A new rental housing maintenance company is up and running in Portland to lend an extra maintenance hand to property managers trying to keep up with tenant repair requests.
Keepe, a maintenance company which is already in Seattle, San Francisco and other markets, said they chose Portland as their next city to enter after being asked by some of their existing customers.
“What really turned us on to Portland, was having a few key players that ended up lobbying us,” Liz Koser, head of business development said in an interview with Rental Housing Journal.
“We received phone calls saying, ‘Hey you should really come to the Portland market. You’re already in the Seattle, in the Bay Area, we really have a need here.’ We were told if we come to Portland, we’ll have automatic customers, that we would have introductions to some of their boards, and so the lobbying effort made the difference,” Koser said.
3 reasons the rental housing maintenance company chose to focus on Portland
- “We have some existing customers that have portfolios in Portland. They are betting their future right now on the Portland market. They see it as a market with growth potential. Seattle and the Bay Area might be on the higher end already. Portland has the growth potential,” Koser said.
- Then, the clear supply and demand need. “There is low supply, high demand and that’s a perfect equation for us.”
- Traffic.”Portland has a lot of traffic. So using an app-based system for us, we’re bringing efficiency to the table here for everyone involved, both the contractors and the property managers,” she said.
“We work closely with Multifamily NW, which is probably the largest of the associations,” Koser said. We have worked with the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM)and met the NARPM president and others through the Washington State conference. “
What are the big rental housing maintenance issues in Portland?
“I have heard that plumbing is a big pain point. And tree roots – that’s been a big problem in the Portland area with older pipes,” Koser said.
“And I think the fact that there’s traffic running through several key bridges is an issue,” she said which creates transportation bottlenecks.
“This isn’t necessarily a maintenance-specific issue but getting contractors from point A to point B” is an issue she said.
Also, “I think there are a lot older buildings in Portland. Both older homes and older apartment buildings. And there’s an effort to update buildings, which takes capital expenditures, as well as just the day-to-day maintenance involved.”
She said the maintenance company started its rollout in Portland earlier in June to provide rental housing maintenance.
“We went to the Portland NARPM chapter meeting and we visited four potential accounts and actually all four were onboard for signing up with Keepe. And we already received a couple of jobs.
“So, in terms of getting new customers on board I think this has been the fastest path we’ve had so far. Part of that is that we had some warm introductions into the market being a Seattle-based company,” she said and added the company plans to be at the Spectrum 2018 Educational Conference and Trade Show in September.
Hiring and partnering with contractors and rental housing maintenance personnel
“We have a number of contractors already signed up as keepers,” said Rishi Matthew, Founder and CEO of Keepe. “Any time they become active on our network, we call them keepers and they are all licensed. They are all insured.
“We run background checks on them so we know that they are high-quality. And our goal is to make sure that there are enough property management companies and enough contractors to make those projects go successfully. They both need each other” to make rental housing maintenance work right he said.
“Property managers want enough technicians so that their work orders are completed fast and the maintenance techs need a lot of property managers to hand them jobs so that they can keep themselves busy. Keepe makes that marketplace work smoother and faster,” Matthew said. “The managers are pretty much our only audience at this point. Everybody else is kind of secondary. So, we focus pretty much on property management.”
Matthew said some property management companies might have “one maintenance tech or two maintenance techs but it doesn’t make any sense for them to keep hiring” when Keepe can handle the extra rental housing maintenance requests.
“And it’s not just about the hiring. It’s also about the retention of the employees,” Matthew said. ”As they (employees) decide to move on, the property management companies are having to spend a lot of time just recruiting instead of getting the appointments taken care of. And so with Keepe, they have this network. We expand their network of available maintenance techs and we also take care of the quality level.
“So, keeping the high quality technicians on the network and then weeding out the bad ones is what we can do for the property managers. They don’t have to do it for themselves and they don’t have to do it on a scale of one and two. We do it at the scale of hundreds,” Matthew said.
Koser added, “In the multifamily space I think, in general, they are having trouble recruiting maintenance techs and so that creates demand for a maintenance company like Keepe.
“Even beyond the current high demand, the Keepe model has made sense for the apartment buildings that might be in the sub-hundred unit range, where it might not make sense to have a maintenance tech at every property. So then you end up with the problem of driving from one location to the next and lose efficiency that way.
“When you have an employee, there’s a certain amount of overhead that goes with that. So at Keepe, we’ve been able to play a factor in helping companies grow their portfolio as well because they can scale up with Keepe and they can add techs” as they need.
“And in some cases, they’ve decided not to move forward with hiring maybe their fourth or fifth tech for a nine-building complex where you’re talking about hundreds of units. They might decide that two techs is enough and using Keepe can handle the rest. So, it has changed that hiring decision process,” she said.
On-demand solution and communication with tenants and property managers on repairs
“At Keepe, we are on the quick side,” Koser said. “We solve the quick problem in that we are an on-demand solution.”
Koser gave the example of a Portland property manager who asked about a roof leak and some other maintenance issues and said, “Is this going to be one week, two week turnaround?”
“I said ‘No, we can get it done today or tomorrow. We can have someone out to look at it.’ So we definitely solved this issue with utilizing technology to match people efficiently.
“On the communication front, our default for scheduling with tenants is via text message. So, tenants can select a time via text. We do all our confirmations for the tenant via text message except for the call that comes half an hour to forty-five minutes before arrival. The contractor will reach out. But all other communication is via text message.
“On the property manager side, we give them email notifications letting them know when the job’s been scheduled, when it’s been completed, and so they get regular status updates as well,” Koser said.
“Portland is our fifth metro,” Matthew said. The company is also in Phoenix and San Diego. “So we’ve gotten a lot better at going into new cities and being able to successfully on board with contractors and property managers. We are super excited about Portland. We love the city and we’re excited to be here.”