“What used to be a fulltime job I’m able to do in 10 to 20 percent of my time. It’s amazing that we’re able to move that quickly. It reflects well on our management company to have that capability.”
Superior Management Assistant Vice President Adam Nagin
New York City’s très chic Greenwich Village is less than one square mile in total area, but homes in this tiny neighborhood command big prices. According to a 2015 report from Forbes magazine the Village ranked as one of the country’s most expensive places to live. Take a stroll down any one of the streets in this historic neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower West Side and you’re likely to see a building owned and/or managed by Superior Management Incorporated, a fourth generation family business with over 1000 units spread across the Village and throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
Superior Management Assistant Vice President Adam Nagin is responsible for keeping the company’s small, but high profile portfolio leased up.
“It’s really important for us to be responsible property managers, to do a great job and do the right thing by people,” Nagin said. “Sometimes it’s against our interest in that moment, but we’ll do the right thing.”
This culture of responsible management extends deep into Superior’s roots, starting with Nagin’s grandfather Leon Nagin who founded the company in 1933.
“When there was an emergency he took it really seriously. When the heat went down, he got it up as soon as possible,” Nagin said.
The elder Nagin’s grateful tenants called him the prince of landlords.
Fast-forward to today—the upkeep of Superior Management’s rentals is still a top priority, but the company now earns high marks from renters for a different kind of customer service.
Where good customer service used to mean fixing the leaky faucet in a timely manner, the students and young professionals now moving to New York City expect more when it comes to leasing an apartment. They want leasing an apartment to be quick, easy and, most importantly, online.
Accordingly, to stay relevant in today’s competitive rental market “technology can’t be ignored,” Nagin said.
Just as Leon Nagin wasted no time getting maintenance issues at his buildings resolved, Superior Management now uses technology to move applicants through the leasing process and into their new homes as expeditiously as possible.
To that end, Superior Management gets a little help from their partners at On-Site.com.
“On-Site is all about being very thorough and very quick and we’re the same way,” Nagin said. “We want to get the deal done as soon as possible but we don’t want to take any shortcuts to get there.”
Superior Management uses On-Site’s leasing platform, including Online Applications, Screening, Documents and E-Sign to process all of their applicants. In many cases, prospective renters submit an online application, qualify instantly, and Superior’s leasing staff generates the e-sign-ready digital lease documents all within the same day.
“We’re making the process of leasing more convenient for them,” Nagin said.
Superior Management understands that in the 21st century technology and convenience are the ultimate amenities.
Moving to online leasing
Superior Management operates out of a first-floor walk-up in Greenwich Village, just a stone’s throw away from many of the buildings the company manages. It is a compact and busy office, with maintenance teams, office staff and renters passing in and out of the building throughout the day.
For Adam Nagin, work begins before he even sets foot in the office. Riding to work on the subway, Nagin uses his smartphone to log in to On-Site and monitor leasing activity for his rentals. He can already see the online applications rolling in from prospective renters who applied during off hours.
“It’s always exciting to see that we got applications in over the weekend. It shows us that the market is really strong,” Nagin said.
From there Nagin reviews the screening results, makes a rental decision and generates the digital lease documents, which renters can e-sign at their convenience—all before he’s had his morning cup of coffee.
It wasn’t always this easy. Nagin remembered the way leases used to be processed.
“It involved legal size paper and a special printer and it had to be printed out just right with all the corrections for that particular building and that apartment and it would take a long time,” he said.
Typing out and printing the lease was only the first obstacle. Nagin then had to go through the painstaking process of wrangling up tenants, roommates and guarantors to get the lease signed.
With only so many hours in the day, Nagin and his team couldn’t sort through all the paperwork associated with every new lease and renewal in a timely manner.
It was an exercise in frustration and Nagin knew something had to change.
“I can’t stand paper and I’m always on a quest to eliminate it whenever possible,” Nagin said.
That’s when Superior Management partnered with On-Site.
“Adopting technology has been really critical to our success as a family business,” Nagin said. “It saves time and it makes our business better.”
Now, according to Nagin, with On-Site’s online leasing in place he and the rest of the leasing team at Superior Management get their leasing work done 80 percent faster.
“What used to be a fulltime job I’m able to do in 10 to 20 percent of my time,” Nagin said. “It’s amazing that we’re able to move that quickly. It reflects well on our management company to have that capability.”
When it comes to finding good tenants, On-Site helps Superior Management by giving them the information they need to make an informed decision and select the most qualified renters.
“Sometimes the amount of information On-Site is able to find about people’s backgrounds can be surprising,” Nagin said.
On-Site’s Screening includes a broad (and growing) network of credit, criminal and civil data providers.
As it pertains to criminal records, On-Site Screening Program Manager Joe Davidson explained On-Site is not a subsidiary of a data clearinghouse like some competing companies. This allows On-Site to get the best available criminal data from specialized regional providers.
On-Site is, notably, the only nationwide screening provider with visibility into the 7000 cases filed in New York City housing court every month. For property management companies across the country (not only those in NYC) who are not screening with On-Site, the NYC rental market represents a huge blind spot filled with potential risk.
“Competing screening providers stopped offering rental history data from New York City, because it’s difficult and expensive to collect,” Davidson said. “On-Site is the only company with access to researchers who visit the courthouse every day to manually transcribe the housing court records.”
Moreover, with exclusive access to New York housing court filings only On-Site can identify prospective renters who have been evicted from an apartment in NYC.
It’s also worth noting On-Site does not indiscriminately group tenants who have been involved in housing related court cases onto what some have described as a “tenant blacklist.”
“The goal is to distinguish otherwise qualified renters who have had run-ins with difficult landlords from the truly problematic renters,” Davidson said.
To that end, On-Site Screening does not include data on renters who have taken their housing provider to court. Contrariwise, On-Site only includes data on housing providers who have taken renters to court. Even then, On-Site customers have the option to ignore eviction cases that resulted in a favorable decision for the renter.
Davidson emphasized, “There is no such thing as a ‘tenant black list.’”
On-Site is also the only nationwide screening provider to offer reference verification as part of its Screening service. On-Site’s trained reference check team makes thousands of calls every day to employers and housing providers to verify income and rental history.
“On-Site is not afraid of putting in the work so we can offer our customers the most complete picture of an applicant’s rental history,” Davidson said.
Superior Management values the level of due diligence On-Site puts in to the screening process.
“Whether we’re talking about buying a building or vetting tenants, we always do our homework and On-Site really allows that through the extensive screening, and the following up of references and others credentials of potential tenants,” Nagin said.
All told, On-Site’s Screening helps Superior Management find good tenants, which in turn, helps the company maintain a stable portfolio, Nagin explained.
“On-Site helps us find people who are going to stay and be great tenants,” Nagin said. “We can manage more closely and provide a higher level of service without having to worry about legal issues.”
E-Sign the dotted line
Once Superior Management approves renters for an apartment a lease is generated instantaneously. On-Site’s Documents are smart, digital forms that calculate total rents & concessions, can be signed electronically and auto-complete using info that renters have entered previously via the online application.
Superior Management can also generate an adverse action notice (or denial notice, as it’s also called) within On-Site.
“It’s an unfortunate part of the process, but On-Site helps us comply with the applicable codes and what is required in terms of giving people notice when they are not approved for the apartment,” Nagin said.
When ready, an email is sent inviting renters to electronically sign on the dotted line.
With bedrooms in each unit sometimes reaching for or five apiece, Superior Management often finds themselves with upwards of five guarantors per lease. On-Site’s E-Sign allows Nagin and team to manage lease signing ceremonies with a dozen (or more) different signatories, including tenants and their guarantors spread out all over the globe.
“Almost everyone has a guarantor and these guarantors are all over the country,” Nagin said. “Especially the young professional set that’s coming into New York City.”
“Imagine the logistical nightmare of having them all sign if you don’t have something like On-Site,” Nagin said. “Sometimes you’d have to FedEx a package to Oregon or to Europe to get it signed and notarized.”
After the signatures have been collected, all parties involved can access a digitally secured and archived copy of the lease for their records.
“It’s one of the most integral services that we use as a property management firm,” Nagin said. “We’ve done a couple thousand leases using E-Sign and it’s worked every time.”
The validity of Superior Management’s e-signed leases has never been challenged. Ironically, Nagin pointed out, the only time Superior’s leases came into question was when the company was still completing leases via pen and paper—before partnering with On-Site.
Since switching to E-Sign, Superior’s e-signatures have never been an issue, Nagin said.
Leasing then and now
When Superior Management founder and patriarch Leon Nagin purchased his first building in 1933 he never could have imagined a 21st century, hyper-connected world where renters lease apartments across the reaches of cyberspace. The difference between leasing then and now is dramatic.
A good property manager, by 20th century standards, was expected to keep the heat going during the dead of winter, fix leaky faucets, moderate conflicts between tenants and not a whole lot more. Things like online applications, instant background checks, digital lease documents, e-signatures and cloud storage would have sounded like pure science fiction to the renters and property managers of the past, but all of the aforementioned technologies represent the leasing reality of today.
On the other hand, the way renters and property managers do business may have changed, but many things have stayed the same. Customer service and responsible management are still essential to a great leasing operation.
“We’re providing housing so it’s a very personal relationship that we’re engaged in,” Nagin said.
While technology today allows renters to lease an apartment, potentially, without ever setting foot in a leasing office, that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities left for property managers to deliver exceptional service. Superior Management uses On-Site technology to foster a personal relationship with renters and give them a fair, efficient, no-hassle leasing process from the online application all the way through the e-signed lease. At the same time, Superior trusts On-Site Screening to warn them of potentially risky renters and avoid costly evictions.
“We’re not just a property management company, we’re people, we’re a family and we’re working with our tenants to do the best job we possibly can,” Nagin said.
Then and now Superior Management remains focused on providing the best service possible to the renters and property owners the company serves. And as Superior Management approaches its ninth decade serving New York City there’s no reason to believe the company won’t make it to its 100-year anniversary and beyond.