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  • Pay rent for free using cryptocurrency

    The easiest way to pay rent for free, including internationally, is not using any of the traditional slow and expensive banking technologies we have relied on in the past. We want fast, instant, and fully under our control.

    Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard of Coinbase and the recent IPO that sent its valuation up close to $100 Billion dollars, and $60 Billion today. Most people think of Coinbase as a place to buy and sell cryptocurrency. But it’s actually much more than that.

    Coinbase has actually developed a payment transfer technology behind the scenes that anyone can use for free to move money around. It’s called USDC, and you can use it to transfer money to pay rent, in the US or internationally!


    Using USDC

    USDC is a stable coin developed by Coinbase and Cirlce. This means it can always be exchanged 1-1 for a US dollar, for free, on the Coinbase platform and other platforms that support USDC, like Binance. You can feel confident transferring back and forth between US dollars and USDC, knowing that the 1-1 exchange rate will hold up.


    Send money with Coinbase

    The Coinbase interface and dashboards make the experience very friendly and intuitive. How does it work? The landlord and any tenants who want to send their rent payment will need to set up a coinbase account. Once we have a Coinbase account, we will deposit and withdraw US dollars into and out of Coinbase using the old ACH payments system. We’ll move the money between landlord and tenant using USDC.

    This can all happen in a few minutes and a few clicks. Certainly easier than writing and depositing a check or wire into a back. And once you get the hang of things, it’s just as easy as a digital platform like Venmo, which doesn’t actually allow for payments like rent in its terms of service.


    Step by step - show me how it’s done!

    Here I’ll walk you through the steps to make this transfer using Coinbase. To learn, I suggest following along and sending a dollar to a friend to see this process in action. By the end, you’ll feel completely comfortable making a rent payment over this network.

    1. Sign up for Coinbase and validate your account

    Head over to coinbase.com and sign up for an account. You will need to make sure to verify your personal details to deposit and withdraw US dollars.

    2. Transfer money into Coinbase

    The first step is to transfer your money into Coinbase. Once you’ve created your coinbase account and validated your details, you should be on the Coinbase dashboard. Click the Buy/Sell button in the top right header to deposit US dollars. We will buy USDC (Coinbase USD Coins) directly, as we’ll be using them as our transaction medium anyways.

    Buy USDC into your Coinbase Account


    Confirm the 1-1 exchange, with no fees, to buy USDC and Buy Now.


    Preview Buy USDC


    3. Enable Instant Sends for USDC on Coinbase

    Turn on Instant Sends for free transfers, otherwise a transfer will cost anywhere from $2 to $20 dollars in fees! This process is entirely free so if you see a fee somewhere, something is wrong!

    To enable Instant Sends, simply:

    • Go to coinbase.com on a desktop computer.
    • Go to your Privacy Settings.
    • Toggle the switch to enable Instant Sends


    Enable Instant Sends for USDC on Coinbase



    4. Get the landlord’s USDC address

    Grab the USDC Address for the landlord. The tenant will send USDC to this USDC Address.

    Click the Send/Receive button in the top right, then click the Receive tab.

    Copy the Address and save it for the next step. This is the landlord’s USDC Address.

    View Address to Receive USDC on Coinbase



    5. Send USDC to the landlord’s USDC address

    Again, click the Send/Receive button in the top right, this time use the Send tab.

    In the To field, enter the USDC Address of the landlord. Enter any note that will help describe the transaction, such as that this is a transfer of payment for rent, with the month for which rent is covering.


    Send USDC to Address on Coinbase


    Onto the confirmation screen. This is an example of someone who has not turned on instant transfers. You can see, Coinbase tells us there will be a $7.18 network fee! This is an ethereum gas fee, which mean we will need to turn on Instant Sends. Do that and try again.


    Confirm Send USDC to Address on Coinbase with fee


    This is how things should look, with no Coinbase or network fees. Free rent payments!


    Confirm Send USDC to Address on Coinbase without fee


    Do your final validation and the money should be available right away in the landlords account.


    Confirm Send USDC to Address on Coinbase final validation


    The landlord can now do the reverse of what we did originally, and Withdraw the USDC into a US dollars bank account using an ACH transfer for free.


    What is this? I see a fee!

    Keep an eye on the Coinbase fees, network fees, and total. The fees should be zero dollars! This will be the case if you enabled instant transfers for all parties involved. If someone hasn’t enabled instant transfers, the transaction will take place on the Etherem blockchain, and you will be forced to pay gas fees. But this is free for all parties all around! No fees for us! Make sure everyone has enabled Instant Transfers, as we did above.


    Successful Rent Payment with Cryptocurrency

    Congratulations, you just executed a free rent payment using cryptocurrency! Crypto payments are becoming more and more common. There are plenty of other ways to pay using cryptocurrency as well, with other exchanges and other cryptocurrencies.

    We will explore other ways to use cryptocurrency in the future. If this technology is useful to you, consider using Allen to manage your properties and organize your communication, and except us to start adding integrations to do this exchange automatically for you!

  • Best Interface for Property Management - Chat or Forms?

    Filling out forms can be a tedious and painful process. There’s something about it, for many of us, that we dread in the structured process. It doesn’t feel natural. What is natural for us humans? Conversation! The ideal process that makes our brains happy, would look a lot like the kind of chat we do when we send texts or chats to our friends and family.

    So why are we suck with forms? Probably because we tend to improve process slowly, taking one step at a time, instead of making the giant leaps that are possible with the technology at our finger tips.

    We started originally with the paper form. We’ve all been to the DMV, sat in the gymnasium of chairs, and filled out our paperwork. Titles with neat little boxes for each letter. Some questions don’t apply but you get to read that extra text anyways, as you try to skip the irrelevant parts while not missing some critical checkbox.

    The natural evolution when making this electronic was recreating that paper form but on your computer! Not very creative, but at least we gain all the benefits of an electronic system. We won’t lose it, it can’t be as easily destroyed, we can back it up to different locations in an instant. Great progress!

    But we haven’t really moved beyond that. When we submit a service request or apply for a mortgage, users get a digital version of that same old paper form. And in many cases, the user interface is actually worse and more confusing than the paper equivalent.

    We must do better, and chat is the next evolution. The process is made more natural to what we are comfortable with as humans.

    The current state of chat :(

    Unfortunately chat has received a bad reputation over the past 5 years. A huge wave of chat apps and voice assistants hit the market and did not live up to this dream. Many of you didn’t make it this far because you rolled your eyes at the idea that chat would be a better user experience.

    We all know the reason these first chat apps failed. It’s because the chat agent couldn’t understand you and you became frustrated. This is because the chat agent is trying to act as if it had the intelligence of a human. But the technology has not reached that point yet. We need to be realistic about where we are with natural language processing. Even the big guys who spend billions on this problem like Google and Apple and AWS, can’t do much more than turn on your lights, tell you the weather, or play a song. They certainly cannot guide you through the diagnostic steps of a maintenance issue.

    So the solution is simple - we constrain the problem. We are not ready for chat-bots that offer open, free text. It only results in frustration. So let’s not put a user in that position (until the technology of natural language processing reaches maturity, and we can swap in the advanced understanding).

    For now, we use chat because it is a more interactive and flowing interface, not for the intelligence and language magic.

    We also use chat for the ability to navigate the user to only the next question they need to see. If you are not making a service request, we shouldn’t ask any questions about the category of your issue. If you are making a service request, and it’s plumbing related, we can ask direct questions about the plumbing problem. Is water leaking? Can you still use the shower? We wouldn’t ask those questions if a user reports a broken oven.

    Chat with Allen

    These smart decision trees can help narrow down the situation. In the case of a chat guided experience for home owners managing a rental property, It saves the tenant time because it helps them express their question clearly without a bunch of back and forth with servicers or the property owner. This means we get the problem fixed faster and the tenant back to enjoying their home. Less back and forth means less time managing the situation for the owner, and less potential points when someone forgets to respond, and have a maintenance request hanging in limbo.

    We can imagine other scenarios in the property management lifecycle as well. What if you’re hooking up your bank account? The chat interface will easily guide you through the many steps and branching logic of getting this done. Do you require a security deposit? Pet deposit? How often will you collect rent? Are you prorating for payments already made? Are you collecting any additional payments up front? So many questions and branches. Sure you can fill out a long form and be annoyed by the process. Instead sit back and chat like you do with your favorite friend on Facebook Messenger, while your chat system asks just the questions needed for your situation.

    We love our chat based flows at Allen, and hope both tenants and landlords will like them too. Keeping tenants happy mean they’ll want to stick with the property longer, meaning landlords don’t need to deal with those nasty tenant transitions. Landlords stay happy and well informed, so they can deal with situations faster and more accurately. Try out Allen today if this sounds like a better situation for you!

  • Best App For House Hackers

    Many people are on the path to generating passive income or retiring early through house hacking.

    Traditionally, House Hacking means buying a large house, then renting out individual rooms. This is a great starting point. You might think you can managed all of this yourself and deal with any broken issues yourself because it’s all happening in your own house. While it might start that way, things can quickly get out of hand. That’s likely why you’re looking for an app to help manage your house hacking! You might be looking for a way to collect rent and avoid taking checks from your room mates. If you want something a little more reliable and trackable than passing Venmo requests back and forth, an app based software solution might be just what you need.

    With House Hacking, property management is likely not your main job. You want to do everything you can to avoid turning yourself into a full time property manager, so why not outsource some of the tasks and tracking to software and automation?

    Most house hackers are just getting started with renting out their first home. Once they get a taste for it, and see how fruitful it can be, they quickly see how expansion is the route to greater passive income. That means purchasing a second house, maybe in the same neighborhood, and renting that out. To continue optimizing in the house hacking way, you may want to rent that house room by room, as opposed to a single entity. This starts to get confusing. Imagine renting out 2 bedrooms in your primary residence. Now you buy a 4 bedroom house and rent that out by the room. You’re managing 6 separate agreements with 6 different groups! That sounds crazy enough to give up the potential gains of room by room rentals, and just rent the whole property. But no! The house hackers goal is to maximize their passive income. And we can do it with software to organize each of these relationships. Automation can help improve your situation and help you scale!

    How can an app help with house hacking?

    Now you can continue to imagine the situation as we expand to 3 and 4 houses, renting each out by the room. There are a few pain points this expansion will cause, and a few solutions software can offer to help make you successful in this pursuit.

    Ability to track duration of the stay and cost

    We want to record who is staying in each room. Easy enough. We need the ability to specify the duration of the stay and agreed on rent. This is all specified in the lease, but you don’t want to pull out a paper lease each time you want to figure out when it’s time find a new tenant, or how much rent you expect. You may have different lease start and end dates per room, and different prices charged per room. Ideally you don’t even have a paper lease, and can manage all of this digitally.

    As we manage the lease digitally, we’ll need a way to invite tenants to the platform. Once invited, we can keep track of their phone number, email address, and other notes for maintaining the relationship.

    Open lines of communication into each room

    Now that we have invited our tenants into the app, we also have a direct line of communication to them. Without an organized chat app, you’ll likely be dealing with these tenants via text message or email. This will quickly grow out of hand with weird naming schemes in your address book. Which tenant belongs to which property? What have they asked in the past? Did they send you an email about one thing, then a text about another?

    In the best case, we would have an app which could consolidate all of these types of communication into a single chat interface. Emails, texts, chats, service requests, inquiries - everything goes into the same place so we have a single place to respond and look back at history.

    Keep track of problems

    More people create more problems, so you’ll want an app to track any issues. If you’re not around all the time, like someone who travels for business, you might want a way for your co-habitants to send you requests that are urgent so that you can get help.

    When those requests come in from tenants, it can be an extremely annoying distraction in your day. Mabye you’re at work? Maybe in the middle of a meeting? Bam, there’s an issue. Do you need to step outside to call your trusted service pro? That sounds annoying. You should have an app which can forward requests to service pros with a few taps, while you pretend to keep paying attention in the meeting.

    Are you writing lengthy messages to those service pros? Well you shouldn’t be. Your app should also be generating those messages to service pros for you. Your tenant already explained the issue in the message they sent you. You need to simply forward that message on, along with the contact info of that tenant so that the service pro can get in touch with them for more details if needed.

    The message to the service pro should be generated, but what if you want to add some details of your own? It shouldn’t automatically go out. You get to review the message, edit it as needed, and add any details that would help explain things. Then submit directly to the service pro.

    Track expenses so that you can make tax deductions

    Tax time! You’ll get deductions for the expenses you incurred while renting out your properties. Many landlords find themselves searching through credit card statements looking for all those charges. Don’t set yourself up for pain. Enter the expense as it comes in. And get a nice report at tax time to view all of your expenses for the year.

    Collect rent from your users

    Last but not least, while Venmo or checks are nice for a few people, once the number of tenants grows beyond about 5, you might find yourself looking for a proper solution that you can actually keep track of. What if a tenant misses a payment? Do you want to be frantically checking your Venmo or Zelle history looking to verify you received each payment? Even worse with checks! Now you’re looking through your past deposits to determine if the checks have cleared. Save yourself the trouble, collect rent with software!

    Bottom Line

    House hacking can bring in that second income source you’re looking for. But because you’re managing multiple rooms and multiple relationships, things can get out of control. As described above, software and automation can bring things back under control with a platform that contains a few useful tools. This is the platform we’re building at Allen. The majority of these workflows exist today, so download Allen to bring organization and ease to your house hacking!

  • Negatives of Free SaaS Property Management Software

    With news that the cozy.co acquisition by apartments.com is resulting in an updated pricing model, many rental owners are seeing some of the negatives of ‘free SaaS software’. Yes cozy.co was free for a while, but now they’ve been acquired, all the deals have changed, and cozy.co is no longer free for many people. It will also be run by an entirely different conglomerate. Is this conglomerate going to have the same goals and values that cozy.co did? Not likely. The employees are now wrapped into the beast and may lose motivation to innovate and do their best work. We’ve seen this happen over and over to property management software and each acquisition kills another potentially great product.

    What are some of the main problems of using ‘free SaaS software’? This is not discussing free software, as in, open source and free. This is proprietary software which is hosted by expensive servers, yet still somehow free to the users. There is an anomaly there and companies should be clear how it works for their users.

    Bolt on Rocket Ship

    If it’s not ad based like Google/Gmail/Facebook, it is likely running on Silicon Valley venture capital dollars. Venture capital firms inject tens of millions of dollars into startups to see if they can fly to the moon. This is like attaching a rocket engine to your bike. Most can’t take the pressure and explode. Some are acquired like Cozy. Only a rare few convert their bike into a spaceship and reach their destination. It seems to be even more rare in property management applications, for some reason.

    These dollars don’t last forever. So what is the long term plan for the company becoming sustainable? Taking funding is fine, we’ve done it ourselves. But we keep an underlying strategy of staying alive by default. We don’t need more funding to sustain ourselves, so avoid getting into a situation where we must close another round to stay alive. Many companies who take funding have a great long term plan. Some have no plan. Make sure you know the plan of software you rely on.

    Also make sure you know the roadmap of the software you rely on. Many of these rocket ships are zooming all over the galaxy searching for product market fit. As a user, ensure the features you care about are committed.

    Monetizing your data

    For ads or sleezy backroom data sale deals, your private data is monetized by many of these companies. You lose your privacy in exchange for saving a couple bucks.

    Who gets access to your data? Is it being sold to 3rd parties? Especially for something as sensitive as housing data, you should be sure you know who can see these details.

    Freemium

    Allen runs as freemium software. For people just getting started or not looking for the most advanced features, Allen can help you out. We hope you eventually realize the value we provide and sign up for a premium account. This allows us to power our servers and employees, and offer you a useful and reliable service.

    It also means we are not selling your data to anyone. Allen holds your trust as a key pillar of our business, as anyone managing your sensitive data and communications should.

  • Automatically Assign Service Providers to Inbound Tenant Issues

    The purpose of the Allen Bot is to remove friction from the daily events that happen in the lives of property owners and tenants.

    Allen automatically assigning a servicer

    Helping tenants

    Lets start with the tenants. How do we help them? With a simple and painless app that lets them report any issue with as few taps, clicks, or keys as possible. Chat between tenants and property managers should be just as easy as starting a text message, except those text messages get lost and property owners easily lose track of them, meaning your request takes longer to resolve. Allen is text messaging with a nice wrapper, specific to the activities that take place around property management. So with a few buttons pressed, a description filled out, and maybe a quick video or picture, your request is underway!

    The best part, your property owner can give you easy updates, specific to that request, so you can follow along with progress.

    Helping property owners

    Now for the property owner, similar ideas apply! It’s also as easy as texting, but now when a text comes in, it can be automatically routed to a service provider you trust for that category of issue.

    For the property owner, we look at all the steps typically involved in managing a property, and we start eliminating!

    Our first big step to eliminate, the need to type out an email to the service provider you know needs to handle the issue.

    If your tenant has an issue with their toilet, what will you do? You will call or email or text your plumber and ask them to go out to investigate. Instead of doing this manually, Allen already knows the category of request from a mix of questions to the tenant and machine learning on the description, images, and videos. So Allen can generate and send that email for you, eliminating that step!

    Allen automatically generating a request to a provider

    Most property owners are not full time property managers. They have other jobs. It can be extremely disruptive to get a call in the middle of the work day about an issue at a property. Only to hear the description, figure out which of your trusted service providers needs to take a look, then call them and tell them to head out. Why do we accept manually dealing with a process that can be simply automated? We shouldn’t!

    Give the Allen Bot a shot and try out this workflow, a huge amount of effort has gone into building this routing system and we hope it will work to make everyone’s lives easier.

  • Manage your Properties on Android with Allen

    The Allen Property Management Bot has come to Android! After launching originally on iOS and receiving some great feedback, Allen will now be developed entirely cross platform going forward. Adding an Android app was one of our top requests, so here it is! Download the Allen Android App here.

    This app has been designed to allow anyone on Android or iOS to connect - as a landlord looking to manage their property or a tenant looking to easily communicate and submit requests.

    The Allen app had been built from the start with plans to support both Android and iOS. With 40% of people in the US running Android, this was a much needed addition.

  • Allen Launched!

    The day has finally come! Allen has just launched today on iOS, go check it out in the App Store. The Android app will be launching in the coming weeks, with web following shortly behind that. Hurray!

    Inspiration for Allen struck a few years back, after repeatedly doing the same process over and over again. A tenant would email me with a service request, which I would forward to my service provider, who would respond back asking about scheduling times, and on and on with me as the pointless middleman! Expect a deeper post on this next, with a guide on how Allen helps solve this problem for you. I did not want to spend my time as a pointless middleman, and saw a very obvious workflow to automate.

    Allen could have been a simple email extension, but email is too cluttered. With even a few properties, it’s easy to lose track of all the tenants, their messages, messages from servicers, what needs follow-up, what needs to be paid, and what needs to be scheduled.

    We use apps for everything else in our lives, and an app felt like the best interface to Allen. Certainly better than paper records, better than a bunch of random emails, better than an excel spreadsheet. And with a smart server, Allen can analyze requests and make routing decisions for you.

    So why not be lazy and pay a property management company 10% to manage things for you? Because we’re not lazy and value our dollars. After all, we’re likely renting out our properties for passive side income! And this is where Allen comes into play. Allen tries to make that passive income as passive as possible, without handing things off to a 3rd party. This is DIY property management, but it’s not just you. Allen is there by your side, and will try to handle more and more of your workflows as we continue to build out features.

    We’re still in the early stages of development, so try things out and let me know immediately if anything is wrong or if you have ideas for workflows you would love to see automated at support@allen.bot. (support sounds fancy, but there is only one person behind Allen at the moment and I’ll be reading everything :D)