Northwest Commercial Real Estate Investments, LLC

Using AppFolio to Increase Online Payments








Northwest Commercial
Real Estate Investments, LLC
Seattle, WA

Portfolio Type

Retail, Commercial, Mixed-Use

Previous Solution

Paper-Based Processing Systems

A Bit of Backstory

Northwest Commercial Real Estate Investments, LLC has more than 70 years of experience in the Seattle real estate market. Currently, the company owns and operates retail, commercial, and mixed-used properties along with more than 1,600 apartment homes in the Puget Sound area. Three years ago, they began the shift from paper-based systems to digitally-driven property management solutions.

Interview with Lisa

We recently talked with Lisa Kennedy to learn how AppFolio Property Manager online payment processing has increased onboarding efficiencies and simplified their administrative routines.

Prior to accepting online payments through AppFolio, can you tell us a bit about what the payment collection process looked like?

Yes, there were rent drop boxes at each building. On the 3rd of every month at 5pm we had to create a delinquency report and track down the tenants who hadn’t paid their rent. The 4th could land on a Sunday, or a Saturday, and our property managers would have to go there in-person and pick up the checks.

Northwest Commercial Case Study

You went through AppFolio’s Payment Coaching. How did help your process?

Dramatically. Before we had to pick up the checks and manually scan them. It was an hour-long process, and we had to reconcile with the bank. Then, we had to upload the paperwork into an audit tracker for accounting. With AppFolio Property Manager, we were able to eliminate a major part of the admin work and redirect the focus of our teams.

In addition, the process of posting notices is so seamless now. It is so much easier and requires 50-60% less training, because it is all in AppFolio, and we don’t have to manually enter information.

What challenges or roadblocks did you encounter with getting residents to pay online?

Some residents are just not comfortable exchanging money online. Some people simply refuse to do it. The first initial response they have is “Are you going to charge me extra?”

How were you able to encourage residents to use online payments?

Once we removed the rent drop box, it forced us to talk to residents about paying online. We educated them and said, “You can use your checking account and routing numbers or a payslip. A payslip is like paying cash, so instead of going to pay for a money order, they get a payslip barcode and they save money on the money order. The time they would have to spend to obtain the money order and then place it in the drop box is cut in half, because they can just scan the payslip, we get the cash, and they’re done. We really push the payslip method.


Now payments go in automatically, then accounting pulls the reports and audits, and makes sure everything is reconciled. It has really streamlined our entire process from start to finish.

Managing Director, NorthWest Commercial

What goals did you have with online payments?

Three years ago when we really started learning about and utilizing AppFolio, our goal was to be 85-95% online. We've gone from about 50% online payment adoption to 93% adoption with AppFolio. We're at 93% adoption right now, and the remaining 7% is really only our elderly residents who don't email and/or who are on certified funds.

What was your strategy for getting residents to pay online?

Encouraging my managers to have conversations with the residents and educating them on the benefits. We had to remind renters that all of our processes moved online, and that it was for the best. In the end it all worked out! Also, starting new residents with online leasing helped.

How did you communicate with your residents regarding online payments?

In the very beginning we sent out emails with more information. Also we had in-person conversations and made phone calls. For some residents we even offered to help them set up their online portals, and dropped off the payslip and explained it to them. This way they felt more secure about paying their rent online and recognized that it was legitimate and convenient. Sometimes people need extra support and if you give it to them, they are more open and willing to trust us.

How has processing payments online changed the way you run your business?

Oh, dramatically. When our residents pay online there is no check processing. Before we had to post to the bank, post in AppFolio, reconcile, and then submit deposits to accounting to audit. Now payments go in automatically, then accounting pulls the reports and audits, and makes sure everything is reconciled. It has really streamlined our entire process from start to finish.

AppFolio has helped teach my team to “Work smart, not hard.” If they spend their time teaching residents how to use the portal, then we will save more time (and money) in the long run.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

I love working with AppFolio. We have gone through three years of growing pains, and AppFolio has streamlined our processes, plus the software keeps getting better and better! You guys are just getting better — it is making our processes better.