A chance conversation at a barbeque led property investors Chris and Brooke Scullin to use technology to revolutionise the property management industry.
Six years ago, the Canberra couple, who now run start-up agency Distinct Property Management, was struggling to find a suitable property manager for their investment portfolio.
“We had found that the level of accountability and transparency in property management was very low compared to other industries. Owners had to rely on a property manager’s experience and reputation, rather than statistics or other numbers,” Chris explains.
“We were invited to dinner one evening by one of our tenants, and we realised that around that table, we had all of the knowledge, skills, capability and passion to change the industry for the better.”
Two years later, Distinct Property Management was launched with a focus on using smart IT solutions to improve transparency and accountability. Most recently, it won the REIACT 2014 Innovation Award for its online, end-to-end property management software solution, which it developed and implemented progressively since 2012.
According to Chris, who has worked as an IT senior executive for over 15 years, the solution “revolutionises the delivery of property management services” by making property managers more accountable to clients.
It includes real-time online statements for owners and tenants, automatic SMS and email notifications regarding maintenance requests, simplified tenancy application processes and the ability for owners and tenants to communicate online without exchanging personal details.
The goal is to improve transparency, accountability, efficiency and customer service. Business processes have been optimised and automated where possible.
“Tenants and owners can now complete tasks in a self-service manner, which means they can resolve some issues without involving a property manager reducing delays for tenants and saving owners on maintenance fees. The time and cost savings – both to the client and to the property managers – are unprecedented,” he says.
He estimates that the new system has reduced the number of calls taken regarding accounts queries to less than one call per week – not bad for a portfolio of almost 300 properties. It has also reduced the time taken to resolve maintenance issues by around 20 per cent.
While this technology is widely used in other industries, Chris says that few others in real estate offer similar solutions.
“As an agency with significant technical expertise, we were able to design all of our systems from the ground up,” he says.
“If this software was rolled out as an industry-wide standard, it would have a significant impact on overall client satisfaction and improve the reputation of the property management industry.”