CEO & Founder Zlatko Bogoevski, recently “walked a mile” in the shoes of a prospective renter.
I have a confession to make. Even though I lead one of the most dynamic startups in the leasing automation space, I haven’t been a renter myself in a long time. Therefore I was eager when the opportunity presented itself. My daughter is going off to college, and it was time to get her situated with student housing. Feeling a little sentimental about having her move out, I was happy to assist her in searching for a new home.
Narrowing down our search
We quickly narrowed our choices to nine communities advertising student housing near the University campus. All properties had beautiful websites with quality photos and videos and fit our basic criteria for the most part. Our focus naturally turned to finding availability, and that’s when things started to be frustrating. Out of the nine properties, only one had pricing and availability on their website, and I was pleasantly surprised to see BetterBot providing information. We quickly found out that there was no availability and removed this property from our list. From the other eight properties, 2 had live chat, and 6 had only a contact form and phone number on the website. The live chat was useless as we were greeted with a message that an agent was not available at the time. At this point, we were faced with a looming semester deadline and had only one option, and that was to fill out contact forms and repeatedly call in the hope of reaching a live leasing agent. This worked eventually, and we did hear back from 3 properties. I think our persistence wore them down, even though I could only imagine what their VM queue must have looked like since this is one of the largest Universities around.
Finding a unit
We heard back from 3 properties, and 2 of them said they expected to have availability and invited us for a property tour. This is where things turned for the better. The properties were both excellent, and the agents did a great job with the tour, including showcasing the property. We were somewhat underwhelmed with the initial response, and meeting the leasing staff in person was a welcome change for the better. It was easy to see how busy they were and the number of things they had to accomplish daily. Overall they were well trained and did a good job making a case for their respective properties.
Signing a lease
Score! An available unit on the first floor next to the courtyard was exactly what we were looking for, and it didn’t take long to say yes. The next step was for the agent to prepare a lease agreement and a cosigner agreement available for us. This process took unusually long in our case, and we waited over a week. Our anxiety over the quiet period prompted more calls to the leasing agent to ensure we did have a unit reserved for us. Eventually, we did receive the documents for a digital signature, and the process went smoothly. The property management system was easy to navigate, and we didn’t encounter any problems.
The big day was here, and we were excited to pack all of my daughter’s belongings and head to her new home. I was expecting to be in and out as she moved to a fully furnished unit, so there wasn’t too much stuff we had to carry with us. Not so fast. As soon as we arrived, we were told that we couldn’t move into the unit without proof of renter insurance. We were not aware of this, but luckily we had easy options to obtain sufficient insurance from my smartphone right on the spot. There were other items on the move-in checklist that we would have preferred to set up ahead of time, like the apps managing bill pay and packages. The process could have been much better if it didn’t rely on six pieces of paper handed to us in an envelope during the move.
My daughter is enjoying her new room and likes her roommates. Looking back on the process, there are a couple of easy conclusions. The people at the property were friendly, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. The frustrations we faced could have been easily avoided by using technology that could answer our basic questions early in the process. The best way forward is a clever combination of people and technology to offer world-class service to renters. I’m more motivated than ever to continue building BetterBot to allow property managers to provide precisely that.