How Realty Atlas built a resilient rental business with PropTech

I think 2021 is going to be a very challenging year, says Foti Sousalis, Group Director of Realty Atlas Property Group. Property is always at the forefront when a recession hits, it’s always the first industry to take a knock.
Cape Town South Africa

That being said, hard financial times were the reason Foti got into residential rentals in the first place. Today, he believes, his agency is well-positioned to withstand those ups and downs thanks to that very decision, as well as superior client service and smart technology.

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"During the 2007-08 recession, I realised that sales had dropped dramatically but rentals had picked up," he says. "When I decided to go out on my own, it was important to me to build a business that was recession-proof."

A bigger book

When Realty Atlas signed up with PayProp in September 2013, they were managing around 80 properties – and cracks were starting to show in their admin processes with the resource overhead. Foti had already brought in other software platforms to help him and his agents look after the rentals, but the team was still having to put in a lot of manual effort.

"I remember one Sunday I came in at 9 o’clock in the morning to reconcile the accounts. I left at 6 that evening and realised I’d lost an entire Sunday that I was never getting back. A few months later, I was with PayProp." Foti Sousalis, Group Director

PayProp takes the manual work out of rental reconciliation by intelligently matching all incoming payments to the correct properties, automatically deducting fees and allowing rental agents to distribute the rest of the money according to rules set by the agent – in just a couple of clicks.

Foti explains that he saw the difference immediately. Work that had previously taken a full day could now be wrapped up in 20 minutes.

"It was phenomenal. The amount of time we saved with PayProp was just next-level." Foti Sousalis, Group Director

By saving themselves all that admin, the Realty Atlas team now had more time to recruit new clients – and they had also kicked away the biggest administrative brake on their growth. Today, Foti and four agents manage around 220 properties between them.

Delivering better

But just because the Realty Atlas team saved so much time on rental admin doesn’t mean they can sit around. According to Foti, rental clients today demand higher levels of service than they did when he was starting out in the industry. Even so, technology once again helped them to meet those expectations.

"You have to be on it in rentals," he explains. "You can’t just turn your phone off on a Sunday because it’s not going to work, you’ll lose clients. They expect an instant response, and it’s important to have the right technology in your business to meet that demand." PayProp has been invaluable in enabling that kind of around-the-clock service. Instead of having to be physically in the office to access their files, agents can log into the platform from anywhere on any device – a feature that enabled Realty Atlas agents to work from home extensively even before COVID-19.

Once logged in, they can also access complete, accurate payment records and stored rental contracts for any property under their management, making it easy to help clients check on their investments.

"If a client calls on a Saturday night and says, ‘I need a copy of my lease agreement’, it’s right there. We can download it and send it through." Foti Sousalis, Group Director

Perhaps the biggest win for Realty Atlas’s clients, though, has been PayProp’s well-known reputation for payment security. As rental agents, the Realty Atlas team have a huge responsibility towards their clients as they are entrusted with their most valuable assets. And as Foti explains, it’s easier to help investors make good financial decisions when they know their money will be safe.

"We also leverage PayProp when it comes to the security deposits. Landlords and tenants prefer to keep their deposits invested with PayProp because they can see where it is and monitor the interest earned. It gives them peace of mind knowing that their money is safely invested."

A solid foundation

PayProp has become integral to Realty Atlas’s work – but in the end, its features are only half the reason why. Because rent collection and reconciliation is such an important daily task for agents, the PropTech they rely on has to be easy and comfortable to use. According to Foti, it’s a hurdle that PayProp clears easily.

"Other companies have all kinds of bells and whistles, but what stands out to me with PayProp is that it’s intuitive," says Foti. "If you read Steve Jobs’s autobiography, he says that software needs to just work. The moment it starts becoming clunky or cluttered, it starts to put you off."

"PayProp just works. It’s got everything you need, but it’s easy to use. If you can use Facebook, you can use PayProp." Foti Sousalis, Group Director
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