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How Technology is Enhancing the Single-Family Rental Market

Anyone born outside Generation Z can likely remember a time when applying for a rental property was prolonged and tedious. From printing the rental applications and filling out relevant information to attaching required documentation and finally mailing everything to the management office, everything to the property management office, everything was limited to cumbersome paper forms.

For landlords, the onboarding of new tenants was an easier process and typically consisted of a few reference checks, a couple of pay stubs and a handshake agreement.

Over time, technological advancement led to the transformation of the rental market and thankfully, this resulted in increased efficiency in the rental application process, benefiting both tenants and landlords.

Here, we take a closer look at some of the ways technology has enhanced the real estate market, with a focus on the single-family rental sector.

What is a single-family rental?
Single-family rentals (SFRs) are single family home (SFHs) rented out to tenants. An SFH is generally defined as a freestanding residential building that is set up to accommodate one family. These homes are more attractive to prospective tenants than the multi-family properties because they are generally larger, located in suburban areas, offer more outdoor space, and represent much of what a growing family seeks.

Benefits of Tenants
More and more prospective tenants searching for rental properties are heading online as their first method for finding vacancies. Some of the best rental sites include HouseSigma, MLS, Zolo (powered by MLS) Zillow, Rent.com and Realtor.com. Each site features detailed search and filter criteria, and searches can be done by location, budget, number of bedrooms, amenities, house size, etc.

Many sites also offer virtual home tours, which particularly benefit long-distance house hunters since they no longer need to make long trips to view listings. Virtual tours are also beneficial during pandemic lockdowns because of limited access to open houses. 

Another advantage is the option of online rental applications. Nowadays, many forms are fully optimized for mobile use; thus, the entire rental application can easily be completed online. Technology has also made it possible for tenants to screen prospective landlords and property managers. Demand for SFHs is strong, causing rent prices to rise at an increasingly fast pace and as a result, certain steps should be taken to ensure one’s investment is carefully evaluated. Here are four ways to take precautions and screen potential landlords. 

  1. Check Better Business Bureau (BBB) and online reviews
  2. Talk to other tenants
  3. Find foreclosures
  4. Look into public property records

Once a tenant has found their dream SFH, technology remains an integral part of their everyday living. A few ordinary examples include online payment methods, automatic maintenance requests, keyless entry door locks, and smart thermostats that can be accessed via smartphone.

Benefits for Landlords
For the same reasons it has helped tenants, technology has also helped landlords via ease of access and information. Showing rental homes can take hours or even days, and not everyone has the luxury of time. Rather than taking time off work, landlords can use technology (like virtual tours and showings) to show off their properties.

Landlords are also following the lead of real estate agents and leveraging free platforms like Facebook Marketplace to advertise. According to real estate expert Jonathan Okubay, the best lead generator for agents to increase traffic is Facebook. According to him “It’s one of the leading platforms for agents to inform, engage and especially connect with their niche audience.”

When it comes to document management, offering an online portal for rental applications and having everything stored electronically makes it less likely that documents will get lost.

Moreover, online tenant screening enables landlords to screen potential rentals by credit score, eviction histories, and more. Landlords can then select a few potential tenants for viewing. Today, some landlords even use algorithm-driven, AI powered rental screening apps to determine a tenants willingness to pay rent.

Finally, utilizing property management software to facilitate overall tenant management can be cost-effective and convenient. For example, setting up due date alerts can improve a landlord’s chances of receiving payments on time. It also helps them log and track maintenance records, providing landlords with a record of the issue, plus when and how it was addressed. This protects them from potential disputes or miscommunications.

Top Property Management Software
Three of the most robust and scalable property management software providers in Canada are Buildium, Total Management and DoorLoop.

These rental software technologies provide a simple, fast and secure way to deal with nearly every aspect of the renting process-from online rental applications and payment options to tenant landlord communications and even the ability to submit requests for service or emergency notifications.

Final Thoughts…
Okubay sums it up best: “If buyers and tenants surround themselves with the right power team of experts to help them navigate the process, there are definitely creative ways for them to get into the SFH market.”

Technology has certainly elevated the SFR market and streamlined the entire rental application process for tenants and landlords. The key to finding that ideal single-family home is to embrace technology and, when needed, accept the help of experts who-naturally- will also take advantage of innovative options. 

Susan Gebrezgie | Contributing Writer 

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