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Top 5 RPA Bots for Property Management in 2023 That Save Time and Money
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Robotic process automation (RPA) is transforming the way we work across industries, and the real estate industry is no exception. RPA mimics how humans interact with computers to perform tedious, repetitive, high-volume, and error-sensitive tasks. And it's proving invaluable to the property management and wider real estate sector today. With this in mind, let's dive into why and how RPA is disrupting one of the world's oldest industries.
The Case for RPA in Property Management
As a traditional industry, real estate faces many challenges when it comes to adopting the latest tech. On the whole, the industry is resistant to change. At the same time, many older firms have legacy systems that are difficult to integrate with modern solutions - when your options are a comprehensive and costly overhaul of your current IT landscape or doing nothing, doing nothing often wins.
But opinions are shifting within the industry for one simple reason: they have to. Millennials (or Gen Y) now make up the biggest share of homebuyers, and while new renting applications by Millennials did drop by 8% in 2021, they're still the largest renting cohort. And Millennial's younger peers, Gen Z, are also much more active in the renting market today - there was a 21% increase in Boomer's opening renting applications in 2021.
So what does this mean for property management companies? Well, tenants are skewing younger, and these tech-savvy generations have high expectations. Gen Y and Gen Z expect the hyper-fast digital experiences they've come to know from the tech giants like Amazon and Netflix. And this expectation extends to all areas of life, including how they secure new places to live.
But critically, technological adoption isn't an all-or-nothing endeavor. You don't have to create flashy new websites and deploy state-of-the-art AI to improve efficiency and boost customer experiences. One of the highest-impact areas is in automating back-office tasks with RPA.
And in property management, there's no shortage of administrative tasks that are prime for bot-driven disruption. Software bots can handle invoice processing, document management, data extraction and processing, validation, and more. RPA works best for repetitive, rule-based workflows, and property management has a ton of these. Equally attractive is the simplicity of robotic process automation - it doesn’t demand a costly IT overhaul because it’s system agnostic (it can integrate with existing systems with ease).
Here’s the bottom line. RPA helps property management companies boost the quality, speed, and efficiency of processes, thereby saving time and cutting costs. At the same time, tenants get a smoother experience and are less likely to defect to a competitor.
Perhaps even more important are the risks associated with not moving with the times. Over the last decade, we've seen what happens in other industries when companies fail to adopt automation. Retail has gone through this shift already, and the companies that didn't embrace new technologies five years ago aren't around today.
What Can RPA Do in Property Management? Top 5 Use Cases
There are numerous use cases of RPA in property management, but most revolve around data extraction, data migration and entry, and updating and validating data.
Robotic process automation excels at handling structured data (highly organized or standardized data, for example, documents with consistent data fields). Luckily, most repetitive tasks fall into this category. And crucially, it doesn't always mean working with spreadsheets and databases. RPA tools that use optical character recognition (OCR) can extract text from images and documents. OCR is a key feature of many RPA solutions.
Tenant onboarding involves many steps, including:
- Creating a tenant profile: Collecting tenant information, validating their identity, and performing criminal background checks. Also, performing a credit check and verifying their income, employment, and references.
- Accept or reject: The property management company needs to notify the applicant whether they've been approved or denied.
- Collecting and documenting the security deposit.
- Lease signing.
This process can be lengthy when handled manually. Moreover, delays often lead to a poor customer experience because securing a home is a stressful experience for most people, and the more time that passes, the more anxious the prospective tenant becomes.
However, RPA can handle all of these admin tasks. For example, it can create tenant applications, verify identity and collect the necessary information, and automatically approve or reject an application based on rules-based factors.
Real estate is a highly regulated industry, and companies must follow the rules to avoid costly fines, personal liability, and reputational losses. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) are especially crucial here. However, AML and KYC compliance processes are often time-consuming and error-sensitive.
Regulators are becoming increasingly aware of the money laundering vulnerabilities within the real estate sector and ramping up their requirements. As a result, companies are experiencing heightened regulatory scrutiny and rising costs to manage AML/KYC processes.
RPA can address these challenges in various ways.
- Set up customer data (identifying and entering customer ID information from various scanned documents).
- Validate existing customer information by accessing databases and extracting data from documents. It can then merge the data from various sources or fill in forms.
- Screening: Negative news screening and politically exposed persons (PEP) checks can be automated with RPA.
- Continuous information gathering: Companies have to collect information at the time of onboarding but also on a regular basis. This process is labor-intensive and prone to errors. Luckily, RPA can extract and process the information from customer questionnaires.
Financial Operations - Payment and Accounting Processes and NAV Calculations
Finances, whether that be accounting, payments, or something else, are one of the most common use cases of RPA. Why? Because financial processes involve a high number of the characteristics that RPA excels at, including:
- High-volume work.
- Repetitive tasks.
- High probability of error.
- Rules-based workflows with minimal deviations.
So what exactly can RPA do in this area? Well, lots of things. One common example of payment reminders. Here, the bot will check incoming payments and send an automated email or text reminders to non-payment tenants. It can also automate many Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable sub-tasks like data validation, invoicing, balance sheet forecasting, and more.
Also on the financial side of things, we have Net Asset Value (NAV) calculations. NAV is the net value or worth of an entity, in this case, a real estate property or several properties. We determine NAV by taking the value of the asset and subtracting the value of its liabilities (debt, damage, or other capital expenses). Armed with NAV, property management companies can make better decisions about the future of their business.
NAV calculations sound simple in theory but involve a lot of manual and time-consuming tasks like collecting, validating, and processing market data from various sources. RPA saves time and money by handling these processes without human involvement.
Document Processing and Data Entry
RPA is the ideal bot for all of those tedious paperwork tasks. Today, when people say "paperwork," they're usually using it as a catch-all term for documents and contracts, whether those items are digital or on physical paper. However, real estate is heavy on both digital and paper documents - it's built on stacks of paperwork.
Think lease agreements, co-signer agreements, rental inspection reports, disclosure statements, and non-renewal notices. And for companies that provide property management services for owners, there are yet more documents to consider. For example, owner files may include move-in/move-out inspection documents at the start and end of each tenancy, requests and approvals for property maintenance, the Owner-Manager Agreement, and more.
RPA makes it quick and straightforward to collect, process, and organize this information no matter what form it comes in. Physical documents can be processed with OCR, and data from digital records can be easily extracted and collated for current use or future reference.
RPA can take information from one place and automatically feed this information to all the necessary systems to improve efficiency and user experiences. So, for example, when a house goes from "available" to "sold" or a tenancy position is filled, this information can be updated across platforms and websites to ensure you're always getting the most up-to-date view of your portfolio. This means users aren't wasting time on outdated listings, and employees aren't getting needless calls about properties that are no longer available.
Robotic process automation is a powerful tool that can transform property management companies for the better. Why waste time on tedious paperwork and various repetitive and error-sensitive processes when a bot can do it for you? Many real estate companies are already waking up to this realization, and this trend will only accelerate in the coming years.
September 21, 2022