By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the most adaptable to change.”Charles Darwin
Over the past eleven months, we’ve all had to make adaptations to be able to function in the fluid world around us. I was a little surprised when it was announced we would be putting the Home in Home Rental Services in order to work remotely. We did it a week before everyone else did because we’re cutting edge like that.
Working From Home
I thought working from home would be a short break from office life and then we would be back to normal in a few weeks. Here I sit, eleven months later in my slipper socks and house cardigan, which have become my new work attire. I’m not sure I could put together a business casual outfit without some help from the internet right now. I would make Mr. Darwin proud of how well I’ve adapted to my environment. I’m unclear about Charles’ take on messy buns, I still think he would give me a thumbs up.
I went out that first weekend and purchased a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse to use on my laptop. I took one of my monitors home from the office and also my work phone. I grabbed a few files I thought I would need and set up a makeshift office at home. I thought through some of my regular processes and started to wonder if I REALLY could do my job from my house.
Most of the software programs we use are web-based. So, as long as I have Wi-Fi, I should be set there. We were already set up to remote into our office desktops in order to have everything at home that we have at the office. (That’s a special technological voodoo in itself.) I can print a document, from home, to show up on the printer at the office. I’m not sure why I would, but I can. I’m starting to think, hmm, maybe this really can work. Then I realize there is one thing we do, consistently, face to face. We do it a lot.
The move in appointment!
On move in day, renters come to our office to bring their move in funds and provide their proof of utilities. I go over some housekeeping items with them like when their prorate rent is due, how to pay rent, and how to report maintenance issues. It’s one of the few chances we have to meet them face to face. It’s always been one of my favorite parts of the job. We pride ourselves on being a company run by real, live people! When someone sits across from me in our conference room, listening to my corny jokes or friendly conversation, that’s pretty real.
Remote Move In
Even before the pandemic changed everything, we have been moving toward a more automated society. If streaming TV was available when I was a kid, I guarantee you I would have never left the house! Most of us can agree that moving is a busy and stressful time. As a team, we said, “maybe renters would rather not have to take time out of moving day to come see us.” We send renters an email when their lease has been approved with a checklist of everything they need to pay and provide to us before their move in day. They pay their security deposit and their move in funds via their renter portal. This gives them the opportunity to get familiar with that portal before 11:30 pm on the night before their first rent payment is due.
With the remote move in, as long as the renter provides all required documents before move in day, I can guarantee them access to the house by 8 am. Through the marvels of modern technology, I can set a delayed email to deliver to the renter’s inbox bright and early on move in day. They get the code to access the lockbox where the keys will be found. In addition, we send them a document which gives some basics on the house like number of garage door openers, location of the water shut off, etc.
Renters are provided a letter with information on when their prorated rent is due, the amount of it, how and when to pay rent, how to report maintenance, and what is considered an emergency maintenance issue. We also send the 22 page move in inspection via email. In the past, we’ve bundled all of these documents into a folder and sent it with the renter. Think about it. If you are moving, what are you going to do with that folder? It goes to the back floor board, possibly to end up with some old fries under the seat and the ice scraper. This way, they need only go back to their emails to find it.
At first, I felt like I was not making the same personal connections with people with the remote move ins. After months of design and redesign of the process, I’ve reached a place where I feel like it has a personal touch again. Through a willingness to change the way we’ve always done something, we’ve found areas where we can improve the process. None of us know what the future holds or what the next “normal” will look like. We can draw strength from our ability to flow with change and adapt to the next steps. That said, I’m unsure if I can adapt back to real shoes and out of my slippers. I guess we will see when we get there.