It was back in 2005 I was laying in bed. The date was August 31st and my rent was due the next day. My day was already planned for me and I had only just barely opened my eyes. Wake up, do the morning routine of brushing my teeth and exercising. Shower. Find my checkbook and get a check made out to my landlord Elizabeth. Drive it down to the post office where it would make its way to her office, hopefully, before my late-rent grace period had not passed. She was cool, so when it was postmarked on time, she wouldn’t hold me accountable for the post office. But laying there pondering the day in front of me seemed absurd! All this to pay a bill? Most of the major utilities were modernizing to online payments and I just felt like paying rent had to have a better way. I did a quick search to find almost nothing exploring the idea of a modern rental platform. Nada.
At the time I had been a recording engineer and producer. I knew nothing else. It was my everything. But as times tend to do, everything changed during the Great Recession. I had to pack it in around 2011 and found myself venturing out to Los Angeles in search of work. In doing so I found the strangest thing happening. Every apartment I visited had an application. Over and over I filled in the same info. Name, former address, social security number, past employment, etc. Once I found a place that I liked we penned a lease. Six glorious pages of technical jargon to protect my new landlord in case I was a lost cause. Next came the thing that brought me here today. In one of the largest economies on the planet my new apartment manager gave me the instructions for paying rent. It was a page long on the who/what/when/where/how of getting this one little bill taken care of. Multiple addresses: one for walk ins, another for mail.
The first thing that popped into my head was the simple notion that paying rent didn’t have to be like this. Indeed at this point I had heard about some of the bigger properties having their own online payment systems, but obviously had not been brought to the masses yet. Maybe I could realize my idea? One problem. I didn’t know a single line of code. I had yet to find a job, and instead decided to go back to school, fully expecting some giant to come out with a robust property management software in the meantime. But the more I waited for it to arrive, the stranger and stranger the silence was on this front. I finished my coursework and set out on a mission. Could I create a complete solution to all the shortcomings of this crazy world of being a renter? And in the meantime, could I take the logistic load off of the property managers and automate most of the process?
I decided to get into the real estate rental industry. Not only as a property owner, but as a tech innovator.
In January, 2015, Swan’s first line of code was laid. It was a clumsy and ugly little program, but the idea started to take shape. I decided if I was going to truly make it a one-stop shop for people I had to go all the way. In addition to paperless applications, leases and payments I would need to add listing, service calls and marketing automations too. I was up for the challenge because I personally needed this in my property management tool-box, and there was still nothing close to what I was looking for available yet.
In late 2015 after many sleepless nights of code running through my head I was ready. I was ready to put my own properties on the platform and watch it work. I notified my tenants that I would be switching to a new rental platform, to give it a try and let me know what they thought. I bit my nails as I filled in all the property details and submitted my new leases. And just like that, the system was in charge. Would it notify my tenants of late rent? Would it keep me informed of service issues? Would my tenants find the payment system convenient and useful? An email came in shortly after from one of my favorite tenants inquiring about the app. Although I was trying to keep under the radar of being the creator of it (mostly to get decent and uncorrupted feedback) it came to light that it was my software. It just so happens this man was in the business of helping software startups emerge from the murky depths of obscurity to market. It also happened to be one of the most serendipitous moments of a relationship between a landlord and tenant, matching with a software designed for a landlord and tenant. We decided to team up and see if we could make the product even better from our unique perspectives. We slowly ironed out features and flow to create, in my humble opinion, one of the best online property management tools ever created.
Although Swan now hosts over 20,000 listings in the Los Angeles area we continue to refine the process to deliver the easiest and most comprehensive tools for property owners and tenants. It’s driven by our unique and truly useful relationship to understand, fully, the landscape we set to modernize. Now that Swan is available to the public, we are excited to hear from other great landlords and tenants along the way. Always moving forward with the intent to make yours, mine and our lives easier through technology.