Entrata’s only Canadian employee joined the firm less than three months ago, but the Utah-based property management software provider has big international growth plans.
Entrata was born in 2003 after its founders won a business plan competition at Brigham Young University for a cloud-based property management system.
“However, when going to market, we found there were some niches that were not being addressed,” president and chief operating officer Chase Harrington told RENX. “The main one was the ability to pay your rent online and log in to fill out applications, connect with the community and those types of things.
“So the business really pivoted and, as we went to market, that was our focus. We became the largest payment portal provider for real estate in the United States.”
The business has grown to the point where it now processes more than $20 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars) annually in rent payments, primarily for the multifamily asset class.
Expansion of original services
Entrata also returned to its original business plan of providing a property management system and a comprehensive platform for all real estate operations in 2010. Its single-log-in, open-access platform serves more than 20,000 apartment communities across the United States.
The application offers more than 50 products on one global cloud-based platform so it can provide a wide variety of online tools, including websites, mobile apps, payments, lease signing, accounting, utility management, insurance and resident management.
Entrata claims to be the fastest-growing software company in real estate with more than $200 million in annual recurring revenue and more than 2,100 employees. There are plans to add hundreds of employees in 2021 alone.
Entrata announced on July 7 that it had raised $507 million from a variety of investors in its first institutional round of capital raised since the company was founded.
The infusion will allow the company to more than double its research and development spending in the coming years, expand internationally, invest in personnel, and improve efficiencies in the client experience.
Entrata has moved into Canada, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and China, and is working on expanding into Chile, Brazil, Australia and Japan. It has an office in the Netherlands as its European headquarters and a development office in India.
Entrata’s Canadian expansion
Shannon Hylton joined Entrata as regional vice-president of sales for Canada at the beginning of June after previously serving in property management roles for BentallGreenOak, but Harrington said the company has been working on Canadian expansion for about a year.
“We wanted to focus on making sure, first and foremost, that we understood the operations and needs of the Canadian market as well as doing some localization of the system, including being able to offer it in French and English.”
Yardi is the dominant provider of similar services in Canada and Harrington believes the market is ready for a viable alternative.
Hylton told RENX she’s at the prospecting and reaching out stage now and can’t name any Canadian clients aside from student housing provider Varsity Communities.
“I’ll be driving connections in Canada and hoping to bring some Canadian companies to the platform,” said Hylton. “I’ll be spreading the word and bringing a lot of awareness to Entrata and what it has to offer, and hopefully bring as much success in Canada as it has had in the U.S. and other countries.”
Entrata has a small office in Toronto, but Hylton is primarily working from home at this point and will travel around Canada when needed. The plan is to establish a presence in Toronto, increase market share, then add more people and offices in Canada.
“The Canadian real estate industry is going to be hearing a lot and seeing Entrata’s name over the next couple of months,” said Hylton.
Entrata’s future growth
Entrata can service multifamily, student and seniors housing and commercial buildings, and has some capabilities to work with short-term rentals within the multifamily sector.
It’s primarily serving office and retail users as part of mixed-use buildings with a multifamily component, but Harrington said the company is increasing its presence in office- and retail-only buildings.
Harrington said he’s been thrilled with the focus on proptech and the increased adoption of technology in the real estate industry over the past few years. He believes Entrata is a leader in the space.
“We’re coming out and releasing new products and new services for the industry within the proptech realm all the time. We’re finally seeing an advancement in an industry that has historically not adopted new technology relatively quickly. We’re starting to see that change and that’s exciting.”
Entrata is focused on increasing the use of artificial intelligence and robotic automation in its platform, according to Harrington, who believes it will help users make better business decisions.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was edited after publishing to update the number of products which are offered within the platform – the correct figure is “more than 50” as per updated information supplied by Entrata.
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Buying and selling a house in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was, for Denise Craine and her husband, an exercise in adapting to viewing rules that changed from one house to another.
”Every house had a sign that said ‘sanitize before you enter, do not open cupboards, do not use the washroom, no children allowed, no more than two people allowed plus your agent,’ ” recalls Ms. Craine, who runs a Toronto-based association management firm called Secretariat Central. “But then there were two houses that also had gloves in the entrance, and I remember (my husband) telling me later ‘I think we were supposed to wear those.’
“For viewings in their home, Ms. Craine and her husband added their own twist to pandemic protocols: all cupboard doors and drawers were left open to further dissuade touching and visitors were encouraged to disinfect as they went along, with bottles of disinfectant distributed throughout the house.
”So if they really wanted to inspect something, they could clean that surface before and after they touched it,” says Ms. Craine.
As the country’s vaccination rates continue to edge higher and there’s hope that COVID-19 will ease in the months ahead, a question for the real estate industry is what pandemic practices it should hang on to and what can go safely by the wayside.
George Filntissis, Toronto realtor with The Condo Kings – a Royal LePage Terrequity broker – thinks most of the safety practices that were either mandated or strongly recommended because of COVID are here to stay. As far as he’s concerned, that would be a good thing.
”I think that continuing to do things like wearing masks and social distancing would still make sense in the long run because we now know that they help keep us from getting sick,” he says. “I see a lot of people in my work and pre-pandemic it couldn’t be helped that if you met with someone who had a cold, you’re also going to get sick. Handshaking was constant so at some point you were going to catch something.
”Beyond the safety aspect, many of the current real estate practices that were either introduced or accelerated during COVID-19 have also led to greater efficiencies and convenience for realtors and their clients, says Mr. Filntissis.
For example, virtual viewings – which have been around in real estate for some time – have made it easier for prospective buyers to decide whether or not a place is worth visiting.
Shorter appointments, which became the norm during COVID to allow for sanitizing between showings, have shown to be just as sufficient as the typical pre-pandemic one-hour visits.
”Now it’s 15 to 30 minutes which, quite frankly, is more than enough time for most people to look through a place and ask questions,” says Mr. Filntissis.
A minor change with major impact has been the switch from purchasers picking up the keys to their new abode from their lawyer’s office to simply taking it out of the lockbox on the property.
”That is not going away,” says Mr. Filntissis. “It’s very logical, it’s very efficient.”
Courtney Cooper, president of Proptech Collective – a Toronto-based group that connects real estate professionals, technology entrepreneurs and city builders – foresees technology being integrated into more parts of the buying and selling process in real estate.
She points to digital documents and signatures, which allow all parties to sign and seal the deal virtually, as an example of technology that took off during the pandemic and will likely become part of standard practice after.
Digital mortgage platforms such as Homewise and Nesto, which help homebuyers find the best mortgage rates, will also be in greater demand post-pandemic, predicts Ms. Cooper, because they eliminate the hassle – and safety risk – of having to go to a bank to negotiate and sign a mortgage contract.
”I think we’re also going to start to see platforms that tie it all together so you can just go to one place to find and share listings, collaborate with your realtor, get a mortgage, sign the deal and transfer the deed,” says Ms. Cooper. “Right now you need to deal witheach person and company individually but over time all these parties will be more interconnected, and information that you’re providing to different parties today will be moved seamlessly.”
Virtual tours, whether offered as a 3D rendering of a space or through a video conference with a realtor, will also remain a regular part of what homebuyers can expect.
”We might even start to see self-touring here, like they do in the United States,” says Ms. Cooper. “We’ve been seeing more digital connected locks in the U.S., so access is automated, and people can come in using a passcode that’s set to work during a specific time.
”Some of these self-tours are augmented with smartphone audio tours that viewers can listen to as they walk through a property, says Ms. Cooper.
Virtual staging, which designs spaces using digital software that adds 3D furniture and, in some cases, even shows a property’s renovation potential by taking out walls or adding a swimming pool in the backyard, has been another winning technology during the pandemic.
Ibtisem Hamani, owner of Home Magic Touch Inc., a Toronto company that offers traditional and virtual staging services, says the latter accounted for about 10 per cent of sales before the pandemic.
“Then COVID hit, and it was unbelievable the number of orders we had for virtual staging,” she recalls. “The impact on our traditional staging business was immense – the split between our two businesses actually flipped, with virtual staging accounting for 90 per cent and traditional staging 10 per cent.”
In addition to the reduced risk and convenience of being able to show a home at its spiffed-up best on a digital platform, virtual staging offers significant cost-savings – less than $100 for one image versus between $2,000 to $3,000 for traditional staging, where rented furniture is trucked in, and a home is decorated professionally.
”We approach virtual staging like we do traditional staging – it’s all about the proper design and layout,” says Cos Pina, director of marketing at Home Magic Touch. “But the difference is that with virtual staging we have access to more than 3,000 pieces of 3D furniture.”
Ms. Hamani and Mr. Pina say they expect virtual staging to become even more popular in the post-pandemic future. They’re already planning to build on its success with an offering of augmented reality, where online viewers use virtual reality glasses for immersive walk-throughs of properties for sale.
While most home buyers and sellers seem to have embraced – or at least accepted – today’s COVID-driven protocols and processes in real estate, there are some practices that will likely not be missed after the pandemic is over.
Ms. Craine cites one example: when she was shopping around for home insurance, one insurer told her it would send over a property assessor who would inspect the house first-hand only from the outside. Ms. Craine and her husband would need to take the assessor on a virtual tour of their home’s interior.
”We would have to get on our phones and the assessor would direct us to parts of the house that he would want to see virtually,” recalls Ms. Craine. “I didn’t want to have to do that, so in the end we went with someone else.”
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