San Francisco-based property management startup Zenplace has found a way to limit the time and hassle associated with rental property showings. The company’s aim is to provide more flexible scheduling options for both real estate agents and tenants, and in a market as bustling as the Bay Area, they have found themselves in the ideal testing ground for robotics-assisted property showings.
Zenplace’s three-foot-tall, remotely controlled devices – each aptly named “Zenny” – contain a mounted iPad that allows for the agent and tenant to maintain some level of face-to-face contact. The agent can also switch to other graphics such as neighborhood amenity information as the tour progresses. Still, it’s apparent that the Zenplace-provided experience feels a bit, well, different, from the traditional showing experience.
Still, the benefit of limiting time wasted on travel, especially in cases when a tenant ultimately chooses not to put down a deposit on the property, is undeniable. Owners can rent their property through Zenplace by registering the property online. Potential tenants who stumble upon a Zenplace property simply download the app and schedule an appointment for a viewing, with the app providing an access code for the home and instructions on how to interact with Zenny. The company currently has ‘a few hundred’ real estate bots in commission around the Bay area, and CEO Rahul Mewawalla – former head of a collaborative, Silicon Valley-based program with the White House – is confident in the results Zenplace has seen thus far.
“We’re making renting a home frictionless and redefining how landlords can increase returns from their rental property, with a property management fee as low as 5 percent. With robots, we have significantly reduced the time it takes to rent a property.”
But the process of being accompanied by a dainty tablet on wheels while attempting to envision yourself in the rental property for months to come could be considered a bit strange for some. Some realtors, though they are undoubtedly Zenplace competitors, have openly questioned that the Skype-like format of interaction that Zenplace has come to rely upon.
When you've been in the business as long as I have, you often get a gut feeling about someone when you're sitting across the table from them, Rick Smith, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, told the Bay Area News Group.
Yet, as every industry becomes increasingly crowded and businesses for ways to employ technology as an edge on their competition, it’s hard to imagine that the Zenplace blueprint won’t expand its reach in the real estate sector.