Transparency, let’s face it, may be a buzzword these days, but you’ll be hard pressed to find it manifested in the business world. From the fine print that scrolls oh-so-quickly across your TV screen as you watch an ad, to the double-talk we hear from salesmen, we’ve all gotten used to taking what a business person says with a grain of salt. It’s no different in the property management world. Just the other day, the writer of this article heard a horror story about a house purchase gone terribly wrong in Minnesota: the new owner, who planned to rent the home, bought it in winter when there was six feet of snow in the backyard. Then in the spring, when the snow melted, there was a multitude of very expensive damages that had been hidden by the winter weather. Yes, transparency is not as common as it should be.
Perhaps that’s why Nathan Levinson, the Founder and President of Royal York Property Management (Royal York) and of Mateem, his best-selling property management software, is so intriguing. He is developing a reputation as being someone who walks the walk: “transparency” isn’t a word he throws around but is instead one that he lives by.
I sat down with Nathan to discuss Royal York and to see how the company’s commitment to “what you see is what you get” plays out across its services and impacts its clients, who collectively have entrusted Royal York with more than 10,000 properties and $4.2B in real estate assets.
Nathan agrees that transparency is unusual in property management. “I’ve met a lot of owners in the eleven years since I founded Royal York,” he says. “Most of them are good people, but the ones who aren’t give the industry a bad name. There are a lot of false promises made, and, of course, your story about the Minnesota house is sadly not unusual. I am disgusted by dealings like this just like anyone else would be, so I insist on transparency being one of Royal York’s core values.”
At the heart of Royal York’s services is its ability to allow landlords, property owners, and tenants to access its platform 24/7/365. “That’s our foundation, and we’ve become well-known for giving our clients the ability to process checks and maintenance requests, do accounting, send out and receive rental applications, and more from this one platform,” Nathan explains. “From there, however, we’ve really delved into it so that transparency is built into everything we offer.”
One feature that potential tenants always love is the virtual tours. “These are not what you’re used to, however,” Nathan says. “We all know that virtual does not necessarily mean accurate, so with our virtual tours, we make sure to point out any deficiencies in the property.” He pauses, then laughs. “That might sound bad, of course, for the owner or landlord, but really, it’s not. I think you’ll find that there is a higher rate of people becoming tenants when they know ahead of time what any imperfections with their units might be.”
Speed is also built into Royal York’s platforms. “It may be purely psychological, but potential tenants often equate ‘speed’ with ‘transparency,’” Nathan believes. “Our automation allows them to see a unit and sign their lease in as little as a week, a significant improvement over how long it usually takes.”
Nathan thinks that Royal York’s app plays a crucial role in fostering transparency between the tenant and the landlord. “Tenants are able to communicate directly with the landlord via the app on their phone,” he explains. “This is actually better than the usual portal that is honestly becoming a bit outdated. Tenants like that the app is faster, lets them submit maintenance requests and receive replies, pay rent, and see the history of replies from the office. It’s all in one location, which helps tenants trust their landlords even more.”
Without question, there will always be dishonest players in the industry. “Unfortunately, you do have to keep an eye out for property managers, tenants, and landlords alike who aren’t revealing all of their cards,” Nathan advises. “That said, I think that you’ll find that with Royal York, you’ll get too much transparency. In this case, though, it’s not a case of ‘less is more’ but instead the opposite.”