#154: Make Landlording Passive Again with Better Systems

Welcome to The Accelerated Investor Podcast with Josh Cantwell, if you love entrepreneurship and investing in real estate then you are in the right place. Josh is the CEO of Freeland Ventures Real Estate Private Equity and has personally invested in well over 500 properties all across the country. He’s also made hundreds of private lender loans and owns over 1,000 units of apartments. Josh is an expert at raising private money for deals and he prides himself on never having had a boss in his entire adult life. Josh and his team also mentor investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world. He doesn’t dream about doing deals, he actually does them and so do his listeners and students. Now sit back, listen, learn, and accelerate your business, your life, and your investing with The Accelerated Investor Podcast.

Josh: So, hey, guys, welcome back to Accelerated Investor. Hey, Josh here, and I am excited to be with you as I record this. I just lost a $6.1 Million dollar apartment deal. So I’m sort of depressed, sort of upset with myself. I should have just offered full price from day one. We didn’t get the deal. We ended up at six million and we lost it. It was going to be worth by the time we were done, probably worth about $9.2 Million. So I’m just beside myself as I record this podcast. But it’s part of the business. It’s part of doing deals. It’s part of building a portfolio.

Josh: And what I’ve done today is I brought on a new special guest is no name is Lawrence Jankelow. He is the co-founder and owner of Avail.co. Avail.co actually, an avail is an all in one software solution specifically designed for do it yourself. Landlords, basically their customers are a lot of you guys that listen to this podcast. They are people who have new portfolios, basically portfolios with less than 10 units. They basically start with guys at theirfirst rental property or their fifth rental property or their eighth rental property or their first duplex or their first quad. And they provide all in one solutions for small landlords, everything from advertising your properties, syndicating them out, receiving rental applications, collecting rent, dealing with maintenance issues and maintenance requests. This is a really fun, fast hitting interview with Laurence Jankelow, the co-founder of Avail. I think you’re really gonna like this. I’ve got to go sulk and spend some time licking my wounds after losing this six point one million dollar apartment, which I’m super upset about. But I am super excited to be able to share this podcast interview with you. Take a listen.

Josh: So, Laurence, what’s going on, man, so excited to have you on the Accelerated Investor podcast and talk a little bit more about your software and about building portfolios. So let’s jump in. Tell us a little bit more about what you’re working on right now and something that you’re really excited about as we get to the end of the year and roll into 2021. What are you most excited about that you’re working on today?

Laurence: Yeah, actually. Well, first, thanks for having me on. Pleasure being here. Love getting a chance to talk to other real estate investors out there. This is exciting for me. You know what I’m looking forward to most about this year may actually, unfortunately, related to the pandemic. You know, we’re a rental software business. So we process rent for two hundred thousand plus landlords. And we’re a unique position, I think, in how we process. Right. We focus on land, which are a lot smaller lenders with one or two units, and they tend to be half the market and half the market that people don’t have any visibility into. So we get to see kind of what’s happening with their rents and their properties.

Laurence: So what I’m really excited about that we’re doing now is taking all of this data that we have for all the rent payments are happening on that side of the market and being able to work with certain government, municipalities and policymakers to show them, hey, look, this is these are the cities or parts of cities that are more affected by the pandemic. These are areas where landlords are tenants are having a much harder time than the average. This is probably where you can spend more time focusing so superexcited that we can use the years of data that we have and what’s happening now during the pandemic to really highlight where change can be made. And we’re really kind of getting into the nitty gritty of that now with several cities superexcited where that path’s going to go.

Josh: So it’s a couple of things to point out here. So I’ve got some friends at Auction.com. They aggregate lot of data. Right. And I was blown away to hear that 70. I think it’s 73 percent of all the rental properties in the United States are actually owned by a landlord that only owns one or two units. Right. That’s correct. Tell me a little bit about your business. This is more of the entrepreneur question. When you were building this business, why did you decide to focus on, like, the kind of guys that have one or two or five or 10 units versus going after the bigger players, if you will? Because you’re actually going after a larger segment of the market. Seventy three percent. But a lot of people might say, well, I want to have the biggest customer, some of the most units you want after the larger piece of the actual market, which is the small mom and pop landlords. Tell me about that.

Laurence: Yeah, well, there’s a lot to unpack in there a little bit. You know, the smaller landlord, the do it yourself landlord is by far the largest part of the market. And so many reasons why it makes sense to go after them. One, that they’re being ignored by software makers are being ignored by everybody, basically. And part of that is just because of how difficult it is to reach them. You know, you tend to think of the mentality of someone who owns one or two units. You’re not going to the bars and say, hey, I’m the landlord. You’re not really telling people you kind of mind your own business and you’re moving on with your life, your part time landlord, full time, something else. And that makes it really hard to market to you because there’s nowhere there’s no phone book to find you. There’s no forums that you’re really part of. It’s really a subset of who you are, not an entirety of it. So because of that reason, most companies will kind of ignore that part of the market. It’s just too difficult. So we wanted to go there because that’s where we felt the huge need was. We saw just huge swaths of landlords who don’t have a good process in place, aren’t doing the things that professionals do with that software, could come in and help them.

Laurence: And then, you know, I was one of those landlords and so was my business partner who started the business with me. We were both do-it-yourself landlords. I had a three flat here in Chicago. He was managing two single family homes. And when we went out looking for software to get better, there was nothing. And so at that time, we decided, look, we’re gonna quit our jobs, build software for this completely ignored part of the market. Help them become professional. Help them gain some of that education and experience. And then hopefully in the interim, we can build this huge amount of aggregate data that can be used for some good as well.

Josh: Nice. So like when I was a landlord with no software and I had like 10, 11 units, I was very happy to kind of offload that to one of my employees and let them do it because I wasn’t adopting any kind of software. So help, help my audience understand if they just own a couple units now, what are some of the benefits of using your software or software like yours that will allow them to actually enjoy being a landlord? Because you like dealing with tenant payments, tenants are running late, communicating text messages, phone calls, the software that you have and takes care of a lot of that. The communication, the rent collection, kind of stuffs it all into an online platform, which a lot of people, I think even if they’re small landlords, they’re still doing it wrong or they’re kind of doing it like the 1980s way. Of just doing everything themselves and then they get burned out. Look, this sucks. I don’t want to do this vs. just adopting a simple piece of software like yours. So what are some of those bells and whistles that your customers have, like, the most?

Laurence: Yeah, you know, that’s a great question. I tend to think, like, the same way that I got started when I got started, I thought buying rental property was going to be a passive income stream. And it’s commonly referred to as passive income. But by no means is it passive. You’re kind of working your butt off a lot, whether it’s, as you said, communicate with tenants, follow up with them doing maintenance, trying to see if the rent was paid. There’s a lot to do there. And so quickly, your passive income turns into some all nights and weekends encompassing thing. And so what you are stuck with is OK. I want to offload this and get back to my personal life. And so you have to go with property manager or you better figure out some way to automate this process. And I’m fortunate for most landlords with one or two units, a property manager, managers, just too expensive. You don’t have really the economy of scale. And so it doesn’t make sense. You’re one property.

Laurence: If you get a property manager, you may no longer be making cash flow on that place. And then it doesn’t make sense for a landlord at all if you’re not going to be making money. So instead, we go down the path of let’s try to help you automate that and take a lot of the things that you have to do every day. And just making them a lot more seamless. So with trying to find tenants, you know, we looked at what we were doing before and we would go to a post on Craigslist and then twenty four and a half hours later, you’d go post on Craigslist again. Or maybe you get smarter and you try to post to Zillow. And if you’re not getting enough leads, you then add apartments, dot com, and apartment list, and you keep me posted every day to 50 Web sites. So the very first thing you can do is figure out how can you automate that? Can you create a listing in one place?

Laurence: And then that would just syndicate out to all the various places that tenants looking at. And so that was essentially one of the first features we built was let’s just automate that whole listings process for you. You don’t have to go in every day 250 Web sites. And then and then it just rolls forward from there. All those leads start coming into your email inbox. And now you want to be having to go to your email and tracking everything that way. Did I replied not reply? Do you want to you want to automate a lot of that too? Maybe have a central repository for all those communications are happening. And so we built that extension to kind of our listening feature. And then it just rolls forward again. You’ve got these leads. We were getting our landlords too many leads, so you now have to start qualifying them. And normally you’d give a paper rental application to someone and then you’d wait for them to mail it, email it, fax it, whatever it is to get back to you. The wrangling of that is painful.

Laurence: So if a leads, come in, just have the system automatically request a rental application. If the tenants have seen the place, then they can fill out an authorization forms, get a credit report, a background check, eviction check. All of those things can happen in real time automatically. So you’re not the one having to follow up, but Avail as a software is doing it for you and then you obviously have to do a lease. So option there is to go to Staples, buy something off the shelf, and then subject yourself to some of the risks that come with that. You know, every city has its own policy, its own ordinances. So if you buy an off the shelf thing, you open yourself up to some liability there. Your alternative is go to a lawyer, maybe pay five hundred dollars. The unfortunate thing there is at the end of the year when new laws come out, what you just pay for is no longer even valid anymore. So you kind of have to repeat that cycle.

Laurence: So we use a lot of large numbers on our side. So we’ve got to two hundred thousand landlords. It’s cheap for us to get city and state specific leases and pass on that savings to everybody because we’re doing it in mass. So we provide city state specific leases. You use that tenant, sign it. It’s all online. It’s all digital, you know, having to print anything and fax it. And then we allow your tenants to submit the maintenance request may make us rest aligns with payments online. All things that now you don’t have to do. We take 90 percent of what you’re doing manually and just automate the whole process. So a huge amount of savings.

Josh: If you’re a mom and pop, this is everything you just said is like I was thinking that when I had 10 units, I was thinking that when I had 10 units, I was thinking that when I add some units, solve the problem, solve the problem, solve the problem. That’s fantastic. I love it. Weuse different software now, do a bunch of units. So you said that’s not really the market you’re trying to plan, but any of my numbers and subscribers see this. If you have let’s say give me a number, Laurence, what’s the number if you have X number of units or less? Or what’s a good number to start with that customer?

Laurence: Yeah, I mean, we start and target anybody with less than 10 units. That’s ideal. That’s ideal for us. Our software is built that way. The whole you are you x are pricing is really meant for those customers. And I should mention also and probably maybe the best part is it’s entirely free. So all of the software entirely free. We do have we do have paths to revenue, which we can talk about if you want. But for you to get started, try it out, see if you like it. No risk entirely free.

Josh: So everything from: got your property, got it cleaned up. There’s a unit turn. Take the photos, create the list thing. It pushes it all out. Take the increase goes in the central depository. Somebody wants to fill out an application to fill out an application. A lot of times you can lease, especially in this COVID business, you can lease properties out a lot of times through pictures and video, sending that to them as opposed to actually physically showing it. Obviously, sometimes you still physically show units, but sending people out. Here’s what the kitchen looks like. Here’s the bathroom. Walk through face time type of video, YouTube type of video, Wistia, whatever. And then they’re interested to a full credit check. Right. Do some background checks as well. Then when they’re moving into the unit, collecting their rents. And then also, you know, doing maintenance inquiry’s maintenance checks, things people need. It all comes through the platform, probably. My guess is syncs with your phone somehow through an app or through their Web site, through your Web site and you’redone. I also got a real estate because of everything you’re talking about that I had to do years ago. Solve the problem. Solve the problem. That’s great stuff, man.

Laurence: Yeah. I mean, I’m a user of it. I’m logging in every single day on my phone to use the product. So I’m eating my own dog food in a way. So I get very comfortable telling people about what it does and what the future is for it. I mean, we’ve been doing this now for seven years. This business, 20 thousand landlords where even though it’s free or extremely profitable, we’re not going anywhere. So.

Josh: Awesome stuff. So help me understand now. I’d like to talk more about how you’re playing in the pandemic space, because I understand the product. I think all my customers should try it out, especially if you own like that one to five to 10 units or so, you know, just do it. We’ll put a link in the show notes. Just check it out. But what I think is really important is I’d like to talk about is launch. What were your thoughts? Around two hundred thousand landlord’s pandemic is hitting. You’ve got evictions, moratoriums. You’ve got some surveys that have gone out that I’ve read and seen in my market in Ohio. People saying, hey. Twenty-four. Twenty six percent of people said they couldn’t afford last month’s rent or last month’s mortgage payment. They don’t know if they can afford next month’s rent or next month’s mortgage payment. Obviously, the government’s got to make real high-level decisions here. You’ve got federal governments, local state governments, county governments, city governments are all have this layered government law approach with all different eviction rules. And you guys are playing in that space. So I don’t really know much about it other than what I read and in the reports that I read. Help me with my own portfolio.What are you seeing? What kind of conversations are you having with these people and how are you guys helping solve the problem?

Laurence: Yeah, I mean, we start by trying to educate our landlords and our renters as well. We’re trying to build that transparency for them because it doesn’t serve anybody if the landlord doesn’t know what happened to what their tenants, you know. So a lot of landlords are maybe reticent to call their tenants like, hey, is everything OK or are you healthy? Is your job stable? I’m here for you if you need me a lot of land just to do that, because they think that that’s going to open the door to the tenant not paying rent. And the truth is that’s not how tenants operate. You know, they want to pay their rent. They feel obligated to do it. They also know that the repercussions when they don’t typically. And so if there were problems, they’re either going to tell you about it because you call them or they’re not going to tell you about it. There’s going to surface with giving you no notice. So for us, a lot of it is about building that transparency, that communication pipeline between the landlord and the renter to make sure that they’re in sync a little bit.

Laurence: And then we look at the numbers and aggregate too because we’re trying to see what’s happening by city, by state, by geographic area so that we can best guide our landlords as well, because in some areas there’s not as much of an impact as other areas. And we want to put a lot more effort and focus on areas that are showing the bigger impact. And those are the cities we try to reach out to and say, hey, look, this we’re seeing things that are way worse off for you guys than other cities. And I think that’s where has to start, because if policymakers are trying to do something and they don’t have the data, then it’s just two people butting heads, turning to fighting over opinions. But just see the data. It’s no longerabout opinions. You have fact. You have something to go off of and you can make a policy change and then you can track its success through the data. And I think we provide something completely unique that no one else has. We have all the data for these independent Do-It-Yourself landlords. Everybody else is looking at data from these huge monolithic 400-unit buildings and maybe some owners of 10000 units, and that’s not representative of America. And so I think we have a very good data set that can help people understand what’s happening.

Josh: Love it. So help me understand. Give me a describe a scenario like give me a city where you guys saw some holes or some evictions happening or nonpayment happening and you’re like, oh, my gosh. I definitely see some red flags here. And tell me about the conversations with the landlords and the conversations potentially with lawmakers, policymakers. How would you guys know in the middle of it? Give me some. You don’t have to give me the exact city if you don’t want to. But if you can, tell us about that.

Laurence: Yeah. Not sure what confidentially agreements were in. So I’ll give you some examples. We looked at some cities and we saw near those parts of the geography where, you know, on average in the entirety of the city, maybe during the pandemic, 90 percent of rents have been paid in the month. And we can break it down by where the rent’s paid ontime or if it’s paid within seven days, 14 days, 30 days. And you can you can see what the average is but city. And then you look at other areas and say, hey, this area is way less than the other areas. So if it was 90 percent on average, we were seeing some parts that were maybe eighty two percent. Eighty one percent. And that’s actually a huge difference. I may not sound like it, but that’s a massive difference. And then you could break it even further and you could say, OK, look, I’m looking in that area.

Laurence: Can I compare it by average rents versus bottom 20 percent rents? And we were seeing in some cities the bottom 20 percent of rents, we’re even further impacted. And so clearly, there’s some areas of the cities that are suffering more. There’s some populations even within those areas that are suffering more. And think about how do you want to target stimulus specifically to those areas is probably what you’d want to do if you had the data to be able to do that. And so those are areas that we’re working with, some places to at least give them the data and avail. We’re not policymakers. We try not to suggest policy, but if we free the data, then it can get. People who are smart and capable and experienced in those areas. So that’s one example. We’re doing other things.

Josh: Do you think policymakers are smart and can make good policy because sometimes I wonder?

Laurence: Yeah. You wonder where they’re getting their data information from and then you realize, oh, from nowhere. And that you hope to like, OK, at least maybe now they can get it for rental markets.

Josh: That’s fantastic. So. Have you been able to at all with your clients suggest or maybe you can just talk about it high level on this interview? What are you seeing sort of the most bleeding? Mark, where are you seeing the most stabilization? Is it is it in B class markets, A class markets? Is there a lot of bleeding in C and D? Is luxury, you know, really hurting or doing well? You know, I know what’s going on with my own portfolio and I can talk to that. But I’m curious always, especially even in the resi space where people have less units. But you have you still have two hundred thousand users using it. You’re talking about hundreds of thousands or millions of total doors. That’s big. That’s big-time data. So where is the most stabilization that you see and where are the biggest holes at?

Laurence: Yeah, I mean, I guess we don’t try to categorize them as A, B, C, D, but in general we can see that as you go down in rent price, it’s less stable. So some of the kind of I don’t know if lower and rent markets is the right term, but those tend to have lower rates of full payment within that same month. And so that’s the big, broad trend we’re seeing. We also seen how that’s been kind of changing over time. So, you know, in March, when it really kicked into gear, when people started in America to start thinking about the pandemic, we started looking at OK, and predicting, hey, April 1st is gonna be tough on rent, that we track that and that that turned out to be true. People weren’t really paying April 1st rent, but stimulus checks came out. And a week or two later. And so by April 15th, most people had paid their rent and we saw a huge normalization there. And then we were worried, hey, May 1st is gonna be the big one now because there’s no stimulus checks coming. But May first we actually saw that payments were predominantly on average.

Laurence: And we started trying to dig into why. And I think that was a result of maybe some of the unemployment benefits that came out. The line started getting shorter. People were actually able to receive those benefits. And we saw it May, June, July. Rent payments were fine. July 30 first, obviously, a lot of those unemployed benefits ended. So we did see a huge dip in August and September. And we’re still seeing it even decline now, now that there’s no further stimulus helping. So we’re definitely seeing it in the data play out. And the story fits that data set where the stimulus really boosted rent payments being a time now that we’d back to Anstead, which we’ve seen rent payments started to suffer again. But you could see it predominantly for some of the lower rent, lower rental units.

Josh: It’s interesting because just the other night, you know, Trump got obviously got COVID and then he said they’re no longer going to negotiate. You know, I don’t know if people, whatever you believe, left or right, but him and Pelosi are having a pissing match over is she negotiating in good faith, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on. They decide to stop negotiating. Stock market goes down right away. And what I’m hearing from you and what Trump said was, hey, you know, we’ll renegotiate after the election because after I win again, does it matter if you’re left or right? Whatever it’s going to be after the election. But the interesting thing is what you said was that stimulus did matter.

Josh: Like people weren’t necessarily paying April 1st and around April 15th, things kind of got caught up. And the further now we go without stimulus, the less people are paying less. So it’s a real thing. And you’re able to provide that data to policymakers and government officials to say, look, this is a real thing if you don’t provide some stimulus. Now, we’re going to wait probably till the middle of November, let’s say. Then hopefully people can get caughtup in November. People do want to pay their rent, but they just don’t have the means to do it. Thirty million people unemployed. You know, a lot of people had to cut back. They’re not giving bonuses like they used to. It’s a real thing. So it’s great to hear your real world knowledge of that. That’s fantastic stuff.

Laurence: Yeah, I’ll caveat it with, like, these are complex systems happening. So there’s so many moving pieces that it’s hard to say any individual pieces really pushing it. So what you try to do is you try to prove these things with temporal order. Did one event occur before the following events? And for us, we’re seeing people were paying the rent then and the pandemic happened. They lowly started paying their rent later. And then stimulus was released for the checks. We see a rebound in rents. Then you’re seeing, OK, now rents is curtailed again and then you see unemployment benefits are actually being realized. You see rent rebound again. So the best you can do is show, here’s the data. We’re showing causal order. But it’s hard to really say one causes the other. But the data is showing a relationship there. So I don’t think it can be ignored. But it’s certainly complex system.

Josh: Yeah, no doubt. No doubt. So, listen, Laurence, last question. We’ve got limited time today. I appreciate jumping on. What advice would you give to our listeners, your customers and even your sort of younger, less experienced self? What advice would you give to yourself and some of those people who don’t have necessarily a passive portfolio that look at their portfolio and like, God, why do I own these properties? Of course, one of them is use my software button. Besides that, like what advice would you give from your own real world experiences with as being a lender?

Laurence: Yeah. Well, the first thing is, if there are listeners who aren’t yet landlords out there and they have a little bit disposable income, that’s a great time. Anytime is a great time to start. I wish I had started younger than I did, but then I just wanted by security in the game that I think is super valuable is to start thinking about it as a business, because a lot of us, when we get started, you know, I was at Goldman Sachs in asset management and that was my job. And then part time landlord and I didn’t ever think of myself as a landlord. So it’s important to start thinking about that landlording as a business. And when you do that, so many things start to click. You start treating your tenants as customers. You start thinking about retention. You start treating them well as a benefit to them and to you. You start thinking about the numbers a lot more.

Laurence: You know, you start thinking about the operating income, the expenses. You try to improve income, you try to lower expenses. But then the biggest thing is you tried thing about process. So whether that’s using software or not, process is important. You don’t want to have to last minute be thinking about what am I going to use for a rental application. So you’re not using software. You should at least try to get a standard going for your own rental applications and a standard for your own leases so that you’re not having to recreate the wheel each time you have tenant turnover. And that process can help. And that’s just how businesses operate and think. And if you’re going to make that switch in your head, you’re gonna save self a ton of stress and time.

Josh: Fantastic stuff. Listen, Laurence. If our people want to check out you said the software was free. I don’t know how that works, but you said it. So let’s go get some. Where can they get the software?

Laurence: Yeah, you’re right on the home page. So Avail.co. A-V-A-I-L. Everything I need is right there. They can start for free. They can keep it free forever too. So it’s not like a gimmick where your first 30 days. It’s not a free trial. You can use it completely for free for as long as you want.

Josh: Fantastic stuff. Laurence, thanks you so much for joining us today on Accelerated Investor.

Laurence: Great. Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Josh: So, hey, guys, listen, I’m so excited that you got to hear that interview with Laurence. Listen, that is a software that you’ve absolutely got to take advantage of. I mean, if I was a brand-new landlord and owned a few units thinking about, you know, wanting to be a truly passive landlord, that is a software that I would absolutely be using. And not only that, but it’s free and can be free forever. So you should absolutely take Laurence up on that free opportunity to onboard your properties into that software. I really enjoyed the interview and talking about how his software is providing high level data metrics and information for policymakers to help policymakers direct stimulus and direct money to the right areas, to help people with evictions and to help people with foreclosures. That’s really, really important stuff.

Josh: So if you enjoyed the interview with Laurence, please go into YouTube and go into iTunes. Leave us a five-star rating and review. I would really appreciate that means a lot to me. And also share this on all your social media platforms so other people can understand and get the word out. Also, don’t forget to join our free Facebook group. It’s called Accelerated Investor. You can join it for free and share ideas and strategies with me and thousands of other investors who were members of that group. I look forward to seeing you on our next podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

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Everyone always refers to rental houses as a passive income stream, but it’s not always passive. Following up on maintenance, dealing with rent collections, advertising vacancies are not passive tasks. Laurence Jankelow from Avail built software to free up a landlord’s time and make property management passive again.

73% of all of the rental properties in the United States are owned by landlords that only have one or two units, so Laurence built his company for the landlord with less than 10 units. One of the biggest services they provide is rent processing, but they also offer background checks, maintenance requests, and advertise vacancies.

If you’re trying to free up your time by getting a property manager, then that might remove your profit margins. Laurence’s company serves over 200,000 landlords across the country, and they’re able to cheaply source city and state specific leases and pass that savings onto their customers. Because Avail is free, it is easily accessible by the brand-new landlord who is just starting to build their portfolio and their systems.

Obviously, Avail collects a ton of data on the rental market, and Laurence has been able to do some really cool stuff with that data to help out tenants and landlords. Listen to how policymakers have been able to adjust some of their responses during the pandemic because of Laurence’s data that points to trouble spots before big data catches on to the trends.

I wish there’d been something this easy and accessible when I started out landlording. There are so many cool features in Laurence’s software that have the potential to make landlording as class to passive as you can get, and the best part of all is that Avail is a free service.

What’s Inside:

  • How the pandemic is impacting his rent software.
  • The relationship between collection rates and rent prices throughout the pandemic.
  • Building a better system for free is a win-win situation for every new landlord.

Mentioned in this episode​

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