By Jack Stubbs
In the current boom of CRE tech, many platforms are striving to enhance the property management process for industry professionals. Keepe, founded in Seattle in mid-2014, is a technology-driven marketplace that aims to streamline the property management and maintenance process.
We recently spoke with Rishi Mathew, co-founder and CEO of the company, about the platform, the services that it provides industry professionals with, and the current state of the property management industry.
What can you tell me about Keepe (where and when the company was founded, current objectives of the platform, etc.)?
Maintenance is the stinky cheese in renting, and Keepe’s goal is to make maintenance feel like ice-cream! Our mission is to make renter-ship a more delightful experience for renters, property managers and independent landlords.
Keepe is aiming to become the maintenance solution for the rental industry. Our customers are typically property management companies and independent landlords, and currently, they span 3 geographies—[the] Greater Seattle area, the San Francisco Bay area and the Greater Phoenix area. Some of our biggest customers (numbering 100-plus) include OneRent, Seattle Apartment Managers, Koss Property Management and The Neiders Company.
Specifically, what are some of the day-to-day tasks that Keepe allows industry professionals to accomplish? To what degree does Keepe aim to streamline and simplify the process for property managers, landlords and tenants across the board?
Based on data from the 4000-plus projects that we have completed so far, some of the most popular day-to-day tasks range from repairing garbage disposals and drywall to full rental turns (after tenant moves out) that include re-carpeting and re-painting.
Keepe provides a streamlined workflow for property managers that automates the end-to-end property maintenance process—estimating projects, scheduling with tenants, sourcing and dispatching qualified contractors—while ensuring transparent and fair pricing.
How does the company’s location in Seattle influence its operations and strategy? What are some of the trends occurring in the property management industry—in the Puget Sound region in particular—and how is Keepe contributing to these trends?
Seattle has been a wonderful home and incubator for Keepe. The area’s growing house prices, growing renter market and influx of tech-savvy millennial renters have all been positive factors in Keepe’s creation and growth. Seattle is home to our entire team and we expect to operate in Seattle for the foreseeable future.
We are seeing some major trends in property management: a gradual increase in professional property management relative to independent landlording; a large influx of out-of-state property buyers/owners (which necessitates the above trend of having more professional property managers); [and] a move towards leveraging software technology to streamline processes and drive overall efficiency.
These are generally aligned with and magnified by Keepe’s vision. A recent study by Buildium highlighted maintenance as the top concern among property owners and managers. If Keepe can make life easier for them, then it will make renting that much easier and attractive.
To what degree is the platform striving to address a “broken” or inefficient workflow in the property management sector in particular? What is the current state of the property management market?
When talking to renters, we learned that they hate how long it takes to resolve maintenance issues. This can easily be validated on Yelp, where the top complaints about property management companies are related to maintenance. Renters blame the property manager and are more likely to leave at lease-end if the property is not regularly and properly maintained, which in turn affects Lifetime Value (LTV) of the lease and make renting less attractive.
Another aspect of the process that we think about is the time it takes to get a property back on the market after a tenant moves out. This is directly impacted by the speed of getting all the maintenance issues taken care of.
In the current age of CRE (commercial real estate) tech, successful products are those that are intuitive to use. How effectively does the platform scale across different contexts and devices? Is there a steep learning curve associated with the product?
Our customer demographic is very diverse. We have customers who are millennials and we also have customers who are baby-boomers. This is true for our supply side as well. Our technology mission is to embrace and adapt to existing workflows while making our product easy to adopt. The real breakthrough is in the way we revolutionize the workflow by enabling faster response times for property managers and fuller schedules for maintenance professionals.
With so many tech-based platforms coming online, there are many platforms aiming to do the same thing as Keepe (simplifying the property management process for tenants and landlords, lowering maintenance costs and centralizing rental property information)—what, specifically, makes Keepe unique from other platforms?
There are numerous companies that are targeting the rental property management industry. The most unique aspect of Keepe is our dynamic network of qualified service professionals (a.k.a. “Keepers”) who are available to perform maintenance tasks. Each Keeper has to be licensed (as applicable), bonded and insured in their state.
We also run thorough background checks to ensure they are fully vetted. Keepers can accept pre-approved and pre-scheduled maintenance projects through our proprietary app. The app also adds a layer of efficiency and transparency to the process, so service professionals can maximize their productivity and property managers can keep track of the status of their various projects.
In the current era, where everything is becoming virtual and going online, tenant privacy and the security of property information remains a pressing issue. How does the Keepe software address this particular concern, and how will it continue to evolve its technology accordingly?
We function as a trusted partner of property management companies and we take privacy issues very seriously. In general, we don’t need any information other than basic contact information for tenants.
Our team consists of individuals who have been at the forefront of innovation in software and real estate. Over the last 18 months, we have grown 8x in volume and expanded into 2 new markets on top of Seattle. When it comes to growth and competition, we like to first and foremost have a maniacal focus on our customers and to look inward and focus on the factors that we control. In such a growing industry, we expect competition to come, and we expect to be ready.
Given that the company operates predominantly in the residential/rental market, does Keepe have any future plans to expand into the commercial market? What about into other industry sectors (e.g. healthcare, education, retail)? What lies ahead for the company?
While our focus is in the residential rental market, we do have a handful of customers who operate in the commercial real estate market. The primary vector for growth for us is expansion into other geographies (we plan to expand to about 1-3 [geographies] per quarter). Once we have a presence in the major [geographies] in the U.S., we could possibly expand to adjacent segments such as commercial property management, real estate agents, etc.
More generally, what broader trends do you think will define the rental property management sector over the next 12 to 18 months?
One of the trends that we are anticipating is the growth of the multi-city property management company. Because of virtualization of the major functions in property management (such as leasing, showings, payments, etc) and now maintenance, we expect to see property management companies becoming more aggressive with expansion into other cities. Already, we see some of our existing partners pulling us into their new geographies. [For example], we expanded to the San Francisco Bay area because of requests from existing customers such as OneRent. We are now seeing strong demand in areas such as San Diego, Denver, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, [and] Cincinnati.