By Jack Stubbs
In an age of commercial real estate tech, many companies are seeking to disrupt and reinvent the real estate market. Zenplace, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2016, is one company that integrates technology into its platform to streamline the property management process.
We recently spoke to Eric Holly, vice president at Zenplace, about the company, how it is contributing to changes occurring in the property management sector, and the ways in which leading-edge technological innovation is becoming more of a requirement for companies looking to stay ahead of the curve.
What can you tell me about Zenplace?
Zenplace is a full service property management company that has combined technology and real estate expertise to reinvent property management. Zenplace provides all of the services of a traditional property manager including finding and placing tenants, collecting rent and managing repair and maintenance requests from tenants. Zenplace’s property management services are implemented and enhanced through the use of our proprietary algorithm and software solutions for rental listings, property showings and ongoing property maintenance. Our technology spans artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and our real estate professionals have 20-plus years in the industry.
Whom does Zenplace serve? Who are your customers?
Zenplace helps property owners and landlords increase their returns and provide for a better landlord and tenant experience using a combination of technology and real estate professionals. Properties managed by Zenplace benefit from on-demand showings, faster rental times, predictive rental trends, digital screening and leasing, easy online and mobile rent payments, lower maintenance/repair costs and peace of mind for the property owner and tenant.
To what degree does Zenplace streamline the property management process for owners and renters? How is Zenplace addressing a “broken workflow” in the property management industry?
As an example, one of the issues Zenplace resolves is the inability of prospective renters to view the property on their schedule. Traditionally, a prospective tenant will need to schedule a time to meet at the property with the property manager or agent. This necessarily requires two individuals schedules to sync up in order to work.
Today’s rental market includes busy professionals who are not always able to carve time out of their schedule to view a property on the property managers time. Our property showing process and technology uses on-demand showings 7 days a week to put the agent in the property using technology when the prospect wants to see it. Zenplace can also conduct an increased number of showings per day per agent. A traditional property manager may be able to show 3 to 4 properties a day due to travel times and other commitments. Our agents can show 15 to 20 properties daily. On-demand showings enables us to get properties off of the rental market up to 3 times faster than a traditional property manager.
Another example of a problem that Zenplace solves is the traditional lack of communication and transparency. Property owners tell us that one of the main reasons they are looking for a new property manager is the lack of communication between the traditional property manager and owner and tenant. Our tenants have access to a maintenance and payment portal where they can make their rental payments and submit and track maintenance requests.
Property owners also tell us they have a hard time communicating with their traditional property manager as well. When their property is on the market for rent, the owner is not receiving feedback about the rental showing process, leaving the owner to question what service, if any, is being provided by the traditional property manager. Property owners have told us that traditional property managers will often tell them that the only way to get their property rented quickly is by lowering the rent, with no explanation given or facts to support that conclusion.
On the other hand, the Zenplace Property Owner Support team communicates with the property owner throughout the entire rental process. Initially consulting with the owner on the rental price and using market data and insights derived using our proprietary algorithms, to back up our recommendations.
Zenplace’s team is largely comprised of professionals within the real estate and technology industry, like property managers, engineers and developers, among others. How does this specific real estate background inform what the platform does?
Zenplace is backed by institutions and investors that supported multi-billion dollar companies like Google, Facebook and PayPal. Zenplace is making it easy and effortless for property owners to rent and manage their properties. The company’s team comes from technology stalwarts like Google, Apple, Facebook, Nokia, NBC, Microsoft, and real estate giants such as Realtor.com and CBRE. The combination of technology and real estate expertise enables us to provide services that best address the needs of the rental property owners and investors.
Zenplace integrates artificial intelligence and machine learning into its services. To what degree is this uncharted territory in the property management industry? Why does this trajectory matter?
Zenplace uses a differentiated approach towards property maintenance and vendor management. As an example, traditional property managers have a fixed roster of vendors they use. Instead, Zenplace’s machine learning technologies scan local vendors across the nation based on price, timelines, reliability, reviews, availability and numerous other variables to quickly assess and determine the best and most competitively priced vendor for the specific task. Zenplace also continuously factors in reviews from owners and tenants to rank vendors for future usage. Owners. as a result, see both lower costs and higher service levels.
Zenplace’s property concierge services also transform the tenant experience. Zenplace features an AI-powered service that works using chatbots, and through connected devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and other smart devices. Tenants can pay their rent easily, manage property related services, and even report any issues with the property 24/7. In addition, there are a number of other useful Zenplace hub services that tenants love like easily managing their TV, internet, security and other property related services. Enhancing the tenant experience is beneficial to owners since a delighted tenant is more likely to take better care of the property and renew their lease.
Zenplace serves a wide variety of real estate assets, from skyscrapers to single-family homes. What does this mean for Zenplace?
Real estate is the largest asset class, with over $10 trillion of assets, and the largest sector of the economy (13% of national GDP). Zenplace [has] set out to reinvent property management across property types, and our rental management services drive greater real estate returns, increase efficiencies and provide a better overall experience for all property owners.
Where does Zenplace currently operate geographically, and what lies ahead?
Zenplace currently operates across 50+ cities and towns and will be expanding to several other [locations] including Seattle and the greater Washington State. Zenplace’s rollout is planned to be across the nation. There is tremendous interest and inbound demand for Zenplace Property Management’s services from property owners across multiple markets.
Over 40 percent of the U.S. now rents, and in several major cities across the nation, there are more renters than owners. However, property owners find that renting properties can be frustrating and worrisome. From finding reliable tenants, to leasing quickly and easily, to efficient maintenance, it can be a lot for a property owner to manage well. With over 50 million properties and 100 million tenants across the U.S., this has led to a surge for property management services. However, the traditional industry has lagged behind in terms of efficiency and technology. We are now seeing that changing with a technology reinventing property management and Zenplace providing a better overall experience for property owners.