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Today, Mike slane joined by the Co-Founder of Avail Laurence Jankelow, an all-in-one software solution designed for do-it-yourself landlords. Laurence was a consultant in data analytics for seven years at Protiviti Chicago and Goldman Sach, until Avail was released. He is also a long-term Real Estate Investor with a strong passion for 3-unit Multi-Family properties. In this episode, Mike and Laurence talk about how Avail works and what is Avail is all about. If you want to know this service, Check this out!
Things that will cover in this episode:
- Who is Laurence Jankelow?
- What is Avail all about
- How Avail works
- How many units do you need to own before you start using a landlord software?
- What’s unique about the business model of Avail?
- How Avail helps the Landlords?
- What are the Avail offers to their customer?
- What they do when screening tenants
- How Avail can help Landlord in Tax?
You can connect Laurence Jankelow on Social Media:
You can get in contact with Laurence Jankenlow through email:
Mike: Hi guys, welcome back to the discount property investor podcast, your host Mike Slane today. Today, we’re talking about something I am very excited about and it meets, or it fits in with our book that’s coming out. We’ve got our new book ‘The BRRRR Method’ coming out here. We just sent that off to the publisher so we’re super excited to get that out and one of the things involved in that BRRRR method when you’re buying, renting, rehabbing, and refinancing those properties is the renting and the property management, and today we’ve got Laurence Jankelow on. Lawrence, how are you doing today?
Laurence: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me on.
Mike: Good, good man. Thank you so much for joining me. So, Laurence has put together a really cool tool that we are playing around with and probably going to implement in our properties if we can, it’s called ‘Avail’, right?
Laurence: That’s correct.
Mike: Cool. So, Laurence tell me a little bit about yourself and how Avail came about and what it’s all about man.
Laurence: Sure. Yeah me, I started off like most people do, you know, standard career, graduated college, went on to work at a consulting shop here where I live which is in Chicago. We would go daily onto client sites and try to help improve their processes and so forth and I was there for four and a half years clocking in and clocking out so to speak. Left, joined Goldman Sachs, I was there for just over two years doing data analytics with them and then just something clicked in me where I realized: you know what? I don’t- I don’t necessarily want to be doing this kind of day to day, every single day, corporate America thing so I started investing in real estate to try build up some passive income. Bought my first three flats here in Chicago from a friend who I worked with at Goldman and I that kinda opened my eyes into how real estate works and how you can use that to build passive income and try to get off that you know that kind of the rat race or the rat wheel if you will. So, it’s been doing that on a second flat shortly after, I was still working at Goldman at the time trying to manage the six units and work full-time and my body was doing the same thing and we would just go back and forth sharing Excel spreadsheets with each other for our rent rolls or for our rental applications. We would make a rental application in Excel and merge the cells together, paint them a color, print it out, we would hand it to a tenant and be like fill this out, and something about it just didn’t feel professional. It was taking a lot more time than we wanted to do, and we had these full-time jobs, so we went out looking for software to help automate kind of all of the painful parts of being a landlord including finding tenants and trying to publish a listing to Craigslist or something like that every single day to get it to the top or where do you get a credit report and how do you fill out rental applications? All those tedious things were taking more time and we’re like great there’s no software available to us to help us.
Mike: Yeah, awesome-
Laurence: So, some soft- Yeah, sorry go on.
Mike: I was just gonna say yeah, it seems like a lot of landlords, that’s where we’re at, that’s where we’re stuck, is dealing with a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and you know, our hodgepodge or our lease that we put together over so many years and just keep editing, and then at the end of the year, we’ve got all these different documents and all these different receipts and our bank records that we then have to bring to our accountants and it’s just- it can be a mess trying to figure out who’s paid rent this month, who hasn’t, who you need to be calling, all that stuff can really be a challenge when you get- I mean, even six properties, right? I mean it- or six units as you had over there. You’ve got a lot to keep track of when you’re working full-time, right?
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Excel’s a wonderful tool, you can do anything, but it doesn’t mean you should and so, that’s when we started realizing that there’s probably better ways to do it. Other landlords probably need access to this too so we ended up quitting our jobs and set out to build software that would be designed specifically for the do-it-yourself landlord. Initially focused for landlords who have one unit but now we’ve kind of grown that to- I really focus on landlords between 1 and 50 units, so still the smaller landlord and so we got started on that-
Mike: Yeah, but that’s perfect though. That’s really where I feel like there’s a huge gap for individual investors cuz some of the big guys, you got like Buildium and the likes of those, those are really tailored to property managers or professional property managers remaining- managing multiple portfolios. So, 1 to 50 units is great, when do you recommend somebody start looking at playing around with Avail and using Avail as a tool in their tool belt? I mean, is it the one property or two properties or should I that even be a consideration before you get to five or six?
Laurence: Yeah, I mean, the sooner the better. I would even recommend trying to figure out what tool you’re going to use before you buy that first property. You know, real estate is interesting, you’re hoping to go into it- you’re hoping that you’re not having to spend a lot of time managing and the best way to do that is by making sure you have a process and some automation and if you know what that is going into it then great. I’d say it’s most valuable for a single unit landlord because that person is likely less professional, doesn’t necessarily know what to do, and if you have a software that automates the process for you, it’s typically going to bake in the right things to do at the right time and then you can take that out of your headspace a little bit. So, I’d recommend it for that, certainly it’s useful for someone with nine units is well aware, you know the process at that point, but you just don’t- you can’t afford to spend the time like you used to be able to so super valuable I’d say for anyone under 50 units.
Mike: Okay, and then so why- and just because I’m curious, why up to 50 units? Is there- is that where your software kind of caps out? or is it just, you know at that point, you really recommend getting somebody in to help you or what- What’s the thought process?
Laurence: Yeah, you know, this is- part of the lessons learned when we started a business to start up was trying to get to a niche audience because it’s hard to design something that’s super great for everybody. If you try to do that, it’s going to end up being really crappy and so our niche was going to be the smaller landlord and the way smaller landlords view the world is different than someone with 500 units or a thousand units. You know, I tend to think of this really large- large players with a thousand units, they’re probably not stuck so much in the day-to-day mentality, they probably have a full team supporting them doing a lot of the work and what they’re probably more focused on is the accounting, how do I continue to grow the portfolio. Whereas someone with 50 units, 9 units, they may want to grow their portfolio but their- most their time right now is probably stuck in just getting past this weekend where you have to do showings and you want to go home and spend time with your family.
Mike: Yeah, and that’s- exactly and that’s where we’re at. I mean again, I think that it’s definitely where our target audience, I mean most of our listeners I think are getting into real estate, learning how to wholesale and then realizing that they don’t want to be stuck wholesaling cuz wholesaling is a full-time job for most people and that’s one of the things that we’re continuing in our education programs, is teaching people to start acquiring rental properties right out of the gate using the BRRRR method, so it really can be- and again, I mean to say that under 50 units is you know, small-time, that’s really eye-opening hopefully for a lot of people to think like wow, if you own 40 properties, like you’re not- that’s not big fish and it really is, it’s amazing, it’s amazing thing to own 40 properties and yeah, so that’s really cool. Okay good. So, let me ask you this and this one is kind of going off-script here, I’m just kinda shooting from the hip, what’s- what is Avail’s like strength? or what are some of the things that landlords can use it for that are really going to make it shine or make it a real integral tool for them?
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. Certainly not trying to just plug Avail in general but any software is meant and designed to help you get through the day faster in those kinds of things. Avail specifically, I think our core strength is providing you the resource that you need without you having known that you needed it. So, that’s where I think it adds a lot of value to the smaller landlord with 1, 5,10 units because a lot of those people they’re just getting started, they don’t know what they need. They don’t know what they need, I’m thinking leases for instance. You need a state or city specific lease that’s compliant with local ordinances that includes all the disclosures, and you might not know that to go even go to Google to get it but if you’re using Avail, the second you add your property to our site, you’re going to get a document automatically, that’s for your city and state that includes all the disclosures you need. So- and that’s true with the entire gambit, we help with the entire operational side of being that landlord so you may not know where to list a property to find tenants, with Avail, you’re going to come to us, put it on. Avail, we’re going to go send it to all the places that are relevant to send to like Zillow or Trulia, PadMapper, Apartments.com so you don’t have to figure that out. Same thing with screening tenants, we had remember- when we started, we saw a statistic that I think was in USA Today where 60% of landlords of this size just don’t screen their tenants.
Mike: Oh my gosh.
Laurence: They typically just get the first one who’s willing.
Mike: So Laurence, you were talking about how landlords in this space or smaller landlords- you said up to 60% of them don’t even bother screening the tenants for their units, is that right?
Laurence: Yeah, and you know, the problem is it’s not necessarily that they don’t want to, I just don’t think they know that they should or where to go. They may think that getting access to an eviction report or credit report is outside of their capability and so any software to help you manage your property is going to give you access to those and I think where Avail’s strength is, is we just provide it to you automatically and tell you when and why you should use it.
Mike: Awesome, awesome. Okay, so that is kind of the nuts and bolts so, Avail can do the screening for you, it provides you with a state and city specific lease, what else does it do? I mean you’ve got rent collections, what about like online payment? Does it do that?
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. That’s fundamental to being- you know, you want to collect your rent, that’s the fun part.
Mike: Okay, so then what about like notifications for people who are late, does it- can you get it to send your tenants like an email or text? or just send you a notification or- how does the- how does that work or look?
Laurence: Yeah, all of those.
Mike: Haha perfect.
Laurence: Yeah, normally when you’re setting up the lease, you’d set up, here’s like the 12 months and here’s 12 charges that I’m expecting, potentially it’s more for the security deposit or moving fee, and those automatically get created in the system so a tenant can log in each month to pay their rent or they can log in one time and set up auto pay. If they’re late, they will get automatic email reminders, they can adjust those settings, the landlord can adjust those settings. The stuff in there- because sometimes if a tenant is late, you want to be consistent with how you treat that so the system will automatically charge late fees. It gives the landlord a way to maybe blame the system a little bit with the late fees and try to remove confrontation.
Mike: I love that, I love that. We were managing ourselves for a real long time and once we crossed over that threshold, we’re close to around a hundred units now, we had to have a property manager and kinda like you said, you do outgrow some of the systems and once we got there, it’s nice cuz you can. You can blame oh, the property manager, I’m sorry oh it’s the property man- and they blame us: oh, I’m sorry, it’s the owner, so being able to blame the system is pretty nice to be like I’m sorry, it’s just- yeah, it’s already set up from the lease, you know, we have to do it that way so that’s nice.
Laurence: Part of it also is a legal requirement too so if you have more than one tenant, you really have to treat them all equally and fairly otherwise you could get housing violations. So, if the tenant is late and you try to negotiate something there and you don’t do it with a different tenant, then you could be setting yourself up for some sort of violation or lawsuit, so if you have a system like this that’s automated, it helps you keep in line and consistent.
Mike: That’s a great point man, that’s a really great point. Okay, so what else does the- does Avail offer for people? We’ve got- one of my biggest headaches I would say with our properties is maintenance requests, what about maintenance or tickets, or tracking, or stuff like that? How can Avail help us?
Laurence: Yeah, to be fair that’s where we’re the lightest probably. We have a maintenance portal, tenants will log in, submit maintenance tickets, helps with the transparency, helps keep more organized for the landlord that we don’t. What we’re missing in that area is then providing a resource to come and handle the maintenance, the actual fixing of whatever issue it is. I think that’s where we’re headed next with our software is how do you do a matchmaking with a company or work with your existing one.
Mike: Laurence, I was gonna say man I feel like that is a- that would be a huge service and a huge new obstacle for you guys to even try to provide. I would almost- wow, I would almost recommend staying away from that one in just your software world. I mean, getting into the people world is where you’re going to really- oof. That would be awesome tool, but my gosh man, I feel like there’s other programs out there, maybe integrate with somebody else who’s doing it, you know.
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of different paths you could take it for something like that and we constantly think about it. I don’t think we are going to hire the contractor, the maintenance people to fulfill those orders. We would probably integrate with something like Handy or SMS Assist or somewhere who does cuz that’s their business.
Mike: Yeah, that would be very cool but again, I mean just the fact that there’s a portal for the tenants though, it sounds like they login, they can put in their maintenance issue means you’re probably not getting the phone call in the middle of the night, right? So, I mean hopefully- centralize all that for you.
Laurence: Yeah, although to be fair, now that I’ve been a landlord for seven, eight years, I actually have never once received a 3 am phone call. I know every land- everyone’s always scared to get into landlording, like if you don’t have any units, you always use- the common excuse is oh, I don’t want to deal with toilet problems at 3 in the morning, but I personally never had a 3 am. I think it’s cuz my tenants are just asleep at that time.
Mike: Yeah, well- so it’s tenants toilets and taxes, right? Those are the three problems that you want to avoid and the toilet- the 3 a.m. phone call, that is the one thing that deters a lot of people and they aren’t very common, they really aren’t but they do happen. I mean again, there are emergencies we’ve had, you know fires, one of our units has gone up. We’ve had you know stuff like that, it does happen but they’re not- they’re not that frequent so don’t let that scare you and one of these things can even slow it down even more. You know, like cuz Lawrence like you said, you were working a day job, so a 3 a.m. phone call, yeah that’s annoying when you’re asleep but when you’re working you just- you can’t necessarily deal with the tenants so that’s a whole-
Laurence: Yeah, that’s actually probably the first point I’ve heard is it’s actually worse if it’s during the day because 3 a.m., I have no obligation, I can just get up, go handle the issue and go back to bed but if it’s in the middle of the day while I have my full-time job, it’s not like I can just go to my boss and say I’m leaving for the afternoon to go fix this, it wouldn’t be fair to my employer so I think maintenance during the day is probably a harder thing to handle. The way I do those things now with my tenants is I’ll usually let them organize someone to come and fix the issue and then just pay for it or reimburse them and do it that way and I leverage my tenants a lot, they’re the ones who can be home or are home, so I try to work with them more directly in those situations.
Mike: Awesome. Yeah, I know, I think that’s really important to do, to keep that in mind. The tenants, if you’ve got good ones and they’re trained to just kind of let you know hey this broke and I got it fixed and here’s this. I mean, that really does take care of 90% of the problem there so yeah.
Laurence: There’s a level of trust you have to have with them which is part of the you know; how do you find them and screen them? Are you doing a good enough job? so you can have that trust certainly is a requirement.
Mike: Cool, let’s talk a little bit about screening again then since you bring it up. So, what do you do besides a credit check and you know, I mean meeting them at the property and showing it to them? What’s your screening process look like?
Laurence: Yeah, so a good screening process for anyone, even if it’s outside of software, that we do all of these it’s just in- the process is the process when you use the software. Good process is to you know; you want to start with where your listing your property. If you want to get pretty spread out, trying to reach the most number of people, in general, I don’t list to Craigslist anymore. It just tends to be kind of a waste of my time because there’s so many fake profiles on there, I find that the people are less qualified and so forth, but I’ll otherwise spread it across Zillow, Trulia, PadMapper, try to get a reach. Avail does that automatically so with one of the units I’m listening now, I just listed it three days ago, I’ve already got 20 leads which is too many, honestly and so you’re next step there is once you’ve got a lot, you want to try to narrow that down to the people who are serious first and so what I’ll do is ask some pre-screening questions and I’ll do that through our system, so you just type in some questions. We have some pre-canned ones if you don’t know what to ask, and I’ll typically have them confirm that- who’s living it? Is it them? and the names of other people. I’ll have them acknowledge that there will be a full rental application, credit check and criminal check down the road. I’ll ask them about their pets, I’ll ask them why they’re moving, what their move date is, often times it’s the wrong move date and that’s not a match so- you start with those pre-screening questions that might take you from 20 people to 10, and then for those remaining 10, you send them a rental application to fill out which would include rental history, employment history, income verification and some other things and maybe like 4 out of 10 end up filling that out typically and from those 4 that complete that, they then authorize a credit check, background check. Those all get returned instantly in our system, I see those and then I take the best one or the first that came and asked them if they want to move forward with the lease, they often do and so that’s really kind of the of that process.
Mike: Okay, so where in that do you show the property though? Do you make- do you require people to fill out your application prior to even showing the unit in person?
Laurence: Yeah, sorry no I blanked on telling you about that.
Mike: Oh no, you’re fine. I was just wanting to clarify. Yeah.
Laurence: Normally that- for most landlords, now this where you- you show the property outside the system normally. Since where- a landlord can kinda choose what they want to do. We have some landlords who require an application first. I don’t, I don’t normally recommend that. I like to do the showings before I have them do the application, I think it’s a little more fair. It just takes up more of my time so I’ll do the pre-screening questions to make sure their serious and then I’ll have them schedule a showing and the way I do that now is I’ve got a block of available times that they can pick and that’s through Avail and they pick what time they wanna come and then we’ll meet at that time and I’ll do the walk-through with them. And I’ll see the showing as a huge opportunity to screen because especially if you’re going to wanna build that trust and leverage the tenant to help with organizing maintenance stuff, you really want to focus in that showing on: is this person trustworthy? Did they show up on time? Were they courteous? We’re they respectful? and that gives you kind of the sense of okay down the road when our maintenance things- can I trust them to handle it?
Mike: Excellent. Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it that people often forget. I mean, this is a people business so when you are meeting your potential tenant or tenants at the property, you are screening them right there and that’s a huge part of it. You can’t do everything online, you can’t trust all that stuff online, those are just tools to help you. It really is about that connection and what your impression of that individual or individuals is, I mean, you’re the human here at the end of the day figuring out what’s the right thing. One of my favorite tips and I got this from our current property manager, for screening individuals and this is actually in our little book ‘The BRRRR Method’ too, is look at the people’s car when they pull up and how someone treats their vehicle is very often how they’re going to treat your stuff. So again, if somebody looks like they’ve never cleaned their car, there’s fast food wrappers everywhere, I mean, that’s a pretty good indication of how they’re going to treat the property as well. So, that’s one of my favorite little things, do you have any kind of nuggets like that? or what you look for when you’re meeting people, kinda tips on screening in person cuz these are just fun to me. I like hearing what people are looking for.
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. We issue an article, something called like the ‘7 red flags to watch out for when doing a showing’. I wish I remembered all 7 because it was one of the first pieces we wrote back in 2013.
Mike: Oh, no worries.
Laurence: One of them was we called out McDonald’s wrappers in their car, so totally in line with what that property manager was saying. Another one that I look for is around shoes, not like are their shoes nice or anything, but when they enter the unit, do they ask: should I take my shoes off?
Laurence: Again, if it looks like you- like, so at often times if it’s one of the units where I don’t like- the prior tenants don’t want shoes, you’ll see all the shoes by the door and you’ll see that the tenant has- the existing tenant doesn’t allow shoes, so will this new tenant kind of have the foresight to be like, oh I want to be respectful to the person that’s currently living here and ask if I should take my shoes off. So, I think there’s those kinds of things, in today’s age with the pandemic I feel like, are they courteous enough to bring a mask or ask about a mask, wear a mask is probably a new one that wouldn’t have made our list in 2013 but here we are. I tend to think of what questions do they ask is relevant, you know, do they ask about where all the bars are and what kind of noise regulations do I have, then they might be more of a partying, noisy, disruptive tenant or do they ask around like where’s- you got to be careful too in [inaudible] violate for housing but if they ask where the parks are or what good food or restaurants are there, they tend to be a little more- I don’t want to say restful but more relaxed in how they’re going to live in the unit. So, there’s a whole handful of-
Mike: No, that’s great and that- to me it comes back to like thinking about it a job interview. It really is, if you’re going out and applying for a job and you’re a candidate to be interviewed, your questions- I mean, that’s really your opportunity to kind of impress- another opportunity to impress that person who’s interviewing you, so it’s the same thing I mean, you just have to use that thought is like, you’re the interviewer now so really what is this person interested in? That’s good, I like that. So, what question-
Laurence: And to be fair, it’s also their opportunity to screen the landlord and the unit too and they should take full advantage of that. In a case where it is someone who wants to party and have their friends over all the time, they should get a sense that this isn’t going to be the right place, this landlords probably a little too uptight for me and they should know that and realize that maybe not live there. I definitely think there’s housing for people who want to party, that’s fine. I price my units where I’m trying to avoid having to do a lot of maintenance so I underprice it relative to the market knowing that I want kind of more of a passive income and I don’t really want to have to be out there handling disputes and issues all the time. For landlords who are okay with that, who raise the rent a little bit because they realize it’s going to be a lot of wear and tear, that’s totally fine, it’s a good approach. I think there’s an element of the tenant also thinking about is this the right property owner and screening that owner to some extent too.
Mike: I like that, that’s interesting, our pricing models are very very different. We always shoot for kind of top of the market rent from our tenants just cuz we- again, I think it might be a slightly different market too though. Are you- we’re in St. Louis and we’re mostly in the suburbs. Are you in Chicago the city itself or are you kinda outlying as well? your units rather.
Laurence: Yeah, both the buildings I have are close to Wrigleyville so it’s in the city and yeah, I mean, for us I think the way I’ve got it priced is under market, but we also shoot for what I would consider top-caliber tenants so we treat them very well. Both buildings when we bought them, we did massive investments [inaudible], we replaced the windows, even though those don’t affect rent price and don’t show appreciation as so much the property, but we felt obligated to because air quality’s one of the best indicators of health and we thought that was important, so we definitely do those kinds of things and I think that helps us get top-caliber tenants. We just also somewhat underpriced them so that we don’t have turn over, we get tenants who are more respectful or more excited about it. I think it’s more of like a too good to be true situation and then they just treat it better.
Laurence: Yeah, I was gonna say that you’re gonna have grateful tenants in that case. If you got a really nice unit that’s underpriced, yeah that’s a really good point. Your turnover definitely I bet is lower than ours. Very cool, very cool. Alright so were talking about- we’re kind of transitioning from screening. What about what does a landlord need to manage properties, I guess? Let’s talk about some of the nuts and bolts of managing. We’ve already covered some of your strategies with the maintenance, which is really cool, to kind of let them do it and just let you know what’s going on and bill you. I mean, keep you in the loop but do that and I think that’s one of the biggest probably nuggets that I got out of our conversation today is huge. What else are you doing or what kind of other tips do you have for a rental investor?
Mike: Yeah, I mean for the management side of it, you know, you’ve got collecting the rent and you’ve got maintenance and then you’ve got kind of the taxes, as you mentioned earlier. So, if I think about each of those, you know with the rent, if you’ve done your screening, rents going to be easy. There will be times where a tenant may face hardships, you know we’ve seen a lot of that and in that case, I think you just have to realize there’s a human element here and we have to work with those- with tenants generally. I think in the past, it’s always been, you know, landlords may be stiffer on things but- this environment, I think things may have to change a little bit, and I know we’re not- this isn’t necessarily the conversation around the pandemic but certainly that changes things a little bit when there’s something going on in the world. But normally if the world was in a normal place, you know, you want to- the rent is the conversation for the work you do as a landlord and often times you have to use that to pay mortgage and pay expenses. Expenses can be 40, 50% of the rent, and the mortgage another 30 40% so landlords don’t make that much money on the property in general so it’s important to get that rent, to get it on time and you know pay off the expenses and treat the property and keep it up to speed, so when you get to the maintenance, I think the big thing there is being active on maintenance, and encouraging tenants to, in my opinion, submit maintenance because often times what will happen is if tenants don’t submit small issues, those tend to grow. So, I think it like leaking, a small leak in a pipe, a tenant may not submit a maintenance request for that, and you let that small leak go for 3 months and all of a sudden the entire underside of the counter is filled with mold and maybe it’s rotten wood and now what was probably just tightening something for free is now probably $1,000 to fix and so I tend to encourage tenants to submit maintenance. I’ll be the point to say like that’s- I’ll get to it when I get to it but more often than not, you want to handle those things before they get larger. I think it’s in the same vein of preventive maintenance, you know, change the air filters for them, they’re never going to do it on their own, so you know go in every quarter, change the air filters so that your HVAC system has a longer life, gives you an opportunity also to inspect the unit quickly. If you start doing those things, I change the light bulbs for them.
Laurence: Yeah, I mean, and the way I do is I’ll try to put like those 15-year LED bulbs in so you do it once while you’re on the property. I just don’t- some of the light bulbs like I think are high and I don’t want to get sued if they’re trying to change one and they fall and then they’re like: oh, my landlord was negligent, he should’ve know n that these are more than 6 feet off the ground or something like that. And so, there’s all sorts of preventive maintenance that I think you can do that in the short-term it looks like you’re spending a lot, but in the long-term save you a ton of time and money and I think when you do those things, the tenants again don’t have turn over.
Mike: Yeah, no I think you’re right and I think one of the things that I don’t see many landlords do is go and change the furnace filters and the air filters and we’re very guilty of that. We do leave it up to the tenants, but we do get, we get clobbered every year when the system’s kick over to the air conditioning. We get several calls that hey my AC is not working, and you know, there are a few of them. We get charged, we’ll send an HVAC tech out and we get charged a $100 or so, just to replace an air filter because their filters clog. I mean its very simple stuff now and other times yeah like you said, it is much harder on the system itself and does cause property damage. I mean by having a clogged filter, your systems working harder and it’s going to die sooner. So, yeah that’s very good, it’s not super fun stuff to think about but man, it really does pay off in the long term and I’d say another one here we’re both in the Midwest is make sure your gutters aren’t clogged. That’s an easy one, once a year after the fall, you know, get some- send somebody out there to get those leaves out, make sure your roof and the water’s draining away from the property. That’s a really good one.
Laurence: Yeah, we put some deicing cables on the roof of both of our buildings because we had- when we first bought it, we had an incident where the snow built up and then it turned to ice and then that locked the roof and as it started melting, it pooled up and caused a mini flood in one of the units.
Mike: Ugh, that’s terrible.
Laurence: Yeah, for like $200, we installed deicing cables and if we had done that just you know, a month earlier, we would have saved thousands of dollars in damage. Now, in both buildings we’ve installed it knowing that we just get a lot of snow and they got flat roofs in Chicago so [inaudible].
Mike: So, and this is a- that brings me to another point is trimming the trees outside. It was one of the examples we’ve used in the past as well, is if you get that tree trimmed or if you get your deicing cables up there, one, it’s the thousands of dollars of damage that you prevent from the snow falling through or a tree falling on the property, but also that inconvenience to the tenant. I mean just think about your life if a tree branch falls through your living room. I mean, my gosh guys that’s such a huge inconvenience. I mean, all your stuff, I mean you’re worried about that on top of the fact the property has to be fixed so yeah, it’s a little bit of a preventative maintenance is huge. So, very good.
Laurence: That’s why I like the air filter thing so much because now I can go into each of the units once a quarter and I can just take a quick look around and see if anything looks broken or needs preventive maintenance, you know. Like often times, I can just run the sink and see if it’s getting clogged and fix that right there as opposed to waiting 2 weeks and having to come back, so I really appreciate that opportunity to go in and do a quick look around and even just- not just to like to try to check in on if their damaging it, just to see other things that may cause more damage if I don’t do something now.
Mike: That’s great. Okay, so we’ve covered the tenant side, we’ve covered the maintenance side. Let’s talk a little bit then about the tax side and how Avail can help us with that too.
Laurence: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, taxes obviously, they’re complicated and you know part of the reason why we all become investors in real estate is for some of the tax shelter that it provides, although depending on where you’re at, that may be eaten away now by some of the limits that have been put on it and also some of the real estate taxes we have to pay out as well just keep going up.
Mike: Yeah, it’s getting crazy isn’t it?
Laurence: Yeah, so from Avail like- is another area that we’re super light on that we’re working to improve, and I see this coming in the next 12 months is more on the accounting and expense and tax side. Right now, the- all we do is we provide a report on the income side. So, we know the revenue, we know the fees that have got processed through the system cuz your tenants paid online so we know all of that. We issue a report in January that’s got the income side that you can plug into whatever you’re using for taxes whether it’s an accountant or TurboTax or something like that. Coming soon will be the expense side of that, which we just don’t have today but we would want.
Mike: Gotcha. Yeah, well the expense side is difficult though too. I mean, that’s one that is very- it’s gonna depend on how each landlord is doing their expenses. You’re going to have to enter that info into Avail if it’s not like you said, through your maintenance portal and stuff like that so yeah, very good. Well, that’s good, again, it collects all that data, it does summarize it for you at the end of the year, which is a huge obstacle for a lot of us do-it-yourselfers, especially when we’re using Excel sheets and I use that term kind of loosely because when I was using Excel sheet, I wouldn’t use the Excel sheet until the end of the year. So, I’d go back and have to figure out how much rent I collected and it’s not that much fun. So, yeah Avail is going to fix that problem for you, which is great. Laurence, is there anything else you wanted to talk to our listeners about today? I’m super excited to dive into Avail and maybe we can have you back sometime to do maybe more of like a webinar style where we can kind of go in and play with the software. I’m sure some of our listeners would like that. Is there anything else you want to talk about today that we haven’t had a chance to discuss?
Laurence: Yeah, I mean, really happy to do a webinar, I think it’d be great showing off the software. I’m proud of it, you know when- when we started though, we actually couldn’t find an engineer to build it for us so- and I’m a finance major so Ryan, my co-founder and I, we actually just rolled up my sleeves and built it ourselves, so we tend to have a lot of pride in what we’ve built because we had to you know, go in and figure it out ourselves.
Mike: And learn it, yeah. Awesome.
Laurence: Yeah and learn it so certainly happy to do a webinar. I think for any of your listeners, one other thing I would encourage is, especially for those who don’t have properties yet or maybe only have one is just you know, today’s a good day to get started and figure out how you’re going to figure it out, whether it’s buying your first place or it’s trying to figure out how you’re going to take what you do have and make it a little more robust. I think people should start thinking about the real estate investments as a side business and not just necessarily a hobby and if you can change that mindset, you start doing things that are going to help you maximize the revenue, maybe minimize some of the expenses. Think about tenants as customers, and that business idea tends to push you in a direction that’s going to make you a lot more successful.
Mike: I love it, man. I love it. That is one of the things we always kinda talk about with wholesaling too is treat it like a business, it’s not a hobby, it is a business. So, same thing with your rentals 100% by that point, you’re buying a rental, I mean somebody’s living there guys. Like you can’t- it’s not a joke, right? I mean this is where someone’s living, you should be treating it like a business so you can provide a higher level of service and yeah, that’s awesome. Awesome. Laurence, thank you so much for coming on, appreciate you and like I said, let’s set up a time and we’ll come back and do a webinar for people that want to see some of the software and play with it hands-on. They can check it out for themselves though at- its www.Avail, A-V-A-I-L, .co, dot C-O or you can find it on our podcast. So, it’s DPIpodcast.com. You’ll check out our tool kit and we’ll have it down there as our property management software, we’ll be pushing Avail for you guys as well so you can find the links there. Laurence again, thank you so much man.
Laurence: Great, thank you for having me. This has been a pleasure.
Mike: All right. We’ll catch you guys next time.
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