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Invest From Your Arm Chair

The latest smart technology means investing in property has never been easier. Joanna Jefferies investigates the latest apps and software available so you don’t have to leave your chair.

By: Joanna Jefferies

1 September 2019

If you’re still punching your financial records into a spreadsheet, or flicking from screen to screen to compare properties, then it’s time you dragged yourself into the 21st Century. There’s so much technology, software, apps and information available online that there’s really no reason you should do anything manually. You can now find a property, evaluate it, buy it, insure it, find tenants, manage them and your finances all from the comfort of your armchair.

To help make things even easier for you, we’ve investigated the latest and greatest technology for property investors, so you can sit back, relax and maybe download some apps.

Find A Property

While finding a property is as easy as cruising trademe.co.nz, realestate.co.nz or homesell.co.nz (for private listings) there are ways of streamlining the process further. Realestateinvestar.co.nz has memberships (starting at $99 per month) which allow investors to centrally access listings from a number of property listing sites in the one place. The software also offers an investorfocused range of search criteria to choose from. The search criteria can be used to target an investment strategy, such as renovation trade-type projects, discounted properties, cash flow, capital growth, or sub-dividable properties.

Property Evaluation

Once you identify a property as a potential buy, Google Maps Street View is a great way of taking a virtual “drive by” and QV.co.nz or homes.co.nz can give you a basic property history and value. Property-guru.co.nz is another tool that is targeted at professional property investors, where for a monthly fee, investors can get access to property information including property boundaries, aerial photos, titles, ownership information and information on the street and neighbourhood – particularly useful if you’re an active investor.

iFindProperty operations manager Nick Gentle says it’s important to understand the impact of a district plan on a property, so when buying in Wellington he accesses the District Plan website, where you can enter an address and see which rules apply to the property.

“It’s useful for working out which restrictions you might have on a development,” says Gentle.

Most councils have their own version of this, accessed through council websites.

Feasibility Calculator

Feasibility of a property will always depend on the strategy of the investor. So if you’re buying to rent a property long term, or you want to subdivide and add a dwelling, your feasibility calculation will be completely different. Here are a few you may want to consider trying:

For financial feasibility, supercitymortgages.co.nz has a calculator that allows investors to test out potential loan scenarios on an interest-only basis. Many of the main banks don’t have this variable in their calculators.

Mortgagerates.co.nz has an excellent calculator to compare mortgage rates across all lenders, first and second tier.

If you’re looking at the feasibility of listing your property as short-term stay accommodation, bookabach.co.nz has a tool called “List Your Property” where you can input property details such as address, number of bedrooms/ bathrooms, and receive an estimate on how much you could earn and an indication of the appropriate nightly rate for your property.

If you’re planning to renovate for profit, but don’t know whether it will be worth it, realestateinvestar.co.nz offer a free “Renovation Calculator” or alternatively, visit builderscrack.co.nz to get an instant cost estimate by inputting details on your renovation/repair.

Finding Tenants

Finding a tenant can be expensive, despite the high demand for rental properties in most locations. Property managing director Aaron Yee, an investor and landlord, came up with a solution to this problem with the Proper renting app (getproper.co). The app is designed as a central platform to collate information from finding tenants to managing tenancies. In the Finding New Tenants section, landlords can manage listings, schedule viewings and communicate with applicants. Additionally, Yee has developed a background and credit checking website called tenantcheck.co.nz that he says is “the most comprehensive check in New Zealand”.

Yee says the Proper app has grown in leaps and bounds and is continually developing to keep up with landlord demand. Proper is currently designing an extension to the app to include maintenance management, a rent book and live chat with tenants. “It’s one app with everything you need in it to be a great landlord,” he says. The app is free to download, while tenant listings cost only $59 and are listed on trademe. co.nz (which usually costs between $99 and $189 per listing). The tenant checker starts at $15 for a background check and goes up to $89 for the most comprehensive check.

Managing Tenants

There is a suite of tenant managing software now available for selfmanagers. This means you can ditch your spreadsheet and ignore your emails, because everything you need for managing your tenants, collecting rent, property checks and maintenance should all be interacting in one digital space. myRent.co.nz CEO Thomas Clement says there are so many repetitive tasks landlords and property managers do that can be easily automated, and landlords are turning towards platforms like myRent rather than to expensive, traditional property management.

“The great thing is technology is going to reduce those costs significantly … A lot of landlords realise they can do it themselves, but the reason why they don’t is having to remember every second Tuesday to check the rent, and having to remember to do inspections and having to remember to do a renewal, and they’re worried they’ll miss something.”

On the myRent platform all of these aspects of property management are recorded and notifications are sent to remind the landlord.

“We’re using technology to save people time on those really repetitive, menial tasks,” says Clement.

Tenants and landlords sign tenancy agreements online, “it means renewing is really easy – the system looks after that for you”.

Tenants can log a maintenance issue on the system, where they can upload photos, videos and details about the issue, and the landlord can review those and take the appropriate action.

“You can then forward the issue including the photos and video onto a tradesman.”

There is also capability to message directly with your tenants, which has the added benefit that records of those conversations are kept in one place, should you have to go to the Tenancy Tribunal.

Pricing for the first property is $10 per month for the management service and the maximum you can pay “even if you have 1,000 properties” is $50 per month. myRent also has the capability to collect rent on the landlord’s behalf.

Money Stuff

Financial records have never been easier to collate, with the likes of Xero, QuickBooks, BankLink and MYOB. Gentle says he uses Xero to do his accounts “I subscribe to it through my accountant and that cuts the fee I would pay if I was a direct customer. Xero is linked to my bank accounts, I can upload invoices and go through and make sure the expenses are in the right category and at the end of the year my accountant will go through it all and ask me some questions.”

The ReceiptBank app (receipt-bank. com) can work in conjunction with Xero and has the ability to accurately scan receipts and record data.

Another aspect of financial records is collecting information on chattel values so that items can be accurately depreciated.

Valuit (valuit.co.nz) now offers a product online called Cashflow DIY, which gives investors a basic depreciation schedule of items within the IRD Residential Rental Property Chattels list.

“It improves the investor’s cashflow on the property by doing the depreciation apportionment and gives them a report on all the chattels in the property that can be depreciated,” says Valuit operations manager Greg Lark.

Anything that is not attached to the building can be depreciated, but the Cashflow DIY product is suitable for houses that have limited chattels and wooden floors, says Lark, because items such as linoleum and carpets can be complicated to value and require professional assessment.

Insure It Online

Jumping through hoops to insure a rental property is no longer necessary. Mike Pratt from Initio says through initio.co.nz’s Landlord Insurance, investors can get an instant online quote and have insurance confirmation with the click of a button.

Policies can be easily tweaked online, and variables, such as loss of rent cover, can be increased or decreased, showing an instant difference in the premium. This also allows landlords to easily cross-check cover and pricing.

“We’ve invested heavily on improving that tech, to the point where the renewals are done via the technology, and property investors can modify their insurance cover in real time online,” says Pratt.

It means if you wake up in the middle of the night worrying, you can change your cover instantly, rather than manually requesting a change and waiting for a response, which potentially leaves you under-insured for days. Additionally, Initio’s live dashboard means the changes you make in your cover are instantly updated and effective, including starting and stopping cover, which is particularly useful for property traders.

Claims are moving with the times too, says Pratt and the live dashboard allows landlords to monitor the status of their claim. The next step is for claims automation.

“Our vision and our technology and tools are improving so quickly that what I refer to as a ‘non-complex’ claim, can be paid within minutes. My vision is that we want to be able to pay you back (for a non-complex claim, such as broken locks, broken windows, minor water damage, etc) in the same amount of time as it took you to pay us.”

‘Renewals are done via the technology, and property investors can modify their insurance cover in real time online’ MIKE PRATT

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