Watson Living Aims To Help Landlords Keep Tenants: Tech Review

Watson Living is tenant engagement solution uses concepts found in fintech to empower landlords to improve the living experience of tenants.

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Watson Living is a tenant engagement and financial incentive system for landlords to offer tenants.

Platforms: Mobile, browser

Ideal for: Landlords and tenants

Top selling points:

  • App management of rewards
  • Local business partnerships
  • Tenant debit cards
  • Flexibility of reward offerings
  • Ongoing relationship-building

Top concern:

Owner-operator landlords are busy people, so ensuring bandwidth to roll out and manage such a technology-forward tenant incentive program will be crucial for some segments of Watson’s market. But not all.

What you should know

Watson Living is tenant engagement solution uses concepts found in fintech to empower landlords to improve the living experience of tenants. Tenants are issued debit cards connected to a network of online and local retail partners. Property owners can invest flexibly in the program and leverage an app to manage rewards with tenants.

Years ago, I was selling and marketing apartment properties in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our small office would often attend local investor club meetings and events.

Mr. Landlord was a popular speaker and talked a lot about the importance of keeping your best tenants in place, often with rewards. He helped aspiring investors, Rich Dad Poor Dad (I’ve never read it) devotees and small landlords understand how to use discounts and incentives to create profitable, long-term tenancy.

Watson Living is the digital, more conceptually sophisticated iteration of what Mr. Landlord espoused.

Balancing on the edge of fintech and smart property management, Watson Living gives landlords a savvy platform for giving tenants with a reason to renew.

Tenants who care to enroll are offered a Visa debit card that’s gets loaded with rewards from online retailers, as well as any local business the landlord is able to invite. Watson helps with ongoing outreach to tenants to promote the program, which includes use of an app for tenants to monitor rewards and new partnerships.

Property owners are offered a separate bank account into which they can deposit the cash to back the reward cards. Obviously, this is budget dependent, but landlords should consider how this account can replace what they offer in direct rent concessions.

They can use some of it to offer a small cash reward, $5, $10 or so for initial sign-up. It can also be used to channel referral rewards, renewal incentives, on-time payment milestones, or even local volunteering efforts or on-time maintenance reporting. The flexibility here is impressive, for both tenants and property managers and owners.

On the backend, landlords can access an admin experience to search for tenants and their respective usage of the app, add and remove reward partners, and manage accounts per property owned.

It doesn’t look to overwhelm property managers or owners with superfluous features. But some connections to common accounting systems would be an expected component of the roadmap.

Watson has plans to roll out credit bureau reporting for on-time payments, and it’s consistently adding new retail partners. It also offers general financial advice and program-based transaction keeping. The app’s UI/UX is clearly directed at consumers, reflecting what’s needed to keep users engaged.

Renting is becoming a more popular option for long-term lifestyles every day, which means apartment providers are going to continue to compete for tenants, especially as they seek long-term living arrangements, making their leases all the more valuable to both the landlord and potential investors upon a sale.

The more stable the tenant roster, the attractive a property becomes when it hits the market.

I don’t have numbers on tenant adoption or renewal rates that compare non-Watson users to Watson users, but I trust that will come in due time as the company ages into the industry.

For now, though, Watson Living recognizes the role renting is playing (and will play) in America’s housing economy. As do its colleagues in the industry who are also applying technology to multifamily living, like RentSpree, Zumper, NestEgg and RentBase, among many others.

In summary, Watson Living is a sharp, simple and forward-thinking approach to augmenting rental occupancy.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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