Text messages become common management tool

Text messages are becoming an important property management tool when communicating with staff and vendors as well as tenants

Patrick Soukup, CPM Commercial property manager, Old Town Square Properties

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I would be willing to bet that within arm’s reach sits your smartphone. Whether it is in your pocket, stuffed in your desk drawer or sitting on your desk, our phones are never out of reach. This “tool” has gone from a 2-pound brick with minimal calling capability to having more power than all of NASA when it put a man on the moon in 1969.

You probably have your social media apps, a game or two, your email, some productivity apps and, of course, your phone and text capabilities all on your smartphone. We forget sometimes that the phone’s original purpose is to help individuals communicate.

In property management, communication is essential for success. That  could be communicating with ownership, tenants or employees. Every day, emails, phone calls and text messages are exchanged. More and more, small-message-service text messaging is becoming an acceptable form of professional communication.

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The first text message recorded was sent in 1992 and simply stated “Merry Christmas.” Every day, we send and receive hundreds of text messages. In business though, I still ask, “Are you able to receive texts on this number?” Mostly because I want to ensure the receiver is comfortable texting. The concern of whether the business person on the other end is able to text will disappear as quickly as pagers did in the recent past.

I was recently struck by how powerful a simple text message could be when considering property management and real estate investing. I had a property that has a history of water backups. Since switching to the property management software AppFolio, I can broadcast text messages to entire properties. One evening when I received that dreaded call of water backing up in the utility closet, I immediately sent 24 text messages to all of the tenants informing them not to use their sinks, bathtubs or toilets. That one text message saved thousands and thousands of dollars.

At that point, I started to think about how often I text message while working. Text messaging has become a part of my daily business operations. I remember when I was working for my dad in accounts receivable and had to hide my phone if I received a text message. Now, as much as my computer is, my smartphone is also my weapon of choice.

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The property management industry can immediately leverage the power of text messaging.

Emergencies. “Fire, flood or blood” are our three criteria for a maintenance emergency. “Fire at building 3, no one hurt, fire extinguished, all is safe” could not only save you tons of questions from curious tenants, it also can build incredible tenant relations.

Leasing. Text message is an easy way for your leasing agents to initially communicate with perspective tenants, confirming day-of showings and explaining the lease signing process. This helps perspective tenants feel your company is on the ball, it saves your leasing agent from playing phone tag and creates a record of communication. Rather than paying for the lost time your leasing agent spends on the phone, you are paying for the seconds of time it takes to send a text message.

Recording conversations. Maintenance technicians often are required to set an appointment with tenants. Often they end up trying multiple times to contact a tenant with no luck. Text messaging provides a date-stamped communication log. No more “he said, she said.” Decrease the phone calls, track the text messages and decrease liability.

Maintenance management. With group text messages or groups on Slack, it has never been easier for a maintenance supervisor to ensure work gets done promptly. Is there a maintenance work order that needs to get done, but you don’t know who is available? Put it out to the group of techs and see who steps up to the plate. Setting up maintenance meetings can be done in seconds. With text messages, maintenance management has become more efficient and easier.

Tenant relations. Text messaging can be a nuisance if overused; however, it can be an easy way to build tenant relations by sending an “individual” happy holiday or happy New Year text message. Too often the only times tenants hear from property managers are when the rent is due or when the lease is up for renewal. With vacancy creeping up and amenity-rich communities popping up all over the place, building tenant relations may just help you get that renewal.

Written notice. Companies such as DocuSign legally allow electronic signatures for real estate transactions. Text message records have been subpoenaed for court cases. It is important to have everything in writing and text messages can and will become a source of written notice.

Text messaging and communication mediums are ever-changing. Each medium has its purpose and proper use.

If companies like Facebook, purchasing the text messaging company WhatsApp for $19 billion, and the company Slack, valued at $7 billion, find SMS text messaging valuable, so should you. Not only should you “allow” your employees to text while at work, you should have systems in place that allow them to communicate through texting.

Inform your tenants that text messaging will be used and is a required form of communication. Just as paying online was scary because not everyone “knows how to use a computer,” text messaging is overcoming barriers and is expected, if not preferred, by tenants.

With more households renting than in the previous 50 years and a large percentage of those being younger than 35, text communicating is essential.

This form of communication is just another tool in your belt. As property managers, we are able to do more work with less man power because of these tools. It is important to adapt to change and not fight it. Text me if you have any questions.

Featured in CREJ’s January 2019 Property Management Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.