Manual processing of property documents has been the SOP for Property Managers, an inefficient and time-consuming methodology. Automation techniques such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is coming to the forefront as property managers look for efficiency, error reduction and compliance in processing property documents.
All property managers are required by the state and federal guidelines to maintain property documents pertaining to tenants, owners, finances and properties. An average property manager ends up having 10 to 15 documents per property managed.
Documents such as lease agreements, property deeds, brokerage contracts, vendor payables and credit applications, property management agreements and property tax assessments are all to be filed and maintain for different period of time as per the guidelines provided by the respective authority.
Analyzing a typical real estate company, it is evident that most of these documents are either present in physical or scanned formats. Although lately, with the increase in competition from companies like Zillow, real estate companies have understood the benefit of processing property documents for data & using predictive analytics to create marketing strategies, develop efficient workflows, reduce risks & take informed decision about property valuations and investment.
Current document processing scenario
Real estate companies have realized the benefits of digital technology and have started incorporated the same in their business process. Most of the real estate companies have integrated web application for listing commercial spaces, properties for sale or rental, warehouses etc. These integrated web application contain detailed information of the property like geographical location, floor plans, title deed information, tax information etc.
Property managers and their team manually enter information from property documents into these web applications leading to:
- Property managers spending their time managing document processing and eventually giving less time to core activities like
- Maintaining property rentals
- Establishing rental rates Creating contracts
- Maintaining property and ensuring security
- Managing financial activities such as paying bills, forecasting requirements, collecting rents and payments, developing annual budgets to mention a few.
- Manual data entry leaves too much rooms for errors (like spreadsheets are deleted, incorrect manual calculations etc.), which may eventually prove very costly to the real estate firm.
- Human involvement in entering property related data also leaves space for the possibility of fraud.
- The accounting and administration staff is so preoccupied with data entry of property documents that they don’t have enough time for analytical tasks.
In short, the currently used document processing technique leads to sub-optimal utilization of data and employees in real estate companies. This is where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Machine Learning (ML) comes into the picture.
How RPA and machine learning can efficiently process your property documents
Through Robotic Process Automation combined with Machine Learning, intelligent bots can be created which can help in fulfilling manual, repetitive and often rules-based processes and tasks, which otherwise require manual intervention.
Property managers often come across structured, semi-structured and unstructured documents which has to be converted into structured data for further analysis. For eg. a sample property deed document itself consists of
- Structured data (date, serial no.),
- Semi-structured data (address) and
- Non-structured data (hand written information related to lease, ownership etc.)
Hence, automating property documents requires a combination of OCR (Optical Character Recognition), Natural Language Processing (NLP), RPA (Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning (ML) or AI based on the document that needs to be process. Here is short summary of an automated document processing workflow for your reference:
- Document sourcing: Automation Bots constantly scan for documents at a particular location, this location may be a cloud platform or from a local machine based on your operational flow.
- Document categorization: These bots then categorize them into structured, semi-structured or unstructured category based on the type (PDF, JPG, PNG) and quality (image brightness, skewness, resolution) of the document. This is done by mapping the current document with provided templates and analyzing fonts, tables, written text etc.
- Using OCR for data extraction: Now, that the documents are classified by the bots, OCR is used for data extraction. Based on the type of document, there may be errors in OCR readings like ‘O’ may be extracted as ‘0’. Moreover, hand written text may require NLP software.
- Using machine learning to improve accuracy: To counter these errors, machine learning is used for Intelligent OCR using bots. Software bots are trained with cognitive abilities using machine learning techniques. These bots are now capable of identifying documents & matching it against known documents. They can also parse through text blocks in unstructured documents. As more and more documents are processed, the bots become more intelligent and aware, and can process documents with more precision.
- Validating the extracted data: Machine learning and RPA with OCR still doesn’t provide 100% percent accuracy in terms of data extraction. A human interference is needed to validate the data extracted through automation. Whenever a bot comes across data with inaccuracies or exceptions, a notification is sent to the action center. The employee can validate or solve these uncertainty in a matter of minutes.
Benefits of implementing RPA and machine learning for property document processing
Using RPA with ML, increases efficiency of many finance and accounting tasks, including lease accounting and administration, invoice processing and payroll management by:
- Cost Optimization: RPA can decrease costs drastically and may even be cheaper than hiring and training employees for monotonous tasks. RPA software can enable document processing round the year 24/7.
- Speed and accuracy: Data extraction and digitization from property documents such as lease contracts, invoices, property deeds etc. can be done faster and with more accuracy. Moreover, Studies suggest four and hour times more efficiency can be achieved in extracting meaningful information from unstructured documents using cognitive technology like NLP.
- Record management: In the real estate industry, documents for maintaining records are either in hard copy or scanned formats. Optical character recognition can help convert them into meaningful information ready for reporting and analysis.
- Compliance and risk monitoring: Reviewing lease contracts and tracking invoices for compliances are an everyday activity for real estate companies. RPA can automate these processes and provide you with timely notifications to avoid potential risks of tenant defaults.
- Informed decision-making: Gaining data from unstructured documents & converting them into analytical insights is the core driving reason for real estate companies to turn towards and RPA and ML. For example, extracting and analyzing data from lease agreements, invoices etc. can provide valuable insights to property management, lease administration and billing processes.
How to analyze your need for automation?
You may start by evaluating the processes which are monotonous and repetitive. Certain parameters to keep in mind while analyzing the processes are:
- Huge volumes of documents
- Repetitive tasks
- High errors due to manual process
- Important data needed to generate business insights
The next thing that you need to take into account is the technology implementation acceptable for your real estate company. This can be decided based on:
- Budget available for technology implementation
- Web application technology currently used in the company
- Estimated return on investment
- Data collaboration policies within departments
Last but not the least, is the people factor. The employees of your company will play a crucial role in the successful implementation of RPA in your company. Real estate companies should consider the following factors during implementation:
- Take a collective approach for the implementation process
- Breaking the existing silos amongst departments
- Train employees to do more analytical work as they will have time on their hands.
Real estate companies have always been deemed as late comers when it comes to adapting new age technology for process optimization. But, with the current exponential growth in technology, real estate firms are left with no choice but to incorporate automation techniques into their age old manual process. RPA can help real estate companies save cost and time by creating an automated error-free, efficient and compliant process which will help them better utilize their resources, get better marketing insights, and streamline processes creating an arsenal ready for the competition of tomorrow
RPA and Real Estate
Manual processing of property documents has been the SOP for Property Managers, an inefficient and time-consuming methodology. Automation techniques such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is coming to the forefront as property managers look for efficiency, error reduction and compliance in processing property documents. Documents such as lease agreements, property deeds, brokerage contracts, vendor payables and credit applications, property management agreements and property tax assessments are all to be filed and maintain for different period of time as per the guidelines provided by the respective authority. Through Robotic Process Automation combined with Machine Learning, intelligent bots can be created which can help in fulfilling manual, repetitive and often rules-based processes and tasks, which otherwise require manual intervention.Using RPA with ML, increases efficiency of many finance and accounting tasks, including lease accounting and administration, invoice processing and payroll management by:Cost Optimization. Speed and accuracy. Record Management. Compliance and risk monitoring. Informed decision making. Real estate companies have always been deemed as late comers when it comes to adapting new age technology for process optimization. But, with the current exponential growth in technology, real estate firms are left with no choice but to incorporate automation techniques into their age old manual process.