Growing up, Raul Tello moved a lot, from rental to rental, after his family emigrated to the U.S from Colombia. Tello watched both his mother and father juggle several jobs to pay the rent, understanding from a very early age that his parents’ hard work “was paying the [landlord’s] mortgage and increasing the landlord’s wealth.”
Today, Tello is a landlord himself, in Seattle, Washington. He owns a home and just rented out the first house he purchased, a goal he’s had since childhood that “represents a significant milestone in attaining my individual ‘American dream’ as an immigrant.”
But then COVID-19 hit. “I was nervous,” says Tello, wondering how he would find tenants, show the unit and get a signed lease during a pandemic. Then he discovered Zillow Rental Manager, a one-stop rental transaction platform that handles tenant screening, lease signing and monthly payments — all online, so landlords and tenants can connect while staying safe.
Making it easier to move
“Zillow is reimagining real estate to make it easier than ever for people to move from one home to the next, whether they’re buying, selling, financing or renting,” said Douglas Pope, Zillow’s VP of Rentals Product Teams. “That mission has never been more important, and it’s the reason we’re providing these free tools to landlords and property managers to help renters who still need to move but can’t complete the transaction in person.”
Rent prices slowed more than they had in at least five years when the coronavirus pandemic first hit, according to the April Zillow® Real Estate Market Report, making it a good time for Maria Yvonne Chase and Ethan Wieczorek to move. The lease on their Seattle apartment was up and they wanted a home with more space.
The couple saw Tello’s listing for a townhouse on Zillow, requested a virtual tour, and within days had a signed lease, without ever meeting their new landlord in person. “It worked out really well,” says Chase. “And with Zillow as a one-stop shop, you weren’t going to a different company to do your deposit, your background check and getting all the documents together.”
Lease upload and online signing tools
The latest addition to the suite of Zillow Rentals services is a lease uploader and online signing tool, released in late April, just in time for Tello and his new renters. The technology allows landlords to quickly upload an existing lease form and send it to their tenant to review and sign electronically.
“It was easy for me to upload the [lease] documents, easy to drag and drop the signatures and initials, and the countersign process was really simple.” Renters Chase and Wieczorek liked that applying through Zillow, they only had to pay a $29 application fee once, no matter how many participating Zillow-listed rentals they applied for.
According to Zillow research, most renters (58%) said they would prefer applying for a rental online and 42% would prefer signing a lease digitally. Nearly half (47%) said they wished more listings offered virtual tours.
The ability to see a home in detail but at a safe distance was key for renters Wieczorek and Chase. First, they watched the Zillow 3D Tour Tello created for free using his iPhone. Then the couple asked Tello to show them around the townhouse live via FaceTime. “We were able to see exactly what we needed to see, and we were able to get all the info we needed right there on the spot,” says Wieczorek.
As he wrapped up the live tour, the couple said they were ready to move forward. “I was surprised,” says Tello. “There’s no other way I would have been able to do this without the [Zillow] platform.”
The keys to the home were waiting for Wieczorek and Chase in a lockbox on the front door. They’re paying their rent electronically through Zillow.
For Tello, the rental income is the start of his life as a real estate investor. “I hope to continue to develop my portfolio and in doing so provide financial security for my family,” an effort he says will be easier using technology from Zillow.