Relationships between landlords and their tenants don’t need to be fraught ones. With Y Combinator-backed Latchel, landlords and property managers can access a 24/7 maintenance service that takes requests from tenants and deploys the right professional to fix the things that need fixing.
“At first we thought of doing a high-tech property management system,” Latchel founder Ethan Lieber told TechCrunch. “As we looked more into it and talked to other property management companies, maintenance kept coming up as a problem. So we decided to focus on maintenance.”
Latchel has a bunch of handypeople — all vetted and with at least two years of experience — in its network that it relies on for work inside buildings. In some cases, however, larger property management groups already have people they like to work with. At that point, Latchel simply takes over the relationship and coordinates between the handypeople and residents. In the event Latchel’s on-demand team of vetted handypeople cannot troubleshoot the issue, Latchel deploys one of the 3,000+ contractors on its platform.
“It’s such a hard industry to get positive reviews from tenants in,” Lieber said. “You’re basically talking about someone in an emergency situation — not getting heat, the toilet is overflowing, etcetera. If you’re not handling it well, it exacerbates. If you can communicate the right things to the right people at the right time, it absolves that exacerbation.”
Still, the real estate space is unique and hard to acquire customers, Lieber said. Right now, while Latchel does support larger property managers, it’s focused on the DIY landlords — the ones who may be managing buildings in their “spare” time or as a second job. In order to support the growth of DIY landlord customers, Latchel is looking to build its contractor network. Part of its sell to contractors is the constant stream of work that results from Latchel’s relationships with property managers and landlords.
In March 2018, Latchel was running its service on 2,000 units. Today, Latchel supports 27,500 units across 50 cities in the U.S. and has been adding about 4,000 to 5,000 new units a month. That averages out to about 250 units per customer, Lieber said. Looking into next month, Latchel wants to add an additional 6,000 units. The month after, it wants to add an additional 9,000.
The cost of Latchel depends on the service level and the number of units. If a landlord or property manager just wants basic services (tenant calls, coordination of emergency work) for after-hours coverage, Latchel charges a $25 account fee and then 80 cents per unit per month.
Currently, Latchel is conducting a beta test with properties that have fewer than 10 units to guarantee a maximum price of services per unit, Lieber said. If Latchel is unable to negotiate a good enough price for the contractor, Latchel will reimburse customers for any costs over the guaranteed max price.
Since launching its full-service solution last March, Latchel says its average tenant review is 4.7 out of 5 stars. In all, Latchel says it has reduced the amount of time spent on maintenance to 15 minutes per day for property management companies with 100 units or fewer.