Time is limited for Kevin Hanks, who holds down a full-time sales job at a major software company while also managing a fourplex in Santa Cruz, Calif. And he has better things to do than manually process and track rent checks from his tenants.
His new time-saver is SparkRent, one of Intuit’s latest products for helping landlords — or just part-time property managers — manage the rental process. SparkRent automates the rent collection process by sending rent reminders, providing an online web portal for tenants and depositing the funds directly into the landlord’s account. The entire process is much faster than checks and provides helpful tools for tracking all rental income.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with Hanks to chat about his experience as a landlord and with SparkRent.
ISBB: Why did you become a property manager?
Hanks: I wanted to make a real estate investment, and I had been watching the market for the past few years while I was saving up for it. We all know it’s been pretty bad.
What was your interest in buying real estate?
It’s an investment property. It’s different than looking for a single-family home that you want to live in. An investment property is very good for saving for retirement, and that was the main reason for the purchase. Also, the
mortgage interest rates were going down, but rents were starting to go up. So it was an owner’s market and a buyer’s market at the same time. 2011 was a great time to buy.
How did you know what to do?
My family owns investment properties, so I had been introduced to the experience pretty early on. It’s like running a business. But it’s not for everyone.
How much time did it take to get started?
I spent quite a lot of time on the property during the first year. It needed a lot of repairs. Some of them I could do on my own, and the rest I had to manage. Instead of a general contractor, I hired individual contractors to do the repair work, which saved me a lot of money.
Do you have advice for anyone contemplating whether to invest in property?
You need to be able to understand your finances and know whether you can afford the investment and still earn income from it.
Communication and managing expectations with your tenants are key. You’re always going to run into snags. It’s a property — things break down. As long as you’re keeping people happy and they’re paying rent, you can move forward as a business.
You began using SparkRent in February. What do you think of the product so far?
It helps me manage the property from the finance side, and my tenants really appreciate it as well. The dashboard, which provides landlords with a payment history of each tenant,
is going to be helpful for the next tax season. Sometimes you have tenants who move out halfway through the year, and there are gaps.
I would like to own more properties down the road, and I’ve noticed that SparkRent will be able to help me manage multiple properties and make sure all the payments are coming through by sending me reminders.