 8x the headache occurs, by adding three (3) properties -- twelve (12) times the headache occurs. You see how this trend continues as your portfolio grows?

Text messaging can be your best friend or your worst enemy if its ineffectively managed. Meanwhile, if you’re like most Landlords or Property Managers – you don’t carry around two smartphones in your pocket. The devices aren’t exactly “small” to begin with – so carrying around a smartphone for your personal affairs and another for your work and rental properties is not only ineffective, but costly. For that reason, you often pay your cell phone company for one smartphone where you manage your personal affairs, work affairs, and rental property affairs. All your communication activity converges onto one singular device without any clear lines of separation and/or scheduling. In theory, this is the ideal approach for communication – but, the reality is an unwieldy amount of texts, voicemails, calls, and emails that is largely distracting and steals from the joy of everyday living if left unmanaged. 

You wouldn’t be reading this eBook if you didn’t feel there was some sort of art to text messaging with your applicants, tenants, and vendors that you’re missing. Perhaps you were burned a few times in the past with irresponsible tenants, or maybe you’re overwhelmed with your day-to-day communication patterns on your smartphone. Before jumping into another rental investment property, you promised yourself that you’d create a “system” to manage the chaos. And that is exactly what being a landlord is all about – managed chaos. It’s not a factory manufacturing line where we’re churning out cars one after another – landlording is chalk full of twists and turns that nobody can anticipate. It’s unpredictable.

What prevents most independent landlords from growing their rental property portfolio isn’t necessarily the money – but the lack of a “system” in managing the chaos. And if you really think about it, the chaos is best managed with streamlined communication channels between all people involved in the transaction: the applicant, the tenant, the landlord, the service professionals, and often the owner or investors of the property managed.

Scaling your rental property portfolio is ultimately the goal.  More rentals generally equal more profits – which gets you closer to your financial goals in life. The dilemma for landlords and property managers is sustaining and managing the chaos in the face of scaling their respective business models. The built-in capabilities of smartphones do not lend themselves to efficiently managing the text messaging networks that exponentially increase with each additional rental property. We also know that paper memos, paper checks, and playing “phone tag” with your tenants is pre-Y2K.

The Solution: 

And that is why we created VerticalRent Hub, an all-in-one communication center for rental property managers both large and small. From e-mail, to fax, to voice, to SMS texting – Hub was designed from the ground-up to solve the dilemma of networked communication for landlords and property managers. Many companies have attempted to introduce generic platforms for every industry to help businesses manage SMS and MMS texting from their customers or establish a second line of communication – but nobody has seamlessly integrated those features into an industry-specific niche application like VerticalRent for Landlords and Property Managers until now.


Realizing that everyone demands both visibility and instant gratification via SMS texting, we have set out to revolutionize how rental property managers go about their day-to-day operations. E-mail, faxing, voicemail, face video chat, and phone calls will always have their time and place in the communication lifecycle for real estate professionals – but we truly believe that SMS texting “done right” can revolutionize your property management business. Hub includes every legacy form of communication as a “backup” modus of communication but focuses primarily on the art of texting as the chief means of communication. We include:

  • Your own e-mail addresses
  • Your own fax line number (with your area code)
  • Your own voice line number to place on vacancy ads and publish on your business cards
  • Your own SMS text line number to receive and send text messages
  • Built-in voicemail transcription
  • Built-in Call Forwarding & Recording for Quality Assurance
  • Real-time Language Translation for Texting, Faxing, and Email

All this powerful feature and functionality is integrated deeply into the platform that you have grown to love and use daily for applicant screening, vacancy advertising, online rent collection, and lease management. And if you’re just a small landlord with a few rental properties, VerticalRent Hub is the perfect solution to separating and managing your personal, professional, and rental property business.

VerticalRent Hub revolutionizes how you manage rentals through text messaging. It’s easy to enroll and we give every new Hub subscriber a $20 gift card to Moo for a set of business cards with your new numbers. Here are the Top 10 Ways to use VerticalRent Hub to mange your rental property business:

 #1 – Advertising Your Rental Vacancies

Vacancies are the #1 enemy of every landlord for obvious reasons. Your tenants are your customers. Without them, the bills don’t get paid. With VerticalRent Hub, you can quickly and easily advertise vacancies through our seamless integration with the Zillow Group Network. With a few clicks, your vacancy listing is syndicated across the Web in front of millions of potential renters. You can setup auto-responders to point inquiries to your digital rental application form that feeds directly to your VerticalRent account.

What’s more is that you don’t have to paint your personal mobile number everyone on the Internet. As a Premium or Ultimate subscriber to VerticalRent Hub, you get your very own dedicated SMS text line. Why is this important? Well, you can separate your personal life from your landlording life. As inquiries funnel in about that rental vacancy, you can quickly tag and associate them with specific accounts within VerticalRent. You can also quickly reply back from your computer if you’d like – or your phone, it doesn’t matter.

#2 – Scheduling a Property Walk-Thru

Property walk-thrus shouldn’t be done without a pre-qualification. Why would you waste your time walking a potential renter through a property without running a credit, criminal, and eviction check? Think about it – if you already have renters in the house, why are you going to inconvenience them for a walk-thru without pre-qualifying the renter first? If the renter refuses to complete the application process BEFORE the walk-thru, just turn them away – there are many more waiting in line!

With VerticalRent Hub, you can easily schedule and confirm the timing of the property walk-thru. Most people walk around with their Smartphones in hand. Scheduling has never been easier.

#3 – Rental Applications & Tenant Screening

There are energy vampires around every corner. Landlords need to recognize this fact. Don’t waste your time conducting walk-throughs and talking to applicants without collecting a digital rental application and carrying out the tenant screening process. It’s quick and easy.

#4 – Lease Signing & On-Boarding Tenants

Signing leases is a piece of cake when you have taken care of the pre-qualification aspects of landlording. VerticalRent offers state-specific lease agreements too.

#5 – Completing the Move-In Checklist

Confirming the move-in condition of your rental property with your tenant is uber important. Make sure that you have all of this in writing and photos. Text messaging is the best means to snap photos and save them to your archive. You can do this easily with VerticalRent Hub.

#6 – Handling & Scheduling Repairs

Repairs are totally inconvenient, we get it. But how quick and easy is it to handle tenant complaints and repairs in one system? You get the idea.

#7 – Answering Common Questions

Common questions are things that every tenant seems to ask over and over. Why retype everything? With VerticalRent Hub, you can save common responses to fire back with a click of a button. Put your rental property portfolio on cruise control.

#8 – Collecting Rent Online

Invite your applicants to the tenant portal and start collecting rent online.

#9 – Starting the Eviction Process

Fire off the eviction process with VerticalRent!

#10 – Completing the Move-Out Checklist

Compare the condition of your property at move-out to the condition at move-in with VerticalRent Hub.

DISCLAIMER:

VerticalRent® is not a law firm, and the employees of VerticalRent® are not acting as your attorney. Our educational blog or landlord forms engine is not a substitute for the sound advice of a local attorney, whom is familiar with your local laws and regulations. VerticalRent® cannot provide you with legal advice, nor are we permitted to engage in the practice of law.

We are prohibited from providing you with any sort of advice, opinion, explanation, or recommendation about your possible legal rights – which may include remedies, options, defenses, or the selection of landlord forms available on the VerticalRent platform. Our platform is designed to provide landlords and property managers with powerful online tools to screen applicants, collect rent online, advertise vacancies, and generate free landlord forms. To that extent, our blog often publishes general information on issues commonly encountered by landlords – such as evicting tenants.

Although VerticalRent takes every reasonable effort possible to ensure the accuracy of its consumer reports and landlord forms, we do not guarantee or warrant the information to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The law changes rapidly across the United States, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We will not be held responsible for any loss, injury, claim, damage, or liability related to the use of our blog, landlord forms or consumer reports generated from this platform.



comments powered by Disqus
Get Started For Free!     Have some questions? Check out our FAQs.