Real estate management is one of the most unpredictable and comprehensive managerial professions that requires unique tools for both day-to-day business and strategic planning. The Resident application was developed as a response to the problems of this particular industry.

A multi-unit apartment building (block of flats) is like an organism. It is entwined with miles of wiring and pipes. It consumes energy, water, and sometimes gas. It drains sewage. It needs to be heated. It must have regular controls to avoid or fix damage and breakages. There is a need to fix defects on a regular basis and forecast the wear and tear of an installation. Aesthetic needs are also important. The facade should be clean and the surroundings should be maintained in good order. Everyone likes greenery. A green lifestyle includes bicycles. To store them on the property requires knowledge of ergonomics and a sense of aesthetics, not to mention security! Monitoring and its maintenance should be provided. If the building has a garage, then there is another area to manage. If there are terraces then there may be a problem with leaking water. All these issues cost time and, of course, money. Also, making a decision involves responsibility by all the residents.

However, the most important are the people who make the decisions and who pay the bills. So, the heroes of the story are the director selected from the leaseholders, the agent or block manager and, last but not least, the leaseholders who live in the apartments. All the stakeholders who make up the system generally have converging goals, although each has its own challenges and needs dedicated tools.

The management system for multi-unit apartment buildings isn’t the same in every country. The nomenclature differs, the roles of stakeholders are slightly different. However, at the end of the day it is the same everywhere: documents must be in order, there can’t be a lack of money in the coffers, the building should be well-maintained and residents should be satisfied.

Real estate management is a multidisciplinary field where different areas of expertise overlap. Also, all of them generate serious construction, legal and financial risks. Efficient action requires comprehensive competence, experience, resilience to stress and the ability to coordinate complex processes. Real estate management support tools must reflect this complexity and make navigating as simple as possible to reach the destination of real estate management.

“Block manager is an engineer, lawyer, architect, economist, and a psychologist in one. The role is multi-dimensional and not through design. I think that the industry is broken in that demands on property managers are ever increasing, at times unrealistic, and the fees charged are not relative to the experience and qualifications that are needed (which should be mandatory in my view). There is an imbalance that perhaps only industry insiders understand right now. Consumers want bang for the buck, and often property managers are put under pressure to act outside the scope of their role or expertise. This can lead you down rabbit holes of wasted time, consumer dissatisfaction and complaints”!
Kate Boyes, CEO Resident

Resident: “Swiss pocket-knife” building management

Kate Boyes knew the business inside out. She started in her uncle's family business, which dealt with complex real estate management, and which became the only residential firm in Royal Tunbridge Wells to be accredited to train staff for membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with a team of 20, and 3000 units under management. The company became one of the longest-established resolutely independent sales agents in the town.

Kate began as a real estate agent in the area of rentals. The complex nature of her business led her to look for tools that would streamline her daily work. It was all about IT solutions for managing multiple areas simultaneously. First of all, Kate noticed that those available on the market were insufficient, as they only covered a part of the business. It was awkward and not cost-effective to use multiple tools, such as a separate one for accounting and another for ordering ordinal or repair tasks. There was a missing solution that could be used by both the professional and the amateur – the ordinary resident – at the same time: A solution where everything would be available within a single platform and linked together to produce uniform results for a property. Kate Boyes stresses that there was also a lack of solutions that provide transparency of information to leaseholders and directors, to help build trust and allow them to control access to their own information 24/7. Second, to create time-saving solutions that ultimately improve our services.

“My vision was to create one platform that handled everything – Accountancy, Company Secretary, Suppliers, Contractors, Works Orders, Section 20s, Compliance & Risk Assessments, Contact Information, Maps, Photos, Document storage, Insurance, Tasks and Reminders, and how about all the email messages sent every day to leaseholders”?
Kate Boyes, CEO Resident

Resident was born out of the realization of these needs. To say that it was a big confession is putting it mildly. Such a complex management area required a complex tool covering all functionalities, right from the moment you logged into the system.

Currently, Resident has enjoyed 8 years of development, dictated due to the changing needs of the market. Everyone has a tool that allows them to more efficiently navigate their area of responsibility within an integrated data environment.

Resident: saving time, money and nerves. For everyone

The accountant/accountancy knows very well who defaults on their fees. With Resident, the block manager doesn't have to email the accountant (how much time do we spend sending and responding to a torrent of emails?), or – even worse – doesn't have to call. The manager simply logs into the system and obtains the financial status of the property he manages at once. He can see how much money his community (limited company) owes to water and energy suppliers, and how much is owed by individual residents. This allows him to pay the dues on an ongoing basis and also to collect from leaseholders who are in arrears or have generated additional underpayments.

The resident, typically Mr. Smith, also has access to Resident. However, access is limited to his account only. Mr. Smith immediately knows how much he has paid and for what – and how much he owes. The system also sends him automated emails.

There can always be some defects and problems. To solve them, information flow is crucial. From reporting, to notifying the professional, to supervision and payment. In this situation, Resident is needed.

Raising a ticket (reporting problems and defects) is a functionality within Resident that FINGO worked on. It was designed to streamline the process of reporting and resolving building maintenance issues. Mr. and Mrs. Smith can report problems to the agent. For example: a leak in the basement, a lack of light in the staircase, graffiti, the theft of a bicycle or a wasp nest in the yard. A notification from a resident poses the system provides a transparent tracking of the process of solving the problem from the receipt of the report to the referral of the contractor, and next to its solution or lack thereof with giving a reason. The system is agent-friendly, so they can save time while providing full transparency to residents.

Resident's dashboard. On the right orange panel. On the left list of tickets.
Dashboard - list of tickets

Ticketing is a functionality from Resident that Fingo has worked on. It was designed to develop the process of reporting and resolving building maintenance issues. Mr. and Mrs. Smith can report problems to the agent. A notification from a resident results in an automatic notification to the agent, including the details of the reporter and the details of the notification. The system provides a transparent tracking of the process of solving the problem from the receipt of the report to the referral of the contractor. What follows next is a resolution or not – with reasons. The system is agent-friendly, so they can save time while providing full transparency to residents.

The Suppliers and contractors section provides access to a directory of services and contractors. Professionals – from plumbers to gardeners – can be called in for repairs from within the app. Resident allows you to maintain databases of suppliers and contractors, along with a view of current documents, e.g., applicable contracts, invoices and payment status. From the Resident app, you can also make direct payments to utility providers (water and sewerage, energy, gas) and contractors, avoiding late payments and unpleasant phone calls.

Dashboard - Import Suppliers

A common model for organizing property management is to elect a board of directors among the leaseholders, who together co-found a Limited Company that manages the property. The board signs a contract with an agent. Both managers and residents have access to the Resident platform through separate access sections. This creates an integrated property management environment.

Up to date at all times

Major renovations are often emotional. After all, it's about spending a lot of money from the common coffers. The developers of Resident have thought about this area as well. Section 20's are information required by law in the UK for significant investments. They include notification of a planned investment, e.g., a facade renovation, a cost estimate of the investment, and notification of the selection of a contractor. Section 20's provide transparency and give residents control over shared expenses. Regulations may be different or even absent in different countries. Nevertheless, this section shows that Resident does not overlook the legal aspects of the property's operation.

Once the scaffolding is in place and workers are whizzing around, the Work order section allows you to follow the progress of the work. There you will find information and documents on major renovations: contractors' data, projects, transferred and received documents, notes, minutes, invoices, etc.

Building managers reach for documents on a daily basis – Resident stores and provides access to all key writings and data: building and individual apartment plans, survey maps of the property, electrical and plumbing schematics, photos of the property and many other receipts, such as board meeting notes. These files are easily searchable for building managers – it is possible to forward or print them from within the application. A separate section also stores documents related to insurance and claims investigations (because a leak on the roof unfortunately flooded Mr. and Mrs. Smith's apartment).

In day-to-day business, remembering deadlines is crucial. The Task and reminders section provides reminders of scheduled activities, whether cyclical (such as mandatory building inspections), planned or ad hoc (such as repairing gutters after a rainstorm). The section also allows you to renew your insurance policy on time (God forbid that the policy has time-expired and a major malfunction occurs!).

Eventually, everything connects

As already mentioned, efficient circulation of information is essential. There is nothing more convenient than mass correspondence – information sent to each resident from within the application. These can be notifications regarding various matters: first of all, sending invoices to residents with monthly charges (service charge) for the apartment. Correspondence can also include, for example, planned energy shutdowns due to repair yards, the need for increased caution due to safety violations in the area, the need to repark bicycles, or notices of residents' meetings. Annual reports of limited company activities are also sent out through this channel, along with an accounting of costs.

When it comes to paying invoices and costs, the Data Hub – another Fingo contribution to the Resident application after Ticketing – comes to the rescue. The advanced software recognizes the content on invoices and with minimal input from the user, automatically reads the data. This is already the domain of AI. For example, an incoming invoice for a roof repair at Building 3 on Finsbury Road (where Mr. Smith's was flooded) is redirected to the Building Agent at the indicated address and assigned to a previously reported basement leak task. The system will recognize the community (a Limited Company) account number, payment amount and contractor account, and enter them into the system in an automated manner. Linked to the Data Hub, the Open Banking solution allows easy redirection to an online banking gateway for quick payment processing. Of course, the original invoices are available to view for verification.

Functionality integrating payments with banking gateways posed a particular challenge for application developers. Block management is unique as an industry in that the Managing Agents and their clients (the Blocks) each have multiple bank accounts. Not all banks can support the industry (yet) and without getting into the nitty-gritty of the legislation it is not mandatory for them to do so as in other areas of banking. But thanks to those banks that are compatible – NatWest, Coutts & Co., Barclays, to name a few, it has been a game changer for our bookkeeping clients. Instead of logging in every day and manually entering numerous bank transactions, the bank has already automatically fed the transactions to Resident for the bookkeepers to assign. “It's another invaluable time-saving solution that users now understand,ˮ  explains Kate Boyes, CEO.    

Complicated processes – simple solutions

A strategic problem in building management is scaling the business – there is an increasing number of properties, agents, billing and problems to be solved. This is also reflected in business support applications. The large number of changes causes bugs to pile up, the application becomes unstable, and functionalities that don't keep up with the market cause customers to start canceling their subscriptions. Resident urgently needed a new approach – Fingo came to the rescue.

One of Fingo's first tasks was to develop a plan to optimize Azure services in terms of cloud infrastructure costs and code quality as a basis for further application development. The .NET and Angular 6 technologies were used to develop the Resident application.

In the initial phase of the project, critical issues were fixed, the application was accelerated in key places, logs and monitoring of cloud services were added. Another challenge was to stabilize and improve the overall reliability of the code by identifying key issues. To better understand the project and the overall business process, Fingo used Event Storming workshops in collaboration with the client's product teams. As a result, there was a 30% reduction in cloud infrastructure costs and the entire project was containerized, and an automated CI/CD process was also implemented (previously production deployments were manual). Reduced costs were allocated to optimization and further development of the application, which translated into the implementation of many new functionalities, allowing both the agent and Mr. Smith to sleep more soundly.

I am a genuine believer that technology will never replace people in the industry, but I hope we continue to automate the mundane and time- burdening tasks, leaving the agent to get on with their jobs, and invest time in building relationships with clients and leaseholders.
Kate Boyes, CEO Resident

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