Managing lettings – a complex and potentially time-consuming business – is getting easier, despite the ever-growing burden of compliance.
Software solutions can now condense what used to take days of staff time into just a couple of hours – and the apps are getting better all the time.
So as lettings become an increasingly important part of the business mix for almost every agent, what are the best utilities out there to help smooth the process and keep complications to a minimum?
Goodlord is well known as one of the industry leaders, offering everything from a tenant on-boarding process to add-ons such as utility switching and deposit-replacement insurance. It will also carry out tenant referencing for a small fee (£8).
Goodlord can bring the pre-tenancy process into one place where you can manage it across all your branches, and that can bring a lot of efficiencies. Tom Mundy, COO, Goodlord.
The platform will generate offer letters and help agents complete contracts using digital signing and organise up-front payments from tenants.
Goodlord also automates pre-tenancy compliance procedures such as sending out EPCs and introduces legislative updates as soon as they happen, ensuring agents are always fully compliant.
It has integrated with MyDeposits so that agents can ensure automatic deposit protection, and will also integrate with many of the main CRM systems such as Reapit, Gnomen and MRI Sales and Lettings (formerly Qube).
And if anything should ever go wrong, Goodlord operates a claims process and will mediate between the tenant and the agent.
In short, everything you need to make tenancy changeovers as stress-free as possible.
“Goodlord can bring the pre-tenancy process into one place where you can manage it across all your branches, and that can bring a lot of efficiencies that you probably didn’t know were there for you,” says Tom Mundy, who co-founded Goodlord in 2014 after becoming frustrated with the inefficiencies he encountered as a tenant.
Inventory Hive deals with – you guessed it, inventories. But that’s a vital part of the tenant onboarding process, and if you get it wrong it can have far-reaching consequences.
Founder and CEO Richard Abbots set up the company five years ago, and says that while there were other inventory apps around at the time, none offered a paperless audit trail.
He says some agents are still paying to use an inventory offering that requires using a program such as DocuSign to complete it.
Our app is all about getting tenants to engage with it and add comments and photos so you get better engagement at the beginning and fewer disputes. Richard Abbots CEO, Inventory Hive.
When the inventory has been created – which agents can do via the app, even if they are offline – they can just hit a button and the app will send a text and email to the tenant. It will then get them to confirm receipt by signing before they get the keys, and when they move in they have a time window, usually seven days, to review the inventory.
Everything is audit-trailed, so if the tenant mentions a stain on a carpet, they can send a photo with a comment and that will be highlighted at the end of the tenancy.
Inventory Hive also now offers the opportunity to include 360º photos into inventory reports – all agents have to do is buy one of the approved cameras that work with the system for around £450.
It means you only have to take one photo of each room, and rather than filling in a form at the property you can use the photos as a reference back at the office. The app will even geo-stamp them so you know which property the photos relate to.
A 360º virtual tour for property sales is also now being trialled and is due to launch imminently.
Inventory Hive has adapted and expanded its lettings service as a result of COVID-19. Within two weeks of lockdown starting, Abbots and his team had put together a virtual self-inspection feature that allows tenants to send in photos and videos of a property, since agents were not allowed to carry out the usual quarterly or six-monthly checks.
The latest addition to the armoury is automatic meter-reading software that uses AI to log the reading from a tenant’s photo – truly cutting edge technology in play. Imfuna Jax Kneppers launched inventory software Imfuna 10 years ago in the US but was quickly approached about using it in the UK, where it is now a major player.
Kneppers is a forensic engineer who is often called upon to give evidence in court, so he knows a thing or two about the importance of an accurate information-gathering process.
“The app is borne out of best practice that also provides users the ability to adapt it to their business and their branding to maintain a continuous record.” Jax Kneppers CEO, Imfuna.
Imfuna has standard templates that agents can adapt and you can add photos, write notes or use it as a dictation device, with a free, crowd-sourced transcription completed within two hours.
There are mark-up tools for photos so you can draw circles around something, or use arrows if you want to draw attention to an issue.
It’s structured on a room-by-room basis with fields for walls, floors, ceilings and so on. Agents can use a slider bar or a pulldown menu and can quickly add photos or notes. They can even flag up repairs that they can forward straight to a contractor.
Tenants can also mark up the inventory and upload their photos or comments – all the landlord needs to do is send them a link that take them to the website.
“You end up with a very compelling inventory – the app provides for significant detail,” says Kneppers.
“The app is borne out of best practice that also provides users the ability to adapt it to their business and their branding to maintain a continuous record.”
TouchRight deals with property management reports – those all-important records of check-in, check-outs, mid-term inspections, legionella risk assessments and many more.
You can create reports quickly and easily using built-in voice recognition software on your device, while the TouchRight dashboard allows you to securely access and manage your properties, appointments and reports.
There are templates you can adapt to suit your needs, and you can attach photos to documents where necessary – ideal for routine inspections. The software creates an audit trail, which could prove vital in the event of any issues at the end of a tenancy.
TouchRight integrates with many of the main CRMs so you can push appointments straight to your own office calendar. It also integrates with Fixflo.
If agents are looking for that time saver and paper saving as part of their green credentials, it adds to the sustainability side of the business. Terry Lightfoot Co-founder, Touchright.
There is even a special safety feature called Lone Worker Protection that allows a member of staff out on site to send discreet alerts at the touch of a button should there be any issues with a tenant.
TouchRight co-founder Terry Lightfoot is also keen to point out the app’s environmental credentials. “If agents are looking for that time saver and paper saving as part of their green credentials, it adds to the sustainability side of the business – we are a piece of that the jigsaw,” he says.
“A lot of people use it for inventories, too – it looks professional and landlords like it.”
Pricing starts at £2 per report or
£10 per month for 10 users,
£25 for unlimited users.
Repairs and maintenance specialist Fixflo was founded just seven years ago, yet in those few short years has come to dominate the UK lettings market, with more than a third of agents using its software.
Founder Rajeev Nayyar was a property lawyer and buy-to-let investor, and it was his experience at the sharp end that made him realise the need for change.
“I walked around the streets and spoke to letting agents and contractors and tenants, and the very simple insight was that the repairs process was broken for everybody,” he says.
We’re entirely focused on repairs and maintenance. Our mission is to help professional property managers deliver excellence to their clients. Rajeev Nayyar CEO and Founder, Fixflo.
He set about developing revolutionary new software aimed at streamlining the repairs and maintenance process for tenants, landlords, property managers and contractors.
The software sits in the middle, acting as a hub connecting everyone together. Tenants report problems via a simple app that works in more than 40 languages – Fixflo built its own translation tool – agents farm the work out via the same software to approved contractors, and they report back when the work is completed via their own version of the app, which even allow them to submit invoices.
However, it’s even smarter than that. Fixflo triages the problems, gives guidance and advice based on what the tenant is reporting, tells them what to do in an emergency, then diagnoses the problem so instead of just being told, say, there is a water leak, the property manager and contractor know precisely what the problem is. The software – which integrates with all the major CRM providers – also keeps track of planned maintenance and compliance issues such as gas and electrical safety checks and automatically creates jobs for contractors when they are due.
Anything that happens in Fixflo is mirrored in the CRM and updated in real time and all the invoices pass into the accounting system so there is no need for double data entry. “We are entirely focused on repairs and maintenance and we invest a huge amount in research and development,” says Nayyar. “Our mission is to help professional property managers deliver excellence to their clients and that drives everything we do.”
Pricing: The Basic plan costs 35p per property per month for repair reporting; the Essentials package at 75p allows you to track your teams, contractors and maintenance issues via a dashboard, and includes the bespoke contractor app. The Professional plan at 95p also includes the planned maintenance scheduling.
Stick with the specialists
One thing that stands out from this survey is how good all these apps are at serving their particular place in the market, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, as some CRMs are now gearing up to do.
As Terry Lightfoot at TouchRight says, “We are specialists at what we do. I’m a keen cyclist but I wouldn’t go out and buy a bike from Halfords just because they cover everything, I would buy it from a specialist bike shop.”
Goodlord’s Tom Mundy echoes that thought: “I think a letting agent can now, with the combination of the right software, have a really streamlined process. It’s not about trying to get it all under one roof, and if you tried to do that you would probably sacrifice things along the way.”